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The Cover
May 26, 2010

Landscape (Bayou)

JAMA. 2010;303(20):2010. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.552

Deep in the Louisiana swamplands, heavily humid twilight buzzes with fireflies and mosquitoes. The skies flicker from blue to violet to lustrous gray while the sizzling sun slips below the horizon. Joseph Rusling Meeker (1827-1887) captured that fleeting moment in his Landscape (Bayou) (cover), a tribute to the American South. Paintings, like novels, have characters: the protagonist, for Meeker, is the bayou itself. The bayou's intrinsic beauty, enhanced by Meeker's luminous treatment, conceals the subtext inherent in his depiction of the swamp. Meeker's experiences during the Civil War along the Mississippi River, while he acted as paymaster onboard a Union gunboat, carved lasting images in his artistic soul: those internal pictures later found their way onto his Reconstruction-era easel.

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