Accession number: 1995.131
Purchased with funds provided by Lora Robins, E. Claiborne Robins, Jr., Bruce Gottwald, Paul Mellon, D. Tennant Bryan, Henry Stern, Thomas Towers, and Mrs. E. Schneider
Churches, Blacksmith Shop and College: A View of Salem in Virginia in 1855 was painted by Edward Beyer, who worked in Virginia for a few years in the 1850s. This is a rare landscape commissioned by wealthy Virginia gentlemen, at a time when most commissioned paintings in Virginia were portraits.
Nineteenth-century Salem was a market town, where produce from nearby plantations was sold, and with the income from the sales planters bought hard and soft goods of every description as well as farm equipment, seed, and feed. In the late 1800s a visitor described the town: it "lies in a broad valley, is surrounded by large estates, and an air of prosperity and pleasant home-life pervades the whole scene." Some twenty residents of Salem commissioned Edward Beyer to paint this panorama. He shows us the buildings of the town, their positions in the landscape, and how people dressed, worked, and traveled. We view the canvas almost as if it were a moving panorama. Like the foreground couple on horseback, we enter the town on Main Street and then proceed to tour Salem, at least visually. In the distance to the right is the classical main building of Roanoke College.