Showing posts with label painting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label painting. Show all posts

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sous-Verre Painting


Gora Mbengue (1931–1988, Wolof People, Senegal), Al-Buraq, 1975. Paint on glass, 34.3 x 48.9 cm (13 1/2" x 19 1/4"). Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. © 2014 Estate of Gora Mbengue. (BMA-3555)
I once watched an artist in Switzerland do a reverse painting on glass, and the technique amazed me. As an artist, one is thinking in reverse, literally painting details and foreground first, then middleground, then background. Mbengue was a leading artist in contemporary reverse glass painting (sous verre in French, souwère in Wolof) technique on glass in Africa. Senegalese “under glass painting”(or reverse glass painting) technique migrated from northern Africa in the late 1800s, and quickly became a popular means of expression. Looking at works of art in this genre it is fascinating to try to decide which layer of color went down after the initial black outlines.

The reverse glass painting technique has existed since ancient times. Although the works may seem to be works under a glass matte, they are actually painted on the reverse of a piece of glass. This entails doing details first, usually with a brush the size of those used to paint ceramics. Once the outline and details are established—such as the facial features and outline of the horse’s body—then colors are applied from lightest to darkest, the exact opposite of traditional painting where the artist establishes an underpainting of darks and lights.

In Senegal, reverse painting initially represented symbolic scenes from the Qur’an, traditional stories, and cultural symbols. It eventually added portraiture and genre scenes to the oeuvre. Mbengue, a Sufi Muslim, has followed the tradition in Islamic art of not directly depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Al-Buraq was the angel that carried Muhammad to the throne of God upon his death. The well-known image of the angel would encourage people to contemplate the Prophet’s ascension without the necessity of depicting him.


Question for students: Souwère paintings are made on the back of a glass surface. This requires the artist to start with the finest details, add layers of color on top, and then finally add a background layer. Look closely at the painting. Can you find evidence of all three steps?

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 6: 3.16; A Community Connection: 1.1, 8.5; A Global Pursuit: 1.5; Discovering Art History: 4.8, 7.3; Experience Painting: 9; Exploring Painting: 1, 2; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 14.2, 14.3

Monday, February 10, 2014

African-American History Month #1

Kermit Oliver (born 1943, US), K.J.’s Calf, 1975. Acrylic on Masonite, 61.9 x 121.9 cm (34 3/8 x 48”). Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, © 2014 Kermit Oliver. (MFH-854)

 I’m always excited when I learn about a new artist! I’d never heard of Kermit Oliver, but discovered his story when we acquired an image of his work from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His work is so awesome, and, his history as an artist is truly unique!

Oliver was the first African-American artist to get a one-person show of his work in Houston. He studied art and education at Texas Southern University in Houston, and was mentored by the renowned African-American artist John Biggers (1924–1999). Although a working artist, Oliver never thought that his work would sell. He is a US Postal Service employee who works the night shift sorting mail. Growing up on a farm, he was affected by the slaughter of farm animals, which have become a major part of his subject matter.

Shelby Marcus, wife of Lawrence Marcus of the famed Nieman-Marcus department stores, discovered his work. When the French fashion house Hermes wanted designs for scarves with a southwest US theme, the Marcuses recommended Oliver. He is the only American who creates design for Hermes scarves.

K.J.’s Calf displays a particularly interesting aspect of his work. He often creates frames in different shapes, and then fills them with a painting. His frames often contain carved symbolism about the subject of the painting. This painting shows empathy for the subject based on his experiences growing up on a working farm. The isolation of the subject with emphasis on contrast of dark and light is fairly typical of his work. In many ways his works remind me of Andrew Wyeth’s works of rural realism.

Studio activity: Make an animal monoprint. Look at pictures of animals, and select one for subject matter. Using acrylic or gouache paint, create an image of the animal on a plastic or wooden surface. Press paper onto the wet paint to create the print. Emphasize texture and color in the painted surface. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to transfer the painting from the painted surface to the paper.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 2: 3.14; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 2.10, 5.25; Explorations in Art Grade 5: studio 21 and 22; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.12; Experience Painting: 5

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Year New Art

Emily SandagataRaven, 2013
Robb SandagataAnders Contemplates the Void, 2013
To start off the new year, I present to you two young artists who we are now featured at the Davis Art Gallery in a dual exhibition entitled “Unearthed”: Emily and Robb Sandagata. Watch them talk about their work in an interview with Sue Swinand and read their biographies and artist statements to learn more about their processes.

I really like both artists’ work, not only because is it narrative, but—as an art historian—it is so evocative of interesting aspects of art movements from the past, while also being amazingly complex, thought-provoking, and novel. Emily’s work puts me in mind of works by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg in his “combine paintings” that transcended both sculpture and painting in the use of found objects. Robb’s work makes me think back to the Hairy Hoo, the Chicago Imagists who pioneered a completely original form of Pop art in the 1970s, in the works of such artists as Ray Yoshida and Karl Wirsum.

Both artists examine materials and images that question what is beautiful. And yet, the complexity of their works is truly beautiful, and fascinating! I find myself getting lost within their works every time I examine them.  

Robb and Emily are both artists and art educators. Robb is now the Digital Production Manager for Davis Publications. Emily teaches middle school and elementary school art at
The Pike School in Andover, Mass.

Robb SandagataGrowing it Out, 2013
Emily SandagataRefusal, 2012
“Unearthed” runs through 7 February, 2014. The Davis Art Gallery is located in the Printers Building in downtown Worcester, Mass., at 44 Portland Street.


Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 4: 6.31-32, Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4, Exploring Visual Design: 1, 6, A Personal Journey: 9.6; A Global Pursuit: 8.3, The Visual Experience: 16.8, Discovering Art History: 17.6

Monday, December 23, 2013

Fantasy Christmas Present III

Edward Savage (1761–1817 ,US), Ebenezer Seaver, 1795–1800. Watercolor on ivory in gilt copper locket, 5.1 x 4 cm (2 x 1 1/2”). © Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA. (WAM-184) Ebeneze Seaver (1763-1844), born in Roxbury, Mass., was a US representative from Massachusetts (1803-1813). He was also a state representative 1822, 1823, and 1826.

I love miniatures from early American art! I dearly want a miniature of myself hanging from my loved one’s keychain as a Christmas present!  However, miniature artists are few and far between these days. I’ve already written about miniatures in this blog, so let’s concentrate on Edward Savage. He is a fascinating example of an artist who made a living in the early years of the republic, relying on good old American determination.

Savage was born in Princeton, MA and initially worked as a goldsmith and engraver. In 1790 he traveled to London, briefly studying under ex-patriate American artist Benjamin West (1738–1820). He also traveled to Italy to check out great masterpieces of art from the Renaissance and Baroque. When one compares his family portrait (pre-Europe trip) to his portrait of the Washington family, one can see his progress. However, like most self-trained artists of the early American period, he reveals a lack of solid understanding of anatomy. That notwithstanding, his ability to imitate the effects of materials in his paintings is remarkable. His portrait of the Washington family, initially in mezzotint form, was immensely popular, posted in buildings all over the new United States.  

Edward Savage, The Savage Family, ca. 1779. Oil on canvas, 66 x 88 cm (26 x 34 5/8”).
The Savage Family is, by far, my favorite work by Savage. I love the way he lined the family up in order of height! It’s an early work (he was 18), and the comparison with this family portrait and the miniature are indicative of his progress as a self-trained artist.

Edward Savage, The Washington Family, 1789–1796. Oil on canvas, 213.6 x 284.2 cm (7’ x 9’ 4 1/2").  © National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. (NGA-P0752)

The Washington Family is a much more accomplished work of perhaps fifteen years later, after the Revolution. The family posed for Savage in New York in the winter of 1789–1790. At the time New York was the US capital. He initially produced prints of the portraits, and eventually finished a large version in oil in 1796 after he returned from Europe.


Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 2.7, 2.8; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 2.7; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.1, 1.2, 6.31; A Community Connection: 2.3; A Personal Journey: 6.4; Discovering Drawing: 7

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Gettysburg Address and Art of Wartime

Isaac Dreyfus and Sons (printing firm, founded 1813, Basel, Switzerland), design by S. Chèvre (dates unknown), A. Lincoln, 1861. Lithograph(?) on silk ribbon, 21.6 x 12.4 cm (8 1/2 x 4 7/8”). © Library Company of Philadelphia. (LCP-65)
Last week was the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, a ten-sentence ode to the fallen of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863, of the Civil War (1861–1865). The death toll was over 51,000, a staggering number. President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) wrote a speech that still rings true in times of war. His noble wish for reconciliation in the midst of awful bloodshed caused me to muse on art that reflects times of war. All too often, however, it does not reflect Lincoln’s desire for peace. I always remember Yoda’s statement to Luke Skywalker after he had said his father was a great warrior, “Being a warrior does not make one great.”

This is a ribbon meant to commemorate Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861. It’s not a flattering likeness, though, goodness knows, what Lincoln was facing would age any person. It is most likely a print copied from one of the many photographic portraits taken of Lincoln by Mathew Brady (1822–1896). In the day with no electronic media, such ribbons also served as campaign propaganda, along with copper tokens bearing a candidate’s likeness, trade cards, and even small effigies of candidates such as puppets and wooden figures. This inauguration image sadly reminds us of the horror the US was about to face in the Civil War.

Ancient Meroë (flourished ca. 700 bce–300 ce), Prince Arikankharer Slaying Enemies, 25–41 ce. Sandstone, 21.4 x 25.4 x 4.9 cm (8 7/16” x 10” x 1 15/16”). © Worcester Art Museum. (WAM-424)
The kingdom of ancient Meroë (southern Nubia, contemporary Sudan) co-existed with ancient Egypt on the southern end of the Nile, and adopted many of their artistic conventions. One such convention, unfortunately, was lauding a ruler as a great military leader in sclupture. Although this prince died young, he is depicted as a zealous defender of his kingdom.

Ancient Rome, Trajan Addressing His Troops, from the Column of Trajan, Rome, ca 112 ce. Marble. © Davis Publications. (8S-4763)
This monument was dedicated to the Roman emperor Trajan (ruled 98–117 ce) and his military campaigns against the “barbarians” along the Danube River (Austria) ca. 102–107 ce. Apparently crushing the native people of Germany, Switzerland, and France was not enough for the Romans. They conquered any culture they thought would be a threat. This column celebrates Trajan’s victory over the Dacians (Austrians) thus (supposedly) lending stability to the Empire. Roman art sought to not only honor ancestors, but also their deeds. Depictions of the deeds of emperors were spread throughout the Empire in the form of public sculpture.

Maya, Cup depicting victorious warriors (members of the Jaguar Guild), ca. 550–950 ce. Painted ceramic, 15.9 x 13.7 x 13.7 cm (6 1/4” x 5 3/8” x 5 3/8”). © Brooklyn Museum. (BMA-1750)

The Maya dominated Central America from Mexico through Guatemala and Honduras. Their culture flourished between 800 bce and roughly 1100 ce. It was unfortunately a society steeped in martial ritual, as many ancient cultures were. The Jaguar Guild was an elite warrior society that is represented here, on a ceremonial cup, as well as in temples and tombs. They wear animal headdresses and the jaguar symbol is belted around their waists.


What war isn’t stupid? This sculpture commemorates an event during the Hundred Years War (begun by the British in 1337) when the English besieged Calais and asked for the six most prominent citizens as sign of surrender. Rodin’s expressionistic depiction of this grim event in French history was influential on modernism in art of the early 1900s.

Diego Rivera (1886–1957, Mexico), Agrarian Leader Zapata, 1931. Fresco, 238.1 x 188 cm (93 3/4” x 74”). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 Diego Rivera / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (MOMA-P0747riars)
Rivera was a leader in the revival of frescoes and wall paintings. He did so in commemoration of the Mexican Revolution (1910). Through his murals, Rivera sought to elevate the Mexican people’s self image as divorced from Spanish conquest. This fresco depicts a famous Mexican revolutionary who was fighting for the rights of poor farmers during the Revolution.

Gino Severini (1883–1956, Italy), Armored Train in Action, 1915. Oil on canvas, 117 x 88 cm (46.1” x 34 5/8”). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 Gino Severini / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (MOMA-P2224svars)
Futurism was an offshoot of Cubism. It emphasized movement and the mechanized age. This work paints a pretty picture of an otherwise grisly phenomenon on World War I (1914–1918). It aptly blends the Cubist emphasis of time elapsed action with the brilliant color associated with Post-Impressionism.

An-My Lê (born 1960, Vietnam), 25 Palms: Infantry Platoon, from the book “Small Wars,” 2003–2004. Gelatin silver print, 67.3 x 96.7 cm (26 1/2” x 38”). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 An-My Lê. (MOMA-P4235)
Lê was a migrant to the US after the fall of Saigon in 1975. She has since used photography to explore the ironies of war and the cost on human lives. This series of photographs documents the training of US soldiers for the war in Iraq. The desolate landscape enhances the idea that war is a waste.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Holy Cats!





Ancient Egypt, Head of a Cat, period unknown, bronze,  12.7 x 6.35 cm (5 x 2 1/2”)
© Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (AK-2157)


I’m always interested in how important of a role domesticated animals have played in the history of art, particularly in the sphere of funerary art.  They almost always take on a protective or strength aspect. We just added this noble cat head from ancient Egypt to our group of images from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Cats in Ancient Egypt were the sacred animal (familiar) of the goddess Bast (or Bastet).
Bastet was an old cat goddess venerated in Bubastis, capital of the 18th province in Lower Egypt. She protected pregnant women and was patroness for singing, music and dancing and thus very popular. She was depicted as a woman with a cat's head, or just a sitting cat but originally wore a lioness' head. In depictions she can be seen as a cat with a mask of a lioness (with rounded ears) in her hand.

Many mummified Bastet cats have been found from all times. Egyptians mummified animals sacred to various deities, including alligators and snakes. Amulets and figurines of Bastet were very common showing her popularity among the all Egyptian social classes. Her festival was the peek of the year for her worshippers since she also was protector of love, joy and pleasure. During the New Kingdom she had a lion-headed son with the god Ptah: Maahes.

This cat is a funerary object. It is like part of a coffin for a kitten or cat. It also may have been attached to the coffin of a person who particularly venerated Bastet.
 
China, Prancing Horse, tomb figure, 600s or 700s CE, earthenware with polychrome slip decoration, 64.13 x 64.77 x 24.13 cm (25 1/4 x 25 1/2 x 9 1/2”)   © Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York  (AK-64)

The horse has been revered in many cultures world-wide, and was especially venerated in China. During the T’ang Dynasty (618-907 CE) there was a proliferation of the number of ceramic objects placed in tombs to help serve the deceased in the afterlife. The horse was very popular because it was the seventh symbol on the Zodiac (western). It also represented the qualities of practicality, love, endurance, devotion, stability, as well as quick advancement in rank and strength.



Mexico, Colima Culture, 300 BCE-500 CE, earthenware with burnished red slip, 39.8 x 20.4 x 47.6 cm (15 5/8 x 8 x 18 3/4”) 
   © Cleveland Museum of Art  (CM-335)

In the Mesoamerican Colima Culture, the dog was a particularly valued being, just as it is in the contemporary world. They were valued as protectors as well as companions. Some dogs, like this one, were fattened for ritual sacrifice and eating. The small dog is thought to be a distant relative of the modern Chihuahua.
 

Benjamin Marshall (1767-1835 Britain) Favorite Hunter of Lady Frances Stephens, 1799, oil on canvas, 62.6 x 74.9 cm (24 5/8 x 29 1/2”)   © Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA-1261)

Although the English did not bury works of art of their favorite animals with them, they certainly did immortalize them in art. Like the Chinese, the English venerated the horse. It became fashionable among the upper classes in the 1700s to have portraits painted of their favorite horse. They were sometimes depicted with a favorite groom or retainer, but often they were presented as iconic symbols of English virtue.

Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art 1 1.5-6 studio; Explorations in Art 1 5.28; Explorations in Art 2 3.13; Explorations in Art 2 3.14; Explorations in Art 2 3.15-16 studio; Explorations in Art 3 2.10; Explorations in Art 3 5.26; Explorations in Art 4 4.19; Explorations in Art 5 4.21; Explorations in Art 5 4.22; Explorations in Art 6 2.12;

Monday, August 12, 2013

Art at the Beach

Tom Wesselmann  (1931–2004, United States), Seascape, from the portfolio “Edition 68,” 1968. Screenprint on paper, sheet: 60.9 x 59.9 cm (24" x 23 9/16"). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 Estate of Tom Wesselmann / Licensed by VAGA, New York. (MOMA-P3312wsvg)
This week I present you with one of the more witty aspects of Pop Art. Pop Art parodied American culture in all of its aspects. Naturally, beach culture and tanning would be one of them. And naturally, in Tom Wesselmann’s aesthetic, he’s not going to show a hairy male ankle and foot sticking in the sky. Too much detail to deal with!

Like other artists of the Pop Art movement, Wesselmann began his training as a comic artist, first in Cincinnati and then in New York. Although influenced by Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997, United States), Wesselmann worked in a style of simple, flat areas of color that have the spirit of comic-book art, with minimal shading and formal concerns. Like Lichtenstein’s work, they reflect the flat, generalized coloring of billboards, posters, and other popular culture advertisement.

Roy Lichtenstein, Girl with Ball, 1961. Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 153 x 91.9 cm (60 1/4" x 36 1/8"). Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. (MOMA-P2959)

What is interesting about Wesselmann’s work is the goal. Is he objectifying women, like Playboy did? Or is he simply reflecting that objectification in American society during the 1960s? In a (much) broader sense, is he reflecting the new power of women in American society, albeit in crass terms? Anyone who knows Wesselmann’s work knows about his aggrandizing of elements of the female anatomy. In this is he saying something about the American obsession with sexuality? It certainly looks that way if you review his Great American Nude series. In that series, he often surrounds the nude with consumer items, in keeping with the Pop Art aesthetic.

I like Wesselmann’s “Seascape” series because it is the least offensive objectification of women. He obviously redefined seascape.

What is interesting to me, as a painter, is the way he reinterprets the subject matter to conform to his chosen genre, e.g. the female form. There are many artists who take traditional subjects and mold them to fit their objective interest. In essence, he projects a symbol of a seascape that is entirely new.

Sylvia Sleigh (1916–2010, Wales/United States) was interested in reinterpreting the Western ideal of the female nude by painting numerous male nudes with extreme detail. She often used religious and ancient mythological sources as her jumping off point:

Annunciation: Paul Rosano, 1975. Oil on canvas, 229 x 132 cm (90 1/8" x 52"). Photo courtesy of the artist. © 2013 Estate of Sylvia Sleigh. (8S-18364)

Studio activity: Represent a physical location—such as a city, countryside, mountain range, etc.—with a symbolic drawing. Using colored pencils, think of a place of importance (such as Mount Rushmore), and create a work of art that sums up the location with one symbolic object. For instance, Mount Rushmore could be symbolized by a depiction of the White House, since all four faces on Mount Rushmore were presidents. A hometown artwork could symbolize a school, a city hall, the police, or the location of the town. Do a drawing first in pencil, sketch out the plan, and then fill it in with colored pencil.

Correlations to Davis programs:  The Visual Experience: 16.7, Discovering Art History:  17.2

Monday, July 29, 2013

Vacation

Since vacation is on everyone’s mind now that summer is in full swing, let’s just look at works of art that spout vacation, special day off, or festival. And, yes, this can be an art historical exercise too!

Thomas Cole (1801–1848, United States), The Picnic, 1846, oil on canvas, 122 x 183 cm (48" x 72") © Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. (BMA-48)
Thomas Cole—yes he’s an ancestor of mine—is my favorite of the Hudson River School artists because he brings the “romantic” into the style of Romantic Realism. The Picnic is a perfect example of nostalgia for the American wilderness that was rapidly disappearing at the time (see my post from July 15th for more about nostalgia in art). My favorite part of this painting is the clouds, which remind me of Dutch Baroque landscape painting in which clouds always figure importantly. Is this the classical reference to thought?

Salomon van Ruysdael (1600/1603–1670, Netherlands), Castle on a River, 1644. Oil on wood, 39.3 x 60.5 cm. © Cleveland Museum of Art. (CL-64)

The phenomenon of “poster stamps” raged in the early 1900s. They were stuck on packages being shipped, advertising mailings, brochures, and pamphlets. It is such an interesting part of design history, especially since they reflected the artistic styles of the day. This one reflects an Art Nouveau aesthetic.


Torii Kiyonaga (1752–1815, Japan), Children at the Chrysanthemum Festival, 1793–1798. Woodcut, 38 x 26 cm (15" x 10 1/4"). © Philadelphia Museum of Art. (PMA-1743)
The chrysanthemum is the national flower of Japan. It figures prominently in the debate in Japan about the merits of spring and autumn gardens. The Chrysanthemum Festival in the fall elicits beautiful arrangements of the flower, but also encourages contemplation on the possibility of snow falling on the fading blossoms. This print shows children preparing (in a manner) for the festival.


Marion Post Wolcott (1910–1990, United States), Winter Tourists, 1940. Gelatin silver print, 21.1 x 26.9 cm (8 5/16" x 10 9/16"). Photo © The Museum of Modern Art, New York. (MOMA-P3249)
Like many artists who matured during the Great Depression (1929–1940), Marion Post Wolcott was interested in the human experience. This image of a couple on a beach in Massachusetts is an example of the frank lack of money to travel except to nearby locales. Even in winter it’s nice to get away!


Robert Gwathmey (1903–1988, United States), The Vacationist. Oil on canvas, 149.9 x 98.7 cm (59” x 38 7/8"). Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (BMA-902gwvg)
I leave you with Robert Gwathmey’s depiction of a tourist on the outer banks of North Carolina. Gwathmey was a social realist from Virginia who was keenly interested in daily life, particularly of African Americans. Here he represents an uber-tanned tourist with his catch for the day. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Nostalgia

I read in the New York Times that up until 1999 “nostalgia” was considered a mental illness. Well, you could have knocked me for a loop with that one. One usually gets warm fuzzies from being nostalgic. I think artwork from most cultures around the world have big doses of nostalgia in their subject matter. And one of the biggest cultures would be the US. Nostalgia has always been a component in American art. The New York Times article states that a psychologist at the University of Southampton, Constantine Sedikides, debunked the notion in 1999 (I can’t believe it took that many years), and I agree. What I find fascinating is the reason behind nostalgia in American art is usually war. I guess it’s human nature, universally, to pine for the “good old days.”

Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860, United States), Washington, after an original painted portrait, about 1827. Lithograph on paper, sheet: 59 x 39 cm (23 1/4" x15 3/8").  © American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA. (AAS-72)
Son of the premier colonial portraitist Charles Willson Peale (1741–1825), Rembrandt Peale was a well established painter in his own right. The period following the death of our first president (1799), was a period of extreme longing for the early days of the early Republic (1787–1800). George Washington was a universal symbol of American heritage, and his portrait was copied over and over through the late 1800s. They also appeared in courthouses and public buildings throughout the US.

Robert Mills (1781–1855, United States), First Baptist Church, Charleston, SC, 1838. Photo © Davis Art Images. (8S-14758)
The new American republic was obsessed with the idea that it was the first democratic country since ancient Greece. Therefore, architecture reflected this idea in the Greek Revival style, which flourished between 1820 and 1860. This was a period when many of the government buildings of the capital were built. However, the style was popular way beyond Washington, and can be found in cities up and down the East Coast from the period before the Civil War (1860–1865). Many southern country houses (plantations) were in the Greek Revival style.


Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823–1880, United States), A Home in the Wilderness (Mount Hayes in New Hampshire), 1866. Oil on canvas, 76.8 x 135.7 cm (30 1/4" x 53 7/16"). © Cleveland Museum of Art. (CL-795)
The Hudson River School is not technically a school but a group of artists who painted landscapes of the Hudson River valley and parts of New England. Americans of the early part of our country were proud of the vast, unique wilderness of the Northeast. The romantic-realist depictions of specific locations were documentation of a “wilderness” that was fast disappearing under settlement and clearing of the original forests. This painting dates from after the Civil War and reflects a longing to return to the time when the American wilderness was actually a sparsely populated wilderness.

Winslow Homer (1836–1910, United States), Snap the Whip, 1872. Oil on canvas, 56 x 91 cm (22 1/16" x 35 13/16"). © Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH. (BIAA-24)
No other American artist better represents nostalgia than Winslow Homer. Having documented the horrors of the Civil War for Harper’s Weekly magazine, his works from the 1870s retreat to bucolic scenes from America of before the war. Americans wanted to forget the horror that was the Civil War, and remember the “good old days” of pre-war America in innocent scenes such as this schoolyard frolic.

Anita Chernewski (born 1946, United States), Coney Island (Thunderbolt), 1987. Gelatin silver print, sheet: 15.2 x 19.1 cm (6” x 7 1/2"). Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. © 2013 Anita Chernewski  (BMA-1844) 
After the ten-week Spanish-American War in 1898—the US’s first international war fought in the Caribbean and Pacific—Coney Island in New York boomed as a place to forget the horrors of international war. It was once again a “return” to the halcyon days after the Civil War. Unfortunately, World War I (1914–1918) interrupted the nostalgia. After World War I Coney Island slowly declined in attendance. By the 1960s many of the original attractions had closed.

Donald Moffett (born 1955, United States), He Kills Me, 1987. Color offset lithograph on paper, 59.5 x 95 cm (23 7/16" x 37 3/8"). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2013 Donald Moffet. (MOMA-P3073)
Perhaps one of the worst propagators of the “return to the good old days” was President Ronald Regan (1980–1988). He harkened back to the 1950s as the greatest period [you know, the period of the Korean War (1950–1953), the Red Scare, the McCarthy hearings, and the beginnings of the Vietnam War]. I guess he was thinking of the TV show Leave it to Beaver. This artist has parodied Reagan threatening mass death, because of his pushing the escalation of nuclear weapons after calling Russia an “evil empire.”


Studio activity: A scene from a happy time from the past. Use a pencil to sketch the scene and fill it in with markers or crayons. Emphasize showing people and objects near and far away. The farther way the people are the smaller they should appear (same for buildings, tress, etc.).