Painting Religion in Public
John Singer Sargent's Triumph of Religion at the Boston Public Library
Hardcover ISBN: 0691015651
A brilliant painter of society portraits, John Singer Sargent also devoted many years at the height of his career to a project of an entirely different order: an ambitious, multi-media decoration titled Triumph of Religion (1890-1919) for the Boston Public Library. The library cycle Sargent imagined as his most important work, however, would ultimately remain unfinished, quietly abandoned in the face of religious opposition, one critical painting short of completion. Truncation dramatically altered possible readings of Triumph, redirecting its narrative energies and generating new meanings in tension with the idea Sargent had proposed. In Painting Religion in Public, Sally Promey tells the story of an artist of international stature and the complex and consuming pictorial program he pursued in Boston. Highly celebrated in its day, with individual panels retaining immense popularity even in the years of discord, this artistic project and its constituent images tell us much about broad cultural and political exchanges concerning the public representation of religious content in the United States. Sargent's library decoration attracted the attention of multiple audiences and engaged concurrent debates about class, race, art, and religion. Representatives of various religious and cultural backgrounds hailed portions of the cycle as indicative of the strength of their own positions, and reproductions of the images appeared in everything from books and encyclopedias to stained glass and public pageantry. Promey analyzes the conception and production of the cycle, persuasively demonstrating that Triumph of Religion, far from promoting a narrowly sectarian version of religious practice, represented instead Sargent's public recommendation of the privacy of modern belief. The artist recast contemporary religion as spirituality, she argues, linking it not with institutions and dogma but with personal subjectivity. For Sargent, this ideal was a sign of Western, especially American, progress. Carefully reconstructing patterns of reception in an increasingly diverse religious climate, and exploring the extent and character of Sargent's personal and artistic investment, Promey boldly illuminates the work Sargent hoped to make his masterpiece. At the same time, she enriches understanding of religious images in public places and popular imagination.
Green Woods & Crystal Waters
The American Landscape Tradition
Paperback ISBN: 0866590218
Green Woods and Crystal Waters examines American landscape painting in the second half of the twentieth century through the works of 89 artists. Keeping the city at a safe distance, it focuses on the pastoral views and dramatic wilderness that have provided such a powerful American subject over two centuries. Formally and expressively diverse, the works range from the objective depiction of the physical appearance of nature to the romantic or mystical use of landscape as a vehicle for poetic and spiritual concerns to the expressionist's reshaping of nature to follow the curvature of interior moods. Includes 100 color illustrations, checklist of the exhibition, bibliography, and index of artists.
Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay
Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival
Paperback ISBN: 0143122851
" An incandescent journey to unearth the beginnings of American art. An unforgettable voyage across the reaches of America and the depths of memory, Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay tells the story of America's artistic birth. Following his family back through the generations, renowned critic Christopher Benfey unearths an ancestry- and an aesthetic-that is quintessentially American. His mother descends from colonial craftsmen, such as the Quaker artist- explorer William Bartram. Benfey's father-along with his aunt and uncle, the famed Bauhaus artists Josef and Anni Albers-escaped from Nazi Europe by fleeing to the American South. Struggling to find themselves in this new world, Benfey's family found strength and salvation in the rich craft tradition grounded in America's vast natural landscape. Bricks form the backbone of life in the rural Piedmont of North Carolina, where Benfey's mother was raised among centuries-old folk potteries, tobacco farms, and clay pits. Her father, like his father before him, believed in the deep honesty of brick, that men might build good lives with the bricks they laid. Nurtured in this red-clay world of ancient craft and Quaker radicalism, Benfey's mother was poised to set out from home when a tragic romance crackedher young life in two. Salvaging the broken shards of his mother's former life and exploring the revitalized folk arts resisting industrialization, Benfey discovers a world brimming with possibility and creativity. Benfey's father had no such foundationin his young life, nor did his aunt and uncle. Exiled artists from Berlin's Bauhaus school, Josef and Anni Albers were offered sanctuary not far from the red Piedmont at Black Mountain College. A radical experiment in unifying education and art, Black Mountain made a monumental impact on American culture under Josef's leadership, counting Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Buckminster Fuller among its influential students and teachers. Focusing on the natural world, innovative craftsmanship, and the physical reality of materials, Black Mountain became a home and symbol for an emerging vision of American art. Threading these stories together into a radiant and mesmerizing harmony, Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay is an extraordinary quest to the heart of America and the origins of its art. "--
Salted Paper Prints in North America
Hardcover ISBN: 0295994908
The salted paper print process and the daguerreotype were invented, for all practical purposes, simultaneously. Though using different materials and methods (the salted paper print was patented, while daguerreotype was not) still both achieved the miracle of fixing an image from life within a substrate—in other words, they ushered in the medium of photography. The uses of each form of photography varied greatly. In Europe the salted paper print was valued for its aesthetic qualities the massing of light and the softening of detail—while in North America, the salted paper print was valued for its portability and reproducibility. At the same time, the three evolving regions that comprised North America—Canada, the United States and Mexico—faced quite different realities and challenges than those in Europe (primarily France and Britain). In North America artistic merit was less of a priority, as each emerging nation faced vast, untamed territories, as well as social and political tumult. These were countries in the making—defining borders, struggling to create identities, and establishing metropolitan areas and transportation networks, while the scions on the other side of the Atlantic cast a leisurely eye to their artistic, architectural, and colonial heritage for subject matter. Scant research has been done on the use of the salted paper print in North America during its brief period of use (approximately 1847–1865); physical prints are often found in obscure collections and locations, and they are, as is true for most works on paper from that period, exceedingly fragile. This volume, with essays by three up and coming 19th-century scholars, offers new views on the use and employment of the salted paper print in North America. The hope is that this publication will encourage investigation, for the history of photography has many areas of terra incognita yet to discover.