Penn Library Exhibitions

Robert Montgomery Bird: Writer and Artist

Depicting the Region
The privileged nineteenth-century American's experience of the sublime in the landscape occurred on the heights. The characteristic viewpoint of contemporary American landscapists traced a visual trajectory from the uplands to a scenic panorama below. . . . The experience on the heights and its literary and aesthetic translation became assimilated to popular culture and remained and continues to remain a fundamental component of the national dream. As such, it is inseparable from nationalist ideology. . . . [T]here is an American viewpoint in landscape painting that can be identified with this characteristic line of vision . . . [;] this peculiar gaze represents not only a visual line of sight but an ideological one as well. . . . [The] view from the summit metaphorically undercut the past and blazed a trail into the wilderness for 'the abodes of commerce and the seats of manufactures.'"

--from Albert Boime, The Magisterial Gaze: Manifest Destiny and American Landscape Painting c. 1830-1865 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), pp. 1-5.

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[IMAGE]
["Delaware Water Gap looking down (from above Water Gap Inn)"]
Watercolor, untitled, unsigned, dated August 1853
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

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[IMAGE]
["Delaware River above the Water Gap (from flank of Sunset Hill)"]
Watercolor, untitled, unsigned, dated August 1853
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

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[IMAGE]
"Trenton Bridge--From Above.--July 24th 1826. R.M.B." Watercolor
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

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[IMAGE]
"View Near Philadelphia. Septr. 1833"
Watercolor, unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

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