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ARTH210: American Art

Unit 3: 1800 to Circa 1860   Portrait painting became popular from the time of Protestant infiltration of the colonies, in a shift from religious art of the earlier Catholic regime.  The spread of photography in the 1840s in turn diminished demand somewhat.  During this period, painter Charles Willson Peale opened the first museum opened to the public in America.  Westward expansion began in earnest and the nation’s population increases dramatically.  Landscape painting gained stature as well.

3.1 Developments in Portraiture   Note: A demand for portraits encouraged many artists with varying degrees of training to seize opportunities in this genre in the period between 1800 and 1860.  American portraits of the 18th and early 19th century tend toward a flattened style.  Iconographic details relate to status, occupation, and important events in the sitters’ lives.  

  • **Web Media: Yale University Art Gallery: John Smibert, The Bermuda Group (Dean Berkeley and His Entourage), 1728-1739; SmartHistory: “John Singleton Copley” [The Copley Family, 1776-77, National Gallery of Art”; National Gallery of Art: “John Singleton Copley, The Copley Family”** Link: Yale University Art Gallery: John Smibert, The Bermuda Group (Dean Berkeley and His Entourage), 1728-1739; (HTML) SmartHistory: [“John Singleton Copley” The Copley Family, 1776-77, National Gallery of Art”; (HTML) National Gallery of Art: “John Singleton Copley, The Copley Family (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Compare form and meaning in the paintings featured in the links above.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: SmartHistory: Gerri Hayes and Floyed Sklaver’s “Erastus Salisbury Field's Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1830 (Portland Art “Museum)” Link: SmartHistory: Gerri Hayes and Floyed Sklaver’s “Erastus Salisbury Field's Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1830 (Portland Art “Museum)” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Please listen to Gerri Hayes and Floyed Sklaver's discussion and iconographic interpretation of this work (3 minutes).

    Terms of Use: This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

  • Web Media: Bowdoin College Museum of Art: “Joshua Johnson, Portrait of a Man (Possibly Abner Coker), c. 1805-1810” Link: Bowdoin College Museum of Art: “Joshua Johnson, Portrait of a Man (Possibly Abner Coker), c. 1805-1810” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please view the linked image above by portrait painter Johnson (sometimes “Johnston”), who worked mainly in Maryland and is among the first documented African American painters. 
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Carrie Rebora Barratt’s "Nineteenth-Century American Folk Art" Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Carrie Rebora Barratt’s "Nineteenth-Century American Folk Art" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: The extent to which painters like Sklaver and Johnson (above) were self-taught, interacted with other artists, and/or reflected a new “American” style has been taken up by specialists in the field, as have the roots and boundaries of “folk art,” which has its own historical narrative that overlaps with the more canonical art historical one.  The webpage above is a good place to start (browse briefly; for those interested, there are extensive links.)
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: National Gallery of Art: “Edward Hicks” Link: National Gallery of Art: “Edward Hicks” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Edward Hicks (1780-1849) is perhaps among America’s most renowned 19th-century folk artist.  Click through images and descriptions (six).  Note the personal aspects of Hicks’ style, and how he uses narratives subjects also shared by “academic” painters. 
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.2 Romantic Landscape   Note: America represented divine wilderness to Europeans.  Painters like Thomas Cole exploited literary and spiritual allusions to create metaphoric visions of America’s natural wonders.  The “Luminists” focused on pristine, dramatic light and overlapped with the “Hudson River School.”  Landscapes of the West often included images of Native Americans; some artists specialized in recording their enclaves and customs in the wake of “Manifest Destiny.” 

  • Web Media: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Kevin Avery’s “The Hudson River School” Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Kevin Avery’s “The Hudson River School”  (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the linked page above and view the slide show; browse further references.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: New World Encyclopedia’s “The Hudson River School” Link: New World Encyclopedia’s “The Hudson River School” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the entry linked above.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: SmartHistory: Steven Zucker and Beth Harris’ “Romanticism in the United States: Cole's The Oxbow” Link: SmartHistory: Steven Zucker and Beth Harris’ “Romanticism in the United States: Cole's The Oxbow (Adobe Flash)
     
    Also available in:
    YouTube
     
    Instructions:  Listen to this discussion of Cole’s artwork.  With the encyclopedia entry above, this will provide you with a good overview of landscape painting in the era.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Smithsonian American Art Museum: "George Catlin and His Indian Gallery” Link: Smithsonian American Art Museum: "George Catlin and His Indian Gallery” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: From the main menu (link above), click “Virtual Exhibitions”; read the introduction and click “Images” to proceed through an extensive presentation of Catlin's artwork (34 images). 

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

3.3 Painting Everyday Life   Note: American *genre *painting—depictions of ordinary life, as well as still life “genre” (or “type”)—were visual commentaries on the diversity of lifestyles emergent in the United States.  They could appear “realistic” but were often composed to convey moral messages, sometimes based on literary subjects.  “History” paintings were influenced by genre subjects in terms of sentimentality and melodrama.

  • Web Media: Metropolitan Museum of Art: “American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915” Link: Metropolitan Museum of Art: “American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: At the top of the page, click the first section, “Inventing American Stories 1765-1830.”  Read the introduction and view the 13 images/entries.  (Please note that images can be enlarged twice.)  Pay special attention to the following entries: 
    -#3 and #4: Review John Singleton Copley.
    -#10: John Lewis Krimmel, The Quilting Frolic, 1813.  Note the exaggerated coloration, ragged clothing, and marginal position of the black fiddler.  Black musicians would become a staple of the 19th-century genre in which some artists specialized, and which have inspired diverse interpretations of artist intent and the appeal to the (white) market.  Disturbing depictions, which became stereotypes through repetition and by virtue of a lack of alternative, naturalistic images of real people of African descent were influenced by grotesque visages of “black-face” minstrelsy, a hugely popular entertainment in much of America into the 20th century.  Note the young black serving girl, whose heavily laden serving tray is nearly her size.  
    -#8 and #11: Charles Willson Peale, Exhumation of the Mastadon, 1805-08, and The Artist in His Museum, 1822.  In a new window, open related supplemental essay from The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
     
    Return to the exhibition home/index page; click “Stories for the Public, 1830-1860,” and read the introduction and view the 28 images/entries.  Listen to the audio commentaries provided for the following entries:
    -#19, George Caleb Bingham,The County Election, 1851-52.
    -#23, Lilly Martin Spencer, Young Husband: First Marketing, 1854 and

    • #25, Spencer, Kiss Me and You’ll Kiss the ‘Lasses, 1856 (one 6-minute audio on both works; #25 is spoken about first)
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: National Gallery of Art: “Raphaelle Peale, A Dessert (1814)” Link: National Gallery of Art: “Raphaelle Peale, A Dessert (1814)” (HTML) Link: National Gallery of Art: “Raphaelle Peale, A Dessert (1814)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Raphaelle Peale, a son of Charles Willson Peale (whose work you observed in "Inventing American Stories 1765-1830"), was the first acclaimed American still life painter.  The meticulous attention to surface and texture (derived from European, especially Dutch precedents) would be developed by the end of the century into amusing “trompe l’oeil” paintings that can almost appear to incorporate real objects (more in upcoming sections). 
     
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  • Web Media: Philadelphia Museum of Art: “Charles Willson Peale, Staircase Group, 1795” Link: Philadelphia Museum of Art: “Charles Willson Peale, Staircase Group, 1795” (HTML and Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Charles Peale experimented directly with “trickery” in this life-size work of two of his children on a staircase.  It includes a real wooden step coming into the gallery space at the bottom to enhance the illusionism.  Listen to the brief audio clips on the page.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: National Gallery of Art: “Will Harnett’s, The Old Violin (1886)” Link: National Gallery of Art: “Will Harnett’s, The Old Violin (1886)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions:  Read through this presentation in three steps: a close look at the painting, the career of Harnett, and the subject of money in still life painting; make comparisons with other artists.  While Harnett’s best work is late in the century, it is the epitome of what became associated with distinctly American 19th-century trompe l’oeil.   The detail is hard to capture on screen; for larger images of works by Harnett, you may want to enlarge images from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Search “Harnett” (any search window) to retrieve enlarged images of his artwork.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

3.4 History Painting: Emanuel Leutze’s “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851)   Note: Perhaps the most widely recognized and reproduced American painting in history, and the most frequently copied by other artists and illustrations (whether in parody, homage, or both), Leutze’s “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” is traditional for the period in terms of composition, with the centered hero at its “peak.”  It does, however, evoke a naturalistic sense of the setting and, while still detailed, the brush strokes are somewhat looser than those in some of the precedents we have seen; this is not as clear in reduced reproduction as it would be in a first-hand viewing of the 25-foot-long canvas.  

  • Web Media: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Emanuel Leutze’s “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851) Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Emanuel Leutze’s “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851) (HTML)
     
    Instructions: View the object entry above; view image details in the slide show below the main image.  
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: NPR: Ina Jaffee’s “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” Link: NPR: Ina Jaffee’s “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” (HTML and RealPlayer)
     
    Instructions: Read the introduction (above link), then click the audio link in order to listen to a 6-minute report about the painting by art historian Ina Jaffee.  (A free media player download is available).
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “American Art Activity 1” Instructions: Select an original work of American art (see INTRODUCTION, above) and compose an essay (2-3 typed, double-spaced pages) from notes taken at a personal viewing.  Refer to The Saylor Foundation’s ARTH210 Worksheet.  Begin with data.  Include a careful description of the basic subject depicted, medium/technique, and formal aspects (as applicable/what is most prominent in the piece).  Then offer a summary of its potential meanings (iconographic analysis, context in terms of period, narrative, artist’s biography, etc., as applicable).  Draw on how scholars we have read so far have approached close viewings of individual works.