Marvellous American art inspired by the Mississippi River

by | Feb 8, 2021 | Maritime Art, Culture and History, Nature and the Environment

The United States Geological Survey ranks the Mississippi River fifth amongst the world’s longest rivers and the second longest in North America. From its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota through the center of the continental United States to the Gulf of Mexico, its waters flow 2,340 miles (3,766 kms). But more significantly, the Mississippi River brims with history and culture. The following works of art are but a small collection but they tell a story about the great Mississippi. The three quotes are from Mark Twain’s 1883 memoir, Life on the Mississippi’.

It is not a commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways remarkable.

~ Mark Twain

View on the Mississippi Fifty–Seven Miles Below St. Anthony Falls, Minneapolis, 1858)
Ferdinand Richardt (American, 1819–1895)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (from the The White House art collection)

View on Lake St. Croix, Upper Mississippi, 1835-1836
George Catlin (American, 1796–1872)
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Maiden rock: Mississippi River, between 1850 and 1910
Lithographed and published by Currier & Ives (American, active New York, 1857–1907)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

Your true pilot cares nothing about anything on earth but the river, and his pride in his occupation surpasses the pride of kings.

~ Mark Twain

Mississippi Boatman, 1850
George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Midnight Race on the Mississippi, 1860
Frances Flora Bond Palmer (English-born American, 1812–1876)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

“Rounding a Bend” on the Mississippi — The Parting Salute, 1866
Frances Flora Bond Palmer (English-born American, 1812–1876}
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book — a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice.

~ Mark Twain

Brilliant naval victory on the Mississippi River, near Fort Wright, May 10th 1862, 1862
Lithographed and published by Currier & Ives (American, active New York, 1857–1907)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

Mississippi Noah, 1934
John Steuart Curry (American, 1897–1946)
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Upper Mississippi (Near Lansing, Iowa), no date
Robert Hinshelwood (Scottish-born American, 1812–1885)
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Majestic Bluffs, 1883
Illustration from Mark Twain’s ‘Life on the Mississippi’ (1883 edition)

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‘Life on the Mississippi’ by Mark Twain

A memoir of the steamboat era on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War

~ Barista Uno

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