New Exhibit: The Southern Romantics

Bayou Teche (1874), by Joseph Rusling Meeker. (Photo courtesy of the Johnson Collection)

This spring, the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, is bringing classic Romanticism much closer to home

>See more paintings from the exhibit

In case you weren’t an art history major, romanticism is usually associated with the lofty European artistic movement from the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Poets and painters such as William Wordsworth and Eugène Delacroix embraced a heightened focus on subjectivity and emotions in their work. But that spirit wasn’t just confined to Europe. Those same ideas colored painters’ canvases down in Dixie.
Opening March 7, the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, presents Romantic Spirits: Nineteenth Century Paintings of the South from the Johnson Collection, an exhibition of thirty-five masterworks spanning the years 1810–1896. Subjects range from a murky landscape of a Louisiana bayou to a still life with peaches to a moving portrait of a fugitive slave (the romantics were by and large abolitionists). All together, the paintings present an evocative glimpse into nineteenth-century Southern life. As art historian Estill Curtis Pennington writes in a companion book of the same title, “At its core, romanticism centered on the heroic individual, an idealized chivalric code of personal honor, the sublime quality of nature and the inevitability of change in an imperfect world.”
The exhibit will run through May 26 and then will make stops at the Spartanburg Art Museum in South Carolina and the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. But you can get a sneak peek of the collection here.