Art & Culture

‘The ingenious Captain Peale” sired a dynasty of painters and started America’s first great museum.

GRANT WOOD’S STERN-VISAGED IOWA FARMER LOOKS OLD ENOUGH TO BE HER FATHER. IS HE?

Andy Warhol and friends oversaw the death of a centuries-old tradition and the birth of the postmodern.

“It was like a science fiction movie—,” wrote the late curator and art critic Henry Geldzahler, “you Pop artists in different parts of the city, unknown to each other, rising up out of the muck and staggering forward with your paintings in front of you.” Geldzahler’s lines, with their playful lugubriousness, were apt. When the innovators of pop embarked on their mature work, much of which was uncannily similar and all of which explored the same terrain—American consumer culture—almost none knew what any of the others were doing, or even that they existed. Pop arose spontaneously, an authentic movement, an organic response to new realities. Read more >>

At the height of the American avant-garde movement, Fairfield Porter’s realistic paintings defied the orthodoxy of Abstract Expressionism— and risked rejection by the art world. But today his true stature is becoming apparent: He may just be the best we have.

His contemporaries saw the painter Charles Burchfield as another regionalist. Today it seems clear that the region was the human spirit.

Toward the end of his life, Charles Burchfield wrote a description of a place that had haunted him since he was a schoolboy. Read more >>

AN OHIO UNDERTAKER’S LIFELONG obsession has left a mysterious outdoor gallery of American folk art

He may have been the greatest caricaturist of all time—he has imitators to this day—but his true passion was for a very different discipline

The trouble was, he couldn’t say no to anyone. Read more >>

World War I made the city the financial capital of the world. Then after World War II a very few audacious painters and passionate critics made it the cultural capital as well. Here is how they seized the torch from Europe.

Mark Tansey is a definitively post-modernist painter. His pictures stand at two removes from nature; not art but art history (or art theory) is his subject. Tansey deals in theories and notions, presenting them with the sort of sharp irony found in editorial-page cartoons. Read more >>

A historian of American portraits tells how he determines whether a picture is authentic—and why that authenticity matters

More than any other features, our faces are what mark us as unique individuals. Superficially our faces are who we are. Together with names they identify us with the lives we have lived; they are our perpetual calling cards. Read more >>

A PAIR OF GERMAN-BORN CRAFTSMEN BEGAN BY MAKING EXUBERANT FURNITURE AND WENT ON TO SHOW A NEWLY RICH GENERATION HOW TO LIVE

America. the industrial age. Machines, steam, and iron. The picture of progress. But also a nation in mourning. Mourning its Civil War dead, mourning its loss of innocence, and deeply ambivalent about the forces of change. Read more >>

For 150 years a crenelated Gothic Revival castle in Connecticut has housed an art collection that was astonishing for its time—and ours

We tend to identify the first American public display of art with the post-Civil War surge of wealth called the Gilded Age. Read more >>

An Airman’s Sketchbook

On April 6,1942, I joined the 40th Squadron of the newly formed 35th Fighter Group then being assembled at Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia, a suburb of Sydney. Read more >>

The man who may be America’s greatest artist liked to fend off the curious with the statement “My life is all in my works. ” He was right, but the works and the life take on new poignance with the release and exhibition of a once-private collection of his letters, photographs, and sketchbooks.

Thomas Eakins is now recognized as one of the greatest American painters, but in his own era his reputation was uncertain. Read more >>

H. T. Webster’s cartoons offer a warm, canny, and utterly accurate view of an era of everyday middle-class life

H. T. Webster was not a great artist. Once he had established a style, it hardly changed in more than forty years of drawing. Read more >>

At the dawn of this century a new form of residential architecture rose from the American heartland, ruled by the total integration of space, site, and structure

After dinner Frank Lloyd Wright would sometimes raise a wineglass, watch the yellow candlelight refracted through the red liquid and crystal, and, quoting the Chinese philosopher Lao-tze, remark that the reality of the vessel lay in the void within, “the plac Read more >>

In an age when the best black artists were lucky to exhibit their work at state fairs, Henry Ossawa Tanner was accepted by the most selective jury in France

Dr. Philip Bellefleur had been headmaster of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf for about three years when he found the painting in 1970. Read more >>

A civilian adventurer gave us the best artist’s record of America in Vietnam.

When Pierre S. du Pont bought the deteriorated Longwood Gardens in 1906, he thought that owning property was a sign of mental derangement. Still, he worked hard to create a stupendous fantasy garden, a place, he said, “where I can entertain my friends.”

As I walked down a side path at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, on a bright, sunny day in June, two quite distinct sights converged just in front of me. Read more >>

Last year two scholars working separately uncovered a pair of previously unknown portraits of Abraham Lincoln. One of them—which seems to put us in the very presence of the man—turned out to be the first ever painted.

Until recently historians believed that Abraham Lincoln was not painted before 1860, the year artists hurried to Springfield to produce likenesses of the presidential candidate. Read more >>

American art was hardly more than a cultural curiosity in the early years of this century. Now it is among the world’s most influential, and much of the credit belongs to a self-made woman named Juliana Force.

Today, when a painting by a living American artist fetches seventeen million dollars at auction, as a picture by Jasper Johns did last year, or when hundreds of people stand in line to get into a museum, as they did for the retrospectives of Edward Hopper, Wi Read more >>

He ignored the conventions of his day and became one of the greatest American sculptors of this century

I find myself sketching a top hat on a snapshot I’ve taken of a former pasha’s obituary photograph. Read more >>
He was a consummate professional whose photographs spanned the years from the Great Depression to the death of the great picture magazines. He traveled many thousands of miles but never really left the American heartland. Read more >>

He claimed his critics didn’t like his work because it was “too noisy,” but he didn’t care what any of them said. George Luks’s determination to paint only what interested him was his greatest strength—and his greatest weakness.

Probing westward along the streets of Manhattan, the first light of Sunday, October 29,1933, revealed, stretched out in a doorway on Sixth Avenue, near Fifty-second Street, under the el, a well-dressed elderly man, solidly built and balding, with a little pat Read more >>

You Asked for It

When American Heritage suggested last year that I put together the article that became “101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know about American History,” I accepted the assignment eagerly. Read more >>

Charles Sheeler found his subject in the architecture of industry. To him, America’s factories were the cathedrals of the modern age.

In the fall of 1927 the Philadelphia advertising agency N. W. Read more >>

In a career that made her one of the greatest American artist of the century, Georgia O’Keeffe claimed to have done it all by herself—without influence from family, friends, or fellow artists. The real story is less romantic though just as extraordinary.

Remembering her Wisconsin years, O’Keeffe once said defiantly, “I was not a favorite child, but I didn’t mind at all.” Read more >>

Born in response to the shoddy, machine-made goods available in the marketplace, the Arts and Crafts movement in America began in isolated workshops and spread to the public at large, preaching the virtues of the simple, the useful, and the handmade

THROUGHOUT AMERICA GRADE SCHOOLS AND summer camps teach “arts and crafts.” In my rural school we mitered wooden boxes, hammered decorative copper, and crackle-glazed clay pots—all under the gaze of a man who wore a dirty smock and a white beard, marks of ind Read more >>

A picture taken the day before President Roosevelt’s death has been hidden away in an artist’s file until now

The distinguished artist talks intimately about the art, the emotions, and the unique talent of his illustrator father, Newell Convers Wyeth