An image of southern repose
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Landscape artist Thomas Addison Richards (1820-1900) completed River Plantation, circa 1855-1860, at a time when America was on the brink of the Civil War (1861-1865). As a present-day viewer, one is left with many questions regarding the artist’s intentions. River Plantation follows the conventions of a picturesque beautiful landscape, and the painting is filled with iconography specific to the South. Set on a verdant plantation, this image depicts slaves spending a leisurely day by the river on the property of the plantation owners, whose columned antebellum home is barely visible from the midst of the grand oaks. Richards’s romantic attention to the landscape, the figures in repose, and the veiled plantation home is noteworthy, and this thesis addresses River Plantation and the artist’s idyllic handling of a pre-war Southern plantation. In addition, a component of this thesis proposes River Plantation’s original title and exhibition history.