Penn Library Exhibitions

Robert Montgomery Bird: Writer and Artist

Bird Views America
[IMAGE]
"View on the Ohio. June, 1833"
Watercolor, unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

**********

[IMAGE]
"View on the Tennessee--June, 1833 / Tombecbee?"
Watercolor, unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird
[IMAGE]
A finished version of the same scene
Watercolor, untitled, undated, and unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird
The watercolor on the left is among those sketches that Dr. Bird would later revisit and "revise." The finished version appears on the right. Almost illegible on the sketch are Dr. Bird's extremely faint pencilled annotations on the surface of the work itself--"white"; "light [word illegible]"; "Dark"; "light". Their presence indicates that he intended to revisit this sketch at a later date; and, as the finished version indicates, he did revisit it. By the time he did so, however, Dr. Bird found his own handwriting either illegible or so faint that he himself could not read it. Thus he added to the original title ("View on the Tennessee--June, 1833") a query to himself, clearly written at another time and with another pencil, "Tombecbee?" He was no longer sure if he had sketched the scene in Tennessee or Alabama. In June of 1833, Dr. Bird was travelling in Tennessee, going from Memphis to Nashville; his original title appears to be correct.

**********

[IMAGE]
"Mammoth Cave"
Watercolor, undated and unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

**********

[IMAGE]
"The old Cabin (Gatewood's house) at the Mammoth Cave. October, 1835 ('35 + '53)"
Watercolor, unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

Unlike the above "View on the Tennessee," this is one of those paintings where only one version survives, but a double date ("'35 + '53") suggests "revision" during the period towards the end of Dr. Bird's life when he was also conducting photographic experiments and revising Nick of the Woods, as well. The impact on his literary and artistic work of these experiments is obviously the major question that these newly revealed works in both photography and painting raise.

**********

[IMAGE]
"Among the Knobs, near the Mammoth Cave. June, 1833"
Watercolor, unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

The Mammoth Cave is still the monarch of caves: none that have ever been measured can at all compare with it, even in extent; in grandeur, in wild, solemn, severe, unadorned majesty, it stands entirely alone. "It has no brother, it is like no brother."

--from Robert Montgomery Bird, "The Mammoth Cave," in Peter Pilgrim: or A Rambler's Recollections, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1838), 2:65-66.

**********

Bird Exhibition HomePage | Table of Contents | Next Panel


Last update: Wednesday, 11-Jul-2012 13:19:50 EDT
Send mail concerning this page to: shawcros@pobox.upenn.edu