The images accompanying the founding of the United States--of honored Founders, dramatic battle scenes, and seminal moments--gave visual shape to Revolutionary events and symbolized an entirely new concept of leadership and government. Since then they have endured as indispensable icons, serving as historical documents and timeless reminders of the nation's unprecedented beginnings.Read more...
The images accompanying the founding of the United States--of honored Founders, dramatic battle scenes, and seminal moments--gave visual shape to Revolutionary events and symbolized an entirely new concept of leadership and government. Since then they have endured as indispensable icons, serving as historical documents and timeless reminders of the nation's unprecedented beginnings.
As Paul Staiti reveals in "Of Arms and Artists," the lives of the five great American artists of the Revolutionary period--Charles Willson Peale, John Singleton Copley, John Trumbull, Benjamin West, and Gilbert Stuart--were every bit as eventful as those of the Founders with whom they continually interacted, and their works contributed mightily to America's founding spirit. Living in a time of breathtaking change, each in his own way came to grips with the history being made by turning to brushes and canvases, the results often eliciting awe and praise, and sometimes scorn. Ever since the passing of the last eyewitnesses to the Revolution, their imagery has connected Americans to 1776, allowing us to interpret and reinterpret the nation's beginning generation after generation. The collective stories of these five artists open a fresh window on the Revolutionary era, making more human the figures we have long honored as our Founders, and deepening our understanding of the whirlwind out of which the United States emerged.
- ISBN-13: 9781632864659
- ISBN-10: 1632864657
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
- Publish Date: October 2016
- Page Count: 400
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-18
- Reviewer: Staff
Staiti, a professor of Fine Arts at Mount Holyoke College, intertwines art criticism and history in this account of five American artists from the Revolutionary period and the role their paintings played in constructing the narrative of the nation’s founding. The artists—Charles Willson Peale, John Singleton Copley, John Trumbull, Benjamin West, and Gilbert Stuart—created the images that have helped to define the Founding Fathers for generations. Staiti skillfully shows how the Founding Fathers were attuned to the importance of visual art in constructing a public image and how they collaborated with artists to, ultimately, shape history. The public was so enamored with Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington that one critic wryly commented, “ would be treated like an imposter when compared to Stuart’s likeness of him.” Adams stage-managed his portrait by John Singleton Copley, projecting his own symbolism into the painting with his deliberate choice of suit and positioning (he is depicted pointing to a map) to show a diplomatic mastermind. Staiti pays special attention to the way economic necessity drove the artists. Benjamin West’s desire to retain his lucrative position in George III’s court kept him from displaying patriotic sympathies until the war’s conclusion, while Peale travelled through British-occupied areas to paint portraits of American officers. Staiti shines when recounting the antics of the feckless Stuart, who often took payments for paintings he never finished. History buffs and art lovers will enjoy Staiti’s refreshing perspective. Two 16-page color inserts along with black-and-white images throughout are included. (Oct.)