Loch Long

Robert Seldon Duncanson (American, 1821-1872)

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This scene is typical of Hudson River School painting in its inclusion of small figures, misty mountains, sun-dappled shore, and expansive vista.

Duncanson produced a series of Scottish landscapes stimulated by his travels and the literature of Sir Walter Scott.

Curatorial Summary

Robert Duncanson, the grandson of an emancipated slave, was born a “freeborn person of color” in upstate New York. He worked as a house painter and carpenter, but in 1840 he made the daring decision to embark on an artistic career and moved to Cincinnati. Duncanson began his career as an itinerant painter until Nicholas Longworth, a wealthy Cincinnati landowner, commissioned him to paint murals at the Longworth residence, now the Taft Museum. The eight commissioned murals were large-scale landscapes with elaborate frames.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, racial tensions increased in Cincinnati. Fearing for his safety, Duncanson traveled to Canada in 1863, later going on to England and Scotland. In England he found favor with a group of abolitionist supporters. In Scotland he exhibited his work and made sketches that he later used to paint landscapes. Upon his return from Scotland in 1867, Duncanson began a series of Scottish landscapes inspired by the writings of Sir Walter Scott. These picturesque views are considered to be the culmination of Duncanson’s career.

Based on the Scottish settings of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, Loch Long was created shortly after the artist returned to America. Scott’s work featured narratives where love was denied because of social position. Duncanson’s intention in this painting was to create a vision of the paradise denied for so long to African Americans in his own country. In Loch Long, the panoramic landscape is illuminated in a serene light that reflects off the shimmering surface of the lake. The misty veil hovering in the background adds a dramatic element to this picturesque view.


Ketner, Joseph D. The Emergence of the African-American Artist: Robert S. Duncanson 1821-1872. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993.

Private Collection;
(Visalia, Butterfields and Butterfields, San Francisco, California);
purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1997 (1997.142).

Object Information

Robert Seldon Duncanson (American, 1821-1872)
creation date
oil on canvas
19-1/2 x 33-11/16 in. (canvas)
25-7/8 x 39-3/4 x 3-3/4 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signed and dated in orange paint at lower right: Duncanson | 1867
accession number
credit line
Gift of the Alliance of the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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