William H. Weisman, Pioneers at Sunset, c1870
29.75 x 49.5 in.
William H. Weisman (1840-1922) was an American painter who created many beautiful renditions of the New England landscape. After minor success as an opera singer, Weismann turned to landscape painting. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and at the National Academy of Design. After his education, he moved to Franconia, New Hampshire, where the Weismann Brook is named for him. There he painted views of the white mountains and often traveled to Gloucester, Massachusetts to paint seascapes. Weisman's work is often quite dramatic, bringing a romantic intensity to the New England scenes. Pioneers at Sunset is unusual within Weisman's oeuvre, set outside New England on the Western frontier. One of the most prominent characteristics of this piece is the open space of the piece. Weisman doesn't constrain the scene with natural elements (as is the convention in academic landscape painting), no trees frame the canvas and no mountains rise up in the distance. Instead, the vastness of the frontier becomes the subject. This effect is underlined by the inclusion of the two pioneer figures. The appear minuscule within this landscape, and even their tent and wagon are dwarfed by the tree behind them and land around them. Weisman includes great detail in his rendition of the land itself, with the many rocks and diverse plants carefully articulated. The most striking element of the work, though, is the impressive sky with the sunset. Like the land, the sky appears wide and open, its vastness stretching over the land and the scene. The clouds appear quite majestic encircling the sun, which shines through to cast the golden glow over the scene.