Bienvenu Lecture: 2014

Black Belt and Red Clay: Landscape Painting in the Deep South, 1920-1950

By William Underwood Eiland

Southerners rarely speak of a specific southern landscape; the varying resources gathered from a Louisiana bayou, a Low Country beach and a Delta farm would give their respective harvesters little in common. Nevertheless, southerners do speak of “the Land,” often in reverent tones, and derive a sense of rootedness or communal identity from it. It is no coincidence that the words southerners use to describe this land—redneck, blue blood, black belt, red clay—are tinged with color, and artists like Anne Goldthwaite, John Lapsley, Rella Rudulph and Lamar Dodd bound social and political concerns into their painted landscapes. In doing so, these artists forged a link between southern land and southern identity still palpable today.


A native of Sprott, Ala., William Underwood Eiland is the director of the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia. He took a B.A. degree summa cum laude from Birmingham-Southern College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia.

Eiland has been the recipient of a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship, a Danforth Teaching Fellowship at the University of Virginia, a research fellowship from the University of Georgia’s Willson Center for The Humanities and Arts, and a Museum Professionals Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has edited and contributed to more than 60 publications, including Art Papers, Georgia Journal, US Art, Ceramics Monthly, Southern Antiques and English Literature in Transition. Notably, Eiland authored The Truth in Things: The Life and Career of Lamar Dodd, published by the University of Georgia Press and Nashville’s Mother Church: The History of the Ryman Auditorium.

He has served on the boards of the American Association of Museums, the Southeastern Museums Conference and the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries; was a trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors; and was chairman of the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Advisory Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts. He also served as the vice chairman of the board of the American Association of Museums in 2004 and 2005. Currently, he is vice-chair of the Accreditation Commission of the American Association of Museums and is a trustee of the International Council of Museums.

Among his many honors, Eiland most recently received the American Alliance of Museums Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of his contributions to the field on a national level. In 2010, Eiland was inducted into Sigma Pi Kappa, an international fraternity of historical preservationists, and received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from Birmingham-Southern College. He received the James Short Award from the Southeastern Museums Conference in 2008, for distinguished service in the museum profession, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries in 2007.

He is currently on the graduate faculty of the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia.

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