ART IN AMERICA ~ HISTORICAL OUTLINE and a MYSTERY
I posted this timeline in 2003 at my first site. It made a good thing to share and handy reference for me. But in the loss of things from the old site hacking, is the loss of the SOURCE of this neat post. In trying to find it, I found ten newer ones but none so simple, elegant and easy to USE. Will continue the source search and will add a few links to other good sources. Thanksomuch - Elle
Colonial Period: 1607-1788
With survival uppermost in the minds of our earliest settlers, the arts were slow to take root. The earliest painting, primarily portraiture, was accomplished by untrained artists called limners, whose main task was to record the likenesses of the stalwart colonials.
The first artwork was, naturally, derivative and found its inspiration primarily through imported prints that reflected styles then prevalent in England, Holland, and Spain. Many artist/artisans divided their time between attempts at fine art and designing utilitarian objects, such as signs and carriage decoration. Our first glimmerings of serious sculpture, for instance, were done by gravestone carvers.
The earliest trained painter to come to the colonies was John Smibert, whose hefty portrayals of landed gentry and merchants derive in style from the seventeenth-century Dutch realists. Our first native geniuses of the brush, Benjamin West of Philadelphia and John Singleton Copley of Boston, found it necessary to leave the colonies in order to fulfill their artistic visions, although Copley's highly illusionistic colonial work surely remains a monument to American ingenuity. West eventually became painter to King George III and opened his London studio to a continuous stream of emerging American artists.
Early Republic to 1812: 1789-1812
A new nation, the United States of America, continued its reliance on Old World artistic traditions, especially with few opportunities for training in this country. American artists John Vanderlyn, Washington Allston, John Trumbull, and others sought instruction in London (under our own Benjamin West) and in Paris but also sojourned in Italy, where they absorbed that country's rich classical style and subject matter.
Upon their return, these artists and enlightened American citizens recognized the need for creating institutions where artists could be trained and where art could be exhibited. Trumbull was instrumental in the running of the New York Academy of the Fine Arts (founded 1802), with its imported casts of antique sculpture, which offered a definite teaching tool to eager students. Boston followed suit with a cast collection located at the Athenaeum (founded 1804) and exhibitions that began in 1827. Charles Willson Peale was a pioneer in creating Philadelphia's art circle, establishing the first art gallery in 1782 and the first American museum in 1786.
An awareness of our history inspired the nation's leaders to recognize the need to capture images of leaders in significant portraits by Peale, Gilbert Stuart, Samuel F.B. Morse, and others, but history painting itself made little headway until later in the 1800s. When sculpture was needed for the neoclassically-inspired government buildings in Washington, D.C., Italian sculptors were hired to embellish them. Home grown sculpture, however, always flourished due to its ties to functional objects such as gravestones, ship's mastheads, and practical decorations.
The first glimmerings of landscape painting surfaced at this time, thanks to trained artists who came from abroad (for example, Robert Salmon), who concentrated mostly on recording the emerging cities, harbors, picturesque places, and native inhabitants of a new world. The unique talents of John James Audubon elevated the recording of America's flora and fauna to unprecedented artistic levels.
Jacksonian Era through Civil War: 1812-1865
With the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828, an era of democratization and equality swept America and with it a period of vast expansion of creativity in the arts. Landscape artists Thomas Doughty, Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Frederic Church, and George Inness strove to document the untouched look of the "new Eden," blending their individual styles with the Old World romantic traditions of the sublime and the beautiful. It was the American landscapists who first captured the symbolic features of the new nation. Instead of ancient ruins, these painters found history in spectacular land and water formations and, especially, in the inclusion of Native Americans within their scenes. Unleashed waterfalls, soaring eagles, and other emblems of liberty came to represent the country's image.
A narrative or genre tradition of depicting everyday experiences began in the Jacksonian era when artists like John Quidor matched imagery to Washington Irving's History of New York or when William Sidney Mount committed the rural life of Long Island to canvas or when Lilly Martin Spencer explored images of her own household. An expanded audience for landscape, genre, and another relatively new Jacksonian subject, the still life, came with the mid-century explosion of magazines, newspapers, and journals, and with prints produced from original artwork, distributed through organizations like the American Art Union. Lush beautiful still life paintings by Severin Roesen, John Francis, and others celebrated the American harvest, offering little indication of a major civil war on the horizon.
The 1820s and 1830s saw the first cluster of American sculptors working in Italy, where marble was readily available and trained artisans could carry their designs to fruition. By mid-century the colony, which also included painters, was larger than ever and included Horatio Greenough, Hiram Powers, and Thomas Crawford.
Civil War to End of the 19th Century: 1866-1899
The 1860s brought to American landscape painting several options. Artists could concentrate on the tiny details of nature in close-up studies recommended by the American followers of Ruskin such as Aaron Draper Shattuck or William Trost Richards. They could expand their subjects to include highly dramatic views of the West, such as those portrayed by Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, or scenes of the arctic by William Bradford and others. Or they could concentrate on quieter views that explored the full potential of light, a style known as luminism. Gradually the extreme detail of Ruskin's adherents and the dramatic subjects of late Hudson River landscape painters turned inward, capturing the spirit rather that the topography of America's natural views. Inness's conversion to Swedenborgianism, William Morris Hunt's adherence to Barbizon influences, Albert Pinkham Ryder's and Ralph Albert Blakelock's choice of dream-like subjects--all reflected the nation's somber mood at the end of a devastating internal war.
Beginning of 20th Century to World War II: 1900-1940<br><br>
The twentieth century has been one of continued emulation of European styles, exploitation of those styles into unique American trends, and, beginning in the 1950s, leadership in the contemporary art world. A group of Philadelphia journalist/artists later known as the Ash Can painters--Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn--began the century with a new brand of realism, their subjects drawn from the street life of New York, where they ultimately settled. The first decade also saw the initial glimmerings of European modernism in American art in the work of Alfred Maurer, Max Weber, John Marin, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley-all members of the New York circle around the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. A groundbreaking event was New York's 1913 Armory Show, where Americans saw in huge numbers the work of Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, and Duchamp.
Between the world wars, however, American art took a more conservative bent, echoing the nation's isolationist posture. Pride in our industrial architecture-skyscrapers, grain elevators, barns, machines-found a visual counterpart in the work of the American Precisionists Charles Demuth, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Charles Sheeler. Other realist movements between the wars were Studio Realism in the work of Kenneth Hayes Miller, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Eugene Speicher, Leon Kroll, and the Soyer brothers. American Scene painters Charles Burchfield and Edward Hopper explored the sometimes lonely existence of town and rural living. Regionalists Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood celebrated agrarian life and culture as no one had done before them. Social Realism flowered in the Depression era in the scenes of heavy labor, shopgirls, and the unemployed as shown in the work of William Gropper, Ben Shahn, Philip Evergood, and, later, Jacob Lawrence, who, like many American artists, received his first incentive as an artist through the Federal government's Works Progress Administration (WPA), organized in 1935 for artists on relief.
Abstract art was kept alive in this country during the 1930s through groups like the American Abstract Artists association. A huge explosion within the American art world came in the 1940s and 1950s with Abstract Expressionism, a New York movement concerned with the process of painting itself. Painters Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko, and sculptor David Smith were all pioneers in this new instinctual method of working.
A reaction to abstraction came with the precise geometric imagery of Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland, and Richard Anuszkiewicz in painting and Donald Judd in sculpture. The 1960s brought Pop Art, suggesting in its title a celebration of the commercial world; practitioners were Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, George Segal, Roy Lichtenstein, among others. Sol LeWitt's conceptual art and Robert Smithson's earthworks also evolved in the 1960s, focusing on the idea and less so on the product, if one were produced at all.
The Post Modernist era has capitalized on the art movements of the 1950s and 1960s. Abstract Expressionism in all its manifestations, pure geometric styles, the art of the absurd--have all opened up a new artistic exploration of our world. The human body, long the basis for representation, has now been fragmented and super-analyzed from both within and without. Our gender roles in society have become grist for the artists' mill; private worlds have been exposed for all to see and imagine. Democratization is key to the understanding of the new art, whether created by the professional, the untutored, or other "outsider" artists. It is important today to understand how the viewer thinks and how people learn in order to form a more engaging dialogue among the artist, the onlooker, and the art itself. A healthy questioning of the past, quoting from it with skepticism at times, has also created an atmosphere out of which new art can develop for the future