Henry Brown Fuller Illusions
Date: Before 1901
Technic: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 178,6 x 114,6 cm (70 3/8 x 45 1/8 in.)
Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum
In Illusions, Henry Brown Fuller (1867 – 1934) juxtaposed the themes of veneration of nature and aspiration to culture, the twin concerns of nineteenth-century American society. In the foreground, posed before an elegant balustrade, a child attempts to grasp a transparent sphere, symbol of illusions, which an allegorical female figure holds beyond his reach. Her draperies, along with the architecture, allude to the classicism of the Italian Renaissance, which many American painters of the century’s end embraced as the apex of true civilization.
Art and culture combine also in the distant silhouette of Mount Ascutney near Cornish, New Hampshire, where a colony of artists, including Thomas Dewing and Augustus Saint Gaudens, built Italianate mansions surrounded by cultivated Italianate gardens.