Tuesday, 15 November 2011

American Painting

Much art of the American colonial period consisted of portraits, as settlers sought to establish their identities in a new world. After the new nation achieved its independence, landscapes and scenes of native flora, fauna, and folk customs began to express its unique qualities and illustrate its untapped resources.

Portraiture formed the mainstay of subject matter in colonial and federal American art, as immigrants to the New World attempted to bring a semblance of Old World civilization to their wild or, at best, provincial surroundings. When Benjamin West arrived in Rome in 1760, he was the first American artist to study in Europe. 

American Painting

Upon seeing the Vatican's famous classical statue, the Apollo Belvedere, West exclaimed, "My God! How like it is to a young Mohawk warrior!" His astute comparison between a "noble savage" and the "glory that was Greece" won hearty applause from the connoisseurs. West soon emerged as Europe's foremost history painter, dropping the allegorical trappings from classical antiquity that had been the norm and basing his work on historical research.

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