The American Evolution: A History through Art

USA TODAY, July 2008 | Go to article overview

The American Evolution: A History through Art


"THE AMERICAN Evolution: A History through Art" showcases more than 200 objects in a wide range of media, dating from the colonial period to modern times. "It is not size and scope alone that distinguishes [this exhibition]. The display also purposefully rejects the chronological structure of traditional art historical surveys in favor of a thematic model that highlights continuities in American artistic production and culture from the colonial era to the present day," notes Emily Shapiro, assistant curator of American Art at the Corcoran Gallery.

The term "evolution" suggests change over time, and this exhibit proposes that the U.S. is a dynamic nation in a constant state of redefinition. From Gilbert Stuart's stately 18th-century portrait of George Washington to Andy Warhol's irreverent 1973 likeness of former Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung, from Frederic Edwin Church's dramatic 1857 view from the brink of Niagara Falls to Richard Diebenkom's abstract 1975 rendering of the suburban expanses of Ocean Park, Calif., the exhibition explores many of the ways that American life and art have developed over the past 250 years.

"This exhibition has work that will appeal to everyone, from people interested in traditional American painting and history to those more drawn to contemporary art and culture," maintains Sarah Newman, assistant curator of Contemporary Art at the Corcoran. "It provides a tour of most of the great developments in American art over the past two centuries, but it also puts them into a context which throws new light on old favorites."

There are a number of iconic works in a variety of genres. The display features stately Colonial-era portraits by Stuart and John Singleton Copley; elegant neoclassical marble sculptures by Hiram Powers and William Rinehart; outstanding Hudson River School paintings by Thomas Cole and Sanford Gifford; grand Western subjects by Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Remington; light-filled landscapes and figure paintings by Impressionists Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and Childe Hassam; stunning examples of early modernism by Marsden Hartley and Stuart Davis; important post-war abstractions by Joan Mitchell, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko; minimalist and post-minimalist treasures by Ellsworth Kelly, Gene Davis, and Martin Puryear; and contemporary works by Glenn Ligon and Kara Walker.

This exhibition explores Americans' use of visual images as a means to describe and understand the world around them. This extensive presentation will encourage a closer examination of the relationship between art and history. The works stand on their own as outstanding examples of the major styles, subjects, and movements of U.S. art history, yet they also are cultural artifacts that have much to teach visitors about themselves as well as their national identity and evolving nation.

The exhibit is arranged in light of five themes that have shaped American culture: Money, Land, Politics, Cultural Exchange, and The Modern World. These themes are fundamental to the development of the U.S., as well as to the stories that have become central to the country's national identity. As demonstrated in this exhibition, art plays a crucial role in telling these stories.

Money. The lure of money long has held powerful sway over American culture. The settlers who established the North American colonies were motivated as much by a desire for economic opportunity as by the promise of political and religious freedom, and the colonies' economic subordination to England was one of the primary motivations for the American Revolution. As the U.S. developed into a global superpower, the ideal of free enterprise continued to shape the nation's political, social, and cultural agendas.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Economic interests directly informed the earliest American art. Painting in the colonies was limited almost exclusively to portraiture, a genre that developed alongside and bolstered the burgeoning consumer society. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The American Evolution: A History through Art
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.