Oil on canvas
36 x 30 3/4 in.
signed l.l. in red pigment: .Duncanson. \ 1869
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
During his lifetime, Duncanson, a self-taught Black artist, drew praise for his landscape paintings. In the prosperous city of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked for most of his career, a community of abolitionists became Duncanson’s patrons, among them the Methodist preacher Richard Sutton Rust, the first owner of The Caves.
Caves were popular tourist attractions during the mid-19th century. Subterranean journeys were promoted as educational excursions for travelers, and guided tours of caves became commonplace. Here, Duncanson includes a guide holding a lantern in the shadows of the cave’s mouth, perhaps suggesting one such tour. But the figure may have carried additional meaning for the artist and his Cincinnati patrons: Caves frequently served as stops on the Underground Railroad for people escaping enslavement, and the choice of subject may have commemorated abolitionist efforts in Ohio.
—Text taken from the Carter Handbook (2023)