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Natural Bridge

1971 Roger Brown Born: Hamilton, Alabama 1941 Died: Atlanta, Georgia 1997 oil on canvas 48 1/4 x 60 in. (122.5 x 152.3 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the S. W. and B. M. Koffler Foundation 1979.53.5 Not currently on view


Gallery Label

This work's title, Natural Bridge, refers to a sandstone formation in Roger Brown's home state of Alabama. In this painting, Brown envisioned paved roads, suburban homes, and high-voltage towers surrounding this treasured symbol of natural beauty. He drew inspiration from comic-strip imagery to depict a landscape that is at once familiar and charged with a surreal energy. Not much is "natural" at the Natural Bridge, where couples stroll through a flattened landscape and manicured shrubs radiate a curious neon glow.

Luce Center Label

The Natural Bridge, in Roger Brown's home state of Alabama, was formed thousands of years ago when a stream cut through a sandstone deposit and eroded the outer rock. It has since become a symbol of undisturbed, natural beauty, as well as a minor tourist attraction. Brown painted Natural Bridge shortly after a trip to Europe, where he saw power lines stretching across the desert-like Spanish horizon. Upon returning home, Brown could not shake the scene from his mind and included power lines in many of his landscape paintings from this period. Although inspired by his European travels, Brown believed the power lines became recognizable images of the American landscape when incorporated into his paintings. The silhouetted figures, whose fashions and hairstyles were inspired by Nancy comics of the 1940s, serve to heighten the imaginative quality of this painting.

Keywords

Architecture Exterior - domestic - house

Architecture Exterior - science - power lines

Figure group

Landscape - phenomenon - natural bridge

Landscape - road

Landscape - tree - palm tree

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas