What’s American About American Art?
Brian Allen, independent curator and scholar
“What’s American about American Art?” plots the continuum of American Art from the 18th century to today through a focused investigation of seven paintings from the National Gallery of Art. The artists selected to represent American Art over the course of the last 250 years are John Singleton Copley, Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, George Bellows, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein and Glen Ligon. Many factors contribute to the creation of distinctly American painting: a focus on tangibles, empirical facts, objective visual representation, and a drive to capture no more than the essentials comes from American practicality and a Puritan belief that God created all earthly things to serve a purpose and a sense of God having blessed America with limitless abundance. It's not coincidental that so many American artists also worked in advertising and for newspapers. American interest in new products and technologies, popular forms of entertainment and everyday life became the subject of American Art in the modern era, reflecting the unique civic identity of an ever-changing vast country leavened by new people and cultures.
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