In this pastoral landscape, a man, having just emerged from a dense forest of oak trees, is walking along a path that leads to a small boat on the water. Nearby, a few cows are peacefully grazing. The influence of the mid-nineteenth-century Hudson River School is evident in the idealized portrayal of nature, the harmonious co-existence of humans and animals, and the juxtaposition of wilderness and picturesque agriculture. Oak Trees, 1876, may resemble Bannister’s Under the Oaks (location unknown), which was awarded a first prize medal for painting at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 and brought Bannister national recognition. Of this extraordinary achievement, the artist remarked, “I was and am proud to know that the jury of award did not know anything about me, my antecedents, color or race. There was no sentimental sympathy leading to the award of the medal.”
Artist and Abolitionist
Edward Mitchell Bannister, Oak Trees, 1876
Oil on canvas, 86 x 153 cm, Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, Gift of H. Alan and Melvin Frank (1983.95.155).