Landscapes, then and now

November 16, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach

As part of Maryland Through the Artist's Eye, an exhibit that presents history through a variety of artworks, the Maryland Historical Society's deputy director, Nancy Davis, asked photographers Joseph Hyde and Christopher Hartlove to use their cameras to re-create vintage landscape paintings. To do so, the photographers visited the same spots and viewed the scenes from the same perspectives as the painters did - then captured on film what they saw. The resulting pictures provide museum visitors with a snapshot of how these Maryland views have changed, a century or two after being committed to canvas.

Sometimes armed with little more than a photocopy of the original painting, the photographers set out to replicate the paintings.

One of the scenes reproduced by Hartlove was Thomas Ruckle's Defense of Baltimore - Assembly of the Troops, Sept. 12, 1814. He did it by climbing to the top of the Patterson Park Pagoda. Of course, the pagoda wasn't built until 1891, but climbing it gave Hartlove roughly the same birds-eye perspective Ruckle employed.

"I hadn't been to the pagoda since I was a kid," Hartlove says. "In a way, the view made me fall in love with Baltimore all over again."

Hyde was asked to reproduce John H. B. Latrobe's Thomas Viaduct at Relay. Fortunately, the viaduct still stands, but getting to the original vantage point, within what is now Patapsco State Park, proved the challenge.

"It was almost like a bushwhacking experience, getting to the original spot," he says. "I think it's more densely forested now than it was back then."

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