“Blue Hole, Little Miami River,” Robert S. Duncanson, 1851

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

I saw Robert S. Duncanson’s painting of the Little Miami River’s Blue Hole at the Cincinnati Art Museum about a week or so ago. What amazed me was that it was not only a painting of a local river that I grew up near and that the area that the painting depicted was familiar, but that Duncanson painted “Blue Hole” at a time when African Americans were treated as less than human. To be able to be a free man before and during the Civil War and learn the art trade and paint something so beautiful is amazing.

I love the realistic features of the painting, the earthy colors used to bleed life into the painting. I feel like I can just walk right into the painting and float down the river as I listen to the birds singing around me. The painting freezes the river in time, reminding us of how things used to be in a time when a country was young and wild.

There are few, if any spots along the Little Miami that have so many trees and undergrowth. Modern civilization has encroached upon it, devouring the areas that used to be free. I would love to go back to that place, really study it and compare it to the painting in order to find the similarities and differences. Time may change some things, but other things still stay the same.

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