Since its first public appearance in 1863, Elihu Vedder’s The Questioner of the Sphinx, has been a mystery. It is the first of a group of bizarre and visionary paintings, drawings, and book illustrations that Vedder (1836 – 1923) began to create in New York City at the outset of the American Civil War. Prior to this, he had spent three years abroad, studying in Paris and Florence. There, he produced mostly bucolic studies of the Italian countryside. When he returned to New York City in 1861, he made an abrupt and radical departure into the mysterious and the dangerous.
This exhibition explores Vedder’s journey into the realm of vision, nightmare, and dream. It considers Vedder’s fascination with ancient myths and legends of the monstrous and the terrible within the context of the horror, destruction, and alienation engendered by the national crisis of the American Civil War.
This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year,
multi-institutional partnership formed by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as part of the
Art Bridges + Terra Foundation Initiative.