Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Inspiring Biography of Traveling Artists

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Inspiring Biography of Traveling Artists

Article excerpt

Inspiring Biography of Traveling Artists Frederick C. Moffatt. Paintbrush for Hire: The Travels of James and Emma Cameron, 1840-1900. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2018. ISBN: 978-1-62190-365-9. 367pp.

This is an inspiring account of how two married painters traveled to find commissions to make beautiful art. Artists today all want to know how they can find patrons to support their passion. Some create KickStarter campaign to solicit money from numerous backers. Artists from the nineteenth century more typically appealed directly to the wealthy and might have been received better than an artist would be if he or she attempted the same pitch to the rich today. Of course, Emma S. Cameron and James Cameron did not make a living entirely through patronage. In addition to working as a landscapist and portraitist, he was also an "inventor, a missionary, an ordained minister, a land agent, farmer, clothing merchant, and Sunday school teacher." The bulk of his best-known paintings were produced in a ten-year stretch in East Tennessee. This narrative of their travels and career struggles is primarily based on Emma's journals and correspondences. They also traveled to and painted in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Nashville, Augusta, and New Orleans. One of James top-earning jobs was as the resident artist at a summer resort, Lookout Mountain Hotel. Emma worked as a nurse there, and across their careers was very active in helping bring in money. She even started a Presbyterian church of her own in parallel with her husband's in California after 1874. This book reports that Cameron felt that he lived in a society that devalued artists' achievements, and this trend has only continued to the present day. Today, a few people make millions on very abstract art that requires minimum time to create and gains value because of gambling on it by investors who buy it in hope of reselling it at a profit rather than because of its quality. Meanwhile, outstanding artists like Cameron find little patronage or other types of support to keep them in the arts. The author of this biography is Frederick C. Moffatt, emeritus professor of art history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The book is chronologically organized and by the names of the places where the couple worked. The center pages of the book include a dozen high-quality color reproduction of James' paintings: these are really beautiful and original. They include intricate details and a dark, striking style. The "Col. And Mrs. James A. Whiteside, Son Charles and Servants" (1858) oil painting is particularly interesting. The perspective is a bit broken as a servant at the front and an African American boy servant closer to the back are both around the same size and are both smaller than the lead couple, which is larger and sitting on fancy chairs and around a marble, round table on a patio that oversees a scenic little town near a mountain and a river. …

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