The Sixty-Sixth A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts: The Forest: America in the 1830s, Part 2: The Tavern to the Traveler: On the Appearance of John Quidor’s Art
Alexander Nemerov, department chair and Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities, Stanford University. In the six-part lecture series The Forest: America in the 1830s, Nemerov explores the Hudson River School painters and their contemporaries, focusing on what their art did and did not show of the teeming world around them. The forest serves as a metaphor for the unruly and wooded realms of lived experience to which art can only gesture. The lectures present a fundamentally new account of Thomas Cole (1801–1848), John Quidor (1801–1881), James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851), and other artists and writers of that time. The second lecture, held on April 2, 2017, The Tavern to the Traveler: On the Appearance of John Quidor’s Art,” focuses on the work of John Quidor. Quidor made fine-art paintings in the 1830s; he also was a sign painter. How are Quidor’s fine-art depictions of Ichabod Crane and Natty Bumppo like tavern signs? Do they appear as such a sign might have to a traveler—as a promise of succor and rest, of welcome if temporary relief to a wayward soul? How might art have imagined itself as a destination, a short-lived home, surrounded and even stained by the emptiness of American life?