As the story goes, Elliott Daingerfield's eyes were closed as he was led to the canyon's rim before sunrise.
Daniel Stetson takes it a step further.
"He was blindfolded," the LSU Museum of Art's director says. "He was one of four artists invited to paint it."
"It" was the Grand Canyon, a difficult place for most eastern Americans to reach at the turn of the century.
"Can you imagine what his reaction was when they removed the blindfold?" Stetson asks.
Daingerfield's awe can be seen in his undated painting, "Grand Canyon #2," in the LSU Museum of Art's "Everlasting Calm: The Art of Elliott Daingerfeld."
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The show is a 50-piece retrospective of the North Carolina artist's southern scenes, western landscapes and spiritual in nature paintings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It runs through March 19.
"Grand Canyon #2" is smaller than others in the show, but it's significant because, as one of five painters invited on that trip to the Grand Canyon in 1910, he was one of the first to show Americans the world wonder in their backyard.
Still, he wouldn't be tagged the master painter of the Grand Canyon. That recognition would go to his colleague Thomas Moran, who also painted the Yellowstone landscape, which contributed to its designation as the first national park in 1872.
But Daingerfield was there alongside Moran, and his paintings contributed to east coast Americans' introduction to the American west as he would paint other scenes in the region.
This was only one part of Daingerfield's body of work. The LSU Museum of Art has divided its show into sections highlighting the artist's moonlit southern landscapes, spiritual subjects and figurative work and introduces the artist with a personal history.
It's in the introduction where viewers will find paintings by Daingerfield's inspirations — tonalist landscape painters George Inness and Ralph Albert Blakelock. Tonalism features subdued color and emphasizes mood, evoking emotional responses.The tonalist influence in Daingerfield's work can be seen throughout the show as colors come together to evoke the divine in nature.
Stetson and his staff arranged "Everlasting Calm" through the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia. It's the third museum show he's staged for Daingerfield's work. The artist is sometimes overlooked, and Stetson makes sure his work is highlighted.
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Daingerfield was born in 1859 in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and moved in 1861 to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where his father commanded the Confederate arsenal. He studied at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1880. After that, it was back to North Carolina, where he maintained his studio at Blowing Rock from 1886 to 1932.
Daingerfield also maintained a studio in New York, where he shared space with Inness. The show maps the evolution of Daingerfield's work and is also a timeline of his life, from his self portrait to "The Mystic Brim," a heavenly depiction of his first wife, Roberta, who died in childbirth.
North Carolina's Grandfather Mountain as seen from his Blowing Rock studio is a significant scene in his smaller southern works. He became known as the "American Millet," referring to French painter Jean-François Millet, also a founder of France's Barbizon School, which emphasized realism.
Daingerfield also was influenced by symbolist art, whose subjects were founded in poetry and literature.
And though he was awed by the West and prospered in New York, he remained deeply rooted in the South, which is why Grandfather Mountain remained a prevalent symbol in his work.
"The art of Elliot Daingerfield and the evolution of his career, stretching from his roots in the South of the Confederacy to his rise as a major artist in the New York art world, constitute one of the most intriguing chapters in the history of the art of the South," writes Williams Morris III in the foreword of the catalog, "Victorian Visionary: The Art of Elliott Daingerfield." "Even at the peak of his accomplishments in the art centers of the North, Daingerfield remained directly connected to the culture, history and environment to the South." The catalog is available for purchase at the show.