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Artist
Henry Cleenewerck
Title
Bonaventure Cemetery
Date
c. 1860
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
Canvas: 28 7/8 × 38 7/8 inches (73.3 × 98.7 cm)Framed: 31 1/2 × 41 1/2 × 1 1/2 inches (80 × 105.4 × 3.8 cm)
Tags
Painting
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Washburn in memory of Mrs. James Cary Evans (Cecilia DeWolfe Erskine).
Accession Number
1967.1
Henry Cleenewerck is best known for Romantic landscape paintings created during his wide travels from the jungles of Cuba to the American West. Born in 1818 in Watou, Belgium, Cleenewerck studied art in his home country before traveling to the United States in the 1850s. Cleenewerck arrived in Savannah in 1860 or earlier and opened a studio on Broughton Street. A March 1860 Savannah Morning News article stated that Cleenewerck had completed two paintings of Bonaventure, praising him as one of the country’s finest landscape painters. He exhibited the paintings at Savannah’s Armory Hall that same May. Cleenewerck’s time in Savannah was short, possibly due to the outbreak of the Civil War. The same year he completed the Bonaventure paintings, the artist made a drawing, reproduced as a print, showing crowds raising the flag of secession in Savannah’s Johnson Square.

In this painting, Cleenewerck depicts a romanticized, rearranged image of Bonaventure. As in T. A. Richards’ earlier painting, well-to-do white Savannahians are shown enjoying the cemetery’s moss-draped arcades of oak trees. A well-dressed couple strolls in the foreground while two others ride past in a carriage followed by a likely enslaved African American nursemaid holding her small, white charge by the hand. Recognizable features include the Clinch tomb and original rustic entrance gate on the far right, older obelisks on the left, and an open view to the Wilmington River in the background. Cleenewerck exercised artistic license, rearranging these features to appear in the same view.