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Bayou Teche Country, 1927
Alexander Drysdale (1870-1934)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
36 x 79 1/4 inches
Signature Details: A.J. Drysdale/1927
Status: Private Collection, Louisiana

An artist whose work is singularly identified with representing Southern landscape, Alexander John Drysdale was born in Marietta, Georgia, but moved to Mobile, Alabama, where he lived from 1875 to 1882. In 1883, the family moved to New Orleans when his father was appointed to the post of Dean of Christ Church. Though he had shown an early interest in art and enrolled in evening classes at the Southern Art Union in 1883, he was encouraged to pursue a financial career and studied accounting. He began working as a clerk, but moved into the banking profession until he decided to go to New York to study art in 1901. There he attended the Art Students League, where he enrolled in classes taught by Charles Courtney Curran, Frank Vincent Du Mond, and Bryson Burroughs. Drysdale returned to New Orleans in 1903 and soon established himself as a painter of regional landscapes in a distinctive impressionistic manner. Attributed with originating a new technique, as seen in Bayou Teche Country, Drysdale achieved a unique effect in his paintings by thinning oil pigment with kerosene, giving it greater fluidity more akin to the watercolor medium.


Myths abound about Drysdale’s prodigious output and he is sometimes charged with a formulaic approach. His landscapes in fact exhibit variety, though most are generally comprised of the same elements--land, water, sky, with lush trees and foliage that frame the composition--and are executed with a limited and muted tonal range, typified by Bayou Teche Country. This composition, a work from relatively late in his career, has an especially thin, almost transparent, application of pigment that eschews specific detail.


Drysdale rarely depicted particular locations, instead creating evocative views that can be a synthesis of generalized elements or composite images. Bayou Teche Country may represent a more specific locale as the area denoted by the title is in southern Louisiana and is known for its cypress trees and natural beauty. Bayou Teche meanders for about 125 miles beginning in south central Louisiana and flowing southeast to empty in a bay near the Gulf of Mexico.


Drysdale’s artistic intention was not literal transcription, but instead an attempt to capture mood and evoke the essence of the Southern landscape. His aesthetic approach draws an immediate parallel to the work of George Inness, whom Drysdale greatly admired, along with Camille Corot, who may have exerted some influence on his general approach. Few artists captured the dense humid atmosphere of the Louisiana bayou better than Drysdale. In this moody scene, observed through the veil of a softly luminous haze, his images suggest his regional surroundings, but appear as dreamy reveries. VAL



Buechner, Howard  A. Drysdale (1870-1934): Artist of Myth and Legend. Metairie, Louisiana: Thunderbird Press, 1985.


Mahe II, John A. and Roseanne McCaffrey, editors. Encyclopaedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718-1918. New Orleans: Historic New Orleans Collection, 1987.


Pennington, Estill Curtis. Downriver: Currents of Style in Louisiana Painting 1800-1950. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing, 1991.


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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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