Zachary Fine is a freelance writer from New Orleans who has contributed to Artforum, Art in America, the Financial Times, The New Republic, and the Times Literary Supplement. (February 2020)


Swampland Sublime: The Landscapes of Louisiana

Richard Clague, Trapper’s Cabin, Manchac, 1870

The recent exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art, “Inventing Acadia: Painting and Place in Louisiana,” is the first in nearly thirty years to attempt a survey of nineteenth-century Louisiana landscape painting, and the first ever to place the tradition within wider national and international currents of art. The show is somewhat cursed by the uncertainty of the land: many of the sites depicted in the paintings are today deforested, eroding, or underwater; the paintings themselves are among the few of their kind to have survived the constant humidity, as well as the floods and other disasters, that afflict the region; and even the museum itself sits in a part of the city that is still routinely inundated and was, until the second half of the nineteenth century, largely uninhabitable sludge.