The Palmer River flows from Massachusetts into Rhode Island. Bannister’s depiction reflects his admiration for French landscape artists, but it is also a study of weather. In the foreground, the shoreline is sprinkled with wildflowers. Over the calm waters of the river, a band of clouds dips low, heavy with moisture.
Bannister first made his living as a barber after being denied access to formal artistic training because of his race. Early portrait commissions from prominent members of the Black community in Boston launched his career. Following the Civil War — during which he was deeply involved in antislavery activities — he moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and turned his attention to landscape painting.