Democracy Delineated

Declaring himself a “thorough democrat” George Caleb Bingham portrayed the American voter with an artist’s eye—and a seasoned politicians savvy

Between 1847 and 1855 George Caleb Bingham completed a half dozen or so canvases that are among the most unusual and interesting documents in the history of American painting. They are well known to students, critics, and art historians but they are only occasionally reproduced in books that celebrate the “finest” American paintings. Others of Bingham’s works are duly included in such selective compilations, for at his best he was a highly competent artist. Read more »

Comrades In Arts

A West Point Gallery

The usual image of U. S. Grant has him in his dingy infantryman’s coat, imperturbably chewing a cigar while under fire from the line on which he is willing to fight it out all summer; it is difficult to imagine him carefully putting the final touches to a watercolor.Read more »

The Ellerslie Log

The 407-ton packet Ellerslie left New Orleans on December 30, 1848, on a royage that now would be forgotten save for the discovery of a series of watercolor sketches done by one of the passengers, James Guy Erans, a minister and maritime artist bound for the ship’s home port of Baltimore. Read more »

The Other Frederick Church

By the late 1850’s Frederick Church was the most popular artist in America. “He alone,” wrote a contemporary, “with the confidence of success, exhibits his single works as they are completed.” Holding opera glasses, visitors would come to study a solitary canvas —almost always a landscape of enormous complexity, a huge, classical composition crowded with photographic detail. But Church’s admirers never saw the studies he also produced—hasty notations, tossed off in a matter of minutes, but filled with sunlight and greenery and tumbling clouds.Read more »

Who Was This Man-and Why Did He Paint Such Terrible Things About Us?

The man was Diego Rivera, seen from the rear on his scaffold in an uncharacteristically modest self-portrait at left, and what he was doing in America was expressing his gargantuan contempt for capitalism and its precepts.Read more »

The American City

A gathering of turn-of-the-century paintings

Our cities began as muddy accidents. First settlers would set up shop on a promising spit of land; a steamer would tie up at a convenient bend in a river; two railroads would cross on an empty prairie; and soon there would be some warehouses, a saloon, a brothel, a jail, a church—a city. For the most part the cities grew up unplanned, a sort of cancerous response to the wealth being produced in and around them.Read more »

Olana

High on a hill above the Hudson River Frederick Edwin Church indulged his passion for building an exotic dream castle

“Sometimes the desire to build attacks a man like a fever—and at it he rushes,” the successful young landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church wrote from abroad to his friend and patron William H. Osborn in 1868. Church, his wife, and his young son were on an eighteen-month tour of Europe and the Middle East, but it was clear that he had other things on his mind than the average tourist did. Soon after they arrived home with boxes of “rugs—armour—stuffs—curiosities, etc. etc.Read more »

Arctic Twilight: The Paintings Of Kivetoruk Moses

Kivetoruk Moses spent his youth and middle years zestfully hunting seal, reindeer, and polar bear through the Alaskan snows. He became rich trading in furs and sled dogs in Siberia and his native Cape Espenberg on the Seward Peninsula. In 1954, when injuries from an airplane crash ended his hunting days, Moses started a new career by teaching himself to paint—as a means of keeping green his memories of those best of times.Read more »

The Small Bright World Of Anna Lindner

She was eighteen—pretty and sensitive, to judge by her photograph, taken in 1863. For many another girl, that age would have represented a new chapter in life in the form of a husband, children, a home of her own. But not so for Anna Lindner, for she had been crippled by polio when an infant in Germany, before her parents came to America; she could get about only on crutches, and was otherwise confined to a wheelchair. Instead 1863 marked the year of her first known dated painting.Read more »

Fort Washington

Seventh in a series of paintings for AMERICAN HERITAGE

At its northern end Manhattan Island shrinks to a spur of ground three quarters of a mile wide, bounded by the Harlem River on one side and the Hudson on the other. Mount Washington rises more than two hundred feet above the water on the Hudson River side, and it was here in July of 1776 that the Americans built a crude pentagonal earthwork that they dignified with the name Fort Washington. The tragic and ill-considered attempt to hold this position would result in the single greatest blow to American arms during the entire Revolution. Read more »