Positive Aesthetics: "The Inhospitable Clime"


When fur trappers, scientists, and artists reached the Upper Missouri, they found landscapes so different from the picturesque scenery of Europe that they had difficulty finding words to express what they saw. Beauty was not one of those words.

One fur trapper, Kenneth McKenzie, simply called the Upper Missouri an "inhospitable clime."

Unable to find beauty, scientists and artists focused on the sublime - the terrifying in nature - and the scientifically interesting.

Previously interest had been an elment of the beautiful. Here it became a major aesthetic category in its own right.

George Catlin, Buffalo Chase with Bows and Lances, 1830s, National Collection of Fine Arts