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Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828–1901)—a Canadian-born, black painter who enjoyed a thirty-year career in Providence, Rhode Island—experienced racial discrimination throughout his life and historical marginalization following his death. His identity as an African American during the era of Emancipation and Reconstruction has framed the present understanding of his contribution to the American landscape tradition. This one-dimensional approach neglects his varied intellectual and professional endeavors, as well as his unique position as a freeborn, black artist. Bannister’s manuscript, The Artist and His Critics (1886), indicates that he developed an artistic theory around the philosophies of German Idealism and American Transcendentalism, inspired by nineteenth-century American authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Washington Allston. Considering past interpretations of his work alongside these overlooked ideological connections situates Bannister’s landscapes within a broader cultural context, yielding a more intricate understanding of the motivation and meaning behind his artwork.