Art and Life in 19th century America
Crosslisted with Amcult 230.001
What can art history and American history tell us about each other? Painting, sculpture, photographs and popular media helped nineteenth-century Americans imagine race, nation, and spirituality while design shaped their environment. Ideas and images from this period inform the way we think today. We will study how the United States changed from a rural to an industrial, urban nation; slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction redefined the country, Westward movement and the accompanying confinement of Native peoples enlarged it, and waves of immigration and border movement changed its population. The rise of a middle class, a feminine ideal, and the accompanying notion of the "American home" were all products of the nineteenth century. American artists and architects sought to rival their European contemporaries and eventually produced distinctive works that responded to these national trends; today, contemporary artists of color are re-thinking 19th-century images. Through hands-on research in archives and visits to see original works of art in museums and libraries, along with readings in primary-source documents and recent critical interpretations, we will examine both developments in the fine arts and the impact of historical change on the material and popular culture of everyday life in America, as well as how nineteenth-century work now inspires contemporary artists. Among the artists and architects we will study are Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Matthew Brady's photographic studio, Louis Sullivan, the Cheyenne artist Howling Wolf, Carrie Mae Weems, and contemporary Native American artists. The class will include a mandatory field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Textbooks/Other Materials: Frances Pohl, Framing America 4th edition vol 2 required; Paul Boyer, American History: A Very Short Introduction recommended; online readings in Canvas
Course Requirements: Attendance and informed participation in class discussion; occasional posts to online discussion forum; short paper that develops into group research project; midterm quiz, final take-home exam.
Intended Audience: people curious about art history; undergraduates at any level seeking a general introduction to 19th-century art and culture; students who have studied related art literature, architecture, music or history but would like to learn the American context. No prior background in art history or American studies required, though it is welcome.
Class Format: Lecture with some discussion
Estimated Cost of Materials: $50-$100
HISTART Distribution Requirements: Europe and the US, Modern and Contemporary
Keywords: American art; landscape; technology; African-American; architecture