The Moose Hunter

Charles Codman (American, 1800-1842)

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  • Codman composed this scene along the lines of traditional landscape models, with foreground trees framing the central vista. He excluded any signs of European civilization to emphasize the untouched quality of the American wilderness as it was perceived by his audiences.
  • The drama and power of nature on the canvas as a whole is reconstituted in the detail of the Native American bringing down the moose in the river. Equating Native Americans with nature and the sublime American landscape was a common trope in Romantic painting and literature during Codman’s day.
  • Maine-based Codman worked in relative isolation from most of the burgeoning American art scene, but his work still shares the styles and themes of his time.
Romantic Interpretations of the New England Landscape

Charles Codman is a relatively unknown landscape painter active in the area of Portland, Maine. Codman learned his craft as an apprentice to a clockmaker, painting clock faces and small paintings on glass. Later, he worked as a sign painter. His commission to paint an oil tapestry for the Elm Tavern in Portland garnered him local popularity and several painting commissions. John Neal, a prominent author and critic, encouraged Codman’s artistic development. Codman exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum and at the National Academy of Design in New York.

The Moose Hunter, surrounded by trees and mountains, is a composite of specific and imagined forms, some drawn from prints and literary sources. To emphasize the untouched quality of the American wilderness, Codman excludes all signs of encroaching civilization, instead dramatizing the American Indian’s prowess in his native environment.

Skwire Routhier Nicoll, Jessica. Charles Codman: The Landscape of Art and Culture in 19th Century Maine. Portland, Oregon: Portland Museum of Art, 2002.

The artist. Victor D. Spark, New York, New York. Theodore Stebbins Jr., Northampton, Massachusetts, 1967. Robert P. Weiman, Woodbridge, Colorado; purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1973.

Object Information

Charles Codman (American, 1800-1842)
creation date
oil on panel
24 x 32-1/4 in. (panel)
31 x 40 x 3 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signed and dated, lower left: C. Codman 1831
accession number
credit line
The Orville A. and Elma D. Wilkinson Fund
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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