A Ghost Story

Published:May 10, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

The Public Domain Review is a very cool site devoted to art that has outlasted its copyright. And up there now is “Painting the New World” by Benjamin Breen, a look at the paintings of John White, who is better known as governor of the Lost Colony at Roanoke. Breen writes that White’s account of his return to Roanoke “evokes the haunted landscape of a ghost story, and its eerie details have made it part of American folklore ever since.” In effect, though, White’s paintings—made on his first trip to the Outer Banks, in 1585, and soon to become iconic representations of native life in North America—accomplished the same thing. They evoke the landscape and customs of people whose way of life was about to largely disappear. That his paintings are often so beautiful and full of joy makes them all the more bittersweet.

IMAGES: The wyfe of an Herowan of Secotan and a fire ceremony, both by John White