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The Prairie on Fire

A work made of oil on canvas.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.




Alvan Fisher
American, 1792–1863

About this artwork

Alvan Fisher was a pioneering American landscapist whose work offered an important precedent for the Hudson River School. This painting depicts a subject from James Fenimore Cooper’s 1827 novel The Prairie, the third of the five Leatherstocking Tales. In this scene, Natty Bumppo, the hero of the series, has created a firebreak to protect the story’s protagonists. As a Romantic-era artist, Fisher preferred such dramatic episodes, which involved striking contrasts between light and dark. Unlike contemporaneous illustrations of the scene, which give little sense of setting, in this version the figures are dwarfed by nature, and the prairie grasses are exquisitely rendered, underscoring the landscape’s beauty as well as its dangers. The work thus suggests the significance of the prairie in Cooper’s text. Perhaps for this reason, the author declared that it was “the only good illustration he had seen from his books.”

On View

Arts of the Americas, Gallery 171


Alvan Fisher


The Prairie on Fire


United States




Oil on canvas


Signed, dated, and inscribed on verso, prior to lining: Painted by Alvan Fisher 1827


61 × 83.8 cm (24 × 33 in.)

Credit Line

Through prior acquisition of the George F. Harding Fund; restricted gift of Jamee J. and Marshall Field; Americana Endowment Fund

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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