RICHMOND, VA.- The Virginia Museum of History & Culture
is displaying a selection of masterful landscape paintings by Washington, D.C., based artist Andrei Kushnir. These breathtaking works capture the extraordinary beauty and vitality of the Shenandoah Valley region, qualities that enticed pioneers to settle there and inspired artists from all over the world to travel there. The buildings and patterns of land distribution that are the substance of Kushnir's paintings provide tangible evidence of the Valleys settlement and diversity, from communities and historic sites to farmlands and waterways. Fifty-two of Kushnir's 263 painted landscapes of the Valley are being featured in this exhibition, with the entire body of his Valley landscapes pictured and described in the exhibition's companion catalog available for sale in the VMHC museum shop.
Kushnir grew up in Scott, Mississippi and Chicago, Illinois. After experimenting with various media, he started painting in oils in 1980, and quickly discovered the joys of painting landscapes outdoors, en plein air. Essentially self-taught, he developed a naturalistic, realist style, and has painted outdoors in every type of weather and focused on the landscape. He has painted across the nation and abroad, but with great consideration to the Shenandoah Valley. His attention to detail and sense of place exude his love for the region.
Kushnirs paintings of the Valley are more than spectacularly beautiful. They reveal the Valley as a landscape of American settlement. Across a natural setting that extends some 200 miles from the Potomac River to the James River, the story of our nations mixing of cultures is visibly evident through farmsteads, bridges, fences and roads. Styles of architecture reflect the heritage of different cultures, and the rolling hills and meadows call to mind those who might have camped there but left no trace. Native Americans, such as the Iroquois, were first active in the Valley. The Iroquois were the Six Nations tribe, which included Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas and later Tuscaroras. During the 17th century, permanent colonial settlements appeared from Quebec to Charleston, West Virginia. Control issues over travel ways developed. Iroquois warriors traveling through the region began to collide with colonists moving west. Through a series of treaties, the Six Nations agreed to leave. They accepted payment for their claims to the lands west of the Blue Ridge, thus clearing the way for further Virginia settlement. And for the next three centuries, pioneers of English, German, Scots-Irish, French, and African descent moved into the Valley in waves of settlement. They carried remarkably varied religious beliefs: Anglicans, Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, French Huguenots, Jews, Lutherans, Anabaptists (including Mennonites and German Baptist Brethren), and members of the German Reformed Church all enjoyed the religious freedom of the region and the religious solitude that it offered. The new population of the Valley was characterized by its diversity of faith.
Throughout the nineteenth century, settlers prospered in this agriculturally productive region and continued to carve homesteads and communitiesmany of which survived the Civil War and remain highly visible to this day. Oh, Shenandoah will be on display at VMHC through September 1, 2019.