Emerson’s Nature and the Artists

● Available in September 2021!

Illustrated by classic American paintings and photographs, and accompanied with a prescient new appraisal, this stunning publication on Emerson’s seminal 1836 essay is at once a meditation on the ways artists influence each other and a timely cri de coeur to cherish and preserve America’s landscape.

Widely considered to be the foundational text of the American landscape tradition, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature urges Americans to value and immerse themselves in their country’s landscape, to build American culture from America’s nature. Nearly two centuries after Emerson’s original publication of his essay/book Nature, this captivating book brings together a selection of artistic works in dialog with Emerson’s text for the first time. Green also offers his own fascinating take on Nature through new research into how the essay was informed by Emerson’s experiences of art and, in turn, how it informed American art well into the twentieth century.

I think of Emerson’s Nature and the Artists book as a bit of a concept album-as-book that will do many things at once, including:

● Argue that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s landmark 1836 Nature, perhaps the most influential non-fiction book of America’s 19thC, was significantly informed – and motivated – by Emerson’s study of American art, and that Nature, in turn, enormously informed the next 100 years of American art.

● Examine how Emerson joined his whackadoodle Anglo-Saxon race theory to his ideas about American nature in ways that baked whiteness into the American landscape tradition.

● Offer two short essays that examine the concurrent production of Nature and Thomas Cole’s great The Oxbow; and several of the many major American dadaist and precisionist artworks that were direct, cheeky addresses of Emerson and Nature.

● Present 60-70 artworks that I will argue were informed by Nature’s most important ideas. They’ll be offered in line with the complete 15,000-word text of Nature, alongside critical analysis.

Every artwork in the book has been made available by art museums and libraries with open access policies. In Nature, Emerson defined “landscape” as a public commons, a definition that would inform, among much else, the Civil War-era invention of the national park at Yosemite. In using only works museums and libraries have made available under open access, I’ll underscore how such policies are an adaptation of Emerson’s anti-capitalist public commons idea to the digital sphere.

Sample page spreads