Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Expansionist (The Traveled Man) by Francis Davis Millet


I've thought of this painting often, probably at least once a fortnight, since we saw it at the High Museum in December. The Expansionist (The Traveled Man) was painted by Francis Davis Millet in 1899, thirteen years before his death on the Titanic and shortly after the Spanish-American War.

I'm glad I photographed the wall text (the High Museum has great wall text) because there isn't much information available about it online. (I really want to read this paper. Reach out if you're reading this, Samantha Scoggins of the Georgia Writers Museum! How did I not know that existed?) According to the High Museum:

"The Expansionist was painted soon after Millet returned from extensive travel in East Asia and the Philippines, where he served as a newspaper correspondent during the Spanish-American War. Set in the Elizabethan parlor of his English home, the painting epitomizes the interest in 'bygone days' that characterizes much art of this time. But the underlying association of the spoils of travel (many of which can be seen in this tableau) with the spoils of war gave the image topicality in 1899, when the United States was grappling with its new international power and imperialist ambitions. Regarded as the masterpiece of Millet's mature career, The Expansionist was critically acclaimed at several international exhibitions."

I think it's stuck with me both because it's so beautiful, and because it reminds me of how I want to live my tourist-life. If my travel can't actively help the place I'm visiting, the very least I can do is no harm, and not go about my trips like a collector of oddities.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I love the textures and layers of this painting---the puppets, the shoes, the souvenirs from his travels. He seeks more from the world, but what does he find--stuff to represent the exotic. But what does he know of the artifacts' meanings, the heritage, or even how to use them in the context of their makers? Does he and his wife understand the stories before them? So apropo today as we contemplate heritage and identity in our quest to move forward in global unity. Thank you, again, for providing a source for understanding.

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