Inventing Acadia: Painting and Place in Louisiana is the first major exhibition featuring Louisiana landscape painting in more than forty years. Exploring the rise of landscape painting in Louisiana during the nineteenth century, Inventing Acadia reveals Louisiana’s role in creating—and exporting—a new vision for American landscape painting that was vastly different from that found in the rest of the United States. The exhibition shows how landscape painters from across the globe came together in Louisiana to form a new school of landscape painting that rivaled all others in the country.
From the early nineteenth century onward, Louisiana’s dense forests and tangled, impenetrable swamplands—branded as Acadie, or Acadia—represented the apotheosis of the American fascination with the untamed wilderness, resulting in landscape paintings that brought American art into conversation with a new type of landscape as well as Louisiana’s complicated political terrain. Painters, poets and writers of the period envisioned Louisiana’s enigmatic natural scenery at once as a paradise shrouded in the “glamour of romance,” and as a place profoundly marked by the forces of history at the time. In 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made Louisiana’s landscape the stuff of myth and legend in his epic poem A Tale of Acadie, calling Louisiana “a country that is not of this world.”