Unit 1: The Americas: 16th and 17th Centuries The indigenous and early Colonial culture in South and Central America as well as Native North American society have continued to resonate variously in the art and visual culture of the United States. The Spanish (funding Christopher Columbus) made the earliest Christian mark, followed by the English and Dutch, who eventually prevailed in privileging Protestantism over Catholicism in the forthcoming new nation.
Web Media: Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s “American Historical Periods” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.
Reading: Wikipedia’s “History of the United States” Link: Wikipedia’s “History of the United States” (HTML)
Instructions: Use this basic timeline to keep track of the major events in American history as we proceed through the units below.
1.1 Pre-Columbian Art Forms Note: At the time of European contact with the Americas, Aztec civilization was producing sophisticated architecture, sculpture, and painted images on pottery and codices. Their ceremonial capital, Tenochtitlan, beneath modern-day Mexico City, is under continual excavation, yielding new information. Native North Americans generally employed ephemeral art materials; however, they also created monumental “earth sculptures” before the second millennium that remain part of the American landscape.
Web Media: Mexicolore’s “Aztec Pages" Link: Mexicolore’s “Aztec Pages” (HTML)
Instructions: This website features excellent images of Aztec art. Please browse the site after reading the articles listed below:
In the left menu, click “Moctezuma” and then the “Death of Monctezuma” link on the right menu at top of the page you reach. Read the entire, well-illustrated article on the enigmatic Aztec ruler at the time of Cortes (three parts; attributed to a panel of scholars). Then return to the previous right menu to browse “art news/exhibition pages” listed near the bottom.
Return to main Aztec page (as above). Click “Spanish Conquest” and then read the illustrated article, “What Happened to the Aztec Gods after Conquest?” (found on the top right hand menu) by Dr. Eleanor Wake (2 parts).
Reading: The National Park Service: Indian Mounds of the Mississippi: "The Mound Builders" and "Building the Mounds" Links: The National Park Service: Indian Mounds of the Mississippi: "The Mound Builders" (HTML) and "Building the Mounds" (HTML)
Instructions: Please read these two webpages as an introduction to the Mound Builders, the prehistoric inhabitants of North America who built earthen mounds for ritual and residential purposes. "Mound builder" is an inclusive name for a number of cultures that lived in the Great Lakes Region and the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys from the fourth millennium BCE to about 1700CE. These pages focus on Mound Building cultures in the Mississippi Valley, while the following reading is about the famous Serpent Mound in the Ohio Valley.
Web Media: JQ Jacobs’ “Serpent Mound” Link: JQ Jacobs’ “Serpent Mound”(HTML)
Instructions: This site provides summary information on the “Great Serpent Mound,” an ancient native Adena burial site in Ohio. Please read about the mound and examine the pictures.
1.2 Early Colonial Art Note: Soon after conquest by the Spanish, native artists of Mexico were enlisted by the new regime; syncretistic art forms (art forms that show cross-cultural influences) ensued. In the North American southwest and Florida, Catholic churches adopted the adobe techniques of the native pueblos, later mimicked in stone with *Baroque *flourishes. The east coast of what became the United States was settled even earlier, with the first extant depictions dating from the 1500s.
Web Media: The Saylor Foundation's “Florentine Codex” Link: The Saylor Foundation's “Florentine Codex” (PDF)
Instructions: Please click on the link above to view some images of an object known as the “Florentine Codex,” which was commissioned by an early missionary. This object provides eyewitness images of Aztec daily life.
Web Media: Patronato San Xavier’s “History” and “Slideshows” Links: Patronato San Xavier’s “History” (HTML) and “Slideshows” (HTML)
Instructions: Please read about the history of this mid-18th century Arizona church for a good summary of the complex. Then work your way through the slide shows for various views of the building in the midst of restoration.
About the resource: The website above is hosted by the Patronato San Xavier, a non-profit, non-religious group dedicated to continuing restoration of the Jesuit church, San Xavier del Bac in Arizona.
Web Media: KNME: New Mexico History Museum’s “New Mexico’s Segesser Hide Painting” Link: KNME: New Mexico History Museum’s “New Mexico’s Segesser Hide Painting” (YouTube)
Also available in:
Instructions: Please watch this six-minute video, historian Thomas Chavez speaks about several eighteenth-century, banner-like hide paintings that represent battle scenes between Native Americans and feature some of the earliest known depictions of Spanish Colonial life in the Southwest. They may have been created by native artists training with Europeans, or members of the Spanish expedition.
Reading: History Is Fun: Lisa F. Heuvel’s “Looking with Clearer Vision: The Significance of John White’s Watercolors” Link: History Is Fun: Lisa F. Heuvel’s “Looking with Clearer Vision: The Significance of John White’s Watercolors” (HTML)
Instructions: Please read the linked article above, which discusses John White’s renderings of the indigenous populations he encountered in the New World.
About the website: This is the website of the Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center.