Eliza Geeslin & Ally Kontra

Fall 2014

Outsider Adirondack Art


“There is something so perfect about the mountains and the lake and the trees… It is really lovely.”

- Georgia O'Keeffe, about Lake George 


The Adirondack art that most of us recognize is usually art done by outsiders. Traditionally, artists would travel to the park to sketch and then go home to develop their sketches into paintings. Initially, most of these painters worked in tandem with surveyers who were mapping the Adirondacks. Later, artists were comssioned to paint the wonders of the Adirondacks, inadvertently promoting the Adirondacks to tourists. Artists like Winslow Homer and Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait were very successful Adirondack Painters, but their depictions of the Adirondacks were not entirely accurate. These outsider painters increased the popularity of the Adirondacks with their idealized images of the park.Their favorable depictions of the Adirondack wilderness and these appealing ideals cemented the Adirondacks as a tourist destination. As we see in the images above, painting could be distributed in print form, with the ability to reach many Americans. From the beginning, outsider artists played a big role in creating the concept of the park as a scenic and wild place.

Twentieth-century artists, like their nineteenth-century predicessors, played a role in luring tourists to the region (Welsh 98). Contemporary artists mostly continue to portray the "sanctity of nature and to acknowledge its tenious balances" (Welsh 108). However, the line between outsider artists and local artists becomes more blurred as we enter the 1900s. Artists such as Gerogia O'Keeffe, Rockwell Kent, and Harold Weston spent extended amounts of time in the Adirondacks and depicted the park in more emotional ways. The works O'Keeffe, Kent, and Weston, as well as Don Wynn, Paul Matthews, and Nathan Farb, are connected to the park. Their art invokes a better understanding of the Adirondacks than the works of their predecessors, but it still often depicts traditional and idealized content.