“More than a Passing Observation”

This exhibition examines the work of landscape painter William Louis Sonntag (1822–1900), placing the artist in a rich context of the landscape mania in the United States during his lifetime. Sonntag was closely identified with the Allegheny Mountains—many of his paintings depict what is today West Virginia. He was also an important colleague to the celebrated landscape painter Robert S. Duncanson, the first African American artist to earn an international reputation. Duncanson’s work is included in the exhibition along with many other peers. Visitors will learn how “taking a view” in the 19th century could express ideas about self, society, and nationhood. The exhibition reconsiders Sonntag’s role in the larger landscape painting tradition, including his promotion of “western” landscapes along the Alleghenies, his transatlantic travel, and the status of race as an element of his career. The exhibit was curated by Dr. Julia A. Sienkewicz, Associate Professor at Roanoke College.