Landscapes Of Power

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. Ayer and Son came up with a campaign for the Ford Motor Company: a series of photographs of Ford’s thousand-acre industrial site on the Rouge River near Detroit, which would portray the company itself as an efficient machine, an icon of American industry. Ayer had a photographer in mind: a Philadelphian named Charles Sheeler. Read more »

A Sargent Portrait

It took half a century for his critics to see his subjects as clearly as he did; but today he stands as America’s preeminent portraitist

John Singer Sargent, in common with Holbein and Van Dyck, was an international painter of portraits who did his major work in England. It was in his studio in London’s Tite Street, during the 1880s and 1890s and in this century up to 1907, when he abandoned what he derisively called “paughtraits,” that he re-created on canvas the world of the AngloAmerican upper classes. His success was as great as that of his two predecessors, but his posthumous reputation has had a bumpier time. Read more »

Our 2nd Annual Winter Art Show

Among the nicer aspects of working at American Heritage is that the editors are paid to look at paintings. We review exhibitions, auction catalogs, museum brochures, and art magazines in hopes of finding historical illustrations for our stories. Inevitably we come across fascinating things that we have no immediate justification for publishing. The Winter Art Show provides that justification. Last winter we ran fourteen pictures that had come to our attention during the previous year.Read more »

Master Of Sensuos Line

John White Alexander began his career as an office boy at Harper’s Weekly and rose to be a leading painter of his generation, especially of its women

In the early 1900s John White Alexander was considered one of the four preeminent American painters of his day, the peer of Whistler, Sargent, and E. A. Abbey. In 1905 he won a $175,000 commission to paint the murals at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh; in 1909 he became president of the National Academy of Design; and following his death in 1915, a commemorative exhibition of his work traveled to eleven cities. Then, for several decades, he was forgotten. Read more »

Christopher Blossom & The Marine Tradition

A young artist takes on a venerable genre

Few aesthetic disciplines are as exacting as marine art. Consider the problems. The painter of portraits or landscapes can return to the subject again and again to verify shape, color, tone. But water is a moving, constantly changing element. The artist is dependent on sketches and memory to reproduce the play of reflections on the water’s surface or the spume and the spindrift of a stormy sea. Sky usually occupies more of the canvas than does either ship or sea. How marry these dissimilar elements so that they fuse rather than conflict?Read more »

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 »

Painting The Southland

Most surveys of American painting begin in New England in the eighteenth century, move westward to the Rockies in the nineteenth, and return to New York in the twentieth. Now we’ll have to redraw the map .

TAKING STOCK of painting in the South in 1859, a critic for the New Orleans Daily Cresent concluded glumly, “Artist roam the country of the North, turning out pictures by the hundred yearly, but none come to glean the treasures with which grand and beautiful country of the South and its peculiar life abound.” The reason many artists stayed away was that throughout the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth, the region’s poor roads, widely scattered population, and almost entirely agricultural economy 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 »

“If I Had Another Face, Do You Think I'd Wear This One?”

…so Lincoln joked. Actually he was eager to pose for portraits.



ABRAHAM LINCOLN was a paradoxical figure to the many artists who portrayed him. He felt ignorant about art, admitted to having an “unpracticed eye,” and he was given to publicly mocking his appearance. Once accused during a debate with Stephen Douglas of being two-faced, Lincoln is said to have replied, “If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?” Read more »