Into the 20th Century Unit 5

Americans have always felt that art must be useful, and they have rarely painted for the sheer joy of painting.

Colonial: To the Puritans, art was a frivolous luxury. To most others during this period, art had to serve a purpose.  In the colonies and early republic, portraiture was about the only type of painting we had or would permit. The portrait painters knew their limitations and rarely tried to imitate the luxurious brushwork of the European masters.

Early 1800s: Landscape painting flourished, but its principal justification was a spiritual one. They did not want to intrude on nature as the Creator had left it. "We are in Eden." - Cole

Late 1800s: New millionaires sought "badges of culture" and so they bought European old masters or patronized artists who imitated them. Meanwhile, Homer and Eakins were unaided by the new art market.

After the Civil War, American artists continued to travel to Europe for classical art education. This training followed the process established in the 1600s:

draw from plaster casts

draw from live models

compose several figures into a logical picture

oil painting

"Salon Picture" (The Salon was established in 1737.)

 These young artists moved back to the U.S., but they quickly discovered that the rich wanted to buy the "real thing" from Europe. So they started a group known as the "Younger Men." This group started a school known as the "Art Students League."

At the turn of this century the art world was controlled by the academies:

Pennsylvania Academy (Phil.)

Nat. Academy of Design (NY)

A. of Painting & Drawing (Cinn)

The accepted art of the day was mostly Victorian and sentimental : a pretty girl offering laurels to a victor or a landscape at sunset with the cows filing back to the barn.

During the first decades of this century, however, two new forces appeared: the Ash Can School (the Eight) and the abstract artists (centered around the "291").

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Some of the information for this part of the unit came from the lecture notes for LIFE filmstrip "American Painting Part IV  The Eight and the Moderninsts."  Here is the bibliography for that work.

The Younger Men
William M. Chase
John Twachtman

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Allen Street by Luks

Ash Can
Robert Henri
William Glackens
George Luks
John Sloan
Everett Shinn
Ernest Lawson

Maurice Prendergast
A.B. Davies
George Bellows

Other Artists

Charles Dana Gibson
Howard Pyle
John La Farge
Abbett H. Thayer
Richard Outcault