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By Jules David Prown, John Walker, Alexis Gregory

The tale of yank portray starts within the Colonial interval, within the 17th century. «The most evident truth approximately early American painting,» writes Jules David Prown, «is that there has been so little of it. whilst ecu colonists started to determine everlasting settlements at the japanese flank of North the US, that they had different issues on their minds than the portray of images. confronted with a urgent necessity to meet their fundamental existence needs—food, defend, clothing—they followed a life-style and a view of the area that used to be inevitably pragmatic. For them the humanities appeared dangerously inappropriate, a distraction from the intense projects handy. That pragmatic angle has characterised American tradition from its inception to the current day, and has profoundly affected the trajectory of yank art.»

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Watson and the Shark is more directly reportage than The Death of Wolfe, without complex classical, religious or philosophical overtones, although the figure of Watson is based on the Borghese Warrior, evocative of gladiatorial combat between warrior and beast. The painting may not be profound, but it is effective. The composition is held together by a zigzag movement through the shark and boy, boat and background, both on the picture surface and plunging deep into pictorial space. Dramatic lighting emphasizes the boy, the shark, and the man with the boathook.

The innovations in thematic seriousness and pictorial realism initiated in Agrippina are here carried forward to achieve what has been termed a " revolution in history painting," as West depicted the figures in contemporary dress (against the advice of Joshua Reynolds and George III). Although contemporary subject matter was not unusual, modern dress was. History paintings as a matter of course treated contemporary themes allegorically, with the figures draped in togas, amidst soaring angehc choirs or the shades of heroic predecessors.

Her successor as the leading Charleston artist during the colonial period was a Swiss, Jeremiah Theus (17191774), who painted sugary portraits, especially of women with pursed lips and pouter-pigeon poses, such as Elizabeth Rothmaler (Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York). The leading painter in Virginia was a London artist, Charles Bridges (active 1735-1740 in Virginia), who Robert Feke (1705/io-after 1750). Isaac Royall and His Family, 1741. (56^4x77%") Courtesy of the Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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American Painting - From its beginnings to the Armory Show by Jules David Prown, John Walker, Alexis Gregory


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