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Picturing America Review


Picturing America Review National Endowment for the Humanities 2010 - 2011 From cylindrical clay jars gracing a 1000 A.D. home to baskets serving a mobile society ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Picturing America Review

Picturing America Review
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • 2010 - 2011


  • From cylindrical clay jars gracing a 1000 A.D.
    home to baskets serving a mobile society,
  • everyday objects yield glimpses into Americas
  • They chart a proud history of craftsmanship and
    traditions handed down from generation to

  • The Anasazi, Sikyátki, Pueblo, and Washoe tribes
    of the American Southwest South Carolina basket
    weavers of West African heritage and coastal
    Alaskan artisansall have helped shape Americas
    rich heritage of handicrafts.

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  • This Catholic mission in San Antonio now stripped
    to bare stone was originally plastered white and
    adorned with red, blue, yellow, and black painted
    designs. It was built to serve as a barrier
    against French expansion into Texas. Made using
    local materials and artisans, the stone-faced
    adobe structure features a floor plan that
    reflected Catholic traditions.

  • Various artists (18th century) Spanish Colonial
    Architecture of the 17th, 18th, and 19th century
    stretched across America's Spanish southwest. It
    was an amalgam of Moorish, Romanesque, Gothic,
    and Renaissance influences, modified to meet
    frontier needs.


  • This portrait, an idealized view of labor
    consistent with the democratic ideals of the New
    World, depicts Paul Revere as a working
  • At the time of this portrait Revere was a
    successful silversmithnot an American hero.
  • Still, Copley captured the heroic qualities of
    physical strength, moral certainty, and
    intelligence that allowed Revere to play a
    pivotal role in American history.

  • John Singleton Copley (17381815) Born in Boston
    and largely self-taught, Copley had an
    extraordinary talent for recording the physical
    characteristics of his subjects.
  • This skill made him the foremost colonial artist
    in America.
  • Now, more than 200 years later, Copleys
    portraits endure as significant works of art
    because of their reach beyond documentation to
    depict his subjects personality, profession, and
    social position.


  • Shiny silver teapotsof different sizes and
    shapesreflect the economic climate and political
    upheaval taking place in the United States during
    the time of their production.
  • Once reserved for the 17th-century well to-do,
    silver wares became available to a larger
    audience with the opening of silver mines in the
    West and technological advancements such as
    electroplating and industrialization.

  • Various silversmiths (18th, 19th, and 20th
    centuries) From pre-revolutionary craftsmen to
    the big-name machine manufacturers of the 20th
    century, the silver trade remained a thriving
    business in the United States across three


  • Grant Wood's bird's-eye-view of Revere's
    legendary ride offers a whimsical, child-like
    interpretation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's
    well-known poem. The artist's desire to preserve
    American folklore was part of his greater scheme
    to forge a national identity through art and

  • Grant Wood (1892-1942) A trained artist best
    known for his paintings depicting the American
    Midwest, Wood emulated the primitive, unschooled
    style of American folk artists. His work reflects
    his commitment to a truly American styleone that
    would link the present to the past and preserve
    the stories of the country's heritage.



  • This full-length portrait deftly captures
    Washingtons role as an orator, leader, and
    father of his country. Washingtons choice of
    attirea plain black suit and no wigconveys his
    belief that the United States president was not a
    king, but a citizen of a land where all men were
    created equal.

  • Gilbert Stuart (17551828) Stuart learned art
    abroad in the European tradition, but his style
    was all his own. Known for his ability to set
    subjects at ease, he believed inner character was
    reflected in a persons physical features.
    Stuarts portraits of George Washington, whom he
    described as a man of great passions, are among
    his most famous works.


  • With defeats mounting and morale sinking, George
    Washington led his army across the icy river on
    Christmas night, 1776. Emanuel Leutzes
    life-sized canvas vividly shows the courage and
    sacrifice demonstrated by Americas founders
    during a time when victory and independence were
    an uncertain conclusion.

  • Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868) Although this
    German-born painter immigrated to the United
    States decades after the Revolutionary War, the
    democratic ideals of that time inspired his art.
  • His carefully researched interpretations of
    historical events won him lucrative private and
    government commissions, including work displayed
    in the U.S. Capitol today.


  • Although it displays clear classical influences
    in pose and posture, this larger-than-life-sized
    marble statue of Benjamin Franklin has a
    naturalistic style.
  • Hiram Powerss contemporaries objected to
    portraying historical figures in contemporary
    dress, but the sculptor chose to depict the
    founding father accurately, in a realistic
    mid-18th century wardrobefrom his tricorne hat
    to his cotton hose.

  • Hiram Powers (1805-1873) A highly successful,
    largely self-taught Neoclassical sculptor, Powers
    emigrated to Italy to further boost his career in
    the United States.
  • His government commissions, influenced by the
    classical Roman sculptures of Europe, can be
    found standing in the U.S. Senate and House
    collections today.


  • Landscape paintings were especially well-liked in
    the 19th century, when urban dwellers viewed
    rural life as a remedy for the problems of
  • Thomas Coles split representation of the
    Connecticut Valley depicts the inherent conflict
    between wilderness and civilization that
    characterized westward expansion.

  • Thomas Cole (18011848) As a teenager, Cole
    immigrated to America from England, and went on
    to found the National Academy of Design in New
    York City.
  • A master of pastoral landscapes, Cole set out to
    capture the beauty and majesty of rural America
    in his paintings.


  • N. C. Wyeths romanticized cover illustration for
    James Fenimore Coopers novel The Last of the
    Mohicans did much to create an enduring image of
    the American Indian as a noble savage.
  • Though his depiction of Uncas as a formidable
    warriorcomplete with bare chest, animal skin
    skirt, and bow and arrowdeparted from the
    authors character description, it remained true
    to the countrys fascination with its Native
    American heritage.

  • N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945) Wyeth was both a realist
    painter and a highly successful illustrator.
  • Two trips to the Adirondackswhere he tramped
    through the woods and cooked over an open fire to
    get a feel for the wildernessinspired his cover
    illustration for the popular book The Last of the


  • The graceful, bending position of John James
    Audubons flamingo allowed the artist to fit his
    subjectdepicted close to actual sizeon a single
  • The silhouette emphasized the elegant curve of
    the birds body and captured its distinctive
    markings and trademark shade of pink. Audubons
    watercolors serve as an invaluable record of
    early American wildlife.

  • John James Audubon (17851851) Born in the West
    Indies, Audubon moved to America at 18 and became
    the countrys dominant wildlife artist.
  • A naturalist painter, he showed his
    subjectsincluding the monumental Birds of
    Americain vivid watercolors, much as they would
    appear alive in their natural habitat.


  • Catlin painted this portrait from memory, years
    after becoming friends with the second chief of
    the Mandan people.
  • It appears as the title-page illustration of his
    book about living among the tribes of the
    Missouri River. Catlins manuscriptand some 500
    paintingsprovide testimony not only to the
    countrys fascination with American Indians but
    also to the artists ambition to document
    disappearing frontier cultures.

  • George Catlin (17961872) The self-trained
    Catlin was a successful portrait painter in
  • Intrigued by the North American Indian, he set
    out on a 2,000-mile journey along the Missouri
    River (in what is now North Dakota) to create the
    most thorough visual record of the indigenous
    cultures of the frontier.


  • As Americans became more politically active in
    the mid-1800s, legislators wanted to express
    their identity in their statehouses.
  • Like many new state capitol buildings, Ohios
    Greek Revival statehouse recalled the birthplace
    of democracy. Constructionwhich took some 20
    years to completewas also rife with politics
    among competing architects and designers.

  • Thomas Cole (18011848) and others A landscape
    painter with no building experience, Cole took
    third-place in the competition for Ohios new
    state capitol, yet a modified version of his
    design was chosen one year later.
  • Coles plan called for a compact, rectangular
    structure with pilasters and a columned porch.
    Over the years, several architects would also put
    their imprint on the building.


  • In this crowded composition, Bingham suggests the
    inclusiveness of democracy. Young or old, rich or
    poor, all of the men gathered at the foot of the
    courthouse on Election Day appeared as equals.
  • The lack of a single dramatic focus emphasized
    the ideal that no one vote was worth more than

  • George Caleb Bingham (18111879) Known as the
    Missouri artist for the state where he lived
    and worked, Bingham painted everyday scenes in
    striking detail.
  • His realistic style would offer an accurate
    account of frontier life for generations to come.

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  • This large, panoramic landscape of the Yosemite
    Valley pulls the viewer into the dramatic scene.
    Missing in the painting are any peopleonly a
    shroud of golden light breaks through the clouds.
  • In Bierstadts scenario, the viewer discovers
    that before so magnificent a landscape, human
    beings dwindle to insignificance.

  • Albert Bierstadt (18301902) Born and educated
    in Germany, Bierstadt was a landscape artist
    captivated by the majesty of the American West.
  • His romantic paintingsespecially popular with
    East Coast audienceshelped satisfy Americans
    curiosity about the great frontier.


  • Black Hawks ledger book provides invaluable
    visual testimony to the nations Native American
  • His drawings revealed intriguing details of the
    Lakota peoplefrom manner of dress to social
    customs. In doing so, he captured a way of life
    fast disappearing as settlers moved West in
    increasing numbers and tribes were moved to

  • Black Hawk (c. 18321890) A spiritual leader of
    a tribe of Lakota Indians, Black Hawk was asked
    in 1880 to record the natural world and culture
    of his people.
  • His drawingsfor which he received 50 cents
    apiecefollowed a long tradition of Plains Indian
    art that documented history as a memory aid for
    oral renditions of tribal history. Scholars
    believe Black Hawk died at Wounded Knee.


  • This image of a soldier returning to his farm
    after the Civil War refers to both the desolation
    of war and the countrys hope for the future.
  • While the farmers scythe called to mind the
    bloodiest battles foughtand lives lostin fields
    of grain, the bountiful crop of golden wheat
    could also be seen as a Christian symbol of
  • Even in the aftermath of the worst disasters,
    Winslow Homer seems to say, life has the capacity
    to restore itself.

  • Winslow Homer (18361910) Boston-born Homer was
    a successful illustrator, oil painter, and
    watercolor artist whose works have become classic
    images of 19th-century American life.
  • In his Civil War illustrations for Harpers
    Weekly, Homer focused on the commonplace
    activities of a soldierrather than the climax of
  • When he returned to civilian life, Homer
    continued to depict ordinary events, some of
    which documented the veterans return from the


  • Looking older than his 55 years, Lincoln seemed
    more like a regular person than a president in
    his dark suit, white shirt, and crooked bowtie.
  • Alexander Gardner, known for his candid
    photographs, did nothing to flatter the
    presidents haggard features.
  • Instead, he let Lincolns expression reveal his
    weary and worried countenance during the last
    long weeks of the Civil War.

  • Alexander Gardner (18211882) One of a team of
    photographers hired to make a visual record of
    the Civil War, Gardner opened his own Washington,
    D.C., studio in 1863.
  • He became known for his portraits of uniformed
    soldiers heading off to warand his candid photos
    of President Abraham Lincolnat a time when
    photography was still a new medium.


  • The Shaw Memorial, in Boston Common, depicts a
    resonant, courageous act of the Civil War, in
    which the first regiment of African American
    soldiers recruited for the Union Army fought a
    doomed battle on a South Carolina fortress.
  • Although Colonel Robert Shaw, on horseback, is
    prominent, the bronze relief is the first
    American memorial dedicated to individuals united
    for a cause, rather than to a single military

  • Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) Born in
    Dublin and trained in Europe, Saint-Gaudens
    created many noted Civil War monuments, as well
    as American coins and intimate portraits of
    notable and society figures.
  • The sculptor made the complex Shaw Memorial into
    a 14-year labor of love, striving to
    realistically depict each soldier as an
    individual and making up to 40 different portrait
    studies in preparation.


  • A thrifty way to make use of leftover fabric, at
    a time when fabric could be scarce and expensive,
    quilts soon took on aesthetic and social
    dimensions in the hands of their makers in every
    region of America.
  • Ingenuity, abstract invention, and the traces of
    changing American technology are revealed in the
    quilts handed down through families and displayed
    in museums today.

  • Various artists The work of African-Americans in
    slavery, of farmwomen settling the West, of Amish
    women descended from those who came to America
    seeking religious freedomquilts can tell many
    American stories.
  • Scholars, for instance, see traces of kente, a
    woven textile style from Ghana and the Ivory
    Coast, in the complex matrix of diagonal ladders
    in the quilt made by Hannah and Emm Greenlee.


  • On Philadelphias Schuylkill River, rowing was a
    democratic and passionately followed sport.
  • John Biglin was a superstar athlete of the time,
    and the depiction of the rower in excellent
    racing form, at the precise moment before dipping
    the oars, reveals his dedication and strength in

  • Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) Born in Philadelphia,
    Eakins returned from art training in Paris with a
    conviction unique in his time to realistically
    depict scenes from American life.
  • His decision never varied, though it was
    occasionally as controversial as it was admired.
    Acute observation and a tireless study of
    anatomy, nature, and even burgeoning technology
    informed his work, and he found ample subject
    matter in the rapidly progressing America of the
    late 19th century.


  • John Singer Sargent painted this well-known image
    of the young Homer Saint-Gaudens as an intimate
    portrait for his friend, the sculptor Augustus
    Saint-Gaudens, who was the boys father.
  • In this and all his portraits of wealthy American
    youth, Sargent abandoned the sentimental approach
    of his contemporaries and painted them more
    naturalistically, with a keen, psychologically
    penetrating eye.
  • In this image, he captures the impatience of the
    beautifully dressed young Homer with the boys
    expression and slumping pose.

  • John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) Sargent was
    among a noted group of American expatriate
    artists, writers, and composers who around the
    turn of the century felt they could find strong
    training and a sympathetic audience only in
  • However, they brought the freshness and spirit of
    American exploration with them.
  • As a society painter, Sargent chronicled the
    vast infusion of wealth that also swept in with
    the Americans in Europe during the Gilded Age.


  • When America officially entered World War I, the
    nation largely regarded it as cause for support
    and celebration.
  • Along New Yorks Fifth Avenue, flags of the
    allied nations were hung in a welcoming gesture,
    creating a patriotic pattern of red, white, and
  • Childe Hassam prominently placed the American
    flag, affirming his belief that America was now
    engaged in a morally imperative fight for
    democracy, as he put it, throughout the world.

  • Childe Hassam (1859-1935) Hassam was a major
    figure in the American Impressionism movement.
  • As he studied in Paris, he gravitated away from
    the rule-bound darkness of traditional art
    studios and toward painters working outdoors,
    portraying a world of color and light in new
  • Returning to America, he seized on the energetic
    bustle of New York City as one of his recurrent
    subjects, capturing scenes of movement and change
    in loose brushwork and firm composition.


  • The Brooklyn Bridge was hailed as a marvel of
    American engineering ingenuity.
  • When it was built in 1883, its two towers were
    the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Photographer Walker Evans turned its bold form
    and sweeping lines into a classic American image,
    both an icon of modernity and a monument that
    belongs to history.

  • Walker Evans (1903-1975) As one of the first to
    bring photography forward from simple documentary
    to a fine art, Evans was the eye behind some of
    the most enduring images of Americas 20th
  • As part of a government project during the Great
    Depression, he photographed farm families,
    revealing both hardships and indomitable spirits.
  • Later, he rode the New York subways with a camera
    hidden in his coat to produce candid images of
    the changing urban scene.


  • Originally created for the Gothic revival mansion
    of Boston real estate magnate Loren Delbert
    Towle, Tiffanys composition was divided into
    lancet windows, reminiscent of a medieval
  • The traditional subject matter, a mountain stream
    flowing into a placid pool, is infused with
    strong spiritual overtones.
  • The window was designed to alter in reaction to
    the changing intensity of natural light.

  • Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) The son of the
    founder of the New York jewelry store that bears
    his name, Tiffany turned his training as a
    painter to the medium of colored glass.
  • He filled American mansions and buildings with
    luminous windows, screens, and decorative items.
  • As an American in the aesthetic movement, he was
    one of several who worked to introduce art into
    everyday life.
  • Tiffany said his primary consideration was always
    simply the pursuit of beauty.


  • At first glance, viewers see a familiar,
    reverently painted family scene.
  • Yet the details hint at an underlying tension, as
    well as the strictures of late 19th-century

  • Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) From Japanese prints to
    French impressionism, Mary Cassatts work borrows
    from an international range of influences.
  • Yet her defiance of conventionstudying art
    rather than taking the domestic role expected of
    a 19th-century womanreflects a distinctively
    American spirit of independence.


  • To Joseph Stella, this structure was the shrine
    containing all the efforts of the new
    civilization of America.
  • His Futurist rendition of the Brooklyn Bridge was
    inspired by a night alone on its promenade,
    surrounded by New Yorks noises and pulsating
    colors, feeling both hemmed in and spiritually
    uplifted by the city.

  • Joseph Stella (1877-1946) An Italian immigrant
    who relocated to New York City, Stella believed
    that the revolutionary new art movement of
    Futurism could best capture the dynamism of
    modern life and the machine age.


  • This bucolic title belies the paintings subject
    matter a lone, anonymous figure dwarfed in an
    enormous sea of factories.
  • According to Charles Sheeler, factories had
    become a substitute for religious expression.
  • At the time of its creation, the painting was
    viewed as depicting the triumph of American

  • Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) Ford Motor Company
    commissioned Sheeler, a professional
    photographer, to take six weeks of pictures of
    its immense plant west of Detroit.
  • The experience inspired Sheelers Precisionist
    paintings, which used sharply defined, geometric
    forms and an emotionally detached style to depict
    the modern, industrialized world.


  • The competitive climate of 1920s Manhattan drove
    the creation of this building, which ultimately
    surpassed even the Eiffel Tower in height.
  • Van Alen made it distinctive through inventively
    applied Art Deco design, using machine-age motifs
    such as hubcaps and radiator caps, and American
    eagle heads in place of traditional gargoyles.

  • William Van Alen (1883-1954) Brooklyn-born
    architect William Van Alen was renowned for his
    progressive, flamboyant designs.
  • His main contribution to American architecture
    was to apply to modern skyscrapers the visual
    vocabulary of Art Deco, a style that emphasized
    streamlined motifs and often employed
    nontraditional materials.
  • After the Chrysler Buildings completion, Walter
    Chrysler accused Van Alen of taking bribes from
    contractors, and his career ended in obscurity,
    not even meriting an obituary in The New York


  • As the railroad tracks rattle by a once-grand
    Victorian home, so intersect the themes of modern
    progress and historical continuity.
  • The paintings bleakness suggests that Edward
    Hopper found little to celebrate in Americas
    post-World War I urbanization.

  • Edward Hopper (1882-1967) Believing that
    American art should capture the character of the
    nation, Hopper rejected European influences and
    instead chose to depict the modern life around
  • He is known for his unsentimental depictions of
    urban isolation, solitary buildings, and
    commonplace landscapes.


  • How can one enjoy a civilized life within nature?
  • Frank Lloyd Wright responded with American
    ingenuity to create one of the most original and
    groundbreaking buildings in modern architecture.
  • The dwelling is suspended above a waterfall and
    nestled into a mountainside, blending modern
    conveniences with views that make it appear to be
    a part of nature itself.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) One of Americas
    most influential architects, Wright was known for
    practicing organic architecture, which promotes
    harmony between a building and the natural world.
  • Fallingwater, commissioned by Pittsburgh
    department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann, is
    one of his most well-known works.


  • Inspired by the musical storytelling of West
    Africas griots, Lawrence employed a painted and
    written narrative to invoke how African-American
    families came up from the South to settle in
    cities such as New York, Chicago, Detroit,
    Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.

  • Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) I always wanted to
    be an artist but assumed Id have to work in a
    laundry, Lawrence once said.
  • Fortunately the thriving 1920 Harlem arts
    community and artists such as Charles Alston and
    Augusta Savage helped nurture him into one of
    Americas premier African-American artists.


  • Created during the heart of the Civil Rights
    Movement, this collage depicts a bustling city
    neighborhood with a serene bird at its center.
  • It also marked a new artistic direction for
    Romare Bearden, who for the remainder of his
    career continued to create collages often
    referred to as visual poetry. 

  • Romare Bearden (c. 1911-1988) What is black art?
  • As part of the Spiral group of artists, Bearden
    approached the question from an optimistic,
    upward-moving attitude and became one of the
    first artists to depict black popular culture
    from an African-American point of view.
  • His work drew from his own life in North
    Carolina, Harlem, Pittsburgh, and New York City.


  • Adorning the walls of Nashvilles Country Music
    Hall of Fame and Museum, this mural has five
    distinct scenes depicting the music of ordinary
  • It preserves an image of American folkways that
    were rapidly disappearing, from barn dances to
    church spirituals to Appalachian ballads.
  • Benton was 85 when he painted this mural it was
    his final work.

  • Thomas Hart Benton (18891975) Born in Missouri,
    Benton was primarily a muralist who gained
    popularity in the 1930s with fluid,
    sculpture-like paintings that depictedand spoke
    toordinary people.
  • He rejected the European influence on American
    art and aimed to paint meaningful, intelligible
    subjects that would hold broad, popular appeal.


  • This iconic photograph of a 32-year-old
    impoverished mother and her three children does
    not show a single detail of the destitute pea
    pickers camp where they lived.
  • Still, it evokes the uncertainty and despair
    resulting from continual poverty.
  • Featured in newspapers nationwide, this photo and
    others from the camp shocked Americas conscience
    and spurred the federal government to ship 20,000
    pounds of food to California migrant workers.

  • Dorothea Lange (18951965) A photographer for
    President Franklin D. Roosevelts Resettlement
    Administration, Lange was hired to document the
    lives of poverty-stricken migrant workers in
    California during the Great Depression.
  • She set out to register the things about those
    people that were more important than how poor
    they weretheir pride, their strength, their


  • With America fully engaged in World War II,
    President Roosevelts administration blanketed
    the nation with messages about four essential
    human freedoms at the core of democracy.
  • The messages failed to gain traction until Norman
    Rockwell put them into portraits.
  • This painting, the first of the four, helped spur
    the nation to action.
  • More than one million people saw Rockwells works
    during a nationwide tour, which helped to sell
    more than 133 million in war bonds.

  • Norman Rockwell (18941978) A well-known
    illustrator for one of Americas most popular
    magazines, The Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell
    considered himself the heir of the great
    illustrators who left their mark during World War
  • Like them, he wanted to contribute something
    substantial to his country. Rockwell gained
    renown for his eye for detail and ability to
    capture something universal in the commonplace.  

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