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  Seth Eastman's Fort Paintings
Principal Fortifications of the United States
 Fort Taylor, Florida
(1870-1875) by Seth Eastman
 
 Fort Taylor, Florida 

The federal government broke ground on Fort Zachary Taylor in 1845, the same year that Florida became a state. Progress was extremely slow because of the remote location at Key West harbor and the tropical climate. The former made obtaining building materials difficult, and the latter brought yellow fever and hurricanes. Although its completion was thus delayed until 1866, the fort nonetheless played a significant part during the Civil War by intercepting blockade-running ships. It may have been this role, as well as Fort Taylor’s physical setting, that inspired Eastman’s unusually expressive painting.

This is one of the more striking paintings in the series because of the ambitious and dramatic atmosphere. The fort is solid and inert, its flag positioned in the exact center of the image. The sky is a mauve-gray concoction with darker cloud trails at the top. The water is windblown and dynamic, swirling around the foreground buoys and composed in a counterpoint of movement with the sky. The huge fort is suspended between sky and water, slightly left of center, with carefully drawn sailing vessels balancing the picture to the right. Only a small portion of land is visible on the left.


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