May 26, 2011

Read With Us: My Antonia

The Prairie is My Garden by Harvey Dunn

This month's book for the Read With Me La Porte Rouge book club was My Antonia by Willa Cather. What a delight! How refreshing it was to feel the simple wonderment in uncovering Jim and Antonia's world!

The bucolic Nebraska landscape, described in such raw and poignant detail, plays such a central role in the novel that I felt it was just as much of a lead character as Jim or Antonia herself. From the robust heat and hard work of Summer, to the breathtakingly rich blue sky of Autumn; from the cold harsh snows of Winter, to the renewing abundance of Spring and knowing its arrival even with your eyes closed; Cather so gently invites the reader into this beautiful pastoral countryside and so warmly welcomes us with the tales of its people.

In looking for images that captured the mental images I had while reading this book, I discovered the artist Harvey Dunn. Dunn was born in South Dakota and pursued his artistic career, first studying in Chicago, then, opening up a studio in Delaware and finally, establishing a school of illustration in New Jersey. Although Dunn's career took him far away from the prairie of South Dakota, he never forgot the land and people of his birthplace. As the South Dakota Art Museum states, "He is remembered as South Dakota's finest artist; having left a legacy as a war reporter, teacher, and painter of the Plains of his native state." Dunn's work so accurately and beautifully reflects life on the Great Plains; so many of his illustrations match so many of the images I had in mind while reading My Antonia. I think you'll agree...

The Prairie Trail

After School
After the Blizzard
The Visit
Girl Driving Oxen
Something for Supper
Just A Few Drops of Rain
Homesteader's Wife
Storm Front
all images via South Dakota State University here and here

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