NEW ALBANY —
In addition to portraits, the local library has preserved some of Morrison’s landscape paintings. His view from Silver Hills inspired him to create a fantastic aerial view of New Albany, complete with riverboats sailing — and even one sinking — down the Ohio. Due to the prevalent river trade with the South, it’s been rumored that his paintings have been found as far away as New Orleans. For a time, the artist spent winters in the bayou city. But eventually, times would change for both the city and its famous inhabitant.
“Following the Civil War, New Albany’s economic boom ceased because of the decline in trade with the South,” said Estill Curtis Pennington in the book “Lessons in Likeness Portrait Painters in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley 1802-1920.” “While Morrison’s portrait commissions dwindled in the face of competition from photography, he continued to be an active landscape and still-life painter whose work was much in demand.”
Painting well into his final years, sometimes with the use of a photograph to guide his work, Morrison died in December 1893 and was interred on his Silver Hills estate. Later, his body would be moved to Fairview Cemetery.
While always painting for the wealthy citizens of New Albany and gaining commercial success, the man whose obituary chronicled him as quiet and reserved in his manners would never become affluent himself. But money couldn’t have bought the artist his enduring legacy or the lingering historical significance of his paintings, something a local newspaper covering one of his landscape paintings hinted out more than 150 years ago.
“Twenty years hence this picture will be invaluable — when generations yet to be born will gaze with astonishment at the rapid growth of a city destined to become the great commercial emporium of the West, which is now but in her infancy,” said a reporter from a March 1853 edition of the New Albany Daily Ledger. “We hope all will go and see it.”
THANKS FOR THE HELP
Note: A special thanks to everyone at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library’s Indiana Room for help with researching this and other topics. Each and every worker there is such a great asset to our community in their own right. If you have a chance, stop by their historical archives and see all the wonderful local books and documents they preserve.