The Banks of Doon – Burns Moment

Frances Flora Bond Palmer American, born England
Lithographed and published by Currier & Ives American
Related author Robert Burns British, Scottish

Not on view

In this bucolic picture, a family rests beside a rustic gate while enjoying a view of the stately Burns Monument, a colonnaded temple in the classical Greek style, located on a hillside in Alloway, Scotland, the birthplace of the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796). In the left middle distance of the image, there is a high arched medieval bridge (called the Old Bridge of Doon, or "Brig o'Doon") spanning the River Doon. The print's title refers to song lyrics "The Banks o'Doon" which Burns wrote in 1791.

In the years following his premature death, Burns's fame spread widely thereby inspiring supporters to raise funds to erect the first monument to memorialize the nation's great poet. Completed in 1823, the Burns Monument was designed by the architect Sir Thomas Hamilton (1784-1858); the nine pillars supporting the structure's roof represented the nine muses of Greek mythology. It was sited on a slope north of the River Doon so that it offered splendid views of the Brig o'Doon and the surrounding gardens and countryside -- as it still does, today.

Nathaniel Currier, who established a successful New York-based lithography firm in 1835, produced thousands of hand-colored prints in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century life. Expansion led, in 1857, to a partnership with James Merritt Ives (1824–1895), the brother-in-law of Nathaniel's younger brother Charles; the firm was renamed Currier & Ives. People eagerly acquired Currier & Ives lithographs, such as those featuring spectacular landscapes, rural and city views, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments.

The artist Frances Flora (Fanny) Palmer, who emigrated to the United States in 1844 from England, was skilled in depicting picturesque landscapes, primarily of America, but also of English views like this one featuring the majestic Burns Monument in its serene setting where cows, sheep, and people rest beside a river. Although it was unusual for a woman to achieve such prominence in a printing firm, Palmer was one of the most important artists working for Nathaniel Currier, and later Currier and Ives, between 1849 and 1868, when she produced approximately 200 of the firm's best landscapes and most engaging scenes of daily life.

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