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William Stanley Haseltine - Traunstein, The Mill Dam

William Stanley Haseltine (1835-1900), American
Traunstein, The Mill Dam, undated

Gift of Mrs. Roger H. Plowden

Watercolor has had an irregular history in American art. The American Watercolor Society, founded in 1866 to advocate and encourage the professional use of the medium, was a relative latecomer to the field. Because watercolors are particularly sensitive to light, they are rarely displayed alongside oil paintings and sculpture, which are more durable. The presence of Haseltine's TraunsteinThe Mill Dam in the Athenaeum's collection is a reminder of the rapid growth of interest in watercolor during the 186os and 1870s.

This painting offers an intimate portrayal of rural life in the southeastern German province of Bavaria. The tight, detailed style and unimposing subject matter characterize the influences of German, French, and English aesthetics on Haseltine, who studied in Dusseldorf and greatly admired the philosophies of the French Barbizon painters and British critic John Ruskin. An avid fisherman, Haseltine was drawn to Traunstein, where he summered during the mid-1870s, as much by its trout streams as by its scenery.