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In the Atchafalaya, LA, 1883
Joseph Rusling Meeker (1827–1887)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
30 3/8 x 50 1/4 inches
Signature Details: Signed lower right
Status: Private Collection, New Orleans, Louisiana

Revered for his romantic, tropical landscapes of Southern waterways, Joseph Rusling Meeker was born in New Jersey and grew up in Auburn, New York. After being introduced to art as a teenager by a local carriage painter, he pursued formal art education, studying under Charles E. Loring at the National Academy of Design from 1845-1848. At that time, the academy was led by Asher B. Durand, whose advocacy of the Hudson River tradition would always inform Meeker's art.


Meeker moved in 1852 to Louisville, Kentucky, where he produced landscape and river views of the area and taught painting for the next seven years. He then settled in St. Louis and enjoyed brief success there before the outbreak of the Civil War. During the conflict, Meeker served as a paymaster on a federal gunboat traveling along the Mississippi River and made numerous sketches of rivers, forests, swamps, and bayous in his off hours. These sketches later served as sources for finished canvases. The artist returned to St. Louis after the war and established a studio, traveling extensively to obtain material and to paint in Mississippi, New York, the New England coast, Colorado, and Wyoming.


During the 1860s and 1870s, Meeker's art evolved from an earlier descriptive realism to the evocative luminist approach seen in this example. One of many pastoral landscapes he painted later in his career, this lush bayou is enveloped in a misty, dream-like atmosphere that became the hallmark of Meeker's Southern views and reflect his passionate search for what he termed "an area of repose."


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This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.

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