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 »

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 »

Sporting Glass

The largest Gothic cathedral in the Western Hemisphere has the strangest stained-glass windows in the world

TO A CASUAL OBSERVER , the first window on the north face of New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine looks as traditional and reverent as stainedglass windows the world over. But viewed up close, the fourteen thousand pieces of glass reveal scenes of baseball, fishing, and golf—almost as if to remind worshipers of the fun they might be having if they weren’t in church. Much of the credit for the window’s unconventional design belongs to Elizabeth Manning, daughter of William T. Manning, Bishop of New York from 1921 to 1946.Read more »

The Unexpected Artistry Of A New England Shipmaster

The richly embellished account book of an eighteenth-century sea captain, newly discovered in a Maine attic

IN JUNE OF 1976 THE MAINE MARITIME Museum in Bath received a letter addressed simply to “The Curator.” It was from two local women named Carrie Groves and Gladys Castner and described some nautical material including a “large color drawing of a ship” that the two women felt belonged in a museum. Museums, of course, receive hundreds of such offers every year, and in the overwhelming majority of cases the material turns out to be of no particular value. Read more »

California: The Art Of The State

California has always been as much a state of mind as a geographical entity. For the better part of two centuries, artists have been defining its splendid promise.

BEFORE THE DISCOVERY of gold at Sutler’s mill in 1848, the population of California was too small and too scattered to produce much painting. In modern times the history of art has paralleled the rise of cities and new wealth, and it was gold that made San Francisco large enough and rich enough to support California’s first art community. Read more »

The World Of Gluyas Williams

He was more than just a cartoonist. He was the Hogarth of the American middle class.

IF YOU WANT a quick fix on what upper-middle-class Americans were doing between the two World Wars, look at the cartoons of Gluyas Williams. It will take less time than reading Dodsworth or the works of J. P. Marquand, and will be just as accurate. Accurate observation was the essence of Williams’s art, and he was, in the words of one magazine editor, a “superb noticer.” Read more »

Images Of A Lifetime

For almost four decades, Marshall Davidson, who pioneered a new genre of illustrated history, has worked with many thousands of pieces of American art. Out of them all he now selects fourteen images that have particularly enchanted him .

 

 

IN 1951 A BOOK appeared that dealt with American history in a new way—it told its story by fusing pictures and words so that each had equal weight and yet their sum was greater than the parts. Such an ambitious amalgam had never been attempted before, and Life in America by Marshall B. Davidson was an immediate success. Read more »

Hobo Nickels

One of America’s least-known and most curious folk arts

 

The Buffalo nickel has not been minted for forty-five years, but the popular coin, bison on one side, Indian on the other, is well remembered today. What is less well known, however, is that the nickel served as a medium for a generation of hobo artists who reworked the images to produce a token that might be traded for a meal or a shirt somewhere down the road. Read more »

R. G. Fiege, Circus Painter

Using the same bold colors that drew the rubes in to see the Giant Rat of Sumatra and the Three-Headed Calf, he painted a fanciful record of his world

T HE GREAT DEPRESSION was as hard on circuses as it was on every other enterprise, but during those years, R. G. Fiege managed to keep a circus job and to find enough spare time to produce a series of paintings documenting the life around him. Little is known of Fiege—his name does not appear in the vast files of Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin—but he was born in Ohio in 1887, died there eighty years later, and during part of that time earned his living as a sign and poster painter.Read more »