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ARTH210: American Art

Unit 2: The 18th Century   During the 18th century, threats to Native American societies began in earnest as fights over land between Europeans escalated. “Modern” history painters commemorated the action, including that of the American War of Independence, in a mix of Neoclassical and Romantic styles, following the trends at British (and to a lesser extent other European) royal academies.  This century also saw the design of the capital city of Washington, D.C. and the emergence of a visual discourse (including paintings, prints, and illustrations) around the slave trade and plantation slavery system.

2.1 The Revolutionary Era   Note: Major artists from this period include Benjamin West of Pennsylvania and John Singleton Copley of Boston, both of whom settled in England before the war, as well as Connecticut artist John Trumbull (who spent much time there).  Early emblems of the new nation with various personifications and Classical symbolism were designed; these remain prevalent today.

  • Reading: Wikipedia’s “Great Seal of the United States” Link: Wikipedia’s “Great Seal of the United States” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Browse the history, design, and iconography of the Great Seal of 1792.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: SmartHistory’s “Neoclassicism” Link:  SmartHistory’s “Neoclassicism” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read Beth Gersh-Nesic’s brief summary of the origins of the Neoclassical style.  Continue to use SmartHistory throughout the course for brief stylistic references.  (Below, additional specific pages within the site are also assigned.) 
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: National Gallery of Canada/Musee des Beaux-Arts du Canada: Benjamin West’s “The Death of General Wolfe,” 1770 Link:  National Gallery of Canada/Musee des Beaux-Arts du Canada: Benjamin West’s “The Death of General Wolfe," 1770 (HTML and Quicktime)
     
    Instructions: Listen to the Media Guide from the right menu (1 min.; minimize speaker image; enlarge reproduction).
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: National Gallery of Art: John Singleton Copley’s “Watson and the Shark,” 1778 Link: National Gallery of Art: John Singleton Copley’s “Watson and the Shark,” 1778 (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the linked page above, examining Copley’s work.  In conjunction with the webpage on “The Death of General Wolfe,” you should be able to get an idea of the forms and issues circulating among painters at this time through these specific, renowned works.  There have been many interpretations of the significance of the black sailor at the pinnacle of the composition; reflect on his presence and significance. 
     
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  • Activity: CATESOL Conference: Seth A. Streichler’s “American Civilization and Language Through Art History: Worksheet 1” Link: CATESOL Conference: Seth A. Streichler’s “American Civilization and Language Through Art History: Worksheet 1” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Scroll down and click on the link for “Streichler, S.A.”  A PDF should appear; scroll down to the bottom of page 5 for a list of questions pertaining to two of the paintings we have already seen.  Then, refer back through links for brief entries and good reproductions of The Death of General Wolfe and Watson and the Shark to construct short essay answers to the following questions from pages 6 and 7 of the PDF: questions 3, 4, and 5.
     
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  • Reading: Wikipedia’s “Jane McCrea” Link: Wikipedia’s “Jane McCrea” (HTML)
     
    Instructions:  Read this entry and view the large .jpg of John Vanderlyn’s Death of Jane McCrea (1804; Wadsworth Atheneum).  Note the continuing “classical” depiction of Native Americans, as in West’s Death of General Wolfe.  This work, of course, has its own specific contexts and content. 
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: State Museum of Pennsylvania’s “Creating an Image of Peace: The William Penn Treaty” Link: State Museum of Pennsylvania’s “Creating an Image of Peace: The William Penn Treaty” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: On the left menu, click on and read “Creating an Image of Peace,” which discusses Benjamin West’s painting, William Penn's Treaty with the Indians when he founded the Province of Pennsylvania in North America, 1771 (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia).  For a larger image of the painting, visit the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art’s website.
    Then browse the State Museum of Pennsylvania’s “Image Gallery” (at the bottom of the home page); peruse works in the exhibition to see how subject matter and early nationalistic images circulated.
     
    About the website: This site was formed in conjunction with the 1996 exhibition An Image of Peace: The Penn Treaty Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Meyer P. Potamkin.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2 The First President and the National Capitol   Note: The representations of Washington produced during this period set a precedent that generations of future artists would follow.  Architect Thomas Jefferson brought a studied Neo-Classism to the new nation.  The planning of Washington, D.C. and the Capitol building extended over several decades. 

  • Web Media: Yale University: John Trumbull, George Washington at Trenton (1792) and John Trumbull, The Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17, 1775 (1786) Link: Yale University: John Trumbull, George Washington at Trenton (1792) (HTML) and John Trumbull, The Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17, 1775 (1786) (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Click on links above to view paintings by John Trumbull, the official painter of the new republic; both of these images are from the online catalogue of the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery.  Note the direct artistic lineage between Benjamin West and these artists. 
    The equestrian portrait of Washington has a long history grounded in classical Roman imperial prototypes.  Efforts to identify the black soldier at far left edge of the battle scene, and interpretations of his position, have been important to a boom in scholarship on the participation of African Americans in the Revolution and all wars engaged by the U.S. military. 
     
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  • Web Media: Smithsonian Institution: National Portrait Gallery’s “Gilbert Stuart, George Washington (Landsdowne Portrait), 1796” Link: Smithsonian Institution: National Portrait Gallery’s “Gilbert Stuart, George Washington (Landsdowne Portrait), 1796” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Gilbert Stuart was the most renowned painter of the first president.  At the link above see his George Washington (Landsdowne Portrait), 1796.  In the center of the page, click “Launch the Interactive Portrait.”   Go through the program carefully, exploring close-ups of the painting from symbolic, biographical, and artistic perspectives.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Monticello’s “House and Gardens” and “Plantation and Slavery” Link: Monticello’s “House and Gardens” (HTML) and “Plantation and Slavery” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Monticello was the home of President Thomas Jefferson.  Explore these the pages on the plantation to get an idea of the aesthetics associated with Neoclassical architectural and interior design.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Architects of the Capitol’s “U.S. Capitol Building” Link: Architects of the Capitol’s “U.S. Capitol Building” (HTML)

    Instructions: From the homepage menu at the top of the site, click on "Capitol Campus"; in sub-menu, click on "U.S. Capitol Building."  Read the linked page and explore the embedded links (history; construction; etc.).  Focus on the architectural sections.  The "Works of Art" section is extensive and most were done into the nineteenth century; we will return to the painting section below.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Florence Griswold Museum’s “With Needle and Brush” Link: Florence Griswold Museum’s “With Needle and Brush” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Click the link above in order to read about women’s needlework from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which is an interesting topic of specialty study. 
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.