I always like to examine artists who are not written about in a major way in art historical publications (maybe because I’m a painter who will NEVER be written about in ANY art history textbook). Many, many times one will discover a brilliant artist whose work is absolutely fantastic, but who never achieved the notoriety of someone like Winslow Homer or John Singer Sargent. Yes! I’m talking American art! For some reason, American art is often treated as the cousin thrice-removed from Western Art in many art history textbooks, almost like an afterthought, until, of course, we arrive at Abstract Expressionism. This is odd, because the history of American art reflects a consistent influence, naturally, of European art -- especially art from Britain. British influence waned after the Arts and Crafts Movement (flourished c1890-1920 in the
Realism was a major style in European art starting in the 1840s. It was a reaction to stuffy, academic Neoclassicism and the ridiculous exoticism of Romanticism, both movements of the first four decades of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, these two movements mirrored trends in art that occurred after the Renaissance, during the Baroque period (c1600-1750). It was exactly these “perversions” of Renaissance art – namely art after the High Renaissance and the time of Raphael (1483-1520) – to which the Pre-Raphaelites were reacting. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of painters who formed around 1848 in
John William Hill, born in
By 1870, American Pre-Raphaelite art (also called Realist or Naturist) had waned in public popularity, although artists like Hill continued to pursue Ruskin’s advice that “if you can paint a leaf you can paint the world.” Hill’s son, John Henry, continued to paint in his father’s style in the watercolor medium. John William Hill was one of the founders of the American Watercolor Society.
The Brooklyn Museum of Art has a fine collection of American Pre-Raphaelite works.