Known for his portraits of the bayou and swamps that had fascinated him during his service in the Union Army during the American Civil War, painter Joseph Rusling Meeker would also be known for his landscape paintings, portraiture and writings. He would paint scenes from around the country, including the Wyoming territories and the Merrimac River of New Hampshire. He would employ the technique known as "Luminism" where the effects of light on water or elements of the atmosphere would illuminate a scene in a romantic or mysterious manner.
He was born in New Jersey in 1827 and after receiving a scholarship to the National Academy of Design in New York had studied with Asher B. Durand, a painter of the Hudson River school. After completing his education he returned to his hometown area of Buffalo and opened his own studio. By 1852 he had decided to head west where he settled in Louisville, Kentucky for the next seven years. He would focus his work on the landscape and scenery of the Ohio, Kentucky and Salt Rivers, and give lessons to make a living.
In 1859 he relocated again to St. Louis, and only a few years later was serving in the Army. He would find the mysterious bayous and swamps of the Mississippi fascinating and make enough sketches and drawings to last for many years of studio work.
He returned to St. Louis's thriving arts community after the War and found immediate success with his Luminist southern landscapes. This allowed him to take many painting excursions into the upper Mississippi River as well as journeys through the Adirondack Mountains and westward into Colorado and Wyoming.
He exhibited at the 1878 World's Fair in St. Louis; all of his paintings were of the various regions along the Mississippi. He continued to exhibit and participated in the city's art community, founding the St. Louis Art Society in 1872 and joining in the activities of the St. Louis Sketch Club. He remained in the city until his death in 1889.
His works are in the collections of several large museums including those in Louisiana and Massachusetts.