Oil on canvas, c. 1885
30 x 20 inches
Gift of the Carl S. Dentzel Estate
Today there are few extant works by Marius Dahlgren. Down Grade is an example of his western landscapes and represents the challenges of nineteenth-century life in the wilderness. Like other artists of that time, Dahlgren sought to convey the settlers’ mastery over the land. Contemporary viewers of this work would recognize and understand the danger of the moment. As the wagon driver navigates the steep downhill grade, he struggles for control with the reins tautly drawn, the horses straining against them. The placement of the wagon, close to the end of the grade, reinforces the sense of mastery of the driver, who has succeeded in maintaining control. Dahlgren conveys the steepness of the slope through the angles of the trees, the fence, and the tilted horizon line.