This essay examines the southern picturesque, an architectural vision of the Old South formulated in the 1910s through 1930s in the Lower Mississippi River valley. This vision offered an oblique approach to the plantation big house that evoked a mythical antebellum past, presenting this fulcrum of chattel slavery and resource extraction as an image of leisurely natural order where climate assumed primary importance in the shaping of architectural form. Drawings and texts composed by architect and Tulane University professor Nathaniel Curtis, architect-artist William Spratling, and writer Natalie Scott participated in this maudlin display of the Old South. As this article argues, their work represented a kind of partially uprooted modernism that was in fact made possible by the expansion of the oil industry into the very same environment celebrated by the southern picturesque for its agrarian, nonindustrial authenticity.

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