The peaked mountains that create a majestic pattern recall the panoramic vistas of nineteenth-century American landscape painting. These scenic views carried a sense of national pride and a spirituality tied to America's notion of its historical destiny. Brown's mountains are mythic in their brooding contrasts of dark browns and luminous whites. But this epic mountain range has been domesticated with modest and identical bungalows nestled among the soaring peaks. They rest in clearings surrounded by dense trees that provide a visual counterpart in their curved and scalloped appearance to the mountains that dwarf them.
Below and to each side of this American landscape, two couples stand behind a split-rail fence that separates them from what they are looking at, one gentleman gesturing with outstretched arm. They appear to be looking at something on special display. What exactly catches their eye? Perhaps it is the beautiful natural scenery? But look carefully. Do you notice that some of the clearings are empty? The mountains are filling up and only a few choice lots are left. Our couples may be house hunting. Or, they may be, as Brown was, worried about the conservation of nature. Our couples possibly are concerned with what sites remain; or, more ironically, in Brown's pun on what is more sadly being lost—"mountain sights."
Roger Brown, Mountain Sites, 1973, oil on canvas, 54 x 70 inches. Collection of Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Purchase, through a contribution from the Wisconsin State Journal. 73.0.26 © The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Brown family
Roger Brown. Photograph courtesy Wm H Bengtson.