Visual art of the United States  

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Dempsey and Firpo (1924) by George Bellows
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Dempsey and Firpo (1924) by George Bellows

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Visual arts of the United States refers to the history of painting and visual art in the United States. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, artists primarily painted landscapes and portraits in a realistic style. A parallel development taking shape in rural America was the American craft movement, which began as a reaction to the industrial revolution. Developments in modern art in Europe came to America from exhibitions in New York City such as the Armory Show in 1913. After World War II, New York replaced Paris as the center of the art world. Painting in the United States today covers a huge range of styles.

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Eighteenth century

After the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which marked the official beginning of the American national identity, the new nation needed a history, and part of that history would be expressed visually. Most of early American art (from the late 18th century through the early 19th century) consists of history painting and portraits. Painters such as Gilbert Stuart made portraits of the newly elected government officials, while John Singleton Copley was painting emblematic portraits for the increasingly prosperous merchant class, and painters such as John Trumbull were making large battle scenes of the Revolutionary War.

Nineteenth century

19th century art

America's first well-known school of painting—the Hudson River School—appeared in 1820. Thomas Cole pioneered the movement which included Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Doughty and several others. As with music and literature, this development was delayed until artists perceived that the New World offered subjects unique to itself; in this case the westward expansion of settlement brought the transcendent beauty of frontier landscapes to painters' attention.

The Hudson River painters' directness and simplicity of vision influenced and inspired such later artists as John Kensett and the Luminists; as well as George Inness and the tonalists (which included Albert Pinkham Ryder and Ralph Blakelock among others), and Winslow Homer (1836–1910), who depicted rural America—the sea, the mountains, and the people who lived near them. The Hudson River School landscape painter Robert S. Duncanson was one of the first important African American painters. John James Audubon, an ornothologist whose paintings documented birds, was one of the most important naturalist artists in America. His major work, a set of colored prints entitled The Birds of America (1827–1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. Edward Hicks was an American folk painter and distinguished minister of the Society of Friends. He became a Quaker icon because of his paintings.

Paintings of the Great West, many of which emphasized the sheer size of the land and the cultures of the native people living on it, became a distinct genre as well. George Catlin depicted the West and its people as honestly as possible. George Caleb Bingham, and later Frederick Remington, Charles M. Russell, the photographer Edward S. Curtis, and others recorded the American Western heritage and the Old American West through their art.

History painting was a less popular genre in American art during the 19th century, allthough Washington Crossing the Delaware, painted by the German-born Emanuel Leutze, is among the best-known American paintings. The historical and military paintings of William B. T. Trego were widely published after his death (according to Edwin A. Peeples, "There is probably not an American History book which doesn't have (a) Trego picture in it").

Portrait painters in America in the 19th century included untrained limners such as Ammi Phillips, and painters schooled in the European tradition, such as Thomas Sully and G.P.A. Healy. Middle-class city life found its painter in Thomas Eakins (1844–1916), an uncompromising realist whose unflinching honesty undercut the genteel preference for romantic sentimentalism. As a result he was not notably successful in his lifetime, although he has since been recognized as one of America's most significant artists. One of his students was Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first African-American painter to achieve international acclaim.

A trompe-l'oeil style of still-life painting, originating mainly in Philadelphia, included Raphaelle Peale (one of several artists of the Peale family), William Michael Harnett, and John F. Peto.

The most successful American sculptor of his era, Hiram Powers, left America in his early thirties to spend the rest of his life in Europe, where he adopted a conventional style for his idealized female nudes such as Eve Tempted. Several important painters who are considered American spent much of their lives in Europe, notably Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler, and John Singer Sargent, all of whom were influenced by French Impressionism. Theodore Robinson visited France in 1887, befriended Monet, and became one of the first American painters to adopt the new technique. In the last decades of the century American Impressionism, as practiced by artists such as Childe Hassam and Frank W. Benson, became a popular style.

Twentieth Century

American modern art, 20th century American art


Notable figures

A few American artists of note include Ansel Adams, John James Audubon, Milton Avery, Thomas Hart Benton, Albert Bierstadt, Alexander Calder, Robert Capa, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Dale Chihuly, Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, John Singleton Copley, Edward S. Curtis, Stuart Davis, Richard Diebenkorn, Thomas Eakins, Sir Jacob Epstein, Jules Feiffer, Helen Frankenthaler, Arshile Gorky, Marsden Hartley, Al Hirschfeld, Hans Hofmann, Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Dorothea Lange, Roy Lichtenstein, Morris Louis, John Marin, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray, Robert Rauschenberg, Frederic Remington, Norman Rockwell, Mark Rothko, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Dr. Seuss, Ben Shahn, Cindy Sherman, David Smith, Frank Stella, Gilbert Stuart, James Thurber, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Andy Warhol, Frank Lloyd Wright, Andrew Wyeth, N.C. Wyeth.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Visual art of the United States" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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