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This entry includes 10 subentries:
Decorative Arts
Interior Decoration
Interior Design
Pottery and Ceramics
Self-Taught Artists
Stained Glass Windows

Decorative Arts

The distinction between the fine arts and the "decorative" is mostly arbitrary. It was not made until eighteenth-century Europeans decided to do so, allowing fine art to gain an aura of associated mystique. Today the distinction is a familiar one, if not a clear one. The decorative arts are viewed as more craft based, serving or alluding to a function. While the categories of decorative arts are vast, fine craftsmanship seems to be the single unifier. Craftsmanship is more than technical virtuosity. It demands a profound understanding of materials and of the tools with which those materials are fashioned.

Probably the single most important factor in the creation of the decorative arts is the maker's genuine pride in the process of production, the need to make things as well as they can be made. At a purely utilitarian level, this drive to achieve perfection might seem excessive, but it is very human. However, it may well disappear in the face of consumer demand. Often, consumer goods are not made as well as they could be, nor do they last as long as they could be made to last, but these are careful adaptations to the economics of the market. Few if any machine-made products are designed to last forever, allowing for new and improved products to be designed and built with the same purpose but a different look.

Early Colonial Style

During the early colonial period, America imported its consumer products and craftsmen from Europe, resulting in the same pieces on both sides of the Atlantic. Any products made in the colonies had very similar designs to those found in the maker's originating culture. As local manufacturers became more prominent, slight modifications on the original designs began to appear. As the wealth of the colonies increased, initially in the South, so did the demand for quality furniture. A variety of indigenous soft and hardwoods, such as pine, birch, maple, oak, hickory, and later walnut, were readily available to colonial furniture craftsmen. With each ship new furniture forms arrived, including cane-back, slat-back, and leather-back chairs, as well as the upholstered chairs better known as easy chairs. Three styles came from England: William and Mary (c. 1700–1725) is an adaptation of the Baroque; Queen Anne (c. 1725–1760) is a refined Baroque with a greater awareness

of technique; and Chippendale (c. 1760–1790) is a high English variant of French Rococo.


With the arrival of the Europeans came the potter's wheel and many types of ceramic vessels. By 1635, Philip Drinker, an English potter, had started working in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and before 1655, Dirck Claesen, a Dutch "pottmaker," was working in Manhattan. By the very nature of local needs, most British colonial pottery production was utilitarian ware called redware, modeled on English and German storage jars, jugs, bowls, and plates. It was needed and produced in quantity, formed of the same red clay from which bricks were made. When fired, the clay remained porous. The glazing and ornamentation were basic. Redware (fired at 900© C–1040© C) was usually given a clear lead glaze (using a highly toxic sulfide or oxide of lead), that emphasized the clay's red tones. Adding metal oxides such as copper, iron, or manganese produced

various bright colors that enhanced the surface of redware.

Most potters were either immigrants or only a generation or two removed from European or English craftsman traditions. As the immigrants began to see themselves as Americans and heirs to a continent, they sought more intellectual diversity and distance from contemporary European sources, while continuing to buy European products. By 1800, the Adamesque Neo-Classicism of Britain had pervaded domestic manufacturing design, and those ancient Greek and Roman shapes took root to varying degrees in different art forms and regions of America. Across the newly expanding country the Federal Style (c. 1785–1815) was followed by the Empire Style (c. 1815–1830). Both styles were versions of the Robert Adam–inspired Classical Revival in England and the variant Biedermeier style in Austria and Germany.

Chairs, Ceramics, and Silver

While the Shakers, a branch of the English Quakers, were rejecting the world about them, they made ladder-back chairs and sat as other Americans sat. While rockers were not a Shaker invention—the earliest-known citation is from 1741–1742 by Solomon Fussell, a Philadelphia furniture maker—their popularity may owe much to the inventiveness of the Shaker chair makers and to their readiness to accommodate to new styles.

In ceramics, the venerable English firm of Josiah Wedgwood was the leader in pottery. Wedgwood's invention of basalt ware in 1768, followed within a decade by his exquisitely modeled jasper ware, inspired ceramists everywhere. In the early nineteenth century the Wedgwood potteries did not produce porcelain, but the Worcester, Derby, and Coalport factories did, and those who sought fashionable dishes either got them from those factories or, starting about 1825, found suitable reproductions made by some twenty skilled craftsmen from England and France employed to make porcelain for the Jersey Porcelain and Earthenware Company in Jersey City, New Jersey. Other ventures followed in Philadelphia.

At the same time, and serving many of the same customers, silversmiths were both manufacturers and retailers, their shops often doubling as a workroom and a showroom. This practice continued until about 1840, when the discovery of the technique of electroplating led to the rise of large companies that produced and sold silver plate in stores. While not eliminating individual silversmiths, it did reduce their importance. Ultimately large corporations such as the Gorham Manufacturing Company and International Silver Company largely depersonalized the industry. Those individual shops that survived specialized more in repair, chasing, and engraving than in creating products.

Industrialization and Decorative Style

The American ambivalence about industrialization helps explain the inherent ideological contradictions in the decorative arts between 1850 and 1900. Laminating rose-wood, for example, required a large number of technologically sophisticated pieces of shop equipment, and it is ironic that such technical and mechanized operations produced forms that were emotional cues to the antithesis of mechanization. Besides the various European-derived revival styles, the Rococo Revival became an important stylistic force among wealthy Americans by 1850. The most influential sources for designers were the natural world, the past, and the exotic. Immensely popular in America were china patterns produced in England such as the transfer image "Ontario Lake Scenery." Mass-produced of cheap materials, the scene shows a castle, Niagara Falls, and tepees against a mountainous background. The newly powerful merchants, industrialists, and their managers bought this ware and anything else they saw at a reasonable price. The mass market was born, as was the separation of design from material reality in popular decorative arts.

Oriental Style

While China and Japan had been very important design sources for the decorative arts of elite culture before 1800, the American middle class discovered the Orient at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Everyday objects such as the inro, netsuke, and fans became decorative materials for homes or prized collections. "Oriental" was also a decorating, ceramics, and furniture style; at its extreme, oriental pieces were cast or carved to resemble bamboo, ebonized, or lacquered; paper parasols were popular, as were paper lanterns, fans, and kimonos. By the end of the century, artisans were manufacturing large numbers of items in the Oriental style expressly for use in America. By 1900 most "Made in Japan" furniture resembled forms from China. Design had succumbed to the marketplace.

But the Oriental influence also took another direction in the ceramic glazes and shapes developed by such potters as William Henry Grueby, who set up the Grueby Faience Company of Boston in 1894. Working with George Prentiss Kendrick, an established designer in brass and silverware, the shop created outstanding European-Japanese–inspired shapes and a range of delicious semi-matt glazes: blues, yellows, browns, grays, and an ivory-white crackle. His most sought-after and imitated glaze was a semi-matt green. Grueby green became an industry standard.

Grueby was an instant success at the Society of Arts & Crafts Exhibit in Boston in 1897. While already represented

by Siegfried Bing (1838–1905), founder of the Gallery of Art Nouveau and Tiffany's European outlet, in 1900, Grueby was awarded one silver and two gold medals in Paris. In 1900 the pottery won a gold medal at St. Petersburg and in 1901 the Highest Award at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, at which Grueby contributed to rooms designed by Gustav Stickley, a pioneer of Arts & Crafts–style furniture in America. The Highest Award followed in Turin in 1902 and the Grand Prize in St. Louis in 1904.

Art Deco Style

While the Art Deco style actually budded between 1908 and 1912, it did not bloom until after World War I. The style draws on a host of diverse and often conflicting influences—Cubism, Russian Constructivism, Italian Futurism, abstraction, distortion, and simplification. Art Deco's tenet that form must follow function remained unchallenged by all succeeding schools of design. However, its accompanying dictum that the piece should also be unique or, at most, a limited edition proved elitist in an age ruled by Modernism. The Modernists argued that the new age demanded excellent design for everyone and that quality and mass production were not mutually exclusive. The

future of the decorative arts did not rest with the rich; rather, an object's greatest beauty lay in its perfect adaptation to its usage. For the first time, the straight line became a source of beauty. In the late 1920s a moderated Modernism was all the fashion.

French Art Deco styling produced by Steuben (1903–) and Libbey Glass Compay (1892–) revived the American glass industry somewhat; it had suffered a decline after Art Nouveau flourished under Louis Comfort Tiffany. Steuben produced expensive, limited editions of art glass designed by its founder, the Englishman Frederick Carder (1863–1963). The Libbey Glass Company was in the vanguard of 1930s American commercial glass design. The tradition-bound American home of the 1930s was jolted by the Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, when it designed a Cubist line of glassware called Ruba Rombic, which was offered in pale hues such as gray, topaz, and amber.

The Great Depression struck a fatal blow to luxury items, and in America the Art Deco style was only reluctantly adapted to jewelry design. To accommodate the trend, Tiffany of New York created traditional objects in the new style, but without the crisp angularity found in Paris. C. D. Peacock and Spaulding-Gorham Inc. in Chicago produced jewelry in the new idiom, but again without the panache of their French counterparts. One genuinely new form appeared in American jewelry at the time: the stepped outline, which coincided with the emergence of the stepback skyscraper, the most beautiful examples of which are the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in New York City.


When the American skyscraper boom of the mid-1920s started, America did not have its own Modernist style. The country was still decorating tall buildings in a Gothic style derived from the pens of Cass Gilbert or Hood and Howells' Chicago Tribune Tower. As in traditional buildings, Modernist decoration served as a transitional device to alert the viewer to a change in contour. It was often not designed by the architect but purchased directly from companies such as Northwestern Terra Cotta in Chicago. A sumptuous combination of stone, brick, terracotta, and metal often transformed an otherwise bland structure into a source of great civic pride.

Since 1945 the decorative arts in America have served as a template for the culture of consumerism, with its attendant design functions. By the 1960s commercial television, various other advertising media, consumer magazines, and city sign systems both commercial and practical emerged as challenging and exciting new disciplines and venues in the ongoing interface between consumer and product: promising, seducing, fueling, and directing. The cultural role of the decorative arts and design was extended well beyond the need for harmony between form and function. The artisan and designer became a communicator, giving form to products not in the abstract but within a culture and for a marketplace. Never before had there been such an intensive dialogue between the "fine" and the "decorative" arts. By the 1970s Pop artists were devising their own set of rules, an antithesis to Modernism ideology yet not antagonistic. Pop was about being Modern in a different though not exclusive sense. It was the Modern of fashionable, high-impact design; a never-mind-about-tomorrow, brash, superficial Modern. All the while, decorative arts changed rapidly, embracing both functional and fully nonfunctional, both the beautiful and the ugly, limited only by the inventiveness of the craftsperson.


Adams, Henry. Viktor Schreckengost and Twentieth-Century Design. Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Museum of Art, 2000.

Clark, Garth, and Margie Hughto. A Century of Ceramics in the United States, 1878–1978: A Study of Its Development. New York: Dutton, Everson Museum of Art, 1979.

Dietz, Ulysses Grant, et al., ed. The Glitter and the Gold: Fashioning America's Jewelry. Newark, N.J.: Newark Museum, 1997.

Kardon, Jane, ed. Craft in the Machine Age, 1920–1945. New York: American Craft Museum, 1995.


See alsoArt: Pottery and Ceramics ; Metalwork ; Pop Art .


Glass is created by fusing silica (sand, quartz, or flints) with alkaline fluxes (soda ash or potash) in a crucible, a fireclay pot, within a furnace. Fuel for heating is usually based on local availability. Two basic techniques dominate glassmaking: molding and blowing. All glass must also be annealed, slowly cooled to become less brittle.

Color has been an important component of the appeal of glass since the beginnings of glassmaking. Color demands a sophisticated and specialized knowledge. Some of the most popular oxide additives to molten glass are cobalt, which produces a wide range of blues; gold, the most romanticized of the additives, which produces a range of reds; antimony, which produces an opaque yellow; iron, which produces a range of colors from yellow to green to blue; copper, which produces a wide range of blues, greens, and reds, and even a glittering metal in suspension; and manganese, which can produce an amethyst color. Surface color can be quickly achieved by exposing the glass to various chemicals or gasses, thus causing iridescence similar to that found in long-buried Roman glass. Louis Comfort Tiffany became the acknowledged master of manufactured iridescence.

Early Glassmaking and Industrialization

When Jamestown Virginia was founded in 1607, glass-blowers were among the settlers. Like the colony, their glassmaking venture, America's first industry, failed. Other glassmakers followed in New Amsterdam (later New York), Salem, Boston, and Philadelphia. All were short-lived ventures. But demand for glass was great in colonial America. In 1739, in the face of a British ban on manufacturing glass, a German glassmaker, Caspar Wistar, established a factory in southern New Jersey that successfully produced window glass, bottles, and tableware. Free-blown glass was also popular. Many glassmakers, mostly German, followed Wistar's example, but despite abundant fuel and sand, most failed. But failure did not deter the industry, and every decade of the eighteenth century saw production increase as the demand grew for bottles, windows, and free-blown vessels. While blowing glass into a mold was efficient, the development of mechanical glass-pressing machines in the 1820s actually industrialized the industry. American glass of seemingly ever-new colors could now be pressed into a myriad of shapes. This sudden speedup in production, the first in almost 2,000 years, was America's first great contribution to the glass industry.

For the first time identical pairs or interchangeable sets were possible. Home decorating changed forever. The New England Glass Company in East Cambridge, Massachusetts (1818–1888), became one of the glassmaking giants of the century and produced an enormous variety of wares of international importance. The Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, in Sandwich, Massachusetts (1825–1889), was a significant competitor. Others followed.

After about 1845, Bohemian-style glass, blown, cut, wheel-engraved, or machine-pressed, became the rage. Soon fine line cutting and panel cuts, deep reds and blues, marble or agate glass, and cased, flashed, and stained ware were common sights in better American homes. In 1864, William Leighton of Hobbs, Brockunier, and Company in Wheeling, West Virginia, developed a soda lime glass that looked like expensive lead glass but was much cheaper to produce. It changed the industry, especially that of luxury glass. The Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 led the campaign for glass that was deeply cut, more elaborate, and handmade. Instantly popular, it

is now referred to as "brilliant," or Victorian, glass, and its production continued until about 1915. Libbey Glass Company in Toledo, Ohio, became a leader in this type of American glass.

Art Glass and Modern Styles

Paralleling brilliant glass was the very popular new taste for art glass, another continuation of Americans' desire for excess that spawned novel glass colors, finishes, and shapes, mostly for the production of decorative objects. Louis Comfort Tiffany was the uncontested master. His development of Favril glass in the late 1870s, based on existing German technologies and ideas developed by John La Farge, ushered in a new style of glass, which in 1895 was called "art nouveau." Exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exhibition, Tiffany glass was immediately purchased by several European museums, internationally acclaimed, and copied. Endlessly adapting Roman, medieval, and Muslim shapes and surfaces, Tiffany's genius sprang forth in colors, patterns, and marketing. Along with "brilliant" cut glass, Tiffany glass dominated until about 1915. Brilliant cut slipped into stuffy obscurity, and Tiffany's glass was maligned, neglected, and forgotten until the early 1970s, but since then Tiffany glass has become once again the most sought-after of all glass.

The 1920s ushered in severe changes in style. Out went ornamental, in came functional. This change proved difficult for the glass industry and its designers. The great designer Frederick Carder employed elegantly simplified forms that helped make the work of Steuben Glass Works in Corning, New York, broadly popular. In 1939–1940 Libbey Glass Company turned new streamlined designs by Edwin W. Fuerst into a line called "Modern American." American glass of the 1950s, made by such firms as Blenko Glass Company in West Virginia, was broadly popular, and by the early 1990s American glass of the 1950s had become much sought-after by collectors. Art galleries specializing in modern and 1950s glass sprang up to meet the demand.

Studio Glass

Arguably the most influential change in modern glass-making occurred in 1962, when the Toledo Museum of Art organized a hands-on glass working seminar. Led by the glass technician Dominick Labino and the ceramist and glass designer Harvey K. Littleton, both of the University of Wisconsin, the seminar's emphasis on uniting the traditional functions of craftsman and designer (separated since the early eighteenth century) led directly to a renaissance in contemporary hand-worked glass seen as a sculptural medium.

The studio-glass phenomenon attracted new glass artists who migrated from other materials and who used not only traditional hot glass methods such as blowing and casting but also warm techniques such as fusing, slumping, and enameling, as well as cold techniques such as cutting, polishing, etching, sandblasting, painting, and joining with new acrylic adhesives to achieve their designs. Glass, like other materials, became the embodiment of an "artistic gesture."

Starting in the late 1960s, Dale Chihuly, Richard Marquis, James Carpenter, Michael Nourot, William Prindle, and others (Robert Willson had been there first, in 1958) had all spent time in Murano, Italy, studying ancient glassblowing traditions with master craftsmen. In 1971, Chihuly founded Pilchuck Glass Center outside Seattle, Washington, and began to work in his signature technique based on centuries-old Venetian glass traditions, without the constraint of fifteenth-and sixteenth-century technology. The same decade saw the founding of the Penland School in North Carolina and the Haystack Mountain School in Maine. Publications such as Craft Horizons and New Glass Review, and regular exhibitions, became significant supports. The American Crafts Council has had its own museum in New York since 1987, the same year the Corning Museum in upstate New York placed part of its modern glass collection on permanent display. Since these ambitious moves, the creativity and diversity of glass artists has found appeal among countless collectors, making glass the most collected of all contemporary art media.


Contemporary American and European Glass from the Saxe Collection. Oakland, Calif.: Oakland Museum, 1986.

Koch, Robert. Louis Comfort Tiffany, Rebel in Glass. New York: Crown, 1982.

McKearin, George S., and Helen McKearin. American Glass. 1948. Reprint, New York: Bonanza, 1989.

Memories of Murano: American Glass Artists in Venice. New York: American Craft Museum, 2000.

Warmus, William. "Steuben Forever." Urban Glass Art Quarterly 81 (winter 2000): 36–41.


See alsoArt: Decorative Arts, Stained Glass Windows ; Collecting .

Interior Decoration

Interior decoration is a profession that deals with the placement of furniture, with color, textiles, window treatments, lighting, finishes, and materials, and with the selection and display of collected objects. It mainly concentrates on the domestic interior and emphasizes the ornamental, applied, and decorative arts in creating ephemeral ambience utilizing the more easily transformed aspects of a room. Decorators tend to work either in private practice, store-home consulting, or furniture and material showrooms. Educational programs can be found in schools of architecture, art and design, human ecology, or human economics.

European Influences

Any survey of the history of American interior decoration must begin by acknowledging the importance of European influence. The majority of work in the field is based on the importation and revival of European styles, although there has also been some emphasis on broader global influences and contemporary American popular culture.

American interior decoration has built a design tradition that reflects the successive waves of explorers, settlers, and immigrants who have come to the United States over hundreds of years. English citizens in search of religious freedom, Spanish missions spreading Christianity, and Dutch merchants seeking wealth in the trade market all brought elements of their decorative heritage to the new land. Each wave of immigrants strove to recreate the living spaces they had left behind.

At the same time, the American homestead reflected a constant process of shaping the past to meet the demands of the present. Initially, the fundamental necessities of life determined decorative style. In the northern colonies, space and heat were high priorities, as people would eat, sleep, prepare meals, and socialize all in one-room parlors (see, for example, the Parson Capen House, Topsfield, Massachusetts, 1683). Beds were curtained off, and rugs were thrown over crude wood floors. Regional folk-art painting was used to enliven the severe, plain forms of the exposed-wood structures (see the Fraktur Room at Winterthur House, near Wilmington, Delaware, or the Pembroke Room at Beauport [the Sleeper-McCann House], Gloucester, Massachusetts, [1907–1934]). Spanish homes, with their whitewashed walls, were equally austere, though highlights of bold color added interest. In the southern colonies, interiors were somewhat more luxurious: various surviving structures in Williamsburg, Virginia, provide a complete picture of the comfortable, paneled rooms of the 1750s.

The early simplicity of interiors shaped by the necessities of survival gave way to new luxuries as plantation owners, merchants, and prosperous traders furnished their homes with furniture and decorative objects that were locally created versions of prominent styles from Paris and London (see the Washington Library, Mount Vernon, Virginia, or Gunston Hall, Lorton, Virginia, 1755). With greater prosperity came new types of spaces for dining, entertaining, and performance, all featuring European-influenced ornamentation. After the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), the typically restrained decor of the eighteenth-century interior became more expressive. Two major new styles predominated: the graceful, neoclassical Federal style, which grew out of the work done in England by American architect Robert Adam, and the American Empire style, modeled after design trends in Napoleonic France (see the Bartow-Pell Mansion, Bronx, New York, 1842, or Samuel McIntire's Derby West House, Peabody, Massachusetts, 1801). Prominent developments in furniture design included the Sheraton style (named for English designer Thomas Sheraton), the Hepplewhite style (named after British designer and cabinetmaker George Hepplewhite), the Robert Adam style (named for the American architect mentioned above, who also designed furniture while in England), and the Duncan Phyfe Adaptation (named after an American cabinetmaker who combined Empire motifs with influences from Adam, Sheraton, and Hepplewhite). These neoclassical design trends were influenced greatly by the English Regency style. Swags, husks, flutings, festoons, and rams' heads were common motifs applied to furniture.

Prosperity Leads to Modernism

At the end of the eighteenth century, continued prosperity brought to the United States treasures garnered from the expansion of trade routes throughout Europe and the Orient. Prosperous fleet owners built and embellished coastal mansions using local craftspeople and completed them with imported goods. Grand staircases, parlors, sitting rooms, verandas, dining rooms, libraries, front offices, upstairs bedrooms, and detached servant quarters completed the array of spaces necessary for commodious living. Paneling was replaced with wainscoting, while moldings, reduced in size, began featuring reeding, channeling, and a greater variety of shapes and expressions. Plaster cornices and bas-relief work complemented an increased use of color and of patterns from every historic period.

From the post-Revolution era to the antebellum period, interiors featured very tall ceilings; walls without wainscoting were edged with massive molded baseboards. The furniture of choice was mostly of Empire design with brass mounts. Tall French mirrors over mantels and between windows expanded the space, which was hung with dark damask (see the Nathaniel Russell House, Charleston, South Carolina, 1809). The next wave in decoration came during the Victorian period and involved an array of revivals of various historical styles. Extraordinary excess was the hallmark of the period, as reflected in the elaborately carved furniture, the rich fabrics, the luxurious window treatments, and the signature gilding of objects (see the Wickham-Valentine House, Richmond, Virginia, 1812). Along with the Rococo revival, other eccentric displays of Victorian taste were the Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance styles. A. J. Davis's Lyndhurst Castle (1838), in Tarrytown, New York, is a premier example of the Gothic influence, with its ribbed vaulting, arched moldings, and furniture inspired by medieval churches. The Ramsey Mansion (1872) in St. Paul, Minnesota, exhibits all the trappings of the fashion for classicism. World's Fair exhibitions showcased Victorian opulence and the increasing array of domestic products. Museums began to collect and put on permanent display furniture and period objects, and began recreating interiors.

Along with the embellishment of styles derived from Europe, nineteenth-century America also saw the development of a unique design sense derived from the beliefs and practices of the Shakers. This fundamentalist community shunned elaborate expressions of wealth and opulence, and developed a style based on essential forms and a spare purity of line, reflecting their belief that form follows function. Their minimalist approach was a key component in the mix of influences that led to twentieth-century modernism. Regional craftsmen and artisans also worked outside the heroics of revivalism and created instead simple, unadorned pieces intended not for the wealthy, but for those of average income. At the same time, the factories of the new machine age made high-quality work available to more people for less money; in contrast to handcrafted furniture, they produced painted cottage furniture or slat-back chairs.

Publications, Film, and New Technology

The pre-Modernist sensibilities of nineteenth century decoration, including the Victorian era's taste for eclecticism, survived well into the twentieth century. In 1913, for example, Elsie de Wolfe, considered the first professional decorator, wrote The House in Good Taste to promote the use of a range of historical styles. At the same time, the new age of travel, with its ocean liners and airliners, established contemporary aesthetics that favored the streamlined and the modern.

Even as much of its aesthetic orientation remained rooted in the nineteenth century, the field of interior decoration rapidly modernized and professionalized itself. In 1897, the novelist Edith Wharton collaborated with architect Ogden Codman Jr. in writing The Decoration of Houses, in which the authors define interior decoration as dealing with surface treatments and interior design as encompassing the design of interior spaces. In 1904, The Interior Decorator began publishing; one of the earliest specialist publications, it soon set standards for the profession. Nancy McClelland established the interior decoration department of New York's Wanamaker Department Store in 1913, and in 1923 Eleanor McMillen founded McMillen, Incorporated, credited with being the country's first interior-decorating firm. Beginning in the 1930s, John Fowler, Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings, and Billy Baldwin all became coveted professional decorators. The American Institute of Decorators was founded in 1931.

In the 1930s, the fantastic world of film first became the prominent influence on American interior decoration it would continue to be throughout the twentieth century. The decorative styles of the English country house, the Californian Spanish house, and the Art Deco interiors of the Jazz era were all disseminated through Hollywood set design. The stylized "Modern" look of the 1930s owed much to futuristic epics like Metropolis (1927), while the nostalgia for the Civil War period inspired by Gone with the Wind (1939) also greatly influenced decoration. Later in the century, the sensational Cleopatra (1963) created a resurgence in Egyptian motifs, while the futuristic sets of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) helped inspire the distinctive minimalist environments of the late 1960s and 1970s. Mail-order catalogs and women's magazines, while not as glamorous as Hollywood, also exerted a strong influence on interior decoration. They featured an expanding diversity of goods and began portraying fashionable interiors.

In the second half of the century, the dominant architectural philosophy sought a reduction in ornamentation, and objects both small and large were increasingly made of synthetic materials. Technological innovations transformed interior spaces as the television and hi-fi made their way into everyone's living room during the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1990s, the widespread usage of the Internet made information readily accessible, transforming the profession of interior decoration itself. Access to any image, the availability of increasingly varied products and furniture types, and an ever-expanding and increasingly sophisticated lighting industry all expanded the decorator's palette.

Initially a luxury for society's affluent, the interior decorator at the start of the twenty-first century is a consultant to businesses and middle-class homeowners alike, helping them shape living and work environments through the use of an ever-expanding range of possibilities.


Aguilar, Kathleen, and Michael Anderson. Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. New York: Abbeville, 1984.

Ball, Victoria Kloss. Architecture and Interior Design: Europe and America from the Colonial Era to Today. New York: John Wiley, 1980.

Friedman, Arnold, J. Pile, and F. Wilson. Interior Design: An Introduction to Architectural Interiors. New York: American Elsevier, 1970.

Geck, Francis J. Interior Design and Decoration. Dubuque, Iowa: Brown, 1971.

Pile, John F. History of Interior Design. London: Laurence King, 2000.

Rogers, Meyric R. American Interior Design: The Traditions and Development of Domestic Design from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Norton, 1947.

Wharton, Edith, and Ogden Codman Jr. The Decoration of Houses. New York: Norton, 1997. Reprint of the original 1897 edition.

Whiton, Augustus Sherrill. Interior Design and Decoration. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1974.

Linda NelsonKeane


See alsoCollecting ; Furniture ; Metalwork .

Interior Design

American interior design has its roots in the traditions of interior decoration that developed in the United States during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Interior decoration was primarily concerned with the surface decoration of the home, its furnishings and room arrangement. Interior design came to be conceived, following the publication in 1897 of The Decoration of Houses, by Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr., as encompassing the design of interior spaces. Both disciplines involve the planning and organization of space, lighting, and color; surface treatments of walls, windows, floors, and ceilings; furniture selection and arrangement; and the choosing of accessories. But in the twentieth century, the growth of corporate office-space planning needs, the infusion of European design influences, the historic preservation movement, and the formation of national governing agencies for the profession altered the traditional parameters of interior design.

The history of American interior design parallels that of American interior decoration. Colonial styles took their inspiration primarily from the former European homes of Dutch, French, Spanish, and English settlers. Wealthy eighteenth-century Americans developed tastes influenced by the Georgian style popular in England (see, for example, the Governor's Palace, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1722). The third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, championed Palladian ideals at Monticello (1784–1809), as did Benjamin Latrobe, long considered the nation's first architect. The furniture and interior design of the Federal Style of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was a reflection of contemporary interest in the Greek world, an interest undergirded by a paralleling of the young America with the first pure democracy of Periclean Athens.

The Gothic Revival of the early nineteenth century paralleled contemporaneous English and German tastes. This reflection upon the Middle Ages led to a style known as Carpenter Gothic, which featured simple rural construction, and to more mainstream revivalisms across the expanding country. The Victorian Age that followed offered an eclectic mix of styles borrowed from any and all periods of design history, with a vital infusion supplied by the mechanized processes of the new Industrial Age. This period in history witnessed the first widespread introduction of factory-made products. The Arts and Crafts movement objected to the machine's impact on design and to the elimination of the craftsman. Out of this movement came the first generation of design that departed from European traditions and was truly American. Gustav Stickley and others were leaders in developing the Craftsman style, a proportioned plane and linear language that was expressed in architecture, furniture, and interiors. Also emerging from the latter half of the nineteenth century were the minimal and restrained design forms of the Shaker religious community. Shaker simplicity, so divergent from the elaborate ornamentation popular in the Gilded Age, helped point the way toward twentieth-century Modernism.

Louis Sullivan (Chicago Auditorium, 1889) and Frank Lloyd Wright (Robie House, Chicago, 1909) offered an American response to the international Art Nouveau movement with their nonhistorical, nature-based decorative vocabulary. Their late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century masterpieces were direct descendants of the Modern movement. Complementing their work in the Midwest were the California designers Greene and Greene (Gamble House, Pasadena, California, 1909) and Bernard Maybeck.

The Modern movement was built on the principles of the antihistorical Dutch group De Stijl and on the teachings of the Bauhaus—a German school of design—and can also be seen as a reaction to World War I (1914–1918). Modernism ran counter to the popular Art Deco style favored by the era's dominant academic institution, the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, at which many American architects and designers were trained. Its key proponents, the Germans Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the Finn Eliel Saarinen, all emigrated to the United States and landed at premier design institutions: the Harvard School of Design, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Cranbrook Academy, respectively. Mechanization, reconceptualization of interior space, and the suspension of the barrier between interior and exterior space were key principles in this functionalist approach. Convenience and economy became paramount, and were supported by the development of electric power, temperature control, and lighting and ventilating innovations.

In the middle of the twentieth century, a shift took place in the practice of interior design. In 1958, the National Society of Interior Designers was established to complement the American Institute of Decorators. The profession of interior decoration as developed by the early pioneers in the field, Elsie de Wolfe, Nancy McClelland, and Ruby Ross Wood, expanded its scope to encompass new design programs. Commercial interior design became a new business venture. Key individuals like Florence Knoll championed the modern movement and its response to post–World War II (1939–1945) corporate America. In 1965, Art Gensler opened a firm that focused on corporate office design. Traditional architecture firms like Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill began to add services that specialized in office interiors. Office planning, facilities management, movements supporting historic preservation and adaptive reuse, and the expanding scope of the built environment all offered new horizons for the field and led to a new definition of interior design as a separate discipline. Differentiated from interior decoration and architecture, interior design attempted to claim the territory of the public interior. Beyond arrangement and selection of furnishings and finishes, interior designers concentrated on the human experience of the design environment. With this focus, interior design became a science as well as an art.

Interior design expanded to encompass telecommunications, mechanical and electrical systems, ergonomics, food and beverage service, kitchens and commercial laundries, and the educational, institutional, medical, and hospitality fields. Social science research began to be developed to identify and meet user needs. Color theory, acoustics, lighting, human behavioral studies, anthropology, and sociology began to inform the design process.

Large furniture manufacturers like Knoll, Steelcase, and Herman Miller responded to the corporate world's needs. Design and continued modification of the "workstation" transformed rooms of closed offices into open-plan multiuse corporations. Herman Miller's "Action Office," a system of freestanding panels and reconfigurable countertops and storage elements, was one of the responses to the demand for a transformed office. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Ray and Charles Eames created office interiors specifically for the people who worked in them, using only the furniture and objects necessary to work effectively and efficiently. The Eameses stressed appropriate, socially conscious, egalitarian, and ethical designs.

From producing a limited set of choices, the furniture industry expanded into use-specific and ergonomically designed offerings that have multiplied the possibilities. The science of lighting design expanded from general lighting to include task, accent, and ever-changing mood lighting. The specifications for materials superseded mere questions of color and texture, and added durability, toxicity, flammability, and impact on the environment as new variables. The development of design knowledge in academia, practice, and allied industry began to change interior design from an aesthetic process into an analytical, research-oriented endeavor that advocated change in the environment.

The field of interior design continues to develop and expand its arena of expertise. It overlaps with construction, architecture, art, design technologies, mechanical systems, lighting, and product and environmental design. In 1950, there were seventy programs focusing on interiors at various U.S. schools of design, architecture, and home economics. In 1971, the Foundation for Interior Design Education and Research (FIDER) was formed by the Interior Design Education Committee to govern the growth and direction of the emerging profession. The National Council for Interior Design Qualifications was created in 1974 by the American Society of Interior Designers to ensure professional competence. By 2000, FIDER listed 130 accredited interior design programs.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the interior design professional functions in three types of work environments: architectural firms that have both design and technical teams who work collaboratively on larger projects; firms in which architects oversee project management while interior designers contribute color, materials, and treatments; and the interior design firm that features the designer as "decorator."

Interior design was unregulated, but this had changed by the end of the twentieth century. New regulation requires familiarity with energy-conscious products and safety issues. Health and safety issues have led to licensing in some states, and there is a gradual trend toward licensing nationwide. Licensing examinations reflect the growing nature of the field, as applicants must now show proficiency in programming and planning, theory, contract documents, building construction, materials, professional practice, history, and design.


Ching, Francis D. K. Interior Design Illustrated. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1987.

Keane, Linda, and Mark Keane. "Interior Design Education." In Handbook on Interior Design. Edited by Cindy Coleman. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001.

Knackstedt, Mary, with Laura J. Haney. Interior Design and Beyond: Art, Science, Industry. New York: John Wiley, 1995.

Nielsen, Karla, and David Taylor. Interiors: An Introduction. 3d ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Pegler, Martin M. The Dictionary of Interior Design. New York: Fairchild, 1983.

Russell, Beverly. Women of Design: Contemporary American Interiors. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.

Linda NelsonKeane


See alsoArchitecture ; Furniture .


The Colonial Era: Rising from the Formulaic

The first paintings executed in the American colonies were portraits of early settlers, mostly in Boston or New Amsterdam (later New York City), painted by artists trained in England or the Netherlands. These portraits from the second half of the seventeenth century are rudimentary in execution. There is little attempt to create convincingly modeled forms, and facial features are only broadly described. The sitters are for the most part well-to-do merchants and landowners who have about them a sense of sobriety and determination. These early artists are sometimes known as limners and they also worked as sign painters or even house painters. The names of only a few of these early artisans are known, the earliest being Henri Couturier, who in 1663 executed a portrait of Governor Peter Stuyvesant in New Amsterdam. Also active in that area at this time were Evert Duyckinck and his son Gerrit, while in Boston native-born John Foster painted portraits while also teaching school, and made the first woodcut known to be executed in the colonies.

Farther south, in Charleston, Mrs. Henrietta Johnston is the first recorded woman painter, while in Maryland, Justus Engelhardt Kühn made several crudely executed portraits of early settlers. By the mid-eighteenth century, Gustavus Hesselius had painted some portraits that have a sense of the personality of the sitter. Hesselius also worked in the more ambitious categories of religious and mythological painting, although the practical demands of establishing a new nation offered little scope for ambitious multifigure canvases. Eighteenth-century colonists preferred portraits or views of early colonial towns.

The first native-born artist of note was Robert Feke, active in the Boston area, as well as in Newport and Philadelphia. His handling of the medium of paint and his use of rich colors marks an advance over most colonial portraiture, which presents the sitter in a formulaic pose painted with a restricted, drab palette. Gustavus Hesselius's son John painted portraits of settlers along the eastern seaboard from Philadelphia to Virginia. His most striking image is Charles Calvert and Slave (1761), which shows one of Maryland's wealthiest landowners and one of his African chattel.

The high point of American colonial painting is attained in the work of John Singleton Copley, a native of Boston. A self-taught artist, Copley's ambitions went beyond portraiture. As a student he copied prints after the work of earlier European masters as a way of teaching himself anatomy. Copley's portraits of New England's social and political figures are notable for the acuteness with which he suggested the personality of his sitters. Copley's portraits owe their success in large part to his skill in representing the accessories of people's lives, the rich fabrics of their clothes or the gleaming surfaces of their household furnishings. Frequently, the artist used unconventional poses for his sitters, which enhanced the sense of their individuality. His double portrait, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Winslow (1774), is a characteristic, masterful image of colonial painting just prior to the American Revolution. In 1774 Copley left to study in England and on the Continent; the next year he settled in London, where in addition to portraits he painted historical themes such as Watson and the Shark (1778). Copley was driven abroad by the absence in the colonies of any training for artists and of any public collections of art.

Charles Willson Peale moved from Maryland to Philadelphia, where he painted portraits of the city's aristocracy. His commission from the Cadwalader family in 1772 for five large portraits was unique. Peale used the conventions of fashionable contemporary British art as the basis of his work, which reflects the wealth and sophistication possible at the apex of colonial life. Peale trained his sons Raphaelle, Rubens, and Rembrandt to become painters; they not only did portraits, but Raphaelle executed meticulously observed and rendered still lifes of familiar objects such as arrangements of books or flowers and fruit.

The Early Republic: Beyond Portraiture

In 1795 Charles organized the Columbianum, a short-lived artists' association modeled on Britain's Royal Academy in London. Within the first decade of the nineteenth century, art academies were established in New York City (American Academy of Fine Arts, 1802, and National Academy of Design, 1826) and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1805), evidence that the new republic was assured enough to recognize the fine arts as a basic part of civilized education.

In the early republic, portraiture continued to be a major area of endeavor for American painters, who looked to England for inspiration. Gilbert Stuart studied in Britain before returning to the United States in 1792, where he produced his celebrated portrait of George Washington, which exists in numerous replicas. Thomas Sully studied in London, where he was greatly impressed by the portrait style of Sir Thomas Lawrence, whose gracefully posed sitters are rendered by an easy, assured handling of paint. Sully adopted Lawrence's manner to represent the comfortable lifestyle of his patrons, whether wealthy or middle class.

As the nation grew more prosperous, some artists attempted to create large-scale paintings of historical or mythological subjects, which in European art academies were considered the most worthwhile, and most difficult, subject matter for a painter to master. John Trumbull and John Vanderlyn each studied in Europe before returning home to paint canvases in the grand manner of epochal themes. Trumbull's paintings of subjects from America's Revolutionary War were installed in the Capitol, although to severe criticism, and Vanderlyn's mythological figures such as Ariadne fared no better with the public at the time, which is generally known as the age of Romanticism. Washington Allston was the most complex individual in American art in this epoch. Educated at Harvard University, he then left to study painting in London and on the Continent. His writings on art dismissed the notion of painting as imitation of appearances and placed emphasis on the imagination and intuition. Allston's huge Belshazzar's Feast (begun 1817) remained unfinished and is one of America's great Romantic images.

Alongside these painters, who were laboring to create in America an art of grand achievements in European terms, existed a number of largely self-taught artists, usually active outside of America's big cities. The best known is the Quaker missionary and preacher Edward Hicks. His paintings are executed with an emphasis on outline to define objects and the simplicity of his compositions recalls the bold immediacy of sign paintings. In sympathy with his pacifist religious convictions, Hicks's work centers on the biblical theme of the Peaceable Kingdom, as with Noah's Ark (1846).

As the United States developed, people were curious to see the largely unexplored western territories. Landscape painting, often executed in a very idealized manner, was a response to this demand for information. North of New York City the Hudson River School comprised professional artists such as Thomas Cole, who specialized in landscapes, and as national boundaries spread beyond the Mississippi River, artists traveled westward to paint the countryside and its inhabitants. George Catlin is the best-known artist to paint the American Indians, their customs, and the rugged terrain in which they lived and hunted as he explored the Missouri River in 1832. An exhibition of these works surprised audiences in New York City, London, and Paris. The life and customs of Native Americans were also the subject of Karl Bodmer's work, while somewhat later Alfred J. Miller made more picturesque images of the people and landscape of the West. The grandeur of the western terrain, with its stretches of towering snow-capped mountains, inspired painters such as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, and Frederick E. Church to create vast panoramic canvases of views at Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon that were purchased by private collectors for huge prices.

The everyday activities of life were represented in the popular category of genre painting, while ordinary objects were represented in still-life paintings executed with crystalline realism. These paintings, known as trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) compositions, take commonplace objects and arrange them in imaginary compositions executed in an astonishingly realistic manner. William M. Harnett's Old Cupboard Door (1889) and John F. Peto's Still Life with Lard-Oil Lamp (c. 1900) are characteristic trompe l'oeil works, with things arranged in curious, unexplained juxtapositions that may imply a moral or humorous anecdote.

The Mid-and Late Nineteenth Century: Europeanists and Individualists

By mid-century many American artists still felt the need to study abroad; art academies in London, Paris, or Munich

were favored by painters in search of contact with more sophisticated training than they could find at home. John La Farge studied in Paris, where he came to know the work of old masters, contemporary artists such as Eugène Delacroix, and Oriental art, the stylized decorative qualities of which so attracted him that eventually he traveled to Japan and the South Pacific. Paris and the work of the French Impressionists attracted Mary Cassatt to the city, and eventually she settled in France, where she lived for the rest of her life. James A. McNeill Whistler first studied in Paris, and then went on to spend his mature years in London. His views of London and the river Thames at dusk or in fog, painted in a narrow, delicately modulated range of colors that he called nocturnes, became popular with American collectors; his art was well-known in the United States during his lifetime.

Another mid-century artist, William M. Chase, studied at Munich; his most attractive canvases are his landscapes painted out-of-doors with a free touch and in bright, clear colors. John Singer Sargent studied in Paris and then moved across the English Channel to London, where he became one of the most acclaimed portraitists of his time. He had an international clientele of wealthy, powerful sitters and his portraits create a record of an epoch. Later, Sargent went to Boston, where he executed important murals (begun in 1890) commissioned by the Boston Public Library and, later, by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, on which he worked from 1916 until his death in 1925. In Paris, Theodore Robinson discovered the paintings of the Impressionists, and in the 1880s he was so taken with Monet's colorful, vividly executed landscapes that the American settled in Giverny, where the French painter had a studio. Childe Hassam adopted the Impressionists' painting technique to create views of the New England countryside—coastal scenes or villages with neat houses and churches.

The two greatest personalities in American art in the late nineteenth century were Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins, neither of whom owed much to European influences. Homer was largely self-taught and his early training prepared him to work as a magazine illustrator. His interest in the American scene was a constant in his art, whether he recorded events from the Civil War or later, often working in isolation in Maine, painted the outdoors life of hunters and fishermen. Homer's preference for stretches of New England wilderness, as in Breezing Up (1876), stands in contrast to the growing industrialization of America's cities. Thomas Eakins studied at the Paris École des Beaux Arts but returned to Philadelphia in 1870. There he taught painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he insisted that students work after nude models. That resulted in his dismissal in 1886 and afterward he turned increasingly to portraiture as a means of continuing his career. Eakins's celebrated The Concert Singer (1890–1892) is characteristic of the introspective, sometimes plaintive character of his portrayals.

Academic Artists and Modernists

The art of these individualists stands apart from the academic work that was popular at the turn of the twentieth century. High-minded civic virtues were expressed in solidly grounded technique by painters such as Thomas W. Dewing, Edmund Charles Tarbell, and William Morris Hunt, whose scenes of polite society or allegories of political or social idealism avoided the ugly realities of urban, industrial life.

The social problems that came with the rapid growth of America's big cities became the subject matter for a group of artists who rejected academic art. These realist artists originated in Philadelphia and comprised Robert Henri, George Luks, William Glackens, John Sloan, and Everett Shinn. Later they moved to New York City, where their subject matter was the metropolis, including its tenement life, the isolation possible in its crowded environment, and the diversions of the city. These five painters were joined by Arthur B. Davies, Maurice Prendergast, and Ernest Lawson to form a group that was known as The Eight or the Ashcan School in recognition of the commonplace themes of their art. These progressives were interested in current European modernism, and Henri, Sloan, and Luks were instrumental in organizing the controversial 1913 Armory Show, the first large-scale presentation in America of such controversial art as French cubism and the work of Henri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Georges Rouault, which was seen alongside avant-garde American works by John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Joseph Stella, and Charles Sheeler, among others.

Prior to the Armory Show it was almost impossible to see progressive European work in the United States, with the rare exception of the photographer Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession Gallery in New York City, which exhibited work by Paul Cézanne, Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Constantin Brancusi as well as American art and children's drawings. Both Marin and Stella celebrated America's engineering marvels—its skyscrapers and bridges—in paintings that use both cubist and Italian futurist devices to express the magnitude of America's urban buildings and the fast-paced life of its cities. Examples are New York Interpreted (1920–1922) and The Bridge (1922), by Stella, and Marin's The Woolworth Building (1912). Not all American modernists followed the lead of European painters. A case in point is Arthur Dove, whose abstract canvases often use biomorphic shapes to suggest fantasy landscapes, sometimes recalling the work of the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, as in Dove's A Walk, Poplars (1920). Another modernist who defies categorization is Marsden Hartley, sponsored by Alfred Stieglitz and sent by him to Europe in 1912, where Hartley not only came to know the work of French modernists but those of the Russian Kandinsky and the German Expressionists. Hartley's works, including Painting No. 4 (also called A Black Horse, 1915), are concerned with representing spiritual values through symbolism and are deliberately ambiguous.

Several artists continued to explore city life as the subject of their work, and in this sense they perpetuated the Ashcan School's concern with urban realities. George Bellows combined a relish for all aspects of urban existence with superb, academically oriented draftsmanship. His figure style is most evident in his prizefight subjects, as in Stag at Sharkey's (1907). Bellows's relish for city life was shared by other realist painters such as Jerome Meyers and Leon Kroll.

While European cubism of the 1920s had little effect on American painting, the Cubists' clarity of organization is evident in the early work of Stuart Davis, whose Super Table (1925) is clearly in their debt. Davis's later, large abstract compositions were influenced by American billboard paintings, with their strident colors and bold shapes. The work of the American Precisionist Movement reflects a knowledge of cubism's rigorous organization, but also of photography's clarity of representation. Charles Sheeler was both a photographer and a painter. His photographs undoubtedly nurtured his preference for clarity and sharp focus observation. Their subjects are taken from the immediate world of his rural Pennsylvania background, the factories of industrial America, or—as in Rolling Power (1939)—the skyscraper architecture of cities. Edward Hopper recorded with clarity and unmatched poignancy the isolation of urban life. His Nighthawks (1942) is a precise evocation of nighttime, when people's energies are at low ebb. Hopper's views of Victorian houses and his seacoast paintings of crashing waves and boats at sea present a more optimistic view of American life as it exists in small towns freed of urban complexities.

Georgia O'Keefe's startling close-up views of organic forms make no reference to cubism but instead concentrate on details of plants or the skulls and bones of the New Mexico desert, where she lived during the later part of her career. Vast stretches of sky suggest the isolation in which she pursued her art, as in From the Plains (1952–1954).


A reaction against European modernism developed partly in response to America's economic and political isolation after World War I. Regionalism is particularly identified with artists working in the Midwest and the Great Plains. The low horizons and towering skies of the regionalists' landscapes make a backdrop for the farmers' and ranchers' life of isolation and hard work. Thomas Hart Benton's gaunt figures sometimes approach caricature and his themes are anecdotal as well as political, as in Cotton Pickers (1928–1929). Other Regionalists include Grant Wood, whose American Gothic (1930) is an iconic image of a farming couple standing in front of their wood Gothic-looking house. John Stewart Curry also portrayed the rural Midwest with humor.

This Regionalist aspect of American art received support during the depression years of the 1930s from the federal government, whose Federal Art Project, which ran from 1935 to 1943, was administered under the Works Progress Administration. The program supported both easel painting, the graphic arts, and murals for public buildings. Regional committees administered the project's awards on a competitive basis. A bias existed in favor of representational styles and American subject matter. No outstanding artist came to prominence as a result of this support, but the program enabled many painters to continue to work who would otherwise have been forced to put aside their art and seek other employment.

Avant-Garde Art

European avant-garde art came to the United States at the outset of World War II with the arrival of a new wave of artists (including Yves Tanguy, Piet Mondrian, Max Beckmann), many of whom settled in New York City. The German painter Hans Hofmann became an important teacher and an example for the development of abstract expressionism. The German Expressionist Max Beckmann also taught, and the presence of his art in the United States made the country more aware of expressionism as an important movement. Another major teacher was Josef Albers, from the Bauhaus at Weimar, who worked and taught at Yale University, while another Bauhaus artist, László Moholy-Nagy, was instrumental in founding the New Bauhaus, later known as the Illinois Institute of Design, in Chicago, which carried on the severe aesthetic of the German institution. At first, art training in America was carried out in the master's studio; later, major art schools were attached to art museums such as the School of Fine Arts, Boston (1876), The Art Institute in Chicago (1879), and the Cleveland Institute of Art (1882). Training for artists in a university context—established at Princeton in 1831, New York University in 1832, Yale in 1866—was usually more perfunctory. Thus, the presence of an artist of Albers's stature at New Haven was a major advance in raising the caliber of instruction in a university context.

Painting and Social Justice

Alongside the arrival of European Modernists during the late 1920s and early 1940s, there coexisted artists concerned with issues of social justice. Ben Shahn created powerful images, such as the dejected couple in Willis Avenue Bridge (1940), while Jacob Lawrence's art dealt with the plight of African Americans and social discrimination in works such as Migration of the Negro (1940–1941), as did Romare Bearden's. Joseph Hirsch's paintings of urban laborers can be seen as a continuation of the Ashcan School's concerns, while Paul Cadmus presents an often bawdy view of city life, sometimes with homoerotic implications, as with The Fleet's In! (1934).

After 1945

In the 1950s, abstract expressionism dominated progressive American painting. The movement was centered in New York City, and the artists' large, sometimes wall-size canvases, and bold, gestural handling of paint soon caught the attention of critics and collectors. The artists' gestures became the subject matter of the work, a break with convention that soon attracted international notice. At the head of the movement was Jackson Pollock, whose celebrated "drip" paintings were created by stretching canvas on the floor and dripping skeins of paint from cans or brushes in broad rhythmic motions. Variations of this bold application of paint were created by Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell, among others. There also existed many important artists who stood apart, working in personal styles that they often developed away from New York City. Foremost is Mark Tobey, whose paintings of fragile interlaced lines, recalling Oriental calligraphy, were created in Seattle, although he ended his career in Switzerland. In contrast to Tobey's abstract canvases, figurative art continued to flourish, as in Fairchild Porter's scenes of a comfortably well-to-do, genteel lifestyle or Andrew Wyeth's minutely detailed rural landscapes including Dodge's Ridge (1947).

By the 1960s, a group of artists in Chicago were painting figurative compositions of great emotional intensity, frequently with surrealist-inspired juxtapositions of objects. Known as the Chicago Imagists, Ed Paschke and Roger Brown created raw, disturbing imagery reflecting their interest in psychoanalysis, "primitive" art, and bizarre or hallucinatory conditions, as in Paschke's Hop-head (1970). Other figurative painters, such as Philip Pearlstein and Alice Neel, both active in New York City, observe their subjects with such intensity that their images have the sense of being isolated from the real world.

During the 1960s, color field painting arose as an alternative to the bold work of abstract expressionism. Mark Rothko's large canvases of highly saturated color retain evidence of his brushwork; this gesture reference was largely eliminated by color field artists such as Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, and Jules Olitski, who preferred strong colors and sometimes used shaped canvases that broke with the traditional rectangle, as is evident in the work of Ellsworth Kelly. Other painters, such as Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Lewis, applied paint by staining their canvases with water soluble acrylic pigments, often pouring the medium onto the surface.

Coincident with color field painting, minimalist artists sought to create a sense of classical order in their geo-metric grids painted with quiet, almost monochromatic colors. Brice Marden, Robert Ryman, Agnes Martin, and Sol Le Witt are the leading names of this movement. On the West Coast, the Fetish Finish artists—including Larry Bell and Craig Kaufmann—used industrial materials like automobile paint, plastic, and lacquer to create works, sometimes three-dimensional, that explore how light is reflected and perceived. At the same time, the dean of West Coast painters was Richard Diebenkorn, whose series of Ocean Park canvases (begun in 1967) celebrate the radiant light of Southern California.

Starting in the 1970s and 1980s, a number of artists have found the conventional limitations of easel painting too confining to express their reactions to complex social problems like pacifism, social equality, feminism, the devastation of AIDS, or ethnic identities. America's culture of materialism is deeply offensive to some artists, like Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger, who have taken to the streets to express their outrage through wall murals or commercial illuminated signage. The use of nontraditional materials and the rejection of the conventional museum-gallery audience gives power to the minority and often marginalized voices of these contemporary American artists. Video and computer-generated imagery give artists access to an international audience with such immediacy as to call into question the relevance of national identities.


Battock, Gregory. Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1968.

Beckett, Wendy. Contemporary Women Artists. Oxford: Phaidon, 1988.

Hunter, Sam. American Art of the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.

Lewis, Samella S. Art: African American. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1978.

Lippard, Lucy R. Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America. New York: Pantheon Books, 1990.

Lucie-Smith, Edward. Movements in Art since 1945. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995.

Novak, Barbara. American Painting of the Nineteenth Century. 2d ed. New York: Abrams, 1979.

Plagens, Peter. Sunshine Muse: Contemporary Art on the West Coast. New York: Praeger, 1974.

Wilmerding, John. American Art. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.


See alsoAbstract Expressionism ; Armory Show ; Art Institute of Chicago ; Ashcan School ; Catlin's Indian Paintings ; Cubism ; Genre Painting ; Hudson River School ; Remington and Indian and Western Images ; Romanticism ; Works Progress Administration .


Americans rapidly embraced the new medium of photography within months of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre's introduction of his process in 1839. Samuel F. B. Morse and his wife attempted to use it in the fall of 1839, and Alexander S. Wolcott and John Johnson claimed to open the first portrait studio in New York City in October 1839. Within a few years, rapid improvements and the introduction of plastic "union cases" resulted in a democratized use of daguerreotypes. In Massachusetts alone, over 403,000 daguerreotypes were recorded in the year ending 1 June 1855. Daguerreotypes were useful for art and architectural recordings. Street scenes, buildings, monuments, and human nudes were early subjects. Soon even cheaper competition emerged. Calotypes and ambrotypes were popular in the 1850s, and after that tintypes and carte de vistes flourished beyond possible calculation. While these methods greatly democratized portraiture and allowed people to gain perspectives on their appearances (mirrors were still uncommon), gradually more elite forms appeared. Mathew Brady's portrait studio on Lower Broadway in New York City became favored by the wealthy. Brady and the popular historian Charles Edwards Lester produced lavish illustrated books. In the late 1850s the first stereographs appeared, which, using two parallel images, allowed depth perception. Mounted on stereopticons, these photos of city scenes, world attractions, and major events became staples of middle-class parlors.

Early Journalistic and Documentary Photography

The next big jump came with the Civil War. Previously, photographers transferred their images into line drawings for publication in new magazines such as Harper's Weekly, Leslie's Weekly, and Gleason's, all of which catered to the middle classes. The demands for immediate news during the war quickly meant constant use of photography. Brady, Timothy O'Sullivan, and Alexander Gardener became famous for battlefield photographs, even if, as was later revealed, they arranged corpses for effects. The work was tedious and dangerous; Brady was nearly killed at Bull Run and was disoriented for days. Although line drawings continued in use after the war, by the late 1880s photo-graphs dominated daily and weekly media. Photographers now roamed throughout the country looking for news-worthy and evocative images. The American West provided a fruitful source of dramatic imagery. The work of Carleton Watkins, William H. Jackson, Eadweard Muy-bridge, and Timothy O'Sullivan dramatically portrayed the massive natural beauty of the West.

Photography's democratic impulse expanded after the Civil War. The use of photographs in books was common. Photographers catering to African Americans, Chinese Americans, and other ethnic groups abounded. Photographers such as Edward Curtis set about recording and preserving hundreds of images of Native Americans. At the bottom of society, Inspector Thomas Byrnes's famous book of American criminals introduced the use of mug shots for identification. American usage of photographs as postcards became widespread by the end of the nineteenth century. Colorized and tinted postcards demonstrated the potential of color photography.

Publication of Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives (1890) showed the power of photography to promote social

reform. Riis's grainy images of the poor of New York City sparked calls for social justice. Lewis Hine, who illustrated sociological treatises of exploited child labor with evocative documentary photographs, improved upon his work early in the next century.


In contrast to this devotion to straight photography to record social conditions was the work of Alfred Stieglitz. Oriented to photographic aesthetics and influenced by the photo salon movement in Europe, Stieglitz constantly experimented with light, paper, and subject before coming to the United States. In New York, he urged consideration of photography as an art form, something few had ever considered. His photograph of the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Reflections, Night—New York, is remarkable for its study of wet pavements reflecting light from streetlamps and windows. Stieglitz became the president (and dictator) of the New York Camera Club, which became noted for its extraordinary reproductions and as a clearinghouse for innovative ideas. His unabashed elitism, adherence to pictorialism, and disdain for documentary photography established photography as an art form. His publication Camera Notes and his organization of the Photo-Secession movement were aimed expressly at that purpose. Camera Notes in its fifty issues published what it considered the best of photography and surveyed the history of the method. Within a few years, pictorial photo-graphs graced the walls of museums and exhibitions and Stieglitz's approach was seemingly triumphant. Though the movement lapsed in 1917 with the end of the magazine and the destruction of its New York headquarters, his influence on Edward Steichen, the future photography editor of Vanity Fair magazine, and Paul Strand, who revived straight photography, was immense.

Pictorialism had unintended influence. It dominated the rising genre of Hollywood photography, done first on a freelance basis and then by regular studio photographers. Such cameramen as Eugene Robert Ritchie, George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull, and John Engstead used pictorialism to improve upon the attractiveness of the stars and, as they did, create new concepts of American beauty, especially in their emphasis on face, hair, shoulders, and breasts. Steichen, Horst, and Carl Van Vechten of Vanity Fair extended such absorption to literary and artistic personalities, creating new types of American portraiture. The democratic principal of such photography can be found in the work of Alfred Eisenstadt for Life magazine and in photographs found in sports magazines.

Life and its rival publication Look used the cooperative work of editors and staff photographers. Picture essays were planned and researched before the photographer shot the subject. Multiple images were made in the quest for the best possible moment. This method created carefully conceived and executed projects; it also made for predictability, something photographers had learned to prize about their medium. The method was best exploited by Walker Evans, who worked for Fortune Magazine on assignment for years. Although Evans was supposedly working with a team back in the office, in fact he was roaming around the country searching for the precise moment when his technical expertise and subject matter merged.

Varieties of Documentary Photography

Stieglitz's insistence on the photographer's control over the image influenced Evans, who started shooting images of American vernacular architecture and signs and then, during the Great Depression, concentrated on the American poor. Along with Charles Sheeler, Evans became known for the originality and evocativeness of his subject matter and for the precision of his images. Simultaneously, Berenice Abbott, who had trained in Paris under Man Rayand with Bill Brandt, and there fell under the sway of the urban documentarian Eugene Atget, returned to New York in 1929 to record the changes in the city. Though she was unable to get funding to finish her project of photographing every building and block in Manhattan, Abbott's images captured the city as it moved into world status. On the local level, the work of the Harlem photographer James Van Der Zee recorded the images of several generations of black New Yorkers. Similarly, Marvin and Morgan Smith, Gordon Parks, Robert S. Scurlock, and others sought to record the significant events of African American experiences and of the civil rights movement.

Their fascination with city people and architecture did not extend throughout photography. In the American West, Edward Weston and his son Brett, Imogen Cunningham, Ansel Adams, and Georgia O'Keefe made virtuoso photography of the natural world. Their conception was always that the photographer predetermine what the image would be and set exposure and development to gain control over nature.

Documentary photography received a large boost during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The director Roy Emerson Stryker hired a talented team of photographers for the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration. The group included Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, Ben Shahn, Arthur Rothstein, and Russell Lee. They took over 270,000 images of American life from Maine to San Diego. There approach was catholic; anything having to do with the American people was appropriate, except Wall Street and celebrities. FSA photographers sought out ordinary citizens working in arduous times. The FSA photos are a linchpin between the natural democratic use of the photograph in the nineteenth century, the work of Riis and Hine, and the self-conscious search for Americaness found in the New York school.

Consciously learning from Hine, Evans, and other classic documentarians, the New York school of photographers used small cameras, available light, and a sense of the fleeing and the real. At times, however, they seemed more aligned with action painting or abstract expressionism. Photographers from the New York school included Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Alexy Brodovitch, Ted Croner, Bruce Davidson, Don Donaghy, Louis Faurer, Robert Frank, Sid Grossman, William Klein, Saul Leiter, Leon Levinstein, Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, David Vestal, and Weegee. Each of them aspired to finding what Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French master, called "the precise moment." Weegee in particular specialized in crime scenes, fires, and other human disasters. While such photography normally would have been consigned to tabloid newspapers, in time it became considered art. Weegee used flash photography to create weird lighting, un-pleasant shadows, and a sensibility associated with noir films at the end of the 1940s. Weegee's sense of urban motion and bizarre subject matter influenced William Klein, Robert Frank, and especially Diane Arbus. Bruce Davidson, on the other hand, sought carefully defined long-term projects devoted to urban life, which he then made into classic books on East Harlem, the subway, and Central Park. Richard Avedon became a premier portraitist.

Although Life and Look eventually ceased publication, their method of photojournalism set the terms by which photojournalists of war conducted their work. Beginning with World War II and especially in the Vietnam War, photojournalists began to define the nature of the conflict far better than official reports. Images of the war by Robert Capa in World War II, David Douglas Duncan in the Korean War, and Larry Burrows were printed in major magazines and reprinted on posters that galvanized public opinion about Vietnam.

New Directions

The disorienting effects of Vietnam on American society pushed photography in two directions. One was to reemphasize documentary photography as found in the works of Lee Friedlander, Gary Winograd, and Joel Meyerowitz, who looked for spontaneous images in American street life. A second direction was to embrace artifice and to create a private world of photography. The instant photography of Andy Warhol, who used either subway photo booths or, later, Polaroid photography as the basis for his portraits of the glitterati of the 1970s, was influential. Warhol's open use of sexual imagery was also liberating, though the final effect was more depressing than sensual. Nan Goldin pursued this direction, combining Warhol's casual approach with the druggy subject matter of Larry Clark. Cindy Sherman aimed for total artifice in her Untitled Film Stills series of the late 1970s, in which she portrayed herself in Hollywood-style costumes. Robert

Mapplethorpe adopted Warhol's disdain for technique by shooting masterful and sometimes sexually bizarre images and then having them developed at the corner drugstore. Black photographers in particular embraced new technologies and approaches in the 1980s. Dawoud Bey used giant Polaroids to create portraits of unknown black teenagers. Albert Chong transposed images onto every-day objects to suggest African spiritual qualities.

The arrival of the Internet and the invention of filmless digital cameras in the late 1990s promised an even greater dissemination of photography as a democratic art. Combined with the Immigration Act of 1965, which opened wider the gate to America, global imagery and multicultural expression worked well with "virtual photography," which included images that would never be on paper. Improved color copiers also democratized photography. E-mail attachments allowed for the ability to shoot an image, save it, and then send it across the world in a matter of a minute or so. Such freedom challenges the art ideology of photography and raises again old questions about the democratic powers of transmitted images.


Armstrong, Carol. Scenes in a Library: Reading the Photograph in the Book, 1843–1875. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998.

Foresta, Mary A. American Photographs: The First Century. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

Galassi, Peter. American Photography, 1890–1965, from the Museum of Modern Art New York. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1995.

Livingston, Jane. The New York School: Photographs, 1936–1963. New York: Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1994.

New hall, Beaumont. The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present. 5th ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1988.

Stryker, Roy Emerson, and Nancy Wood. In This Proud Land: America 1935–1943 as Seen in the FSA Photographs. New York: Galahad, 1973.

Trachtenberg, Alan. Reading American Photographs: Images as History from Mathew Brady to Walker Evans. New York: Hill and Wang, 1989.

Westerbeck, Colin, and Joel Meyrowitz. Bystander: A History of Street Photography. Boston: Little, Brown, 2001.

Willis, Deborah. Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present. New York: Norton, 2000.

Wood, John, ed. America and the Daguerrotype. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991.

Graham RussellHodges

See alsoPhotographic Industry .

Potteryand Ceramics

Clay is an earthen substance transformed by fire. Pottery is anything made of clay. The word "ceramics" refers to all nonmetallic, inorganic materials that are transformed by firing at high temperatures to a permanent hard, brittle state. Making ceramics is one of the most ancient and widespread technologies. It is labor intensive and common to all but the most arctic cultures.

Before it is ready to use, clayrequires water and usually some alkaline substances called fluxes as well as other materials. These add softness, make it stable, color it, or contribute some other refinements. This mix requires some manipulation before it becomes suitable to form. As the clay dries it shrinks and becomes brittle; firing or baking the dried clay—at 150 to 600 degrees centigrade for the most basic pottery and as high as 1400 degrees centigrade for porcelain—renders it hard enough to be useful.

Glazes seal and protect the fired clay, making the finished piece impervious to liquids while also providing various surface textures and colors. Glazes add sophistication to the otherwise earthbound pottery. There are several families of glazes. Lead glazes, made of lead oxide and lead carbonate, are among the earliest and most widespread. They fuse at about 800 degrees centigrade and give a fine range of colors when mixed with other metallic oxides. Tin glaze is composed of a lead glaze made opaque by the addition of tin oxide. Firing it produces a dense white surface that is perfect for painting on. Salt glaze is used with stoneware that is heated very high. Salt is thrown into the kiln and the heat causes the soda to combine with the silica of the clay to form a glassy surface. Feldspathic glazes are nonvitreous and made from powdered feldspar.

Native American Pottery

Throughout the Americas pottery was used daily, as seed jars, water containers, cooking pots, mugs, bowls, serving dishes, ladles, and burial vessels. New heights were reached in Peru during the Moche culture (a.d. 200–700) with the development of ceramic molds, which allowed the Moches to mass-produce ceramic forms. The stirrup handle is a feature common to Moche and other South and Central American pottery vessels that in the 1920s inspired American and European designers.

In North America, the Mississippian cultures made ceramic vessels from about a.d. 800 on and traded them throughout the eastern region of the continent until the arrival of Europeans. In the American Southwest from about 300 b.c. to about a.d. 1300, the Mogollon, Hohokam, and Anasazi cultures were very adept at making pottery vessels. These were superbly painted in geometric designs in black and white. The Anasazi also made red-on-orange ware. Women of the Anasazi culture made finely crafted earthenware jars and pots in the coil-built method around a.d. 1100–1300. Their descendents, the Hopi and Zuni, continued this technical virtuosity until the mid–nineteenth century. During the 1930s and 1940s Pueblo ceramic artists participated in the Ceramics National Exhibitions, and their work was quickly prized and collected. Some of the most important pottery of the time was created by Maria Martinez and her husband, Julian. Around 1918, Julian discovered how to recreate a traditional blackware that had been excavated by archaeologists at San Ildefonso. Following ancient practices, Maria formed the vessels; Julian added the decoration and did the firing. These works quickly attracted attention and armies of collectors. After Julian's death in 1943, Maria continued making pottery with her daughter-in-law, Santana, and her son, Popovi. The blackware is now a highly prized Pueblo pottery made by several highly skilled artists.

Colonial Pottery and Early Mass Production

With the arrival of the Europeans came the potter's wheel and many more types of ceramic vessels. By 1635, Philip Drinker, an English potter, had started working in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and before 1655 Dirck Claesen, a Dutch "pottmaker," was working in Manhattan. Most British colonial pottery production was utilitarian ware, modeled on English and German storage jars, jugs, bowls, and plates. It is called redware and was needed and produced in quantity, individually, of red clay, the same clay from which bricks were made. When fired (at 900 to 1040 degrees centigrade) the clay remained porous. The glazing and ornament were basic. Redware was usually given a clear, lead glaze (highly toxic sulfide or oxide of lead) that emphasized the clay's red tones. Adding metal oxides such as copper, iron, or manganese produced several bright colors. Most potters were either immigrants or only a generation or two removed from European or English craft traditions. William C. Ketchum Jr. notes that of New York's "367 potters (in 1875), 30 percent were German born, 23 percent from England, and only 41 percent native" ("American Ceramics," p. 23). Once artisans had met the basic needs, some craftsmen sought out other suitable clay s. At first, their find was a stoneware clay (fired at 1200 to 1280 degrees centigrade) limited to New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, and Pennsylvania. Then clays for yellow-bodied ceramics were found in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. The potters of New England found no local clay deposits, but this did not deter them. They responded by importing clay and offsetting its high cost by designing better ovens that allowed higher temperatures, mechanizing production, inventing ever new shapes, and finding financial backing from outside the industry. As the advanced ceramic technologies spread westward, the individual potter soon disappeared from all but the most rural areas. For example, the yellow clays of Ohio lent themselves to casting, and by the 1830s large, efficient factories were turning out a seemingly endless supply of mixing bowls, baking pans, and other kitchen utensils to meet the demand of a fast-growing country of immigrants. Applying a brown, tortoiseshell glaze developed in England in the late eighteenth century called Rockingham, the mass-produced pottery came from Maryland and Ohio, but is most closely associated with Bennington, Vermont. This work is much sought after today.

As earlyas the 1770s John Bartlam of Charleston, South Carolina, used a clay found in New Jersey, the Carolinas, and Ohio that fired white to produce Queensware, a thin-bodied, cream-colored ceramic. Within eighty years this ware was successfully mass-produced. In 1738, in nearby Savannah, André Duché took the first steps toward locally produced porcelain, but it was not until 1770 that domestic porcelain production, free of European ties, was realized by Gousse Bonnin and George Anthony Morris, who founded America's first successful porcelain factory in Philadelphia. By The Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia, porcelain helped celebrate the nation's anniversary with explicitly patriotic themes, flamboyant, even gaudy vessels, and sculptures that were mostly not well received by the public.

Art Pottery

While the dissatisfaction with industrially mass-produced ceramics was not as great in the United States as in Europe and never nurtured the likes of a William Morris, American art pottery began to flower in the 1870s with the help of Maria Nichols and Mary Louise McLaughlin of the Cincinnati School of Art, who were already well aware of Morris and the aesthetic reforms in England by 1872. The Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia gave many Americans their first look at highly sophisticated European ceramics technology, Japanese ceramics, the new aesthetic pottery from England and Germany, and the French barbotine, an underglaze, slip-painting technique developed at the Haviland works. Fairs and pottery went together. The ceramics at the New Orleans Cotton Exposition in 1884 inspired Mary G. Sheerer to found the Newcomb Pottery in 1894. At the 1889 Paris World's Fair, Rookwood Pottery of Cincinnati won a gold medal. The mat glazes of Auguste Delaherche and Ernest Chaplet exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition inspired William Grueby of Boston.

Arts and Crafts production relied on muscle and skill, not a machine, to develop a vessel. The scientific knowledge of clays and glazes and the physical stamina required for mixing the clay and throwing and firing the pots were considered masculine functions, while decoration was securely in female hands. Thus it was the male potters who won scholarships and gained individual international recognition. Exceptions were Mary Perry Stratton (1867–1961) and Adelaide Alsop Robineau (1865–1929), who achieved great fame through their art ware.

Around 1900 the United States was the world leader in art potteries, whose works were widely exhibited and are seriously collected today. Among these were Biloxi Art Pottery (Biloxi, Mississippi, c. 1882–1910), Buffalo Pottery (Buffalo, New York, 1901–1956), Dedham Pottery (Dedham, Massachusetts, 1895–1943), Fulper Pottery (Flemington, New Jersey, 1899–1955), Grueby Pottery (Boston, 1897–1921), Moravian Pottery and Tile Works (Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 1898–present), Newcomb Pottery (New Orleans, 1895–1940), Onondaga Pottery (Syracuse, New York, 1871–1966), Pewabic Pottery (Detroit, 1903–1961; reopened 1968), Rookwood Pottery (Cincinnati, 1880–1967), Roseville Pottery (Zanesville, Ohio, 1890–1954), Tiffany Pottery (Corona, New York, 1898–1920), Van Briggel Pottery (Colorado Springs, 1902–present), and Weller Pottery (Zanesville, Ohio, 1872–1949).

The eye-pleasing appeal of art pottery fed a wide public interest in ornament and clay, which by the 1920s had helped legitimize the study of ceramics at Alfred University in New York or the Art Institute of Chicago. Academic pottery studies produced beautifully formed and subtly glazed vessels and led to a renewed interest in the traditional pottery making of the Southwest, which was studied, revived, copied, and highly prized. In Cleveland there was also a strong interest in contemporary Viennese ceramics, and several American ceramists, among them Viktor Schreckengost and Edward Winter, who later married the ceramist Thelma Frazier, went to Vienna to study at the Wiener Kunstgewerbeschule.

By the mid to late 1930s several European-trained ceramic artists emigrated to the United States. Among them was Maija Grotell (1899–1973), born in Helsinki, Finland, who arrived in New York in 1927 and within a decade had established herself as one of the leading modernists, teaching at Rutgers. When Cranbrook Academy opened in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Grotell became head of its ceramics department. Under her directorship, Cranbrook became one of America's leading centers of ceramic studies. Another notable emigrant was Valerie Wieselthier (1895–1945), who had studied with Michael Povolny in her native Austria and had solo exhibitions in New York beginning in 1929. Wieselthier brought to the American ceramics scene a new attitude toward clay, one that valued its carefree expressive qualities, and she used colors differently. Marguerite Wildenhain (1896-1985), having studied at the Bauhaus in Germany and then run her own successful ceramics factory until 1933, settled near Oakland, California, in 1940. Through her studio at Pond Farm, she played a major role in bringing the modernist Bauhaus craft-based aesthetic to the United States.

At the commercial end of ceramic production, the American Russell Wright (1904–1976) designed many household furnishings as well as the food and fashion section at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. While these did not make him famous, his 1937 curvaceous "American Modern" dinnerware for Steubenville Pottery did. Mass-produced in various pastel and earth tones, since the late 1980s the set has been highly sought by collectors.

While traditional colored clays and popular wares have, with some notable exceptions in hands of current Arts and Crafts artists, been reduced to satisfying a nostalgic craving in contemporary table setting, various white earthenwares, such as ironstone china and porcelain, have found broad acceptance in our daily lives.

Later Studio Ceramics

In 1940 Bernard Leach (1887–1979), a British potter, published A Potter's Book, which rapidly became indispensable to the studio potter. After several visits to the United States in the 1950s, sometimes accompanied by the craft philosopher Soetsu Yanagi and the potter Shoji Hamada, Leach became an exceptionally influential champion of pottery, attracting many with his hip under-standing of Zen Buddhist aesthetics. Leach arrived at a perfect time. American potters saw themselves as having no traditions, as naïve. They were looking for a new start. Leach and his friends had a great influence on Peter Voulkos (b. 1924), an enormously energetic potter teaching at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. Voulkos was the perfect conduit for Leach's ideas, and soon attracted a group around him that would become the next generation of American potters. Not everyone followed Leach and Voulkos. With his entry of a toilet, entitled Funk John, into a ceramics exhibition at the Kaiser Center in Oakland, Robert Arneson (1930–1992) founded the Funk movement, a new form of American ceramic sculpture that dominated the 1970s and continues to be influential.

Since the 1980s studio ceramics, mostly faculty-based in university ceramics departments, is diverse in its aesthetic and technical approaches. While some artists use traditional approaches to clay, exploring form and finish, others are more fascinated with clay's expressive potential. Whichever the direction—a vessel's form, colors, finish, the human figure, themes of nature, social issues, or architecture—the possibilities of clay remain inexhaustible in imaginative hands.


Bassett, Mark, and Victoria Naumann. Cowan Pottery and the Cleveland School. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer, 1997.

Darling, Sharon S. Chicago Ceramics and Glass: An Illustrated History from 1871 to 1933. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Frelinghuysen, Alice Cooney. American Porcelain: 1770–1920. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989.

Ketchum, William C., Jr. "American Ceramics 1700–1880." In American Ceramics: The Collection of the Everson Museum of Art. Edited by Barbara Perry. New York: Rizzoli, 1989.

The Ladies, God Bless'Em: The Women's Art Movement in Cincinnati in the Nineteenth Century. Cincinnati: Cincinnati Art Museum, 1976.

Weis, Peg, ed. Adelaide Alsop Robineau: Glory in Porcelain. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1981.


See alsoArts and Crafts Movement ; Art, Indian ; Porcelain .


The beginnings of American sculpture are found in the seventeenth-century gravestones of New England, produced by artisan stone carvers, with their Protestant imagery of death. Gravestone carving continued to flourish in the eighteenth century throughout the colonies, but the images became less preoccupied with death. The first statue erected in America was a sculpture by Joseph Wilson of William Pitt, a gift from England to her colonies in 1770 (erected in New York City and Charleston, South Carolina). The statue was torn down by British troops. A lead equestrian statue of George III was set up in New York City And torn down by American revolutionaries. Years before Houdon's statue of George Washington was placed in Richmond, Virginia, there was a marble statue carved in London in 1773 by Richard Hayward of Nor-borne Berkley, royal governor of Virginia, that was set up in Williamsburg. The increased wealth of the eighteenth century brought about a demand for fine wood carving, for elegant Chippendale furniture, and for elaborate decorative architectural carving. The Skillen family of Boston and Samuel McIntire of Salem excelled in this type of work, as did William Rush of Philadelphia. These men also carved handsome figureheads for the burgeoning American merchant fleet. Rush carried the native school of wood carving to its zenith, as maybe seen in his figure George Washington (1814, Philadelphia Museum of Art).

After the revolutionary war, Americans turned to foreign sculptors to produce marble images of their great men, there by downgrading the native school of carvers. The most prestigious of the foreign sculptors was the Frenchman Jean-Antoine Houdon. His marble statue George Washington (1788, Virginia State Capitol, Richmond) is a good example of the kind of neoclassical sculpture that influenced several generations of American sculptors. In the second quarter of the nineteenth century, America produced its own native school of sculptors, led by Horatio Greenough, Hiram Powers, and Thomas Crawford.

Greenough, a Bostonian, left in 1825 for Italy, where he spent most of his remaining life. He there by became one of the first expatriate American sculptors. These expatriates could not find at home the art schools, models, artisan assistants, fine marble, or artistic climate that Italy offered in abundance. In Florence, Greenough created his Zeus-like marble statue, George Washington (1832–1841, Smithsonian Institution). Powers, a mechanic from Cincinnati, took up sculpture and went to Italy in 1837, never to return to the United States. Countless Americans visited his famous studio in Florence to have busts made of themselves in his undramatic, naturalistic style. Powers's most popular piece was the celebrated full-length, life-size marble Greek Slave (1843, Yale University Art Gallery); it was as famous in Europe as in the United States. Crawford began as a wood carver and tombstone cutter in New York City. He studied and continued to work in Italy. He created the sculptures for the pediment of the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol (1855) in his studio in Rome.

Henry Kirke Brown also went to Italy, but in 1846 he returned to America, rejecting Italianate neoclassicism for a style based on naturalism, as in his bronze equestrian statue, George Washington (1853–1856, New York City). With Brown began the age of bronze sculpture in America. Clark Mills was a former plasterer with no formal training in sculpture. He had never created anything more ambitious than a few portrait busts when he was commissioned to make Andrew Jackson (1848–1853, Washington, D.C.), a tour de force in bronze equestrian statuary and an excellent example of nineteenth-century American ingenuity in technology. During the same period, in the area of Albany, New York, the former carpenter Erastus Dow Palmer produced a thoroughly American counterpart to Powers's Greek Slave in his marble White Captive (1857, Metropolitan Museum of Art). Another sculptor with little formal training was John Rogers. A former engineer, he began modeling small, naturalistic genre groups in about 1860. Thousands of these groups were cast and Rogers attained great popularity among the middle class.

Another generation followed the first to Italy, men such as the Bostonian William Wetmore Story, who gave up a career in law to create heroic marble figures. Most acclaimed was his Cleopatra (1858, Metropolitan Museum of Art). Story's studio was a center of the artistic and intellectual life in Rome. From Baltimore, young William Rinehart came to Rome in 1858 where he, too, created marble images of antique subjects (for example, Clytie, 1872, Metropolitan Museum of Art) and naturalistic portraits of prominent Americans. Randolph Rogers epitomized the romantic neoclassicism in his statue of Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii (1853, Metropolitan Museum of Art), which was so popular that nearly one hundred replicas were commissioned in the years that followed. Rogers also produced several multifigured war memorials, which became big business for American sculptors in the years between the Civil War and World War I.

Bronze portrait statuary was created in abundance in the "era of the galvanized hero," particularly by John Quincy Adams Ward, a student of Brown. His Henry Ward Beecher (1891, Brooklyn, New York) and President James A. Garfield (1887, Washington, D.C.) possess the unromanticized, undramatic naturalism that was then in vogue. Ward became the dean of American sculptors in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and was one of the founders of the National Sculpture Society Thomas Ball was another practitioner of this rather prosaic naturalism in portrait statuary.

With the rise of the generation led by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French, the aesthetics of naturalism were revitalized. Italy was largely rejected as a place to study; the new style, instead, came out of the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than at the World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, where Saint-Gaudens, French, Olin L. Warner, Frederick W. MacMonnies, Philip Martiny, Karl Bitter, and Hermon A. MacNeil collaborated with numerous architects to give the exposition that neobaroque exuberance which characterizes the Beaux Arts style. Saint-Gaudens and French dominated this golden age; the former is best known for his vigorous portraiture, as in his bronze Abraham Lincoln (1887, Chicago) and his equestrian General William T. Sherman (1903, New York City). His most successful attempt at symbolic imagery was the sibyl-like Adams Memorial (1886–1891, Washington, D.C.). But it was French who gave the era its sculptured personifications of such idealized concepts as the Republic, death, political and civic virtues, and industry. French's career began auspiciously with the bronze Minuteman (1874, Concord, Massachusetts) and closed half a century later with his marble, seated Abraham Lincoln (1922), part of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In the years preceding World War I, there was a confrontation of artistic ideologies; the conservatives, represented by the academic tradition, and the advocates of the eclectic Beaux Arts style, who entrenched themselves against the aesthetic assault of those who pursued the experiments of the modern movement. Paul Manship and Paul Jennewein represented a compromise that drew on the past but incorporated some abstraction. American sculptors did not give themselves over to total annihilation of natural form the way some of their European counterparts did, and men such as Robert Laurent, William Zorach, and John B. Flannagan developed an aesthetic around the simplification and stylization of natural form plus the technique of direct carving in wood and stone.

Post–World War II

World War II caused a huge influx of European artists into America, and particularly into New York City, where they began to explore the abstract and the surreal in their art, producing "subconscious" assemblage and collage works, and later primitive totems and existential works. After World War II, American sculpture moved dramatically toward abstract and nonobjective form, influenced by such European artists as Piet Mondrian and Julio Gonzalez. David Smith introduced welded metal and Alexander Calder, who lived in France for most of his creative life, and whose father, Alexander Stirling Calder, and grandfather, Alexander Mine Calder, were a recognized Philadelphia dynasty, developed his well-known mobiles and stabiles; both men were greatly influenced by constructivism. Others owed more to abstract expressionism, including Seymour Lipton, Herbert Ferber, and Theodore Roszak, whose work maybe seen at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

The generations of the 1960s and 1970s brought American sculpture into a direct confrontation with reality as it incorporated actual everyday objects into its art, as in George Segal's Girl in Doorway (1965) and Marisol's Women With Dog (1964), both at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. "Junk sculpture," or assembled discarded objects, is represented by Louise Nevelson and Richard Stankiewicz, while "light sculptures," using neon and fluorescent tubes, have been created by Dan Flavin and Chryssa.

The late 1960s saw the rise of minimalism as the dominant art form in sculpture. Minimalism can be viewed as a logical extension and exploration of the ideas of later modernist sculpture produced by such artists as David Smith. Late modern sculpture was pushing toward a purified nonillusionistic form expressed through basic geo-metric structures. The pioneering minimalists Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Dan Flavin, and Carl Andre reduced their sculptures to essentials, removing the artist's touch. Judd's metallic boxes were factory fabricated according to his specifications. Andre's modular work used presized timbers and bricks. Minimalists dispensed with pedestals and bases, hoping to achieve engagement between viewer and art object without the artifice of illusion in a formal "frame." If the ends of minimalism seemed simple enough, the means were multifaceted and intellectually charged. It explored notions of time and space, measurement, mathematics, proportional systems, and perceptual psychology. Minimalists included Beverly Pepper, Richard Serra, and southern California artists Robert Irwin and Larry Bell. Minimalism achieved acceptance in the 1970s, when it influenced the International style of architecture favored by corporate America, but many artists felt constrained by the purity of minimalism. They could not ignore the social issues that were gripping the country: the Vietnam War, pollution, sexism, racism, and consumerism. Four movements followed minimalism, ushering in the postmodern era: process art, conceptual art, earth art, and performance art.

Eva Hesse, Jackie Winsor, and Hans Haacke were important process artists. Hesse created soft, organic hanging works that were rich with generative and sexual metaphor. She allowed materials and techniques to influence her sculpture and, in contrast to the minimalists, used such fragile and malleable materials as cheesecloth and latex. Winsor subjected her meticulously self-constructed cubes to fire and explosives. Haacke used the cube to create self-contained "weather boxes" that addressed the relation between nature and culture. In response to the increasing commercialism of the art world, conceptual artists focused on ideas behind their sculpture. Artists such as Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, and Joseph Kosuth expressed their ideas through temporary installations. LeWitt's Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes (1974) was an investigation of the mental possibilities of permutation. Morris's Steam Cloud (1969) represented an attempt at deobjectification. As early as 1965, with One and Three Chairs, Kosuth investigated the relation between language and visual art. His text-object sculpture continues to influence artists, who often make reference to semiotics and linguistics.

Earth art is exemplified in Spiral Jetty, constructed in Utah's Great Salt Lake by Robert Smithson in 1970. Prompted by environmental concerns, large-scale earth-works were created throughout the 1970s with the aid of heavy machinery and complex engineering. Walter de Maria's Lightning Field, completed in 1977, and Michael Hiezer's Double Negative (1970) are striking examples of what was accomplished by earth artists. Prominent women sculptors of earth art include Alice Aycock, Nancy Holt, and Ana Mendieta. Influenced by sacred architecture, Holt was known for her precise celestial orientations. By the late 1970s, many sculptors had turned to performance art, which used multidimensional and interdisciplinary media to more fully engage their audiences. Laurie Anderson, Chris Burden, and Bruce Nauman often used film or video. Burden, known for his masochistic performances, created such politically charged installations as The Reason for the Neutron Bomb (1979).

Impressive public sculptures were commissioned throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Some commissions were publicly acclaimed, such as Isamu Noguchi's 1975 design for Hart Plaza in Detroit, while others, such as minimalist Serra's site-specific Tilted Arc installed in Federal Plaza in New York City, met with negative criticism and was removed in 1989. Women sculptors in the 1970s came into their own, fueled by the second wave of feminism, and brought political and social themes before the public with their art, including female eroticism and objectification. Maya Lin's abstract design for the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., dedicated in 1982, so disappointed conservative critics that a figurative sculptural grouping of three soldiers by Frederick Hart was added. "The Wall," as it came to be known, nevertheless would be recognized, over time, as the profound memorial its creator intended.

The pluralistic sculpture of the 1980s was known as new image art. Minimalism had lost momentum and sculptors returned to figurative and metaphorical subjects borrowed from art history and science, appropriating them in surprising ways. The sculpture of Nancy Graves derived from the study of taxidermy and fossils. Joel Shapiro constructed minimal stick figures from modules similar to those of Andre. Scott Burden's rock chairs seemed to be both natural rock formation and functional furniture. Jonathan Norofsky and Siah Armajani created multilayered sculptures that elude precise meaning. In the late 1980s, Duane Hanson and John De Andrea made hyperrealist sculpture. Countering it were the colorful and active neoexpressionist wall assemblages of Judy Pfaff and the brooding abstract bronzes of Julian Schnabel. The 1990s were characterized by variety, exemplified in exhibitions at New York City's Whitney Museum in which the sculpture ranged from the sardonic popinspired objects of Jeff Koons to the elegant abstract pieces of Martin Puryear and the socially poignant installations of Jenny Holzer.

Women Sculptors

An important part of the history of American sculpture includes a compelling body of women artists, beginning with Patience Wright (1725–1786), who started with small figures made from bread dough and natural clay. Her work, necessary to support herself and her family after she was widowed, included a Philadelphia show in the early 1770s of wax figures of prominent personages of the time that were admired for their detail and realism. She continued her work after moving to England in 1772 and received much public acclaim, most notably for her precise depiction of human physiological characteristics during an era when women were forbidden to study anatomy.

Nineteenth century. At the same time that American male sculptors were moving to Europe to study, several nineteenth-century women sculptors also made the voyage abroad for the same purpose, including Harriet Hosmer (1830–1908), Vinnie Ream (1847–1914), Anne Whitney (1821–1915), Edmonia Lewis (c. 1844–1911), Louisa Lander (1826–1923), Margaret Foley (1827–1877), and Emma Stebbins (1815–1882). In America, the National Academy of Design recognized two female sculptors for distinctive work: Frances Lupton was elected Artist of the Academy in 1827 and Mary Ann Delafield Dubois was elected an associate in 1842. Joanna Quiner exhibited her sculpted portraits at the Boston Athenaeum (1846–1848). Caroline Davis Wilson (1810–1890) created a marble statue in 1860 titled Mary of Bethany, for which she used her daughter as a model. Rosalie French Pelby (1793–1857) was known for her wax renditions of religious subjects and exhibited in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia between 1846 and 1851.

Turn of the twentieth century. From 1876 to 1905, when American society prospered, art and artists directly benefited by a growing demand for large-scale public sculpture and art that portrayed the American vision. Women artists flourished because of the suffrage movement, receiving formal training both at home and abroad and producing pieces that dealt with war, victory, and patriotism as well as realistic portrayals of contemporary women leaders and public figures. These women sculptors include Elisabet Ney (1833–1907), who exhibited her work at the Paris Salon in 1861 before she became an American; Blanche Nevin (1841–1925); Ella Ferris Pell (1846–1922); and Sarah Fisher Clampitt Ames (1817–1901), whose bust of Abraham Lincoln can be seen in the gallery of the U.S. Senate. The works of about sixteen other women sculptors were accepted for exhibition at the Paris Salon between 1878 and 1900. Women sculptors were showcased in the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson (1871–1932) was a sculptor of military monuments (The Hiker symbolized the Spanish-American War). Julia Bracken Wendt (1870–1942) was a leading sculptor in Los Angeles, best known for her The Three Graces: Art, Science, and History (1914, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County). Bessie Potter Vonnoh (1872–1955) and Carol Brooks MacNeil (1871–1944) created small bronzes depicting the life of children and mothers; Enid Yandell (1870–1934) is best known for her life-size bronze statue, Daniel Boone (c. 1893), commissioned for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Nellie Verne Walker (1874–1973) was a member of the communal Midway Studio in Chicago and sculpted over thirty-five public monuments over a period of forty years working out of a Chicago studio. Frances Grimes (1869–1963), Annetta Johnson St. Gaudens (1869–1943), Mary Lawrence (1868–1945), Helen Farnsworth Mears (1871–1916), Elsie Ward (1872–1923), and Caroline Peddle Ball (1869–1938) all studied with Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Katherine M. Cohen's (1859–1914) life-size statue, The Israelite, was accepted by the Paris Salon in 1896. She worked to convince Americans to support artists at home the way Europeans did. Adelaide Johnson (1859–1955) captured Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott in her 1921 marble sculpture, Memorial to the Pioneers of the Women's Suffrage Movement. By 1916, the works of no fewer than seventy-four women sculptors were exhibited at the Plastic Club of Philadelphia.

The twentieth century. Serious training, a sense of purpose and possibility enhanced by winning the right to vote in 1920, and an evolving sense of self within a burgeoning cosmopolitan society gave rise to a significant body of work by women artists. Janet Scudder (1869–1940) is best known for her garden sculpture; Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880–1980) captured the essence of liberation in her nude figures, as did Maude Sherwood (1873–1953). Others include Beatrice Fenton (1887–1983), known for her public fountains; Anna Coleman Watts Ladd (1878–1939), who organized the first outdoor sculpture exhibit in Philadelphia; Edith Barretto Stevens Parsons (1878–1956), whose specialty was babies; Mabel Viola Harris Conkling (1871–1966), president of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors; and animal sculptors Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876–1973), Ward Lane Weems (1899–1989), Gertrude Katherine Lathrop (1896–1986), and Lindsey Morris Sterling (1876–1931).

Several women received major commissions for large-scale public works: Evelyn Beatrice Longman (1874–1954); Malvina Hoffman (1885–1966); Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875–1942); Laura Gardin Fraser (1889–1966); Gail Sherman Corbett (1870–1952); Nancy Coonsman Hahn (1887–1976); Margaret French Cresson (1889–1973), daughter of Daniel Chester French; Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877–1968); and May Howard Jackson (1877–1931), whose work focused on the culture of African Americans. Four women sculptors—Ethel Myers, Sonia Gordon Brown, Minna Harkavy, and Concetta Scaravaglione—objecting to the traditionalism of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, helped found the New York Society of Women Artists in 1925, and several women became patrons and avant-garde salon leaders. A sense of social reform and empathy with the less fortunate of societysurfaced in the women artists of the Ashcan School: Abastenia St. Leger Eberle (1878–1942),

Mae Ethel Klinck Myers (1881–1960), Alice Morgan Wright (1881–1975), and Adelheid Lange Roosevelt (1878–1962). Women comprised a significant portion of the membership of the Sculptors Guild in the 1930s and 1940s and women were well represented among artists who benefited from the 1935 Federal Art Project.

Prominent women sculptors in various major schools, movements, and styles include the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874–1927) of the New York dada movement; Brenda Putnam (1890–1975), contributor to art deco and modernism; constructivists Ruth Asawa (1926–) and Sue Fuller (1914–); abstract expressionist Louis Nevelson (1899–1988); Mary Callery (1903–1977), sculptor in bronze and steel; Claire Falkenstein (1908–), contributor to cubism and topology; Lin Emery (1926–), sculptor of kinetic forms; Beverly Pepper (1924–), known for her exploration of the relationship between sculpture and landscape; political feminist Judy Chicago (1939–); absurdist Eva Hesse (1936–1970); Alice Adams (1930–), known for her work in eccentric abstraction; Vija Celmins (1939–), pop sculptor; and Lenore Tawney (1925–), devoted to woven forms.

The 1980s saw the rise of a new form of exhibition known as sculpture parks—public areas used to display works of sculpture in an outdoor setting. Different types of sculpture parks include open-air collections, such as Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York, and museum gardens such as Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. The oldest sculpture park, which opened in 1932, is Brookgreen Gardens near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brookgreen has the largest outdoor display of American figurative sculpture in the world, with more than 550 works by over 250 artists spread over 300 acres. The combined effect of stimulating works of art viewed in a relaxed and natural setting, especially in urban areas, is a powerful antidote to the stresses of modern life. This popularity created an extraordinary increase in the number of sculpture gardens in the country between 1987 and 1996, a trend that continues into the early twenty-first century.


Barrie, Brooke. Contemporary Outdoor Sculpture. Cincinnati: Rockport Publishers, 1999.

Craven, Wayne. Sculpture in America. Rev. ed. New York: Cornwall Books, 1984.

Curtis, Penelope. Sculpture 1900–1945: After Rodin. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Gates, Sarah. From Neo-Classical and Beaux-Arts to Modernism: A Passage in American Sculpture. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2001.

International Sculpture Center. Home page at

Rubinstein, Charlotte Streifer. American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990.

Salmon, Robin R., Ilene Susan Ford, and Loretta Dimmick. American Masters: Sculpture from Brookgreen Gardens. Murrells Inlet, SC: Brookgreen Gardens, 1996.

Shapiro, Michael Edward. Twentieth-Century American Sculpture. St. Louis, MO, Saint Louis Art Museum, 1986.

Taft, Loredo. History of American Sculpture. New York: Macmillan, 1903.

Wheeler, Daniel. Art Since Mid-Century: 1945 to the Present. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1991.

Christine E.Hoffman

See alsoAbstract Expressionism ; Pop Art ; Vietnam War Memorial ; War Memorials ; Whitney Museum .

Self-Taught Artists

During the first half of the twentieth century, the term "folk art" was used to describe the traditional crafts and the decorative and purely artistic expressions of artists and artisans who were informed by ethnic, community, family, and religious traditions. Folk art implied its connection to a "folk" population, made by and generally for common people, outside of the realms of the academy or high culture. Traditional American folk art encompasses a broad variety of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early-twentieth-century objects that primarily reflect life in rural, pre-industrial America. The recognition of folk art as a significant current of American culture paralleled changes in American society, leading to the evolution of terms used to describe nonacademic art.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the rise of interest in nonacademic art, especially post-industrial expressions, stimulated a reexamination of its nature and origins. Work by artists that represented a personal artistic vision which was not demonstrably informed by ethnic, community, family, and religious traditions has been described variously as isolate, outsider, and visionary and by the widely accepted term "self-taught" art.

With the exception of traditional folk art as defined above, the boundary between "folk" and "self-taught" art has become more relaxed than distinct since the 1970s. Since its establishment in 1961, the Museum of American Folk Art—the field's most established institution—has presented a rigorous program exploring works of art from both realms under the rubric "folk art." The discussion of what defines nonacademic art and how best to name it continues to evolve as interest in the field accelerates.

Traditional American folk art forms range from functional, decorative, and purely aesthetic objects reflecting religion, faith and personal devotion, trades and commerce, and many aspects of daily life. Folk art forms include quilts and other domestic textiles, ceramic vessels, baskets, tools, furniture, weather vanes, architectural ornament, trade signs and sculpture, waterfowl and fish decoys, fraktur (Pennsylvania German hand-lettered, decorated documents), portrait and scene painting, itinerant arts, and memorial sculpture, to name some examples. Folk art reflected the variety of European cultural traditions brought by immigrants to America. Through the process of assimilation, European art and craft traditions found a new, American context. Appreciation of folk art focused on aesthetically exceptional examples that often expressed the maker's original artistic vision through a traditional form. In 1947 the Shelburne Museum, a vast collection of traditional American folk art collected from 1907 by fine art aficionado Electra Havemeyer Webb, opened in Shelburne, Vermont. The Shelburne Museum combines folk art with a collection of historic architectural structures, presenting a panorama of traditional American folk art and folk life.

In the early twentieth century European art dominated American art institutions. This Eurocentrism affected American attitudes toward its own indigenous art forms, motivating some artists and curators to look to folk and vernacular art with vigorous interest. Juliana Force, the first director of the Whitney Studio Club (formed in 1918, to become the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1930), with her patron, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, embarked on a mission to recognize and validate American artists and American contemporary art. Force had a longtime interest in (and collection of) Shaker furniture and other examples of folk art and she included folk art within the scope of the Whitney Studio Club's exhibitions. The country's first exhibit of American folk art, Early American Art, curated by artist Henry Schnackenberg, opened at the Whitney Studio Club in 1924. The exhibit included works primarily from artists' collections, including objects from Charles Demuth and Charles Sheeler. In 1930 Holger Cahill organized American Primitives: An Exhibit of Paintings of Nineteenth-Century Folk Artists for the Newark Museum. In 1932 Art of the Common Man in America 1750–1900 was organized by Holger Cahill for the Museum of Modern Art. This exhibit included works from the collection of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, whose collection later anchored the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Williamsburg, Virginia, established in 1957.

Artists and curators recognized a modern aesthetic in folk art forms. Robert Henri and other artists at the Ogunquit colony in the 1920s collected and were influenced by examples of New England folk art. Elie Nadelman's collection of folk carvings strongly influenced his work, which contained a "folk" sensibility. The perception of a modern aesthetic in traditional folk art carried over to works by artists whose connections with folk traditions were subtle or even nonexistent. Drawings created by African American self-taught artist Bill Traylor were discovered by the formally trained artist Charles Shannon in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1939. Traylor, who had been born into slavery, began drawing after a lifetime of farm work. His large body of drawings created between 1939 and 1942 was recognized as being simultaneously "primitive" and startlingly modern. The religiously inspired stone carvings of African American self-taught artist William Edmondson were appreciated for their spare, formal beauty and were compared to works by modern sculptor Constant in Brancusi. In 1937 Edmondson became the first African American and the first self-taught artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1941 the Arts Club of Chicago included a number of paintings by Horace Pippin, an African American self-taught artist from Pennsylvania, in an exhibition that also included works by Salvador Dali and Fernand Leger. Despite these and a number of other landmark exhibitions, and the growing analysis of works by self-taught artists according to modernist, formalist criteria, self-taught art remained segregated from the realm of mainstream art.

The Recognition of Twentieth-Century Self-Taught Art

In 1961 the Museum of American Folk Art was formed in New York City And soon became a defining force in the field. It presented traditional folk art and works by twentieth-century self-taught artists, and traced the evolution of both genres as currents in American art. Founder and early curator Herbert Waide Hemphill Jr. advocated the recognition and acceptance of works by twentieth-century self-taught artists into a field that had previously focused on traditional folk art. Hemphill and Julia Weissman co-authored Twentieth-Century Folk Art and Artists (1974), which explored works by folk and self-taught artists, artists' environments, and vernacular yard sculpture, broadening the scope of folk and self-taught art into previously unrecognized realms. Hemphill's vision in redefining the field was paralleled by his outstanding and influential collection, which ranged from traditional folk art to contemporary self-taught art. The exhibit American Folk Art: The Herbert Waide Hemphill Jr. Collection opened at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1981, and traveled to five other cities. The acquisition by gift and purchase of 378 works from the Hemphill collection by the National Museum of American Art (later the Smithsonian American Art Museum) in Washington, D.C., in 1986 further codified the acceptance of self-taught art into the folk art arena and underscored the subject's significance by its prominent inclusion in a national museum.

Self-Taught Art in Chicago and the Midwest

Chicago developed as a notable center for engendering some of the country's exceptional self-taught artists and for its rigorous acceptance of self-taught art into the art culture of the city. Beginning in the 1940s and 1950s "Monster Roster" artists Cosmo Campoli, Leon Gollub, George Cohen, June Leaf, Seymour Rosofsky, and unaffiliated artist H. C. Westermann all studied and were influenced by non-mainstream art, including works by autodidacts, institutionalized artists, and examples of non-Western art, known then as primitive art. In 1951, ten years after Horace Pippin's work was shown at the Arts Club of Chicago, Jean Dubuffet delivered there his influential lecture, "Anti-Cultural Positions." In it he introduced the European concept of the "artist outsider" and his theories of Art Brut or "raw art"—art arising completely from within the artist without connection to established cultural constructs. Dubuffet's lecture had a strong impact on artists, curators, and collectors, validating their established interest in art from beyond the mainstream and thus setting the stage for a new generation of artist-collectors.

In the 1960s a group of young artists who later became known as Chicago Imagists developed a collective interest in self-taught art. These artists studied at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where they were encouraged to look beyond the mainstream and to recognize art from many sources and origins. Chicago Imagist artists Roger Brown, Ray Yoshida, Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Karl Wirsum, Phil Hanson, and Christina Ram-berg became known not only for the power and originality of their own works, but for the integral connection between their work and their collections. These artists assembled eclectic collections that included works by self-taught and institutionalized artists, tramp art, bottle cap sculptures, twig furniture, prison art, traditional and nontraditional folk art from many cultures, and objects from material culture.

Imagist artists accepted folk and self-taught art on an equal footing with their own works and with mainstream art in general. In the 1960s and 1970s Chicago artists, educators, dealers, and collectors eagerly embraced the works of self-taught artists working in Chicago, who have since received international acclaim. Joseph E. Yoakum, of African American and Creek-Cherokee lineage, created spiritually inspired visionary landscape drawings between 1962 and 1972. Henry Darger, whose works were discovered in 1973 just after his death, created complex and disturbingly beautiful panoramic collage-drawings to illustrate his epic novel, "The Realms of the Unreal. …" Drossos Skyllas, a Greek immigrant and self-taught painter, worked in a painstakingly meticulous style that challenged the assumption that folk and self-taught art were primitive or technically unsophisticated. Italian-American artist Aldo Piacenza filled his north suburban Chicago yard with birdhouse sculptures representing the churches, cathedrals, and duomos of Italy. Lee Godie was a street person who appeared on the steps of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1968, selling portraits of Chicago's Gold Coast elite. William Dawson began carving his distinct and original portraits and figural sculpture in the early 1970s.

Finding their works consistent, provocative, and highly original, Chicago Imagist artists embraced the work of these and other self-taught artists, crediting its influence on their work and its impact on their fundamental ideas about art. Chicago art dealer Phyllis Kind was an early proponent of self-taught artists and began exhibiting works of such artists from America and Europe in the early 1970s. From the 1970s to the early twenty-first century there were many exhibitions of self-taught art in the Midwest, including Outsider Art in Chicago at that city's Museum of Contemporary Art in 1979. Building on its commitment to folk art represented in its collections of Haitian and American folk art, the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1979 acquired the Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art. Also in the Midwest, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, exhibited works by self-taught or "grassroots" artists regularly, starting in 1978 when it mounted the exhibit Grass Roots Art Wisconsin: Toward a Redefinition. Since that time the center has assembled an extensive permanent collection of works by self-taught artists, as well as parts of and entire folk art environments, which are regularly exhibited.

In 1991 Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (originally Society for Outsider, Intuitive, and Visionary Art) was established, solidifying Chicago as a national center for the exhibition and interpretation of self-taught art. Intuit defines intuitive and outsider art as "the work of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world and who instead seem motivated by their unique personal visions. This definition includes what is known as art brut, nontraditional folk art, self-taught art and visionary art." By its tenth anniversary in 2001, Intuit had mounted forty-five exhibitions. Its exhibition history reflected the breadth of the organization's scope; exhibits ranged from theme shows addressing West African barber-style signboards, thrift store paintings, bottle cap art, and eccentric chairs to solo shows of works by Mose Tolliver, Emery Blagdon, Drossos Skyllas, Cora Meek, Jim Work, and Aldo Piacenza. Intuit's exhibition history is distinguished by the fact that the majority of works in most exhibitions have come from Chicago-area collections Intuit established its American Masters gallery in 1999 to showcase a revolving roster of self-taught artists who have achieved the critical acclaim and status reserved for "master" artists. Intuit committed to a program of preservation by saving the contents of the room (home and studio) of Henry Darger for eventual reinstallation before the room itself was demolished in 2000.

Folk Art Environments

"Folk art environments," or simply "art environments," are an essential element of folk and self-taught art in America. Art environments are composite sites that include elements of art, architecture, and landscape architecture in varying combinations. They are extended artistic creations of interrelated elements, as opposed to discrete works of art, and they occupy a specific place—an exterior landscape, an interior space, or both. Their content and meaning is derived from the spatial context or relationship of components to each other, to their location, and generally to the life of the artist. Major extant American art environments include Simon Rodia's Watts Towers of Los Angeles; S. P. Dinsmoor's Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas; Fred Smith's Wisconsin Concrete Park in Phillips, Wisconsin; St. Eom's Pasaquan in Buena Vista, Georgia; Edward Leedskalnin's Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida; and Jeff McKissack's Orange Show in Houston, Texas.

Widespread recognition of a few major examples of art environments in the United States, such as the Watts Towers and the Wisconsin Concrete Park, stimulated some initial public interest in such sites in the 1950s and 1960s. In his photo essay, "The Grass-Roots Artist" in Art in America (September–October 1968), Gregg N. Blasdel presented the concept of grassroots artists and art environments—until then an art genre that had received little critical attention—to the mainstream art world. This article featured the environments of fifteen artists (including environments that are now no longer extant, by Dave Woods, Jesse "Outlaw" Howard, Clarence Schmidt, and Ed Root) and inspired a number of artists to travel around the country to visit and document art environments. The article precipitated an awareness of environments as an important aspect of self-taught art and a cognizance of the twentieth-century built environment. Blasdel's article also stimulated early efforts to preserve art environments.

In addition to Blasdel's article, the exhibition Naives and Visionaries at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1974 contributed to the awareness and preservation of art environments. The exhibit featured the art environments of nine artist-builders, represented primarily through photographs, and augmented by a selection of objects that could be temporarily removed from sites. The exhibit introduced the genre of art environments as sites comprised of integral components that lose their integrity and full significance if dismantled, encouraging people to visit them in person. In 1974 the Kansas Grassroots Art Association (KGAA) was formed to preserve grassroots art on its original site if possible, or off the site if necessary; to document grassroots art through photographs and documentation; and to increase public awareness and appreciation of grassroots art. The first permanent organization formed to preserve art environments, the KGAA initially rallied around art environments in Kansas and the Great Plains region, but eventually expanded its scope to include international sites. In 1978 Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments (SPACES) was formed in Los Angeles to document art environments and advocate for their preservation. The first effort to preserve an American art environment began in 1959 when the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts was formed. Consisting of local artists, writers, and educators, it began a long struggle to save the Watts Towers, now a National Historic Site. In 1977 preservation efforts began in Wisconsin, with the Kohler Foundation's purchase and preservation of Fred Smith's Wisconsin Concrete Park. Since that time preservation efforts have grown around the country, and a number of sites have been preserved in situ, including S. P. Dinsmoor's Garden of Eden; the Orange Show; St. Eom's Pasaquan; Nick Engelbert's Grandview, near Hollandale, Wisconsin; and Herman Rusch's Prairie Moon Museum and Sculpture Garden, near Cochrane, Wisconsin, to name a few.

Preserving art environments presents daunting challenges to supporters, including the purchase and maintenance of real estate, the preservation of complex sites created with nontraditional media and techniques, and exposure to the elements. Calvin and Ruby Black's Possum Trot, built in the Mojave Desert, is one of several environments that were dismantled and whose elements were sold as individual works of art. Preservation in situ has not always been possible, and museums have participated in the preservation of entire sites or elements of sites. The first environment to be preserved and permanently installed in an American museum was James Hampton's The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millenium (sic) General Assembly, an elaborate interior environment created by an African American janitor from Washington, D.C. Hampton's installation was acquired in its entirety by the National Museum of American Art shortly after the artist's death in 1964. Since that time some museums have acquired elements of art environments.

Folk and Self-Taught Art Organizations

The last two decades of the twentieth century saw growth in institutions dedicated to folk and self-taught art, and publications about the subject proliferated during those years. In 1987 the Folk Art Society of America was formed and its newsletter, Folk Art Messenger, was launched. In 1989 Raw Vision, the international journal of outsider art, was established and Intuit began publishing The Outsider (originally In'tuit) in 1992. In 1995 the American Vision-ary Art Museum was established in Baltimore, launching a program of ambitious theme shows featuring the range of nonacademic art. The Museum of American Folk Art, which publishes Folk Art Magazine (formerly The Clarion), established its Contemporary Center in 1997 to address contemporary trends in self-taught art while continuing to examine traditional American folk art. The museum officially changed its name to the American Museum of Folk Art in 2001 to reflect its international scope. Other American museums that have significant collections of self-taught art include the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, opened in 1983, and the Menello Museum of American Folk Art in Orlando, Florida, established in 1998. Self-taught art's commercial success has been underscored by its annual trade shows, the Outsider Art Fair in New York City And Folk Fest in Atlanta.

The discussion of what to call works beyond the mainstream has not lost its vigor. The term "outsider art" gained widespread acceptance beginning in the 1980s. Some object to this designation, which implies a segregationist polarity between artists on the "inside," in an assumed position of power, and artists on the "outside," disenfranchised from the cultural mainstream. The term "post-mainstream" has been suggested but has not been widely accepted. Despite the mercurial nature of folk and self-taught art, which continues to evolve while resisting precise definition, a growing number of individuals and organizations that demonstrate an interest in and commitment to the genre is paralleled by the expanding recognition of it as a significant, recurrent, and enduring facet of the nation's artistic culture.


American Folk Art: The Herbert Waide Hemphill Jr. Collection. Milwaukee, Wisc.: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1981. Out of print.

Beardsley, John. Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists. New York: Abbeville Press, 1995.

Blasdel, Gregg N. "The Grass-Roots Artist." Art in America 56, no. 5 (September–October 1968): 25–41.

Cardinal, Roger. Outsider Art. New York: Praeger, 1972.

Cerney, Charlene, and Suzanne Seriff. Recycled, Re-Seen: Folk Art from the Global Scrap Heap. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.

Hall, Michael D. Stereoscopic Perspective: Reflections on American Fine and Folk Art. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1988.

———, and Eugene W. Metcalf Jr., eds. The Artist Outsider: Creativity and the Boundaries of Culture. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.

Hartigan, Lynda Roscoe, and Andrew L. Connors. Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990.

Hemphill, Herbert W., Jr., and Julia Weissman. Twentieth-Century Folk Art and Artists. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1974.

Intuit: The First Ten Years. Chicago: Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, 2001.

Livingston, Jane, and John Beardlsey. Black Folk Art in America, 1930–1980. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1982.

Milwaukee Art Museum. Common Ground/Uncommon Vision: The Michael and Julie Hall Collection of American Folk Art in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, Wisc.: The Museum, 1993. Available from the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Outsider Art: An Exploration of Chicago Collections. Chicago: City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, 1997.

Self-Taught Artists of the 20th Century: An American Anthology. New York: Museum of American Folk Art, 1998.

Sellen, Betty-Carol. Self-Taught, Outsider, and Folk Art: A Guide to American Artists, Locations and Resources. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2000.

Stone, Lisa, and Jim Zanzi. Sacred Spaces and Other Places: A Guide to Grottos and Sculptural Environments in the Upper Midwest. Chicago: School of the Art Institute of Chicago Press, 1993.


See alsoArt Institute of Chicago ; Arts and Crafts Movement ; Museums ; Smithsonian Institution ; Whitney Museum .

Stained Glass Windows

The American glass industry first began to prosper after the War of 1812 temporarily eliminated all European imported glass. Until the 1840s, however, there were few stylistic variations in American colored leaded windows, which generally contained numerous glass squares or diamonds with stenciled designs of floral and leafy patterns, giving the appearance of looking through a large kaleidoscope. The first American figural windows were made by the English-born brothers John and William Bolton in the mid-1840s for (St. Ann and) Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, New York.

The Gothic Revival movement in Europe greatly affected stained glass in America. Much figural stained glass was imported from Germany and England, and its subject matter frequently featured scenes that had their origins in paintings by the German artists Heinrich Hoffmann (1824–1911) and Bernard Plockhorst (1825–1907). At least fifteen of Hoffman's paintings were reproduced as stained glass windows, with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane being the most popular, while Plockhorst's painting The Good Shepherd was also very widely copied. These and other themes rendered in glass by the Munich-based Mayer and Zettler studios were very influential in the United States, and are still commonly seen in new works produced by American studios.

By the 1870s, milky opalescent glass, usually found in bottles, began to appear in the work of both John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany, after they discovered a process by which molten glass could have varying degrees of color and opacity "built in." Truly an American phenomenon, this painterly approach greatly reduced the use of enamels and fired-on paint for folds of clothing, foliage, and other elements. The use of opalescent glass began to decline by the early twentieth century, however, in part because of the rising popularity of such neo-Gothic architecture as New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The cathedral's architect, Ralph Adams Cram, was openly hostile toward opalescent glass, and demanded that the stained glass used for St. John the Divine imitate the form, figures, and color palette found in Chartres Cathedralin France. Not long afterward, these same aesthetic prejudices began to be reflected in the productions of many American studios, including, most notably, those run by Charles Connick in Boston and William Willet in Philadelphia. A more contemporary (and iconoclastic) approach to stained glass had its origins in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, who presented his vision for stained glass through a 1907 European exhibition and subsequent publications.

The depression of the 1930s and World War II put a damper on new building, which in turn stifled stained glass production worldwide. Postwar German artists, however, began to extend certain extraordinary reforms that had been initiated by the Bauhaus movement before the war. In new churches and public buildings alike, they created stained glass that was abstract, mostly colorless, linear, and without any paint.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, artists from the West Coast, receptive to this modern approach, began pilgrimages to Germany. They returned as revolutionaries in a field previously dominated by traditionalists, desirous of becoming "artists" in stained glass. This new movement allowed stained glass to have a venue outside of churches and to be displayed in art galleries and private homes. It also encouraged more artistic freedom and the use of new techniques and technology—flashed, opak, and opal glass; laminating bevels and jewels to plate glass; silk screening on glass; detailed sand carving; fusing and bending; and a spin-off from the space industry, dichroic glass.


Connick, Charles. Adventures in Light and Color: An Introduction to the Stained Glass Craft. New York: Random House, 1937.

Hanks, David. The Decorative Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. New York: Dutton, 1979.

Harrison, Martin. Victorian Stained Glass. London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1980.

Knapp, Stephen. The Art of Glass: Integrating Architecture and Glass. Glouster, Mass.: Rockport, 1998.

Moor, Andrew. Architectural Glass: A Guide for Design Professionals. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1989.

Weis, Helene. "Those Old Familiar Faces." Stained Glass Quarterly (Fall 1991): 204–207, 216–218.


See alsoArt: Glass .

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Visual Arts and Aging


Older adults have been represented surprisingly often in the visual arts. Over half of Rembrandts works represent an elderly person. This includes fifty-five drawings, etchings, and paintings taken from the single biblical story of the elderly blind man Tobit and his wife Anna. Rembrandts other important images of aging persons include the famous series of self-portraits recording his own aging process, Old Woman Reading (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Portrait of an Old Woman (Hermitage, Leningrad), and many others. Important images of elderly people by other painters include Ghirlandaios An Old Man and His Grandson (Louvre, Paris); Albrecht Dürers Saint Jerome (Albertina, Vienna); Peter Paul Rubenss Philemon and Baucis (Art History Museum, Vienna); Velázquezs The Old Water Seller of Seville (Wellington Museum, London); Georges de Tours Saint Joseph, Carpenter (Louvre, Paris); and Leonardos Self Portrait (Turin, Royal Library), to mention only a few works from the history of European painting. In the twentieth century, major artistic statements about aging include Pablo Picassos The Old Guitarist (The Art Institute of Chicago), Kathe Kollwitzs Self Portrait (National Gallery, Berlin), and Henry Tanners The Banjo Lesson (Hampton University Museum of Art). But here again, there are many others that could be mentioned. In China, the classic mountain landscape painting almost always includes an elderly person traveling up a mountain stream or pathway. Indeed, one might argue that the genre is as much about old age as about landscape. Major masterpieces in this tradition include Walking With a Staff by Shen Chou (Ming Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei), Recluse in A Mountain Abode by Kuo Hsi (Sung Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei), and Looking at the Waterfall by Ma Lin (Sung Dynasty, The Palace Museum, Beijing). Numerous representations of elderly people are found in Islamic miniatures, such as the thirteenth-century anonymous work Men Assembling Wood (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), and Aqa Miraks Scene in a Mosque, an illustration in the Falnameh or Book of Divination (Musee dart et d historie, Geneva). In nineteenth-century Japan, Katsushika Hokusai thought as seriously as Rembrandt had about the visual representation of aging. His A Self Portrait at the Age of Eighty Three and Head of an Old Man (both at National Museum of Ethology, Leiden) and A Peasant Crossing a Bridge (Honolulu Academy of the Arts) are typical expressions of his interest in representing elderly people.

Older adults have also been represented in sculpture throughout history. Notable examples are Old Woman Going to Market, an anonymous Roman sculpture of the second or third century (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Donatellos Penitent Magdalen (Museo dell Opera, Florence), Michelangelos figure Twilight for the tomb of Julius II (Lorenzo, Florence), several figures in Rodins ensemble Burghers of Calais, and his numerous studies of Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Georges Clemenceau, and others.

Besides painting and sculpture, film has been a major source of visual representations of aging in art. The aging Walter Houston won the Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal of the crusty old prospector Howard in the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Geraldine Page won the academy award for best actress in the 1985 film The Trip to Bountiful, for her portrayal of the elderly widow Carrie Watts. Ingmar Bergmans Wild Strawberries has attracted extensive comment for its insightful portrayal of the elderly character Dr. Borg.

Finally, the art of photography has produced some unforgettable images of the aging face, and some of these have become virtual icons of twentieth-century culture. Examples are Yousuf Karshs photographic portraits of Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein, Irving Penns Colette, and Dorothea Langes White Angel Bread Line.


To understand how frequently elderly people are depicted in art, it is a good exercise to study the almost innumerable images of St. Jerome as wise elder that have been produced in the history of European painting, and the vast range and variety of perspectives on the aged person that have been presented through the use of that theme. Visual images of this popular fifth-century saint in his old age are standard fixtures in hotels, restaurants, hospitals, government buildings, and other public places over most of Europe. In much of Asia, representations of the elderly Chinese sage in a remote mountain retreat, referred to above, are similarly common. Another good way to discover how frequently artists create images of elderly people is this: go to any museum of art, and, excluding galleries devoted solely to twentieth-century abstract work, try to find a room or gallery that does not contain at least one representation of an elderly person. It is enlightening to discover how infrequently one is able to do so. In the same vein, try to name a film in which no elderly character appears in at least a significant supporting role. It can be done, but not often.

Visual artists have been careful and astute observers of elderly people, often seeing beyond conventional false stereotypes. A conventional negative stereotype of age in the West is that the physical appearance of old age is without beauty. But most visual artists have insisted that the characteristic look of the aging face and typical gestures of the aging body are of great beauty and aesthetic value. The testimony of artists in support of this view can be seen in the frequency and care with which they have created exquisitely beautiful images of older persons. In China, this division between the conventional view of aging and the observations of artists does not exist, because Chinese popular culture, like Chinas visual artists, attributes great physical beauty in the aging face and body. Artists have also created numerous images that combat the stereotype of older adults as frail or without physical vigor or energy. Against this, elderly people are regularly depicted in the visual arts as being physically robust and vigorous. See, for example, La Tours Saint Joseph, Carpenter (cited above) and Rembrandts Old Woman Cutting Her Nails (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

Another consistent motif in art showing careful observation of older adults is the representation of a special relationship between elderly people and children. This was a favorite theme of Velázquez, which he explored repeatedly. Examples are his The Old Water Seller of Seville (cited above) and Old Woman Cooking (National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh). Tanners Banjo Lesson (cited above) is a strong statement of the same theme. In images like these the artist expresses ideas and attitudes about the passing of culture from generation to generation, a fundamental process of civilization.

One way to gauge the soundness of what artists say in their representations of aging is to compare it with findings in the modern social science of gerontology. For example, a central observation of the modern psychology of aging is that many people, as they grow into their later years, tend to disengage or to withdraw from the activities and interests that motivated them in youth and middle age, and increase the time spent in inner reflection. Many representations of elderly people in the history of art record and explore this change of orientation. Representative examples include the paintings by Dürer and Rembrandt cited above, the many representations of Saint Jerome in the desert found in European painting, the motif of withdrawal to a mountain retreat or hermitage in the Chinese landscape, and representations of the elder as aesthetic wanderer in Hindu art.

Another discovery of modern psychology of aging is that people tend to reminisce more often, and apparently with greater interest, as they advance into late adulthood. Many paintings of elderly people in the history of art evoke an unmistakable mood of reminiscence, showing the artists awareness of this phenomenon of late life. In the Chinese landscape, for example, the elderly person is often shown high in a mountain promontory, looking back over the path ascending from the valley belowan unmistakable metaphor for looking back over ones life. Early in the film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the old miner Howard engages in a deeply felt account of his past life, and the film The Trip to Bountiful actually centers on the theme of Carrie Wattss irrepressible need to revisit the past. Finally, much of modern scientific study of human aging concerns the possibility of achieving special insights, or wisdom, in old age. Here again, early artists have anticipated twentieth-century thought. The story of Tobit, so often represented in Rembrandts works, is a story of illumination and understanding achieved in old age. Indeed, Rembrandts life-long persistence in representing that theme in his painting would seem to indicate an interest in the possibility of old age wisdom, for the storys central event is the old blind man (Tobit) recovering his sight. A much repeated image of a wise elder who understands much is that of the father in the biblical story of the prodigal son. Powerful interpretations of that theme have been produced by many leading European and Islamic artists. Innumerable other paintings depict elderly people as either wise elders, or as pilgrims in search of wisdom. In the Western tradition, images of elders often show them with books, the illumination of candles, or keys, all symbols of the quest for and achievement of special insight. More often than not, Chinese paintings that depict the elderly at all show them as sages, that is, as older adults who have achieved wisdom. A repeated theme in Chinese art shows the elderly sage thoughtfully watching or listening to a waterfall. There is a reason for this. In Chinese thought the waterfall is said to contain opposites, because the waterfall is forever moving and changing, and yet also forever staying in the same place. So the elderly sages contemplation of it symbolizes the ultimate wisdom; namely understanding the underlying unity of all opposites.


As this example of the Chinese sages and the waterfall makes clear, it is difficult to understand what painters and sculptors have wanted to say about the experience of human aging without knowing something about symbols. These artists do not communicate what they wish to say about aging in words, as writers might do, so they often use instead the language of symbols. For example, bridges, doorways, windows and gates often appear in paintings of older adults to symbolize the aging persons transition to a new stage of life, old age. Many of the works cited above feature this symbolism. In many of his representations of the story of Tobit, for example, Rembrandt shows the old blind man waiting by or walking toward a doorway or window. Similarly, the elderly gentleman in Shen Chous Walking With a Staff is shown approaching a bridge that crosses over a turbulent stream. Another common symbol in visual representations of older adults is the musical instrument, usually a string instrument such as the guitar or the violin. Such an image shows an older person creating harmony from separate sounds that individually have no meaning. But this in turn is a symbol of the aging persons ability to integrate disparate aspects of life into one understandable whole, which is a kind of wisdom. Often the symbolic old musician is shown as blind, recalling Platos dictum that as outer vision weakens with age, inner vision (wisdom) grows. Of course many symbols of time and its passage are used in images of elderly people, including clocks, hourglasses, and used-up candles. The abstract form of the circle is sometimes used to symbolically express a feeling of life having come to completeness or to full closure. A striking example is the composition of Rembrandts Artists Mother (Art History Museum, Vienna), but the symbolism is widely used. To understand representations of aging by artists outside ones own culture, it is useful to know something of the special symbolism of that culture. For example, the elderly people who appear so frequently in Chinese paintings are often shown with cranes, peaches, or pine trees, all familiar symbols in Chinese culture of late adulthood. Finally, the most potent symbol in an art work depicting an elderly person is often the image of the elderly person itself. For the elderly face, body and gestures are themselves mythic for us, in the sense that they powerfully convey important meanings such as endurance, courage, inner strength, and vulnerability.

For purposes of discerning what an artist is saying specifically about aging in a particular work, it is useful to distinguish between the story being illustrated (Isaac blessing Jacob, or Saint Jeromes retreat to a desert hermitage) and the artists specific manner of representing the elderly person who appears in the work. To appreciate how distinct these things are, a good exercise is to study the difference of treatment of the same elderly person in the same story. One might compare, for example, Raemerswaels Saint Jerome in His Study (Musee des Beaux Artes, Antwerp), and Massys Saint Jerome (Art History Museum, Vienna). Both artists are offering creative images of the same events in the life of the same aging man, yet the meanings they see in these things are very different.

Assessing the image

An important question to consider when viewing a representation of old age is whether the artist is representing it in a positive or negative light. This will sometimes be quite evident at first sight. Leonardos caricatures of age (Royal Collection, Windsor Castle) and Ivan Albrights Fleeting Time Thou Has Made Me Old (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) are obviously and uncompromisingly negative. Many art works give positive interpretations of aging that are equally evident. But many express perspectives on aging with various degrees of ambivalence or mixed nuances, which makes it more challenging to interpret the artists specific message about aging. In all cases, when forming a judgment about what an artist is saying about aging in a particular work, it is useful to consider the following questions. Is the overall feeling the artist seems to create about aging primarily negative or positive? Does the artist present aging exclusively as a matter of physical change, or are other, nonphysical, dimensions of aging also represented, such as social relationships, psychological growth or decline, increased knowledge, wisdom or emotional fulfillment? If nonphysical dimensions of aging are suggested, are they shown in a positive or negative light? Are aging persons shown as having any importance for others in society, and if so, what difference are they shown as making to the lives of others? Is the elderly person shown as engaged in a process of spiritual growth, and if so, how? Does the artist use line or color to express ideas, feelings, or attitudes about aging, such as color harmonies or disharmonies, or lines that are either disturbingly tense or reassuringly peaceful? What symbols does the artist use to convey attitudes or ideas about aging?

Formal resources that artists use to communicate about the aging face and body include lines, used to represent and interpret the facial wrinkles of the aging face. Line used in this way can eloquently express many characteristics naturally associated with the aged person, such as burdensome memories and depth of thought (see Dürers Saint Jerome, and Leonardo da Vincis Self Portrait, both cited above, as examples of this use of line). A parallel use of facial lines to express emotions related to age can be seen in the scarification of many African masks. In typical Chinese masterpieces, line was skillfully used to show the distinctive gestures and postures of the aging human body, whose forms can be poignantly expressive. Color is another formal element artists use to express feelings and attitudes about age. The shiny, cadaverish greys used in Albrights images of aging express a revulsion toward it, while in Rubens portrait of Saint Jerome, the strongly dominant red expresses an upbeat optimism and sense of vitality. Selection of harmonious or disharmonious color schemes can also communicate a lot about an artists outlook on age. The sculptor has, in addition, a third dimension created by a plastic medium, which presents the opportunity to go beyond line and organization of areas to raised surfaces and volumes. These, in turn, are used to create the ruggedly textured quality of the aging face, expressing the depth of experience and character associated with age. Rodins representations of elderly persons illustrates this approach especially well.

Many images of elderly people are simply portraits, in which recording a particular persons appearance, and capturing something of that individuals essential personality, is the goal. But many representations of the elderly occur in the larger context of a story or genre scene. Sometimes the elder pictured in such a scene is the main protagonist, as in the images of Tobit and Anna in paintings depicting that biblical story. But even more often one or more elderly persons appear in an image, but in only a secondary, supportive role. Examples are the old woman who looks on from the sidelines in Rubenss Samson and Delilah, or the elderly violinist who plays in the background of many of Edgar Degass ballerina paintings. Such secondary images of aging should not be overlooked or dismissed, for the statement they make about aging is sometimes of great interest and important to the overall meaning of the work. Degass old musician, for example, symbolizes the need for old age wisdom, which enables the younger generation to carry on its own life or dance.

A topic of debate among art scholars is whether artists adopt a different styleoften referred to as late styleas they age. Late style is said to be characterized by greater economy or simplicity of means, whereby a powerful statement is made with relatively little differentiation of detail. Michelangelo is said to have followed such a path of development because his late sculptures are strikingly less complex, yet no less powerful, than his earlier works. The point at issue can be observed by comparing two of his works on the same theme, the pieta, one early (Pieta, c. 1499, Saint Peters, Rome) the other late (Pieta, c. 1564, Castillo Sforzesco, Milan). The same evolution of style has been said to characterize Kathe Kollwitzs artistic development, and can be seen by comparing her early and late self-portraits.

Patrick L. McKee

See also Ageism; Literature and Aging.


Amheim, R. On the Late Style of Life and Art. Michigan Quarterly Review. Edited by Kathleen Woodward and David Van Tassel. (spring 1978): 149156.

Clark, K. The Artist Grows Old. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1962.

Clark, K. Rembrandts Self Portraits. Proceedings of the Royal Institute os Great Britain 39 (1962): 145171.

Erikson, E. Reflections of Dr. Borgs Life Cycle. In Aging, Death, and the Completion of Being. Edited by D. Van Tassel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1979. Pages 2968.

Held, J. Rembrandt and the Book of Tobit. Princeton, N.J.: The Gehenna Press, 1964.

McKee, P. L. Old Age in the Chinese Mountain Landscape. The Journal of Aesthetic Education 24 (1990): 5973.

McKee, P. L., and Kauppinen, H. The Art of Aging: A Celebration of Old Age in Western Art. New York: Human Sciences Press, 1987.

Spicker, S., et al. Aging and the Elderly: Humanistic Perspectives on Gerontology. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1978.

Wang, S.-C. Introduction to Three Hundred Masterpieces of Chinese Painting in the National Palace Museum. Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1959.

Winkler, M. G. Walking to the Stars. Handbook of the Humanities and Aging. Edited by Thomas R. Cole, David D. Van Tassel and Robert Kastenbaum. New York: Springer Publishing, 1992. Pages 258284.

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23. Art

See also 20. ARCHITECTURE ; 128. DRAWING ; 141. ENGRAVING ; 218. IMAGES ; 305. ORNAMENTATION ; 369. SKILL and CRAFT .

Abstract Expressionism
a spontaneous, intuitive painting technique producing nonformal work characterized by sinuous lines. Also called Action Painting .
the creation of abstract art. abstractionist, n., adj.
a nonrepresentational style in painting or sculpture.
etching in relief; the opposite of engraving.
Action Painting
Abstract Expressionism.
1. the doctrine that aesthetic standards are autonomous and not subject to political, moral, or religious criteria.
2. used pejoratively to describe those who believe only in art for arts sake, to the exclusion of all other human activities.
an art form, as a story, painting, or sculpture, in which the components have a symbolic, figurative meaning. allegorist, allegorizer, n. allegorical, adj.
1. the art of carving works in low relief.
2. a low-relief sculpture. Also spelled anaglyph . anaglyphic, anaglyptic, adj.
the technique of making drawings and etchings that appear to be carved in low relief. anaglyptographic, adj.
a distorted image of an object, as in anamorphic art. Also spelled anamorphosis, anamorphosy . anamorphic, adj.
a cylindrical mirror for correcting the distorted image created by anamorphism.
Obsolete, anamorphism.
an artist who paints in water colors. Also called water-colorist .
a taste for and imitation of earlier styles, a recurrent phenomenon since ancient times based on the premise that earlier works were somehow purer and simpler. Cf. primitivism .
structural design, especially of a work of art, as a painting or piece of music. See also 312. PHILOSOPHY .
artistic achievement, quality, or workmanship.
a nonutilitarian theory of art holding that a work of art is an end in itself. autotelic, adj.
a highly decorated form of art or ornamentation. baroque, adj.
an artist who specializes in charcoal drawings or sketches.
anything typically Chinese or made in a Chinese manner.
the revival in arts and letters in the sixteenth century in Italy. cinquecentist, n., adj.
1. formerly, an imitation of Greek and Roman art.
2. currently, a dedication to the principles of that art: clarity of execution, balance, adherence to recognized standards of form, and conscious craftsmanship. classicist, n. classicistic, adj.
an artist who uses color or who is distinguished by the way in which he uses color.
a movement in 20th-century painting in which several planes of an object in the form of cubes or other solids are presented in an arbitrary arrangement using a narrow range of colors or monochrome. Cubist, n. Cubistic, adj.
a person who is well acquainted with culture, as literature, the arts, etc., and who advocates their worth to society.
a revolt by certain 20th-century painters and writers in France, Germany, and Switzerland against smugness in traditional art and Western society; their works, illustrating absurdity through paintings of purposeless machines and collages of discarded materials, expressed their cynicism about conventional ideas of form and their rejection of traditional concepts of beauty. Dadaist, n.
daubery, daubry
a painting or other work executed in a messy or unskilled way. dauber, daubster, n.
a work of art composed of two attached panels.
the use of small juxtaposed dots of color on a canvas. Cf. Pointillism . divisionist, n., adj.
the art and literature of thirteenth-century Italy. duecentist, n., adj.
a style that intermixes features borrowed from other artists or differing schools; applied especially when the result is unsuccessful. eclecticist, n.
the study of the origin, development, and nature of the fine arts.
the condition of being foreign, striking, or unusual in color and design. exoticist, n. exotic, exotical, adj.
a movement in the 20th century that attempted to express feeling and emotion directly by distorting forms, choosing violent subject matter and harsh colors, and keeping the overall design out of balance. Expressionist, n. Expressionistic, adj.
the literary or artistic use of fantasy. fantastic, adj. fantasticality, fantasticalness, n.
an early movement in 20th-century painting characterized by an emphasis on the use of unmixed bright colors for emotional and decorative effect. Fauvist, n. Fauve, n., adj.
a movement of the 20th century attempting to capture in painting the movement, force, and speed of modern industrial life by the simultaneous representation of successive aspects of forms in motion. Futurist, n. Futuristic, adj.
a room, building, or other place specifically used for the preservation of works of sculpture.
the principles of the paintings, sculptures, stained glass, mosaics, and book illustrations of the period 1200-1450, embracing several disparate styles and emphases. Gothicist, n.
the forms and ideals of ancient Greek art. See also 18. ANTIQUITY .
the description, history, and analysis of symbolic art or artistic symbolism, especially that of the late medieval and Renaissance periods. Also called iconography . iconologist, n. iconological, adj.
a movement in the late 19th century in French painting, characterized by the goal of reproducing an impression of a subject by use of reflected light and color and the blurring of outlines. Impressionist, n., adj. Impressionistic, adj.
Japonism, Japonisme
a style of art, idiom, custom, mannerism, etc., typical of the Japanese.
a painter of landscapes.
a movement in painting concerned with precision in representing light and shade. luminarist, n.
1. a movement in painting concerned with effects of light, especially the use of broken color in its full intensity with a minimum of shadow effects, applied especially to many Impressionist and Pointillist artists.
2. a technique of painting employing minute modulations of tone, developed in America (1825-65) by John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, and others. luminist, n.
1. an overemphasis on any distinctive technique of expression, occurring when the manner of expression obscures the feeling or idea expressed in the work of art; considered by many art critics to be a sign of decadence. mannerist, n. manneristic, adj.
2. (usu. cap.) a style, developed between c.1530 and c.1590, marked by deliberate violations of earlier standards of painting in depicting the artists idea rather than nature by means of asymmetrical and crowded compositions, elongated and twisted figures, and emphasis upon devices like foreshortening. The style also afïected both architecture and sculpture. Mannerist, n.
1. Obsolete, an artist whose task it was to draw in red certain words or letters in manuscripts.
2. a painter of miniature pictures or portraits, as on china or ivory, characterized by fineness of detail.
a mode of expression or practice characteristic of modern times. modernist, n. modernistic, adj.
one who paints or draws in shades or tints of a single color.
a sculpture or monument made from a single large block of stone, as an Egyptian obelisk. monolithic, adj.
decoration or ornamentation in the Moorish style, distinguished by intricate tracery and bright colors. Moresque, adj.
the goal of artists who attempt to represent a subject without stylization or interpretation, and to create a mirror for natural beauty. Cf. Verism. Also called Realism . Naturalist, n. Naturalistic, adj.
a European movement of the late 18th century differing from earlier classical revivals in that it deliberately and consciously imitated antique models such as those found between 1738-56 in Herculaneum, Paestum, and Pompeii. Neo-Classicist, n. Neo-Classic, Neo-Classical, adj.
the practice of reviving Hellenism in modern art or life. Neo-Hellenist, n. Neo-Hellenistic, adj.
the art principle of de Still which represented form as horizontal and vertical lines and which excluded all colors except the primaries, black, and white.
New Realism
a term used to describe a trend away from abstract expressionism toward a subjective expressionism focusing on true-to-life forms, the factual, and easily evident forms.
a painting of a night scene, a genre particularly favored by Whistler. See also 284. MUSIC .
a person who advocates the study of the nude body or figure.
the Japanese art of paper folding. origamist, n.
1. a use of ornament for decorative purposes, especially its overuse.
2. the employment of several traditional architectural and decorative features into the design of interiors, buildings, furniture, etc., influenced by Art Deco and Art Nouveau.
ornamentist, ornamentalist
1. an artist who specializes in ornamentation.
2. a person whose work is considered to be ornament rather than art.
a short-lived development of Cubism c.1912 that attempted to enliven the original approach by subordinating the geometrical forms and using unmixed bright colors. Orphist, n.
pastelist, pastellist
an artist who specializes in the use of pastels.
a painter of landscapes.
the art of carving or sculpting in cork.
a picture gallery or place where paintings are kept.
the theory or creation of plastic art.
the practice of painting in the open air to obtain effects of light and atmosphere not possible in a studio, plein-air, adj.
a style of the late 19th century based upon some Impressionist techniques and the application of scientific theories of the process of vision; begun by Seurat, who gave it the name Divisionism, it consists of using dots of unmixed color side by side so that the viewers eye may mix them into the appropriate intermediate color. Also called Neo-Impressionism. Pointillist, n. Pointillistic, adj.
the art of using many or various colors in painting, architecture, etc. polychromie, polychromatic, adj. polychromatist, n.
a work of art, as a painting, composed of several panels.
Pop Art
British and American art movement of the 1960s which explored antitraditional and often antiesthetic means to present everyday objects and events.
an artist who paints portraits.
1. the process or art of painting portraits.
2. the portrait itself.
3. portraits collectively.
a late 19th-century reaction to Impressionism, emphasizing on one hand the emotional aspect of painting and on the other a return to formal structure; the first led to Expressionism; the second, to Cubism. Post-Impressionist, n.
the principles of the 19th-century artists and writers who sought to restore the principles and practices thought to be characteristic of Italian art before Raphael. Pre-Raphaelite, n., adj.
a deliberate affection or triviality of expression in art or literature.
1. the self-conscious return, for inspiration, to the archaic forms produced by non-Western cultures.
2. the practice of painting in a way alien to academic or traditional techniques, often displaying a highly individual naiveté in interpretation and treatment of subjects. Cf. archaism. primitivist, n. primitivistic, adj.
the imitative use of classicism in art and literature, especially shown during the 18th century. pseudo-classic, adj. pseudo-classical, adj.
strict adherence to particular concepts, rules, or ideals of form, style, etc., either as formulated by the artist or as dictated by a school with which the artist is allied. See also 104. CRITICISM ; 236. LANGUAGE . purist, n., adj.
the art or process of burning designs on wood or leather, using heated tools. Also called pyrogravure. pyrographer, n. pyrographic, adj.
the art of fifteenth-century Italy. quattrocentist, n., adj.
1. Naturalism.
2. a movement in the late 19th century stressing common rather than individual characteristics as the basis of reality. Cf. Verism. Realist, n .
the practice of creating recognizable figures, objects, and natural forms in art. Cf. Abstractism.
rhypography, rhyparography
still-life or genre painting, especially of trivial or sordid and unsuitable subjects.
Often Derogatory. an artistic and literary style, developed from the baroque, characterized by complex and elaborate ornamentation. rococo, adj.
the reflection, in art, of a late 18th-century literary and philosophical movement in reaction against the intellectuality and rationality of Neo-Classicism. It produced no single artistic style or characteristic but strongly influenced the ideals of imagination, emotion, and the freedom of expression in other media. Romanticist, n.
something characteristic of or influenced by Russia, its people, customs, language, etc.
the act of shocking or intent to shock, especially through the media; the practice of using startling but superficial effects, in art, literature, etc., to gain attention. See also 249. LITERATURE ; 265. MEDIA . sensationalist, n.
the procedure of making prints through the silk-screen process. serigrapher, n.
socialist realism
a Marxist-inspired artistic and literary theory or doctrine that calls on art and literature to promote the socialist cause and sees the artist, writer, etc. as a servant of the state or, in the words of Stalin, the engineer of human souls.
1. statues collectively or a group of statues.
2. the art of making statues. statuary, adj.
the process of making stereochromes, pictures produced with water glass as a vehicle or preservative coating. Also called waterglass painting. stereochromic, stereochromatic adj.
the study of particular styles, as in art, literature, etc.
Surrealism, Superrealism
a controversial movement in art and literature between the two World Wars in which the artist attempted to portray, express, or interpret the workings of the subconscious mind; in painting it found expression in two techniques, the naturalistic (Dali) and the abstract (Miró). Surrealist, n. Surrealistic, adj.
an American movement, founded in 1913, based upon Abstractism in unmixed color, usually involving disklike forms. synchronist, n. synchronistic, adj.
Tachism, Tachisme
a movement of the early 1950s which claimed to be in revolt against both Abstractism and naturalism, taking its name from patches of color (Fr. taches ) placed on canvas spontaneously and by chance, the result being considered an emotional projection rather than an expression or a symbol. Cf. Abstract Expressionism. Tachist, Tachiste, n.
a painter who pays special attention to qualities of tone or tint in his work. See also 284. MUSIC .
Rare. the study of the art of toreutics.
the art of ivory- and metalworking, especially relief work, embossing, and chasing. toreutic, adj.
the condition of being beyond the norm of modern. ultra-modernist, n. ultramodernistic, adj.
a naturalistic approach, especially in portraiture, in which every wrinkle and flaw of the subject is faithfully reproduced; extreme realism. Cf. Naturalism, Realism. Verist, n. Veristic, adj.
an art movement in England in 1914-15 stimulated by Futurism and by the idea that all artistic creation must begin in a state of strong emotion; its products, intended to establish a form characteristic of the industrial age, tend to use angular, machinelike shapes. Vorticist, n.

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Visual Arts

Visual Arts









Art comes from the Latin word ars, meaning skill, thus the term visual arts describes those skills that are visible to the human eye, including drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, graphic art, decoration, and later photography and film. The visual arts are the expression of human creativity, a visualization of the way we see life and the world around us. Standing midway between what is perceived and what is believed, they stem from a need to make sense of human existence and explain it, both internally and externally.

One of the earliest forms of communication, the visual arts form a language through which humans speak about the world. This language is tempered by the society from which it springs, conditioned by its beliefs, its rituals, and its social codes. Pablo Picassos painting Guernica (1937), for example, can be fully understood only when related to the environment of the Spanish civil war (1936-1939). Likewise, every work of art has to be rooted in its own context, which is what gives it shape, function, and relevanceonly then is it truly alive. During World War II (1939-1945) a Nazi officer showed Picasso a reproduction and asked, Is it you who did that? Picasso is said to have replied, No, it is you.


It is believed that the history of the visual arts begins with sculpture, the creation of a three-dimensional form. One of the earliest examples was the Lion-Human of Hohlenstein-Stadel, Germany (c. 30,000 BCE), a fantastic form carved from mammoth ivory. Half human and half beast, it marks the meeting of external reality with internal reality, and it is at this juncture that visual art occurs.

The decorative arts have always served both an ornamental and a functional purpose. Originating with the daubing of the body, it was an impulse that led to the fashioning of jewelry, pottery, glassware, textiles, and furniture. By 7000 BCE ceramic ware was already in use, and as decoration became more skilled and sophisticated different types of materials were adopted to create all kinds of objects. One of the most skilled and intricate early pieces was the Great Lyre from Mesopotamia (c. 2550-2400 BCE), which was created in the form of a bulls head. Combining gold, silver, lapis, shell, and wood, it was both functional and beautiful.

Some of the most important elements of the visual arts are drawing, the creation of an image, and painting, the application of color to a surface. At Chauvet, in southwestern France, there are caves full of early drawings and paintings of animals (dating from 25,000 to 17,000 BCE). A visual expression of the world in which early humans lived, these pictures depict the beasts that were hunted and worshipped, and whose bones provided tools and weapons. Located far away from the living area, in the darkest part of the caves, these paintings evidently had a ritual and symbolic purpose. It is clear that both images and pictures were once things of power and that art itself played an important role in the everyday struggle of living; only today has it been relegated to a purely aesthetic role.

Beginning with the cave, architecturethe enclosure of spacesalso dates back to prehistoric times. As skills developed and resources increased, architecture became a statement about religion, power, and spectacle. The giant pyramids of Giza (c. 2601-2515 BCE) were the forerunners of todays skyscrapers. Soaring toward the heavens, they proclaimed the divine status of the pharaohs and glorified the wealth, prestige, and stability of Egypts rulers. At 792 feet high, the Woolworth Building in New York (1911-1913) is almost twice the height of the tallest pyramid, yet the message it sends out is much the same. Built not from brick, but from steel, glass, and concrete, like the pyramid, it dominates the skyline. Imposing a sense of order and control, it proclaimed the supremacy of the United States as the richest, most powerful, and most technologically advanced society on Earth.

Despite its importance, advanced or sophisticated technology was not an essential requirement for artistic achievement. Fewer resources did not mean lesser skill. Although they did not use iron or steel, the Moche people of ancient Peru (200 BCE600 CE) were exceptional potters and metalworkers. The Moche potters were renowned for making vessels in the form of human heads. Many of these heads are strikingly true to nature, and they show a mastery of the human face.

This highlights the fact that the development of the visual arts is not primarily a story of technical progress but a story of changing ideas. Each culture had its own idea of the world. This was embodied in images and structures that were far more potent than words could ever be.

For a long time art reflected the domination of knowledge over vision. Based not on what artists could see at any given time, it was conditioned by what they knew was there. It was the Greeks who first began to use their eyes, as their sculptors, artists, and craftsmen began to rely more and more on what they could see, feeling free to represent nature and the human body the way they saw it. This transition from knowledge to the visual marked the beginning of innovation.

In Europe, it was during the Italian Renaissance (fourteenth through seventeenth centuries) that the visual arts really began to mirror a fragment of the real world. The adoption of scientific perspective, the knowledge of anatomy, and the rediscovery of the inheritance of Greece and Rome added to the armory of artists, helping them master the portrayal of nature and enabling them to represent the world around them. Led by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), artists began to explore the visible world, experimenting and searching nature as a means of deepening their understanding.


In China principles of theory and aesthetics were formulated as early as 500 CE by the scholar Xie He (500c. 536). The emperor himself practiced painting, and schools were developed where art was taught as a subject. The first academy was established at the Song court in the early thirteenth century. The visual arts were thus placed on the same footing as the literary arts, and painters finally achieved a status equal to that of court officials.

The idea of art for arts sake was also well established in China, and a distinction was made between amateurs and professionals, between those who worked for money and those for whom personal expression mattered most. This philosophy was first articulated by Ni Zan (1301-1374), one of the most famous painters of the Yuan dynasty, who was the first to assert the independence of the artist: What I call painting does not exceed the joy of careless sketching with a brush. I do not seek formal likeness but do it simply for my own amusement (Bush and Shih 1985, p. 266).


Artists had always worked for patrons and institutions who specified what they wanted and rewarded the artist accordingly. In eighteenth-century Europe the initiation of regular exhibitions where artists sold their work completely changed the traditional pattern. Instead of working for patrons, artists now relied on exhibitions to sell their work, appealing to critics, connoisseurs, and the general public. Artists could now go their own way and make their own choices.

In Mayan society (350 BCE900 CE) artists had enjoyed high status because of their ability to record, and for most of its history the visual arts had played an essential role in supporting the status quo. Around 1840 the discovery of photography transformed the artists position. Photography, the process of making pictures through the action of light, liberated the arts from the propagandist role that they had to play. There was now no need for painting to perform a task that a mechanical device could do far more effectively, and the camera took over as the principle means of recording, leaving artists free to criticize, comment, and give voice to their conscience and their creativity.

As a rule patrons and patronage systems did not encourage criticism of the existing social order. In societies such as Soviet Russia (1917-1991), where the state was supreme, the arts were run by government organizations, and artistic freedom was curtailed in order to promote the new social order. Patronage and the status quo also played a critical role in freer, more democratic societies. In 1932 the Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was commissioned to paint a fresco for the Rockefeller Center in New York, one of the most ambitious urban designs of the century. Rivera, however, included a portrait of Vladimir Lenin, leading John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) to cancel the commission and have the unfinished mural destroyed.


The advent of the Industrial Revolution had a profound impact on the decorative arts. The workshop gave way to the factory, while craftspersons and their individual skills succumbed to the machine and mass production. During the twentieth century, movements such as the Bauhaus (1919-1933) in Germany did their best to combat the effects of this trend. Combining the schools of art and craft, Bauhaus revived the creation of unique handmade objects. In an age driven by technology, the effect of these developments has been to place a premium on cost and time. This has made the possession of a handmade object even more desirable and even more exclusive than ever before.

As the expression of a living society, the nature of art was very closely tied to its material context. Economics often defined what artists could do, what they aspired to do, and the way in which their work was received. Centralization, urbanization, political stability, and control of resources were all key factors in this equation.

In Japan the growth of peace and prosperity during the Edo period (1603-1867 CE) fostered a vibrant cultural atmosphere. Literacy was widespread and the demand for art was so extensive that it could no longer be confined to a single group of patrons. This demand found its outlet in the affordable new medium of woodblock prints, which become the most popular art form of the day. Known as ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world), they were filled with everyday subjects, reflecting the lives of the people who bought them. The two most famous series, Utagawa Hiroshiges Fifty-three stages of the Tokaido (1833) and Katsushika Hokusais Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (c. 1826-1833), became the most popular sets of graphic art ever printed.


A striking characteristic of the visual arts is the way it often accompanies momentous changes in politics, economics, and science. The upheaval of the twentieth century led to revolutionary developments in art and culture. Photography had compelled artists to explore areas where the camera could not go, encouraging them to discard convention and experiment. Like the scientists who discovered penicillin and atomic power, and the inventors who created the telephone, the car, the airplane, and the computer, artists too committed themselves to a process of experimentation and discovery. As they did so, they questioned the nature of art itself.

Led by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), and then Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963), artists deliberately abandoned the previous attitudes toward accurate representation. It was no longer important to represent what people see; humankind had gained such mastery over the appearance of reality that the only way forward lay in abstraction and nonrepresentation, the reality behind realism.

Visual art now aspired to create something more relevant, more meaningful, and more lasting than a copy of an object or a depiction of nature. In this cause new techniques and materials were adopted that resulted in the breakdown of the distinctions between art and everyday life. This search led to a new feeling for the arts of Africa, Australasia, and America, where art was charged with an almost magical power and had a living function in society.


In Nigeria, the Yoruba people still believe that a parents love can reach a dead child through the medium of art. Nigeria has one of the highest rates of twin births in the world; when a Yoruba twin dies, a wooden image, ere ibeji, is carved and kept in the house by the parents. A symbol of hope for the future, the image is bathed and fed in the hope that the dead twin will bring the parents good luck. Described as folk practice, many of these art forms were the product of a community with a shared view of the world and a shared way of life. Rooted in tradition and less open to change, this art did not question but merely reflected the values of its society.

Folk art or practice was distinct from what was called high culture, a term that implies a more rarified culture with a greater level of luxury and sophistication and perhaps a different kind of patronage. Fostered by the state and the ruling elite for its own enjoyment, it also served to display power and glory. Unlike folk culture, high culture was not static or tied to tradition. Based on knowledge, experience, and understanding, it was, like art during the Italian Renaissance, in a constant state of evolution. This capacity to grow made it capable of change, and it was able to explore new issues and to question and break barriers. As the product of a community, many forms of folk art did not have a single author. High culture in contrast was often the product of individual discovery and endeavor. However this apparent difference may have been more the result of poor records and historiographic bias. What we do know is that the high art of Renaissance Italy was the result of individual genius, the work of such men as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo (1475-1564), and Raphael (1483-1520), and as such its many forms were different and distinctive. The ceilings of the Sistine Chapel (1508-1512) in Rome, for example, would not have been painted in the same fashion by any artist other than Michelangelo.


The social impact of the visual arts is best summed up through the metaphor of film, the art of the motion picture. The youngest of the arts, the motion picture represents the logical development of everything that has come before. It was produced by recording a series of images with cameras and then showing them in rapid succession, thus giving an illusion of motion. Since the first commercial motion picture was made in 1898, the addition of sound and then color have made film arguably the most potent and popular art form of all. More so than other visual arts, it has an almost universal power of communication, possessing an ability to entertain, educate, enlighten, and inspire across countries and cultures.

Through film, culture has become truly global. Today the Coca-Cola logo is recognizable the world over in numerous languages. The visual arts are no longer indigenousthe product of one particular culture or experience. A universal language has become or is in the process of becoming a universal experience.

SEE ALSO Aesthetics; Cultural Relativism; Culture; Culture, Low and High; Distinctions, Social and Cultural; Film Industry


Bush, Susan, and Hsio-yen Shih, eds. 1985. Early Chinese Texts on Painting. Cambridge, MA: Published for the Harvard-Yenching Institute by Harvard University Press.

Gombrich, E. H. 1984. The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art. Oxford: Phaidon Press.

Gombrich, E. H. 1995. The Story of Art. 16th ed. London: Phaidon Press.

Honour, Hugh, and John Fleming. 2006. The Visual Arts: A History. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Hughes, Robert. 1991. The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change. Rev. ed. London: Thames and Hudson.

Stokstad, Marilyn. 2005. Art History. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda

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Art in the Middle East encompasses a broad range of cultural traditions and artistic ideologies.

The visual arts play an important role in cultural and political processes in the contemporary Middle East. The importance of visual art's relationship to politics and culture is largely due to how deeply embedded traditional art forms are, the tenuous relationship between figural art and Islamic theology, the ongoing entanglement between Western and Middle Eastern modern arts dating back to the colonial period, and significant governmental interest in the visual arts as an expression of political ideologies or cultural achievement. Most importantly, historical and contemporary arts together define concepts of local identity (e.g., national, religious, class) in relation to regional and global political and economic forces.

Since the nineteenth century, the visual arts have been produced in relationship to several historical and contemporary trends, which highlight the particular connections between art, culture, and politics in the region. First, artists, critics, collectors, and arts administrators have engaged with the styles, media, and ideologies of modern art from Europe, the Eastern bloc countries, and the United States. Beginning in the colonial period, Western European artists and teachers brought Western concepts, techniques, and styles of modern art to the Middle East. They were often instrumental in setting up arts institutions and East/West cultural hierarchies. Between the 1950s and 1970s, the Eastern bloc, with its socialist realism, replaced Western Europe as the main source of external cultural engagement, particularly in countries like Iraq and Egypt. Since at least the 1980s, classical and avant-garde Western European trends and cultural exchanges have again become influential, particularly with the advent of Western interest in opening up the canon of modern art to non-Westerners. In Egypt, Lebanon, and Israel especially, one finds intensified interest in American art forms, but in many cases this is complicated by dissatisfaction with American foreign policy.

The second major factor that has influenced the production of visual arts since the nineteenth century is recognition of the artistic achievements of the past, especially historical Islamic art, Pharaonic art, Assyrian art, and Phoenician art. Artworks from these traditions are seen not only as aesthetic accomplishments but also as emblems of a time when Middle Eastern countries were at the height of their political, economic, and cultural development. In many cases, these historical artworks have been incorporated into nationalism as artistic traditions, or

into broader ideologies of Arab or religious identity.

The same is true for folk arts and crafts, a third major influence on the production of modern art. Objects made by peasants or craftspeople, and the visual styles they developed, have also been made part of national canons and been used by modern artists seeking to legitimate themselves as part of local collectivities rather than elites who imitate the Westa common charge in the Arab world.

It would be a mistake to characterize this blending of historical and contemporary artistic trends as the degraded by-product of Western cultural imperialism, industrialization, socialist propaganda, or nationalist elitism. Rather, the arts of the Middle East (like arts everywhere) have always developed in relationship to cultural and political trends from within the region and to relationships between the region and the outside world. The situation of the visual arts in the Middle East is complicated by the Western modernist notion of the strict separation and hierarchical ranking of fine art over craft or applied arta separation which was introduced to the Middle East through the colonial encounter. It is further complicated by the history of European orientalist painting, which is criticized by many Middle Eastern and Western scholars for stereotypical portrayals of the Orient that assisted colonialism, but which greatly influenced the development of national subjects and styles within the Middle East itself.

Further complicating the situation of the visual arts is the unresolved debate over the acceptability of representational painting and sculpting (taswir) in Islam. Condemned as idolatrous by traditional theologians, works of art depicting people and animals nevertheless flourished from earliest Islamic times, especially under royal patronage. The efforts of some modern theological commentators to reinterpret or eliminate the theological ban on taswir through a revisionist view of the important hadith on the subject seem to have had an influence on the acceptance of such art among most Middle Eastern artists with the exception of many in the Gulf countries and in Iran, where there has been strict censorship of public art by the clerical regime. For the general population, the increasing acceptance of taswir owes much to the influence of television, film, and advertising, which provide public images that are highly figural, pervasive, and popular. Still, conventional Islamic mores concerning the image, and particularly the nude figure, still shape the choices that artists, curators, and collectors make, and are most noticeable in art education curricula.

All these factors have shaped the art worlds of Middle Eastern countries. In general, artistic production and the processes of evaluation, patronage, and consumption of the arts have been most marked by struggles to define cultural, national, and religious identity in relation to two poles: on the one hand, the achievements of historical art traditions and contemporary crafts, which are endangered by industrialization, and on the other, the influence and hegemony of Western modern art.

Arts Institutions

Arts institutions, including art colleges, museums, and galleries, exist in all Middle Eastern countries. While some date back to the colonial period, such as the first College of Fine Arts in the Arab world (Cairo, 1908), most were formed in the post-Independence period of nation-building. The 1990s also witnessed a growth in the number of arts institutions in both the public and private sectors. During this period, many private galleries opened in Cairo and Beirut, especially. Middle Eastern countries now have national collections, many housed in notable museums of national modern art, such as the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art in Cairo, the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, and the Sur-sock Museum in Beirut. Many works from the Iraqi National Collection were destroyed during the 2003 war.

Artistic Trends

These specifics of modern Middle Eastern cultural production have produced a number of artistic trends and responses. One of the most popular trends is to take the spirit, principles, or forms (especially calligraphic and geometric) of historical Islamic art and put them into a contemporary artistic context through manipulation of form or material or by using them to address current political or cultural issues. This trend has been most influential in Jordan, Palestine, the Maghrib, the Gulf, and Iran. The creation of what has been called modern Islamic art challenges the common notion that Islamic art declined in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a direct result of the influence of Western techniques and styles. The changing economics of patronage, particularly after 1700, were the primary cause of the dramatic changes in Islamic art in the modern period. The talk of decline, it may be argued, comes from nostalgia for a pre-modern Muslim past. Not satisfied with being kept out of modernity, Muslim critics have engaged in significant attempts to develop Islamic aesthetic theories, and artists have produced some of the most original interpretations of the history of Islamic art. For example, calligraphythe most distinctive, pervasive, and religiously embedded Islamic art formhas, due to the printing press, been less important in the media of pen and paper but has found expression in a host of new media, from oil on canvas and silk screen to neon-filled glass tubing and polymer or stone sculpture. In another example, geometric and vegetal arabesque forms, as well as the classic muqarnas architectural device (a honeycomb or stalactite vault), have been manipulated in new ways, often in combination with European or American abstraction devices. This innovation has occurred in both two- and three-dimensional art, including installation art. Faced with some resistance among those who see abstract art as an imitation of Western excesses, some art theorists have argued that abstraction actually originated in Islam (with its opposition to the image), and they have delved into the history of Islamic art theory in order to reinvigorate it. Sufi philosophy and practice, with its emphasis on experimentation and altered consciousness, has also been inspirational for many artists in the Middle East, although it is worth mentioning that Christian, and sometimes Muslim, artists also use traditional Christian motifs in their work. This is most apparent in Egypt, where Coptic history has been incorporated into the national artistic patrimony.

The most widespread trend among contemporary Middle Eastern artists is the visual search for and expression of cultural identity, which is usually defined in national terms but can also be formulated as Arab, Mediterranean, Mesopotamian, Maghribi, Kurdish, Berber, Nubian, Persian, Turkish, or a combination of any of these, depending on the context. The central importance of cultural identity in contemporary Middle Eastern art is related to several factors: the rich artistic sources found in the historical arts and in contemporary folklores, landscapes, and local materials (e.g., certain kinds of stone, plant dyes, found artifacts, local consumer goods, and industrial objects); the incorporation, through modern nationalist projects, of these sources into national traditions; state, local elite, and Western patronage, all searching for visual representations of cultural uniqueness; the anxiety, produced through colonialism, over Western influence and the desire to protect and develop what are seen as more authentic local traditions; and, often, secular artists' desires to create a nonreligious cultural identity through art. The art of cultural identity is found in most countries of the region and is especially dominant in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia, and Turkey. In Egypt, Iraq, and Turkey, in particular, it has had tremendous support from the secularist regimes. The most common themes in this trend are pastoral landscapes, premodern urban and rural architecture, peasants (especially rural women), the popular (shaʿbi) urban classes, ancient civilizations (e.g., Pharaonic, Phoenician, Assyrian), and images from folk art. Popular styles include figurative primitivism and semi-impressionist realism in both painting and sculpture. Younger generations of artists in the Middle East, however, are engaging in their own searches for cultural identity, which sometimes draw on the past, the rural, and the folk but also try to account for the contemporary changes engulfing the region, particularly those related to consumer capitalism, technological globalization, and war and violence. They often explore their shifting, yet usually rooted, cultural identity in newer media, such as installation art, video art, and performance. Sometimes this art takes a completely conceptual and abstract, rather than literal and figurative, form.

Another major trend is the use of avant-garde media, styles, and art theory to launch critiques against the West or Israel and, less often, the artists' own governments. Many of these artists are concerned with such issues as the inequality of capitalist globalization, conspicuous consumerism, threats to morality (defined broadly) or cultural integrity, the oppression or commoditization of women, and violence.

Consumption and Patronage

Many governments of the region have put significant resources into supporting and reinvigorating traditional crafts, and into restoring historical monuments and architecture. These projects have often been connected to tourism planning, and to educating the population about the national artistic patrimony. Governmental and private sector attempts to market modern art to tourists, foreign curators, or the local population have been less successful for two primary reasons. First, foreigners often come to the region looking for objects that unambiguously reflect their preconception of a unique traditional culture, and modern artparticularly in its more experimental formsdoes not fit these expectations easily. Second, the general population is often alienated by modern art forms and the institutions that display them.

That said, there has been a continuous growth in the consumption and patronage of contemporary art in several countries since 1985, which is due to several factors. One of the most important is the growth of capitalism and the effects of globalization generally, engendering increased exposure to contemporary avant-garde art from the United States and Europe and producing (in many countries) a local class of nouveaux riches (many of them under the age of forty-five) who are eager to support modern art and, it could be argued, display their cultural capital by purchasing it. These forces have also brought Western curators to the Middle East in unprecedented numbers. Having opened their canons to non-Western modern art, many of them are interested in finding Middle Eastern artists who challenge stereotypes of the regionparticularly its women (though not its men). These Europeans and Americans have increased Western exposure to Middle Eastern art and artists, though sometimes their tactics have been criticized by local artists and governments. Not only do anxieties about Western influence and the effects of the colonial encounter still exist, in many cases they are heightened by the globalization of Middle Eastern art. A final factor contributing to increasing support for modern art is the attempt by government to raise the international status of the nation by developing the arts of the country and encouraging artistic expression as a counterweight to the rise of radical Islamism. In several countries, the state has become the primary collector of modern art as a result.

A major consequence of these global shifts has been the development of a significant body of art produced by the Middle Eastern diaspora in Europe and the United States. The themes of cultural identity, memory, political critique, and especially gender have been the most prominent.

see also ali, wijdan; attar, suad al-; baya; caland, huguette; efflatoun, inji; faraj, maysaloun; ghoussoub, mai; hatoum, mona; ishaaq, kamala ibrahim; jacir, emily; kadri, mufide; karnouk, liliane; khal, helen; khemir, sabiha; neshat, shirin; niati, houria; saudi, mona; shawa, laila; sidera, zineb; sirry, gazbia; tallal, chaibia; umar, madiha; zeid, fahralnissa.


Ali, Wijdan. Modern Islamic Art: Development and Continuity. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997.

Karnouk, Liliane. Contemporary Egyption Art. Cairo: The American University Press, 1995.

Lloyd, Fran, ed. Contemporary Arab Women's Art: Dialogues of the Present. London: WAL, 1999.

Lloyd, Fran, ed. Displacement and Difference: Contemporary Arab Visual Culture in the Diaspora. London: Saffron Books, 2001.

Nashashibi, Salwa Makdisi, ed. Forces of Change: Artists of the Arab World. Lafayette, CA: International Council for Women in the Arts, 1994.

Tawadros, Gilane, and Campbell, Sarah. Faultlines: Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes. London: inIVA, 2003.

Zuhur, Sherifa, ed. Images of Enchantment: Visual and Performing Arts of the Middle East. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1998.

Walter Denny

Updated by Jessica Winegar

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Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Death has always been a patron of the arts. How else would humankind know about the superb arts of King Tutankhamen's ancient Egyptian era if it were not for the exquisite glittering painted and sculpted masterpieces found in his tomb? Likewise, human culture would know little about early Asian sculpture and gilded adornments if it were not for the glowing artifacts found in the burial halls of the emperors of China. These art objects are symbolic translations of human thought and experience of past millennia and offer concrete evidence of those predecessors' beliefs about death and how they grieved.

Humankind has always turned to its earliest childhood memories when selecting a memorial for a loved one. As the visionary scholar Marshall McLuhan wrote in the 1960s, most people move into the future "looking through a rear-view mirror" (1997, p. 12). Artists, on the other hand, tap into a wavelength of the future. No illustration serves better to document the contrast than the creations of the Impressionist painters such as Paul Cézanne (1839), Claude Monet (1946), Berthe Morisot (1841), and Paul Renoir (1839), and the sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848) and Auguste Rodin (1846). Although all of these artists were born in the early Victorian era, their compatriots were commissioning life-sized copies of sculptures and paintings created during the ancient Roman empire for their homes, public buildings, and memorials, as late as the early 1900s.

It takes a cataclysm to change the public's concept of appropriate new lifestyles as well as funerary art. Such a cataclysm rolled over Western consciousness in the aftermath of World War I, with its often futile destruction of a generation's most promising youth. It changed life irrevocably and forced public acceptance of a Weltanschauung, a new worldview, discovering the Impressionist art that had been there all the time.

The way humans face impending death and mourn losses induces the trauma that destroys thought. The poet W. H. Auden, grief-stricken by the death of the Irish playwright William Butler Yeats, compared his sense of desolation to the brutal weather: "He disappeared in the dead of winter / The brooks were frozen / and snow disfigured the public statues / the mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day / The day of his death was a dark, cold day" (1945, pp. 4853). It is the artists who can give words and images to human devastation. Hopes, fears, and questions are invisible until they can be concretized into potent symbolic translations. Conferring posthumous fame on his friend and fellow artist, Auden is able to see beyond the physical decay and putrefaction of biological death: "Earth, receive an honored guest; / William Yeats is laid to rest; Let the Irish vessel lie / emptied of its poetry" (Bertman 1991, p. 35). It is through the transmission by artists into potent symbolic translations that humankind's inner realities can be communicated and understood.

Religious and Cultural Influences

Human expression of the symbols of death is influenced by the religious and cultural milieu of the times. The Old Testament provides evidence that marking gravesites is an age-old tradition, as Genesis 35:7 reads, "And Rachel died in childbirth. Joseph set up a pillar on her grave while on the way to Ephreth." In 2001 an illustrated article in Biblical Archaeology Review, titled "Standing Stones in the Desert," indicates the kind of "pillar" that might have graced Rachel's grave created by pre-Israelite nomadic tribes in the arid desert of the Sinai. The more artistically sophisticated ancient Egyptians created professionally sculpted markers, such as the example of a stela for Mani-Nakhtuf and son (c. 1200 B.C.E.), which tries to guarantee these ancestors eternal life by "Praising the Moon, Thoth, Bowing down to the stars of heaven . . ." The ancient Romans of the first century Alexandria, influenced by Egyptian customs, painted sweet and accurate portraits of those they loved on the shroud wrappings in which they were buried.

In his historically comprehensive book The Hour of Our Death (1981), Philippe Ariès brings readers to the beginning of Western culture and the iconography with which they are more familiar. He writes, "the Christians of the first millennia believed that the end of time was that of the glorified Christ as he rose to heaven as he sat on a throne ... with a rainbow around it" reminding his audience of these words made real in the magnificently reverent sculptures on Chartres Cathedral in France (Ariès 1981, p. 97). The same devotedly held faith is illustrated in The Goodman on His Death, a woodcut from the fifteenth century, reminding the pious that they need not fear damnation. It implies, as well, that righteous believers would be resurrected at the time of their Lord's Second Coming.

The more successful medieval families were positive that their souls would be immediately translated at the moment of that miraculous event because their position in life guaranteed a last resting place within the confines of a holy church. Just to make sure their rank was recognized, they reproduced their imposing status, in full regalia, in portraits sculpted in brass on their tombs. There were, of course, other concepts of sanctity. Puritans in England and in America saw death as a very grim reaper indeed. Their religion was full of warnings about the perils of hell, and very little about the blessings of heaven. The Americans commissioned their self-taught New World memorial carvers to recreate, on their tombstones, the ghastly skeletons rising from the biers that still frighten so many visitors of Great Britain's old cathedrals. They also had them inscribe on those old markers the frightening warning, "Death is a debt to nature due, which I have paid and so must you."

For a minimally educated population, a dictionary of images was etched into these stones. Images include down-pointed arrows (the dart of death), a descending dove, which represented the holy ghost, a snake with its tail in its mouth representing eternity, broken flowers representing a child's death, and a trumpeting angel, a more optimistic prediction of the resurrection of the soul. Co-existing with these grim conservatives, a milder, Protestant vision of life and death was portrayed by chubby angels who would surely carry the soul to heaven. This conception finally superseded its hell-ridden predecessors.

By the Victorian period, death had become an even more gentle visitor, demonstrated by marble creations of kinder, mostly female, angels who transported the soul to a divine paradise. And since, at that time, Americans decided that the republic duplicated the ancient Greek and Roman governments, sculptors were ordered to copy the urns and palls that graced the newly discovered Greco-Roman tombs. Only little children escaped these classical allusionsthey were often represented as little lambs on little stones or full round figures of sleeping babies. Victorians also placed marble reproductions of these dormant infants in their parlors for remembrance. The practice of photographing deceased children, often as if they were sleeping and almost always surrounded by flowers, religious symbols, and special toys is as old as photography itself and suggests that remembrance photographs were important, valuable sources of solace for grieving families.

The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries As a Turning Point

When nineteenth-century excavators discovered the riches in Egyptian tombs, the fashion in home furnishings and memorials changed almost overnight. The Victorians duplicated the divans found in the pyramids for their parlors, and a forest of four-sided pointed structures arose in graveyards, nestled among the urns and palls of their predecessors. In the nineteenth century carvings of pet dogs, pairs of slippers, favorite chairs, books, and tools of the trades, such as fireman's hats and hoses, appeared on memorials.

Victorian artists did not discriminate against commissions for cemetery sculpture. Interested parties are just as likely to find a statue by Daniel Chester French in a cemetery as they are to stand in awe of his massive Lincoln in the capital in Washington. Though twenty-first-century fine artists rarely create memorials, they have continued to express their personal grief and cultural angst in their own work.

The wrenching images in Kathe Kollwitz's woodcut etchings express the conditions of German life after World War I. For an unforgettable demonstration of an artist's despair at humankind's inhumanity to fellow humans, one can stand, appalled before Picasso's Guernica, as a memorial to the martyred citizens of those victims of war. As Christina Schlesinger writes in Grief and the Healing Arts (1999), "Artists, poets, and painters are a natural resource for developing strategies of mourning. . . . [they] shape inarticulate feelings and bridge the gap between inner confusion and outer resolution" (p. 202).

In the twentieth century society has decided to curb ostentation and conspicuous displays of grief. Memorials no longer resemble the overblown sculptured pylons of the past, and instead, even for the most prominent, they resemble nothing so much as a bronze rectangular serving platter, containing only the name and death dates of the person remembered. There are notable exceptions the stark Vietnam memorial in Washington, which has become a universally accepted icon of grief for a generation's lost youth, and the artists' cemetery at Green River in Long Island, New York, where the great painters, writers, and musicians of the 1930s are interred, such as Jackson Pollock, Joseph Liebman, and Lee Krasner. Harkening back to the massebah (sacred standing stones) mentioned in the Bible and in other ancient literature is the Alphabet Garden, 2000, a permanent memorial in Grafeneck, Germany, commemorating the victims of Hitler's 1940 "euthanasia experiments" that took place in that city. The sculptor Diane Samuels has inscribed in German a stone large enough to sit upon and reflect, "Please take my letters and form them into prayers." Other tiny stones nearby, are inscribed simply with letters X and A. Perhaps these representations of a bygone loss prove how much human beings have always needed a physical object only an artist can imagine into being. How similar are Joseph's millennia old pillar and the sinister ebony memorial to Holocaust victims displayed at the end of the film Schindler's List (1993).

On a road not imagined by McLuhan, grieving families and friends are setting up multipaged, illustrated dedicatory essays to the deceased on the Internet. An interest in death has also sprung up in the United States on web sites entitled Find-a-Grave, or mounted by historic cemeteries, such as Mt. Auburn in Boston and the National Trust for Historical Preservation. Working men and women have become proud enough of their livelihoods to commission stones that celebrate their labor as the carved ten-wheel vehicle commemorates the trucker Jackie Lowell Stanley (19491984), or the speaker's podium engraved with microphones and the logo of their first book No Fear of Speaking commemorates the work of the founders of the Speech Improvement Company. In less advantaged neighborhoods, grieving families are commissioning huge spray-painted murals on the walls of buildings to commemorate deceased family members. A remarkable album of these memorials, titled R.I.P. Memorial Wall Art, was produced in 1994 by Martha Cooper and Joseph Sciorra. Surely these spontaneous gestures indicate a hunger to break with the past and express a formerly shunned display of emotion.

Future Trends

Though dying, death, grief, and mourning are hallmarks of the human condition, their shapes and images have changed through the ages to a time when perhaps even the most acute observer cannot predict how they will be demonstrated next year. Humankind will continue to look to the visionariesthe artiststo document and update their thinking. The excesses of medical technology, the dangers of managed care, and the case for euthanasia or assisted death graphically depicted in twenty- and twenty-first-century treatments of Ars Moriendi would have been unimaginable terrors to the engraver who created the peaceful closure depicted on the woodcut, "The goodman on his deathbed" (Bertman 1991, p. 17). Cartoons of the grim reaper as "the closure fairy" or standing in front of a store window displaying gardening tools deciding whether to purchase the scythe or its more costly counterpart, the mower, or captioned "A Look Ahead," lecturing on the statistics of future deaths, demonstrates the way comic art continues to flirt with death through the use of traditional imagery. Whether mourners are represented striking their heads, tearing out their hair, beating their breasts, scratching their cheeks until they bleed as they are depicted in Greek objects dating back to the early fifth century, or sewing panels for the largest ongoing community arts project in the world, the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the visual arts have enabled society to both commemorate the lives of deceased loved ones and to support the human endeavor to conceptualize, endure, and make meaning of loss, suffering, and death.

See also: Ars Moriendi; Burial Grounds; Christian Death Rites, History of; Dance; Qin Shih Huang' s Tomb; Tombs; Vietnam Veterans Memorial


Ariès, Philippe. The Hour of Our Death. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.

Auden, W. H. The Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden. New York: Random House, 1945.

Bertman, Sandra L., ed. Grief and the Healing Arts: Creativity As Therapy. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing, 1999.

Bertman, Sandra L. "Ars Moriendi: Illuminations on 'The Good Death' from the Arts and Humanities." In Joan K. Harrold and Joanne Lynn eds., A Good Dying: Shaping Health Care for the Last Months of Life. New York: Haworth Press, 1998.

Bertman, Sandra L. Facing Death: Images, Insights and Interventions. New York: Hemisphere Publishing, 1991.

Cooper, Martha, and Joseph Sciorra. R.I.P. Memorial Wall Art. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1994.

Forbes, Harriette Merrifield. Gravestones of Early New England and the Men Who Made Them, 3rd edition. Brooklyn, NY: Center for Thanatology, 1989.

Gamino, Louis. "A Study in Grief: The Life and Art of Kaethe Kollwitz." In Sandra Bertman ed., Grief and the Healing Arts: Creativity As Therapy. Amityville, NY: Baywood, 1999.

Halporn, Roberta. Lessons from the Dead: The Graveyard As a Classroom for the Teaching of the Life Cycle. Brooklyn, NY: Highly Specialized Promotions, 1979.

McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. The Medium Is the Message. New York: Random House, 1967.

Norfeet, Barbara. Looking at Death. Boston: David R. Godine, 1993.

Stillion, Judith. "Death and Grief Made Visible: The Life and Work of Edvard Munch." In Sandra Bertman ed., Grief and the Healing Arts: Creativity As Therapy. Amityville, NY: Baywood, 1999.

Internet Resources

"The AIDS Memorial Quilt. 19872001." In the Aids Memorial Quilt [web site]. Available from

"Creative and Unique Memorials." In the Monument Builders [web site]. Available from

"Standing Stones in the Desert." In the Biblical Archaeology Review [web site]. Available from


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Art. Although religions are usually studied through their words and texts, religious people live at least as much (probably more) through their non-verbal modes of expression—through ritual at least as much as through myth, through rhythm as much as through song. Beyond ritual, religious art extends the human ability to communicate through complex signsystems, locking on, especially, to the imagination of worlds and states which cannot be directly seen. Religious art is profoundly connected to the human ability to recognize and take delight in truth, beauty, and goodness. What counts as beautiful or good may differ from one religion to another (or from one age to another in any religion), but not the human ability to recognize those absolutes within the change and contingency of human circumstance. Thus religious art is extensively concerned with celebration, worship, thanks-giving, and praise. Art and prayer are connected in that, according to one artist (R. Raistick), an artist must spend ‘hour after hour looking at the one subject’, just as those who pray spend hour after hour looking at the One Subject. Above all, the demands of religious art have offered the supreme challenge and opportunity to the human ability to create—to be the creator of artefacts, to be an artist. Not surprisingly, religions have been the resource and inspiration of almost all the most enduring art and architecture throughout the whole of human history, at least until very recently; and religions (i.e. religious people or institutions) have been evocative of art through patronage on a massive scale.

Yet at the same time, each religion develops its own distinctive art, dance, architecture, and music. That is because such art cannot be detached from the entire network of ‘information’ which constitutes the characteristic nature, form, and content of each religion (obviously, the sub-systems of any religion may themselves be competitive in such a way that the very status of art may itself be contested). Thus Judaism produces synagogues, Christianity produces churches, Islam mosques, Hinduism temples, Buddhism stūpas, etc. Partly this is a function of available materials and current technology. But also (and much more), these characteristic ‘shapes’ are controlled into their outcome by the ideology (represented through signs, symbols, and icons) of the religion in question. These sign-systems provide the controlling metaphors for religious art; but then, conversely, religious art mediates those basic, controlling metaphors back into the lives of believers, transforming them into outcomes that could not otherwise occur.

Religious art does this at many different levels and in equally many different ways. At its most basic (and often most banal), religious art can be propaganda; not far beyond that, it can be exploitation (the attempt to elicit religious emotions at an immature level, what Rose Macaulay summarized as ‘bleeding hearts in convent parlours’). It can be coercive (Doré's engravings of heaven are perfunctory, of hell terrifying), it can be repetitive and dull, it can simply be illustration. But moving again beyond that, religious art can both be, and be the instrument of, a reawakening of forgotten or abandoned truths about ourselves and our possibilities: it can open eyes to a new seeing of an otherwise prosaic world. At this level, the controlling metaphors become, not restriction, but opportunity, not least because they evoke contrasted meanings. Finally, the manifestations of religious art can be epiphany: they can be what they purport to be about, the incursion of whatever it is that is true into the midst of time and space. Art is then holy rather than religious.


Jewish art is a dialectic between strong prohibitions against making images or likenesses of living creatures (Exodus 20. 4, Deuteronomy 4. 16–8, 5. 8) and the celebration of craftsmanship in the building of the Temple and its appurtenances. In general, Jewish art has focused on the synagogue and its contents, and on Torah manuscripts and Torah ornaments (e.g. the keter or crown, the rimmonim, the finials on the rollers holding the scroll). Jewish symbols reconnect with the lost temple, most recurrently through the menorah. Among other books beautifully produced, the Passover Haggadah has been the most frequent.

Synagogue architecture has seen many different styles of hall or building appropriated through the ages. Apart from the necessity to separate women from men (in Orthodox synagogues), the main requirement is to give prominence (and protection) to the Torah Scroll, and to provide a pulpit for the reading of scripture.


Beginning from simple emblems of identity and allegiance (e.g. the sign of a fish, since the Gk. for ‘fish’ is ichthus, the letters of which stand for Jesus Christ, God and Saviour) Christian art and architecture developed into the most diverse forms of expression. The representation of biblical scenes, and of the Last Judgement, were visual aids in the instruction of largely illiterate or uneducated populations. But the power inherent in such representations led directly to the development of icons—and to the eventual controversy about the extent to which, if at all, they were/are idolatrous. Mosaics (those of Ravenna being especially fine early examples) and wall-paintings were reinforced in churches by stained glass. But church buildings themselves summarized Christian truths and affirmations in their layout: thus the secular basilica, or assembly hall, was adapted to draw attention to the celebration of the eucharist, and to the role of the bishop in presiding; or again, Gothic cathedrals extended the shape to make it cruciform, and to enhance the vast and mysterious unknowability of God who can only be approached in penitence and praise. Redevelopment of Christian art simply cannot be summarized: resting frequently on a strong doctrine of creation (as also on developing systems of patronage and commissioning), it is, at its best, a deliberate extension of the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing order and beauty out of chaos and ugliness. At its worst, it is the illustration of a text, sometimes allied to the spiritual terrorization which can on occasion characterize Christian missionary zeal.


Muslim art is controlled by the prohibition on rivalling God as creator, and thus on portraying the human figure. The work of the artist or architect in Islam is limited, therefore, to the work of giving praise to Allāh, or to expressing allegiance (islam). Supremely this is seen in mosque architecture, which may be extremely simple—nothing more than a hut—or classically elegant and cool. It needs little more, internally, than the niche indicating the direction of prayer towards Mecca (mihrab; see MOSQUE) and the pulpit for the delivering of the sermon (khuṭba), and externally the minaret from which the faithful are summoned to prayer. But it calls also for the reminder of the primacy of the Qurān over life through the carving of texts from the Qurān. This, as also the writing of copies of the Qurān, led to the most distinctive of Islamic art forms, calligraphy.


Of all religions, Hinduism is most vivid in its iconography, because of its belief that the underlying source of all appearance (Brahman) is present in all appearance. Thus the work of the sculptor, etc., is to make manifest what is already there in the material, not simply to illustrate a story about the gods. They can thus produce the state of rasananda (see RASA), blissful union with the god, often regarded as the equivalent of samādhi. But the same is possible in all the arts (e.g. dance, music, drama) because there is nothing in the cosmos which is not sustained in being by Brahman. The recognition of this is equally obvious in the attention paid to the sacred orientation of space. The order made apparent in astronomy, geometry, mathematics (hence the early Hindu commitment to these arts which the West would regard as sciences) led to a mapping of that cosmic order on to space in miniature (e.g. through the maṇḍala) or in the planning of towns, but above all in the architecture of temples and shrines.

The temple is the major source and expression of Hindu art. Its shape, laid down in the śāstras, was originally a square, designed to concentrate force. Above the shrine is a tower (the śikara, a symbolic mountain), channelling the deity into the shrine and the worshipper, and radiating power upward as well. From the temple derive carving (to entice the deities or spirits), dance, the creation of manuscripts, and the decoration of textiles. The temple then reaches out into everyday life through the corresponding decoration of house and body. Thus the creation of the classical music, the rāga, is understood as the ‘building of a temple’: ‘In the improvised pieces, you start like building a temple: you lay the foundations, then gradually you build up the building, then you do the decorative things, like the painting and carving. Finally you bring out the deity, into that temple.’


Jain art is devoted mainly to the decoration of temples (sāmavasarāna, regarded as assembly halls of the jinas, not as places where God or gods are worshipped) and to reverence for the jinas. While Jain art shares much of the styles and techniques of Indian art in general, it is different in important respects. Above all (since a controlling metaphor of paramount importance for Jains is ahiṃsā), the atmosphere of Jain art is one of great peacefulness. For the same reason, materials are avoided which might involve the taking of life, e.g. clay and ivory. The main figures represented are those of the jinas, but the śāsanadevatās are also common. Also distinctive are ayagapata, small carvings, incorporating elaborate symbolism, which express devotion. They may be related to yantras and maṇḍalas.




Buddhist art, with the possible exception of Zen art (see below), did not arise from such deep theoretical considerations as did the Hindu. It arose from grateful recognition of the work of the Buddha in teaching the way to the cessation of dukkha. The Buddha is therefore represented increasingly with the marks indicating his status or his achievement of nirvāna. The elaboration of saviour-figures in Mahāyāna and Tibetan Buddhism led to an immense proliferation of sculpture and wallpainting, with extremely careful codes of iconographic symbols. The devotion of thanksgiving to the Buddha (and eventually to buddhas and bodhisattvas) led to the building of caityas and stūpas; and the formal organization of Buddhism into communities of monks (bhikṣu) required the building of accommodation in monasteries (vihāra). The development of these into large temple and monastic complexes is particularly impressive in Japan.

Chan/Zen art occupies a special place in Buddhism. Chan/Zen is a way of seeing through the superficial claims of appearance in reality, enticement, endurance, etc., to the true buddha-nature of all appearance. Zen realization, is both attained and expressed through the arts. Architecture of monasteries is thus related to environment, especially by the development of gardens leading into the natural landscape. Rock gardens, with carefully swept sand, challenge the perception of the ordinary; the tea-garden surrounded the tea-ceremony (see CHADŌ).

In addition to architecture, calligraphy is central in Chan/Zen art. Calligraphy precedes Chan in China, but it was raised to new heights by Chan practitioners, especially in the Sung period. In Japan, it was known originally as shojutsu, but later as shodō. The importance for Zen lies in the complete connection between the artist and the art: nothing serves so well to overcome the opposition between worker and work: the medium is the messenger; the connection from heart-mind, through brush and ink, to paper realizes the unity of the one buddha-nature.

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It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact of computers on the study and production of art. Not since the invention of photography has the art world been so radically transformed by a new technology.

Computers have changed methods of making art. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop, for example, can imitate the effects of watercolor, pastels, and paint through digital techniques and with greater flexibility than more traditional media such as oil or charcoal, because virtually every mark can be easily reversed or erased. Further, images produced with a program like Photoshop are much more transportable than images in traditional media because a digital image can be sent through e-mail or posted on a web site with ease.

There have been, however, some concerns about the alienating effects that such new technology might have on art and artists alike. With the production of images through traditional media such as oil paint, artists are able to leave physical marks on a surface such as canvas. Such imagery allows the presence of the artist to be recorded directly through brushstrokes or other gestures. With the mediating power of computer imagery, all artistic choices are filtered through a program. Thus the direct relationship between the artist and his or her medium is compromised. Further, with digital images certain non-visual pleasures that accompany artistic productionthe smell and feel of paint, for exampleare lost. Other changes might be architectural and environmental, as artists occupy computer labs rather than the romanticized environment of the studio.

Nevertheless, many contemporary artists enjoy the new possibilities computers offer, far beyond the intended capabilities of image-producing software. Some artists use computer parts as sculptural elements. Janet Zweig, for example, sometimes produces kinetic (moving) sculpture with computer fragments to explore the ways in which new technologies change the way one understands processes of thought. In Mind over Matter (1993), Zweig programmed a computer to generate all combinations of three sentences: "I think therefore I am" (Rene Decartes); "I am what I am" (Popeye); and "I think I can" (the little engine that could). The resulting permutations of sentences (such as "I think I can think") make it seem as if the computer truly contemplates its own existence. Further, a dot matrix printer scrolls the resulting sentences out into a hanging basket. The basket is balanced by a hanging rock that rises as the paper-filled basket slowly descends. The computer's "thoughts" thus achieve a weighty presence and seem to have an affect on the world (the rock)though not according to computers' usual methods of "working."

Other artists create web sites. Mark Napier's now canonical web site <>, for example, offers a number of digital works that comment upon the notion of waste in cyberspace. At the site, one can visit Napier's "Digital Landfill," an ever-changing site to which people can contribute e-mail messages or other computer-generated documents that they wish to delete. One can then visit Napier's site to see how this "digital" landfill changes from day to day. The work is all the more interesting when one thinks about the ways in which "waste" works in a cyber environment. One usually thinks of waste as a pile of unpleasant refuse taking up physical space on the margins of a community. In some ways this conceptualization of waste persists in cyberspace, as people delete files by moving them to the "trash can" or "cleaning up" their hard drives. But with cyberspace, the marginal location of a "landfill" changes. Because all web sites are basically equal, the junkyard is just as likely to be next door to more "pristine" sites.

Other artists use computers to produce digital photography. Jason Salavon's Top Grossing Film of All Time, 1 × 1 (2000) reduces each individual frame of the film Titanic down to one average color. Salavon then places each small frame in order from beginning to end in a rectangle. The resulting image references computer pixilation , and supposedly allows the viewer to "see" the entire movie all in one shot.

John Haddock's digital photography addresses the imagery of computer games. His Lorraine Motel (2000) shows the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as pictured according to the conventions of computer games like SimCity, and thus comments on the ways in which technology for children is intertwined with images of violence and social upheaval.

Digital images are transforming attitudes regarding the collection and exhibition of works of art. Once an image is digitally produced and posted on a web site, virtually anyone with a modem can gain access to that image and use it in whatever fashion one chooses. Images are evermore accessible, as major museums now offer web sites cataloging their collections. Some museums have adopted this development directly. The Alternative Museum, for example, once occupied a building in Manhattan's Soho district. Now it only exists in cyberspace at <>. The museum specializes in contemporary digital projects, web sites, digital photography, links to scholarly sites, and chat rooms.

This widespread distribution of images seems to democratize the art world. More people have access to images, while museums maintain less control over reproductions of images in their collections. Further, artists are increasingly producing "digital" works of art outright. Such images are not reproductions, but rather works of art in and of themselves. To download such an image from a web site is, therefore, to possess the workthus more people can gain access to "original" works (or to works that challenge the very distinction between "original" and "reproduction"). Such images may allow some to bypass institutions like galleries, auction houses, and museums that usually control traffic in art sales. These changes in the distribution and ownership of images have raised legal issues regarding copyright privileges.

Computers also facilitate art and art history research. Computerized databases such as Art Abstracts and The Bibliography of the History of Art can help a researcher locate books and articles that have been written on art in the past several decades. Another online resource, <>, can also help researchers locate information on artists, galleries, current exhibitions, and reproductions of works of art. Even more impressive, the Getty Institute of California offers one of the most complete collections of databases and other digital research facilities in all of cyberspace. Its site offers art-specific dictionaries, auction catalogs, and catalogs of archival holdings in the collection.

Such sites are only the beginning. Every day research institutes post new information on the web. Scanned primary documents, finders' aids, and more sophisticated research engines are making art history research more accessible and efficient. This process, however, is still incomplete. Although computers are tremendous tools for researching works of art, they are no replacement for physical trips to museums and research libraries.

see also Digital Images; Fashion Design; Graphic Devices.

Sarah K. Rich


Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." In Illuminations, Hannah Arendt, ed. New York: Schocken Press, 1968.

Drucker, Johanna, ed. "Digital Reflections: The Dialogue of Art and Technology." Art Journal 59, no. 4 (Winter 2000).

Druckery, Timothy, ed. Electronic Culture: Technology and Visual Representation. New York: Aperture, 1996.

Leeson, Lynn Hershman. Clicking In: Hot Links to a Digital Culture. Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1996.

Lunenfeld, Peter, ed. The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.

Schor, Mira. "Painting as Manual." Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997.

Internet Resources

J. Paul Getty Institute Databases. <>

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Visual Arts and Psychoanalysis


The visual arts make use of nonverbal representation and therefore require a different psychoanalytic approach than the language arts. The work of art can be considered as a compromise solution between impulses and defenses. Psychoanalysis can then try to reveal the unconscious ideas behind the creative work. But in the visual arts, even more so than in the language arts, it is form itself, more than the represented subject, that must be interpreted.

The first psychoanalytic text to examine the visual arts was Freud's Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood (1910c). Freud opened the way for psycho-biography by demonstrating the impact of instinctual and infantile life on the artist's creative work. In his analysis of La Gioconda and Saint Anne, he approached the analysis of formal elements: the Gioconda's enigmatic smile owes its existence to Leonardo's infantile life; the confusion of the bodies of Anne and Mary in the London drawing is said to be a form of condensation.

In 1911 Karl Abraham published an essay on Giovanni Segantini. His goal was to show that psychoanalysis can be applied to the analysis of mental processes other than neurosis. He demonstrated the role of the practice of making art in the psychic economy of the artist, the importance of infantile experience, real or imagined, and the antagonistic interplay of love and hate in the genesis of the work. Unfortunately, his analysis of the paintings themselves does not deepen the interpretation of the manifest subject of the representation.

In 1913 Otto Rank and Hanns Sachs published in Die Bedeutung der Psychoanalyse für die Geiteswissenschaften (Psychoanalysis and the humanities) a chapter on the aesthetics and psychology of art, centered on the affects of pleasure and unpleasure of the work of art. They argued that the economy of affect governs the development of the formal aspects of the work of art.

Freud published "The Moses of Michelangelo" (1914b) but did not sign it, proof of his prudence in using psychoanalysis for the interpretation of artistic phenomena. Freud based his interpretation of the statue on his own feelings. Since he identified with the subject of the representation, he understood the statue in terms of his own emotional investment, thus opening a path to an approach to artistic phenomena that was little used by later psychoanalysts, who were primarily interested in an analysis of the process of artistic creation. There were a number of important contributions to this field aside from the work of Freud: Otto Rank, Melanie Klein, Hanna Segal, Ernst Kris, Donald Winnicott, and Didier Anzieu.

Children's drawings and the work of psychotics have been used as nonverbal material, but strangely they have had little influence on the psychoanalysis of the visual arts. This field owes a great deal to the work of artists and art historians like Anton Ehrenzweig, Meyer Schapiro, Jean Clair, and René Démoris, who have made use of psychoanalytic theory. Along with the approach taken by psychobiography and interpretations of the creative process, both of which are focused on the artist, psychoanalysis can also help us understand the work of art itself, providing it can avoid using verbal language as the only source of reference. When Freud wrote that the lack of expression of the visual arts was due to the material used by those arts, he was referring to this.

The image is not only a metaphor or symbol; it signifies, through its materiality, the setting aside of its metaphoric or symbolic meaning and the context in which our perceptual field has classified it. It comes to prominence through the brilliance of its materiality as a new external perception that we nonetheless are able to recognize. For the visual arts much more than for literature, meaning is hidden in form, the result of the conscious and unconscious intentions of the author.

It is in the formal specifics of the workthat is, its stylethat the process of figuration unique to the author is found. This is what Freud called, referring to the dream work, "pictorial language," our first mode of expression. The painted or sculpted image should not be considered only the transcription of verbal thought but the expression of a visual unconscious that preserves our earliest impressions. The artist uses a sensory material that bears the traces of his first affective perceptions and experiences, producing a figurative representation that balances desire with external reality, actual perception with what has been irremediably lost.

The psychoanalytic approach to the arts requires a methodology first used by Freud in "The Moses of Michelangelo." The effect the work has on the spectator is the object of analysis. The image must be considered a libidinal object of investment that is offered to the spectator and apprehended on the basis of the effects it provokes in him. The work of art reactivates the spectator's unconscious desire and awakens, step by step, the representations he has used as a support. Through this associative process, the spectator-analyst juxtaposes the resonances the work provokes in him and the formal aspects that can be considered traces of the unconscious life of its author. It is through this chain of association that he will be able to reconstruct the fantasies that generated the work of art.

Michel ArtiÈres

See also: Baudouin, Charles; "Claims of Psychoanalysis to Scientific Interest"; Literary and artistic creation; Illusion; Kris, Ernst; Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood ; "Moses of Michelangelo, The"; Rank (Rosenfeld), Otto; Representability; Sublimation.


Anzieu, Didier. (1981). Le corps de l 'œuvre, essais psychanalytiques sur le travail créateur. Paris: Gallimard.

Artières, Michel. (1995). Cézanne ou l 'inconscient maître d 'œuvre. Lausanne: Delachaux and Niestlé.

Freud, Sigmund. (1914b). The Moses of Michelangelo. SE, 13: 209-238.

Kris, Ernst. (1952). Psychoanalytic explorations in art. New York: International Universities Press.

Schapiro, Meyer. (1994). Theory and philosophy of art: Style, artist, and society. New York: George Braziller.

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art art and part in an accessory or participant in (by art in contriving or part in executing).
art for art's sake the idea that a work has no purpose beyond itself; the slogan of aestheticians holding that the chief or only aim of a work of art is the self-expression of the individual artist who creates it.
art is long and life is short this saying, reflecting on the contrast between the immensity of knowledge and understanding required by art, and the limited opportunity offered by one lifespan, is first recorded in English in the works of Chaucer (‘the lyf so short, the craft so long to learn’). The idea however goes back to the Greek physician Hippocrates, of the 5th century bc, whose aphorism ‘life is short, but art is long’ compared the difficulties encountered in learning the art of medicine or healing with the shortness of human life. The Roman phlilosopher and poet Seneca referred to the saying in his dialogue ‘On the Brevity of Life’, and the usual Latin form of the tag ars longa, vita brevis is derived from this.

See also art deco, art nouveau, Arts and Crafts Movement.

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art: The major general surveys on topics in the fine arts are painting; sculpture; drawing; photography, and architecture.

See also articles on specific artists, periods, styles, regions, genres, and graphic media.

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This entry includes five subentries:


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art1 XIII. — (O)F. :- L. ars, art-, f. base *ar- put together, join, fit (cf. HARMONY).
Hence artful XVII.

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art2 see BE.

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artapart, apparat, art, baht, Bart, Barthes, cart, carte, chart, clart, dart, Eilat, fart, ghat, Gujarat, Gujrat, hart, Harte, heart, heart-to-heart, impart, Jat, kart, kyat, Maat, Mansart, mart, outsmart, part, quarte, salat, savate, Scart, smart, start, tart, zakat •Hobart • wallchart • flow chart •Bogart • Stuttgart • Earhart •greenheart • sweetheart • Leichhardt •Reinhardt • Bernhardt • handcart •Descartes • dogcart • go-kart •pushcart • dustcart • rampart •forepart • underpart • Bonaparte •counterpart • Bundesrat • Robsart •Mozart • Hallstatt • kick-start •push-start • upstart

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American Psychological Association

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