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Artists Begin Historic 80-mile Journey at Chimney Rock

In 1870, artist Harry Fen trekked 80 miles along the French Broad River to sketch and document 12 beautiful natural places for the publication Picturesque America. This month, two artists are following in his footsteps to recreate this artwork, and they began their journey here at Chimney Rock State Park. Scott Varn and Mike Wurman of the Preserving a Picturesque America organization left on horseback from the Chimney Rock gate on Wednesday to begin their journey to Del Rio, Tennessee. Dressed in 1800s clothing, they will travel the whole way on horseback or on foot.

Prior to their departure, the artists hosted a paint-out for other artists in the Preserving a Picturesque America group and for locals to attend. Several artists sat on the banks of the Broad River at Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery and painted or sketched their version of Harry Fen’s original rendering of Chimney Rock. Artists were invited to obtain a schedule and meet the travelers along their trip to participate in community paint-outs at each stop. After the paint out, Varn and Wurman met with Todd Morse to learn about the history of Chimney Rock and what has changed since Fen visited the same spot in 1870.   

The purpose of the original serial, which contained over 1000 pieces of art depicting gorgeous places from around the country, was to show the public how important it is to preserve the natural places in our world. Today, Preserving a Picturesque America, founded by Varn, is raising money to continue to protect these same places into the future. Later in the year Varn and Wurman will display the original artwork alongside the new paintings and sketches at a local exhibition that will in part support the places they are documenting, including Chimney Rock. Keep an eye out for the exhibition date and for more community happenings at the Rock!