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Junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers

Roberts, William
Place Made:
Harper’s Ferry West Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
watercolor –pencil –ink –paper
HOA: 17 1/2; WOA: 22
Accession Number:
In 1803 and 1804 William Roberts traveled to Harpers Ferry, Virginia, to see the Junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, considered one of the most picturesque sites in the United States. Following his return to England, Roberts produced this study of the scene in preparation for a more finished watercolor and an eventual print of the scene.

SCENE: The arsenal which was captured by John Brown and his abolitionist followers during his raid on Harper’s Ferry is visible in the foreground. This arsenal was a popular subject among nineteenth-century landscape painters working in western Virginia and Maryland.

RELATED WORKS: Final watercolor after this sketch (MESDA Acc. No. 3424.2); aquatint etched after the watercolor (MESDA Acc. No. 3424.3).

DESCRIPTION: Watercolor, ink and pencil on paper, “Junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah, Virginia,” landscape scene of rivers meeting with hills on both sides, one river being further away in the distance. Clouds sit in the blue sky. Long, rectangular buildings sit below the hills and in front of the river, and houses are visible to the left. A boat (the ferry?) is sailing in the middle of the river to the left, and another ferry boat sails below the rectangular buildings from the right. Upon the boats are human figures and pencil sketched objects. Other human figures are on both sides of the river banks. The watercolor upon this paper has run so that it is now outside of the actual picture’s boundary.

Descended in the family of the artist, William Roberts, to his daughter Grace (Roberts) Burton, to her son Sir Charles Burton.
Credit Line:
Gift of G. Wilson Douglas, Jr. and Douglas Battery Fund