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William Stanley Haseltine

Born: 1835, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America
Died: 1900, Rome, Italy

Rocks at Nahant
1864

Oil on canvas
Overall: 22 3/8 x 40 1/2in. (56.8 x 102.9cm)
Frame: 29 1/2 x 47 1/2 x 4 5/8in. (74.9 x 120.7 x 11.7cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.65
Signed: Lower left: W.S. Haseltine/N.Y. 1864
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

Rocks at Nahant is one of a group of paintings from the mid-1860s in which William Stanley Haseltine depicted the rocky shore at Nahant, Massachusetts. On the left, the composition is evenly divided between sea and sky, both depicted in shades of fair-weather blue. Slanting diagonally between these elements and cutting off our view of the ocean on the right are fragmented slabs of reddish, smooth-topped igneous stone, evidence of both volcanic and glacial activity in the remote past as well as the relentless action of the pounding waves. In the middle ground, the rocks encircle a tidepool, its calm surface both mirroring the placid sky and allowing a glimpse into its depths, in contrast to the turbulent waters in the distance. Two diminutive figures and a distant sailboat on the horizon lend a sense of scale to this somewhat unearthly landscape of bare rock and sea. Rocks at Nahant is an essay on geologic history, anchored comfortingly in contemporary, human time.

Beginning in the 1850s, American landscape painters were increasingly drawn to the level scenery of the northeastern coastline. Marsh, river, and beach scenes were especially popular; Haseltine, however, focused obsessively on shoreline rocks. He not only repeatedly drew and painted them, but, impelled by a passion for scientific accuracy as well as artistic beauty, he rendered them with meticulous detail and under varying conditions of light. This is evident not only in the painting Rocks at Nahant but in three unrelated drawings of rocky shores also in the Terra Foundation's collection (TF 1999.62, TF 1999.63, and TF 1999.64).

Haseltine’s endeavor demonstrates mid-nineteenth-century Americans’ fascination with the geologic history of the earth at a time when scientific studies increasingly undermined traditional biblical interpretations of creation. He was particularly influenced by the popular theories of the Swiss-born scientist Louis Agassiz (1807–1873), who saw in Nahant’s rocks evidence of a universal ice age. Agassiz, a popular professor at Harvard when Haseltine studied there, was one of many intellectual, well-to-do Bostonians who in summertime flocked to Nahant, fifteen miles north of Boston. By birth and education, the artist was well-connected to this social set, many of whose members, like Agassiz, shared his scientific interests. Such works as Rocks at Nahant served both as souvenirs of a favorite resort and as testimonials to its appeal as an object of scientific scrutiny.

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Provenance

The artist
Washburn Gallery, New York, New York
Lano Collection, Washington, D.C.
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1983
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1999

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Exhibition History

American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850–1875, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (organizer). Venue: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., February 10–June 15, 1980. [exh. cat.]

A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 21–June 21, 1987. [exh. cat.]

Expressions of Place: The Art of William Stanley Haseltine, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California (organizer). Venues: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California, June 20–September 20, 1992; Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, January 20–April 18, 1993. [exh. cat.]

Vice Versa: German Painters in America, American Painters in Germany, 1813–1913, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany, September 17–December 1, 1996. [exh. cat.]

Permanent collection installation, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 12–August 27, 1997.

Rivières et rivages: les artistes américains, 1850–1900 (Waves and Waterways: American Perspectives, 1850–1900), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2000. [exh. cat.]

Permanent collection installation, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 9–February 11, 2001.

Selections from the Permanent Collection: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 10–July 1, 2001.

American Classics: Selections from the Terra Foundation for the Arts, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, January 26–September 1, 2002.

A Place on the Avenue: Terra Museum of American Art Celebrates 15 Years in Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 16, 2002–February 16, 2003 (on exhibit extended run: November 2, 2002–March 2, 2003).

American Classics from the Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 14–June 15, 2003.

Copley to Cassatt: Masterworks from the Terra Collection, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut and Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, September 5–December 7, 2003.

Expanded Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, April 15, 2005–January 2007.

Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, NY and Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, IL (organizers). Venues: National Museum of China, Beijing, China, February 9–April 5, 2007; Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, China, April 30–June 30, 2007; Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China, April 30–June 30, 2007 (Shanghai presentations ran concurrently); The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia, July 23–September 9, 2007; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain, October 15, 2007–April 27, 2008 . [exh. cat.]

Manifest Destiny, Manifest Responsibility: Environmentalism and the Art of the American Landscape. Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois and Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizers). Venue: Loyola University Museum of Art, May 17–August 10, 2008. [exh. cat.]

Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, September 2008–August 2011.

Die Düsseldorfer Malerschule und ihre internationale Ausstrahlung 1819–1918," Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany (organizer). Venue: Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany, September 23, 2011–January 23, 2012. [exh. cat.]

Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, August 2013–April 2014.

Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, May 2015–June 2016.

Continental Shift: Nineteenth Century American and Australian Landscape Painting, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, July 30, 2016–February 5, 2017; as “Not as the Songs of other Lands: 19th century Australian and American Landscape Painting,” Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia, March 14–June 11, 2017. [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Novak, Barbara. Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting 1825–1875. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. Ill. no. 137, p. 258 (black and white credited as "Private Collection").

Wilmerding, John. American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850–1875. Washington D.C.: Harper & Row Publishers, 1980. Text pp. 132, 282; ill. p. 133 (black and white).

Atkinson, D. Scott et al. A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art. Edited by Terry A. Neff. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1987. Pl. T-46, p. 155 (color).

Simpson, Marc, Andrea Henderson, and Sally Mills. Expressions of Place: The Art of William Stanley Haseltine. (exh. cat., The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco). San Francisco, California: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1992. Pl. 29, p. 102 (color).

Novak, Barbara. Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting 1825–1875, rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Ill. no. 137, p. 258 (black and white credited as "Private Collection").

Bott, Katarine M. Vice Versa: Deutsche Maler In Amerika, Amerikanische Maler in Deutschland, 1813–1913 (Vice Versa: German Painters in America, American Painters in Germany, 1813–1913) . (exh. cat., Deutsches Historisches Museum). Munchen, Germany: Hirmer Verlag, 1996. Text p. 274; ill. p. 275 (color).

Bedell, Rebecca. The Anatomy of Nature: Geology and American Landscape Painting, 1825–1875. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001. Text pp. 109–21; fig. 59 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. An American Point of View: The Daniel J. Terra Collection. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text p. 74; ill. p. 74 (black & white).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Un regard transatlantique. La collection d'art américain de Daniel J. Terra. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text p. 74; ill. p. 74 (black & white).

Kennedy, Elizabeth. "The Terra Museum of American Art." American Art Review (December 2002): 126–41. Text p. 132.

Davidson, Susan, ed. Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation. (exh. cat., National Museum of China, Beijing; Shanghai Museum). New York, NY: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Chicago, IL: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. (Chinese and English version; citing English version). Ill. p. 116 (color).

Davidson, Susan, ed. Art in the USA: 300 años de innovación. (exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum Bilbao). New York, NY: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Chicago, IL: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. (Spanish version). Ill. p. 95 (color).

Brownlee, Peter John. Manifest Destiny / Manifest Responsibility: Environmentalism and the Art of the American Landscape. (exh. cat., Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, Illinois). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art and Loyola University Museum of Art, 2008. Text p. 35 (checklist).

Baumgärtel, Bettina, ed. Die Düsseldorfer Malerschule und ihre internationale Ausstrahlung 1819–1918, Vol. I–II. (exh. cat., Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany). Düsseldorf: Museum Kunstpalast, 2011. (German version). Text Vol. II, p. 383; ill. cat. no. 324, p. 383 (color).

Baumgärtel, Bettina, ed. The Düsseldorf School of Painting and its International Influence 1819–1918. (exh. cat. Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany). Düsseldorf: Museum Kunstpalast, 2011. (English version). Ill. cat. no. 129, p. 283, (color).

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