Romantic Spirits: Nineteenth Century Paintings of the South from the Johnson Collection features 38 paintings, created from 1810 – 1896, chronicling the cultural evolution and concepts of the romantic movement as it unfolded in fine art of the American South. Having its genesis in European literature and art, romanticism found its way into the cultural output of the young republic, both North and South.
The same ideals that imbued the canvases of the Hudson River School also colored the art of painters who found their inspiration and audience below the Mason-Dixon Line. Romantic Spirits features 32 prominent artists in this era, including William Dickinson Washington, William Thompson Russell Smith, Gustave Henry Mosler, Thomas Addison Richards, Joseph Rusling Meeker, Robert Walter Weir, and Thomas Sully, among others. The exhibition and its corresponding catalogue, written by art historian Estill Curtis Pennington, delineates the historical, social, and cultural forces that profoundly influenced these artists' aesthetic sensibilities.