Down The Mississippi

From the North Woods to New Orleans with an artist-reporter of the last century

IN THE ERA BEFORE PHOTOGRAPHS could be reproduced in the press, newspapers and magazines sent “special artists”—the photojournalists of their time—out on assignment. Their on-the-spot drawings were then made into engravings. The most famous of these reporters was Winslow Homer, who went on to become one of America’s greatest painters.Read more »

Painted On Water

Turn-of-the-century American painters came to Venice for its ancient splendors and pearly light. In a few years they captured its canals, palaces, and people in a spirit of gentle modernism that looks better than ever.

FOR MUCH OF THE history of the United States, American artists have looked across the Atlantic: for better schooling than they could find at home, for a culture in which art was valued more highly than it was in Puritan America, and often for style and subject matter. In recent decades, however, the preeminence of American art has brought about a selective revision of our art history. Today the evolution of American art is likely to be presented as a continuous struggle to throw off European influence. Read more »


A gathering of little-known drawings from Columbia
University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library illuminates two centuries of American building

ONE OF THE WORLD’S most renowned architectural institutions is named for a virtually unknown architect who died at age thirty-eight, too young to have made more than a promising start in his own career. In 1890, the year of Henry Ogden Avery’s death, his parents founded the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University in New York City and donated two thousand books from their son’s professional library as well as the drawings from his brief career. Read more »

The Flowering Of American Flower Painting

At one time or another, practically every American artist has brought forth a blossom.

WHETHER FLOWERS ARE a worthy subject for the painter—a question hat seems almost medieval in its distance from current art theory—was once the concern of the most eminent artists and critics. In the eighteenth century the British artist Sir Joshua Reynolds pronounced that still-life painting of any kind was a “lower exercise,” offering no elevating moral lessons. Furthermore, he said, no mature artist should waste his brushwork on that subdivision of the still-life genre—flower painting. Read more »

A Painter Of Floating Property

Antonio Jacobsen, the most prolific of all American marine artists

“Ship portraiture” is a unique form of painting, modest in purpose but exacting in execution, long scorned by serious artists yet calling for particular knowledge and skills often beyond the ken of the fine artist. The specialty developed during a period when ships were growing mightily in size, complexity, speed, beauty, and grace. When the American sculptor Horatio Greenough first saw a clipper ship under full sail, he exclaimed, “There is something I would not be ashamed to show Phidias.” Read more »

Artists In Their Studios

As painting became a respectable profession in America, artists began to celebrate their workplaces

IN THE BEGINNING America had little use for the fine arts. Nomadic painters roamed the land and provided signs, decoration, and the occasional likeness of a sitter. But it wasn’t long before they contrived to establish more stable working places. In Boston, before the Revolution, John Smibert sustained a studio by selling art supplies and exhibiting copies of old master paintings and plaster casts of ancient sculptures.Read more »

Catawba Chronicle

A contemporary artist re-creates two and a half centuries of the life of a North Carolina county

Last March a letter arrived at AMERICAN HERITAGE from Barry G. Huffman of Hickory, North Carolina, a subscriber who had some kind words to say about the most recent issue of the magazine. But more important, she wanted to share with us a set of paintings she had been working on for the last four years.Read more »

John Sloan’s New Mexico

The famous painter of Eastern city life also captured the sunny, spacious world of the Southwest

When John Sloan—one of eight Eastern painters known as the Ashcan school—first came to Santa Fe in 1919, he was looking for new subjects to paint. He found a remote mountain town of about seven thousand citizens, two-thirds of whom were Spanish-speaking. Among the “Anglos” (persons neither Spanish nor Indian) was a sizable group of artists. To respect creative work is tradition in both Indian and Spanish society, and Sloan was delighted to find himself politely left alone. Above all, he was enchanted by the look of the place.Read more »

The Very Odd Vision Of F.W. Guein

Fitz W. Guerin, shown here in a moment of solemn whimsy, was a St. Louis photographer who ordinarily took his work very seriously. Born in Ireland in 1846, he joined the Union Army at fifteen, apprenticed himself to a photographer after the war, and then, until shortly before his death in 1903, made a good living photographing well-to-do citizens of his city.Read more »

A Painter At War

The Combat Art of Albert K. Murray

The camera is a marvelous instrument,” says the portrait artist Albert K. Murray, “but when it comes to covering a war, it has its limitations. The artist’s imagination can go where the lens cannot and adds a unique distillate to everything he paints.” Born in 1906 at Emporta, Kansas, Murray was already a well-known painter when he joined the Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor as one of only six American Navy combat artists.Read more »