Elihu Vedder: Voyage on the Nile

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9780943651408: Elihu Vedder: Voyage on the Nile
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American painter Elihu Vedder journed up the Nile from December 1889 to April 1890 and recorded his fascination with Egypt's panoramas in artwork presented for the first time in this exhibition organized by the Hudson River Museum.

In the late 19th century Egypt beckoned to Americans as a stop on the Grand Tour. Wealthy tourists and artists marveled at its wondrous pyramids and temples and the desolate beauty of a desert landscape juxtaposed with the great Nile River. The exotic fascinated Elihu Vedder, an American artist, too, and from winter to spring in 1890, he traveled from Cairo to Wadi Halfa, and back, the guest of George F. Corliss of the famous Corliss Engine Company in Providence, Rhode Island. In those five months, he drew and painted the Nile s panoramas of sand, cliffs and ancient ruins, often aboard a rented dahabeya, a traditional Egyptian houseboat.

The Hudson River Museum organized Voyage on the Nile, an exhibition of forty of Vedder s Nile Journey artworks on view for the first time. Private collectors, art galleries, and major museums lent work for this exhibition, which is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with essays, by Linda Ferber, Senior Art Historian and Museum Director Emerita, New-York Historical Society; Egyptologist Floyd Lattin; and, Laura Vookles, the Museum s Chief Curator of Collections.

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About the Author:

Linda S. Ferber

Vice President and Senior Art Historian of the New-York Historical Society, Dr. Linda Ferber has published and lectured widely on American art history, including William Trost Richards; the American Pre-Raphaelites; the American Watercolor Movement; The Eight and the Ashcan School; Albert Bierstadt; Asher B. Durand, and the Hudson River School. In 2010, she was awarded the Henry Allen Moe Prize for Catalogues of Distinction in the Arts for her recent book The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision. Now Dr. Ferber is at work with guest curator Dr. Barbara Gallati on an exhibition and publication that highlights the New-York Historical Society s rich trove of 19th--century narrative paintings titled Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy, which will open at the Society in November 2011, and then tour as part of the series Sharing a National Treasure: The Traveling Exhibition Program of the New-York Historical Society.

Floyd Lattin

A frequent tourist in Egypt in the late 20th century, Floyd Lattin studied Egyptian culture at the American University in Cairo and the art and archaeology of ancient Egypt at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Mr. Lattin worked at the Brooklyn Museum in the Egyptian Department and coordinated the international loan exhibition Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan. He is co-founder and chief investment officer of a real estate private equity investment firm based in New York City.

Laura Vookles

Chief Curator of Collections at the Hudson River Museum, Laura Vookles has co-curated and written essays for Museum publications The Old Croton Aqueduct: Rural Resources Meet Urban Needs; Next Stop Westchester! People and the Railroad; Westchester: The American Suburb, Dutch New York: the Roots of Hudson Valley Culture, and Paintbox Leaves: Autumnal Inspiration from Cole to Wyeth. In the 25 years that she has worked at the Hudson River Museum, she has focused much effort on Glenview, the Musuem s 1877 Hudson River for which she completed numerous furnishing, conservation, and interpretation projects.

Review:

Excerpted From A View of the Nile, in Imagination and Reality Dec. 2, 2011 by Sylvanie Gold

Around the time Albert Bierstadt painted Looking Down Yosemite Valley and Edouard Manet exhibited Le Déjeuner sur l Herbe ( Luncheon on the Grass ), the American artist Elihu Vedder, who had never visited Egypt, created a brooding, emphatically plain canvas, The Questioner of the Sphinx.

Vedder's drawings and sketches, however, are another story, and the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers has put together a winning little exhibition that forcefully makes this point. The painter we meet in Elihu Vedder: Voyage on the Nile is looser, more relaxed and more spontaneous than the one we think we know from his more formal work. And why not? He was on a four-month cruise, part of an all-expenses-paid trip to Egypt.

The show includes several dozen of these lively drawings, in pastel, pencil, chalk and charcoal. Working on different kinds of paper, sometimes stacking several images on a single sheet as he started to run out, Vedder rendered windblown trees on Feb. 12, an intense blue sky on Feb. 16, ancient rock quarries at Gebel el-Silsila (known to him as Silsilis) on Feb. 26, a glowing field of green wheat on March 6, the limestone cliffs of Gebel Sheikh el-Haridi (he calls it Shegk El Haradu) on March 26.

The excellent catalog for the Hudson River exhibit suggests that Vedder intended to use his Egyptian drawings as the basis for yet another illustrated book. But the pictures on the walls make you wonder. Images of monuments are few and far between, and his first encounter with the Great Sphinx at Giza I was simply struck dumb, he wrote to his wife is timidly rendered from behind. The locals and their customs are observed from a distance, even when the artist goes ashore for a camel excursion (which he loved but which left him sorer and sorer than he d ever been).

Such choices hardly seem appropriate for a travel book meant for his public; they seem more relevant as private souvenirs. Experienced together and this is the first time this has been possible since the drawings were dispersed after the death of Vedder s daughter these pictures feel like a long, lovely tracking shot, the kind of memento tourists bring back in their video cameras today. In his discursive 1910 autobiography, The Digressions of V.: Written for His Own Fun and That of His Friends, he described the Egyptian countryside as beautiful, simple and grand. Those words fit his pictures, too. --New York Times

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