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Article

M. Sue Kendall

Term used to describe scenes of typical American life painted in a naturalistic vein from c. 1920 until the early 1940s. It applies to both Regionalism and Social Realism in American painting, but its specific boundaries remain ambiguous. The phrase probably derived from Henry James’s collection of essays and impressions, The American Scene (London, 1907), published upon James’s own rediscovery of his native land after 21 years as an expatriate. The term entered the vocabulary of fine arts by the 1920s and was applied to the paintings of Charles Burchfield during 1924.

In the two decades following World War I, American writers and artists began to look for native sources for the aesthetic and spiritual renewal of their modern technological civilization. This search engaged and activated many thoughtful and creative people in the 1920s and 1930s and resulted in that flurry of activity that Waldo Frank (1889–1967) discussed as ...

Article

Anne K. Swartz

(b Richmond, VA, June 25, 1931; d Oneonta, NY, Aug 29, 2013).

American painter. Beal studied at the College of William and Mary, Norfolk, VA, before going on to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago. In 1965, he began having solo exhibitions at the Allan Frumkin Gallery, later Frumkin/Adams Gallery and then George Adams Gallery, which had venues in New York City and Chicago, continuing to exhibit with them into the 21st century. Like many artists working in the 1960s, he repudiated the abstract, then so current in the art world, and favored instead the kind of “New Realism” being espoused by artists such as Philip Pearlstein, among others. His art focuses on the figure indoors, usually rendered up-close in a compact interior environment. The colors are usually vivid and the lines often dominant.

Beal is known primarily as a painter, but in addition to painting and prints, Beal produced two major public art monuments. The first was a series of four murals titled ...

Article

Janet Bishop

(b San Francisco, CA, May 14, 1932).

American painter. Native of the San Francisco Bay Area, known for careful observation and explicit use of snapshot-like photographic source material for paintings of family, cars, and residential neighborhoods. The artist rose to national and international prominence in early 1970s as part of the Photorealist movement (see Photorealism).

From the 1960s, Bechtle pursued a quiet realism based on the things he knew best, translating what seem to be ordinary scenes of middle-class American life into paintings. Following an early childhood in the Bay Area and Sacramento, his family settled in 1942 in Alameda, an island suburb adjacent to Oakland where his mother would occupy the same house for almost 60 years. The neighborhood appears in many of Bechtle’s paintings.

Bechtle earned both his BFA (1954) and his MFA (1958) at Oakland’s California College of Arts and Crafts, where he studied graphic design and then painting. During his student years and into the 1960s, Bechtle was influenced by Pop art’s precedent for the use of commercial subject matter and techniques. He was likewise interested in Bay Area figuration, especially the subjects and structure of paintings by ...

Article

Marisa J. Pascucci

(b Philadelphia, PA, March 1, 1890; d New York, NY, Feb 12, 2002).

American painter. Raised in Philadelphia she studied at the Philadelphia College of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art & Design) under Elliott Daingerfield (1859–1932), Daniel Garber (1880–1958), Samuel Murray (1869–1941), Harriet Sartain (1873–1957), and Henry B. Snell and graduated in 1911. With her mother, she toured Europe in 1905 and 1912. After returning from her second trip to Europe she settled in New York where her father had recently relocated the family. She lived at home and studied briefly at Art Students League taking life and portrait classes with William Merritt Chase. She eventually established her own studio in Manhattan and married William Meyerowitz (1898–1981), a painter and etcher. She was associated with the members of The Eight and part of the Ashcan school. She was an original member of the Philadelphia Ten—a group of female painters and sculptors schooled in Philadelphia who exhibited together annually, sometimes more often, from ...

Article

James C. Cooke

(b Boston, MA, Nov 21, 1843; d Waverley, MA, Jan 15, 1909).

American painter. Currier first studied art in the late 1860s after working briefly as a stone-cutter (his father’s profession) and as a banking apprentice. In 1869, after a short stay in England, he arrived in Antwerp, where he studied at the Koninklijke Academie and benefited especially from the example of Antoine Wiertz. Currier visited Paris in the spring of 1870, perhaps intending to undertake a lengthy period of study. With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in August 1870, however, he moved to Munich, where he studied at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste until 1872. He became part of the American contingency of Munich painters, which included Frank Duveneck, Walter Shirlaw and William Merritt Chase. Like them, he became a notable practitioner of Munich realism as taught by Wilhelm Leibl and others. To this style, based on the chiaroscuro and dramatic brushwork of Frans Hals, Currier brought an expressionistic, individual manner, bolder in technique and more emotional and visionary in character. The ...

Article

Elizabeth Johns

(Cowperthwaite)

(b Philadelphia, PA, July 25, 1844; d Philadelphia, June 25, 1916).

American painter, sculptor and photographer. He was a portrait painter who chose most of his sitters and represented them in powerful but often unflattering physical and psychological terms. Although unsuccessful throughout much of his career, since the 1930s he has been regarded as one of the greatest American painters of his era.

His father Benjamin Eakins (1818–99), the son of a Scottish–Irish immigrant weaver, was a writing master and amateur artist who encouraged Thomas Eakins’s developing talent. Eakins attended the Central High School in Philadelphia, which stressed skills in drawing as well as a democratic respect for disciplined achievement. He developed an interest in human anatomy and began visiting anatomical clinics. After studying from 1862 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where instruction was minimal, Eakins went to Paris to enrol at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, in the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme. From 1866 to the end of ...

Article

Mark W. Sullivan

(b Long Beach, CA, Nov 4, 1944).

American painter and printmaker. Eddy studied at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu (BFA, 1967, MFA, 1969) and came to prominence in the early 1970s as an exponent of Photorealism, producing airbrushed paintings based on photographs of automobiles (e.g. Untitled, 1971; Aachen, Neue Gal.), the displays in shop windows or still-lifes, as in New Shoes for H (1973; Cleveland, OH, Mus. A.). He treated similar subjects in screenprints and in colour lithographs such as Red Mercedes (1972; see 1973 exh. cat., p. 35). Rather than basing a painting or print on a single photograph, as was the case with other photorealists, Eddy would work from as many as 40 photographs to ensure a consistently sharp focus for his often spatially complex images.

From the 1980s Eddy’s focus shifted away from photorealism towards metaphysics, with images placed in porteic relationships to one another; describing his art as ‘echoing ecosystems’....

Article

Helen A. Cooper

(b Boston, MA, Feb 24, 1836; d Prout’s Neck, ME, Sept 29, 1910).

American painter, illustrator and etcher. He was one of the two most admired American late 19th-century artists (the other being Thomas Eakins) and is considered to be the greatest pictorial poet of outdoor life in the USA and its greatest watercolourist (see fig.). Nominally a landscape painter, in a sense carrying on Hudson River school attitudes, Homer was an artist of power and individuality whose images are metaphors for the relationship of Man and Nature. A careful observer of visual reality, he was at the same time alive to the purely physical properties of pigment and colour, of line and form, and of the patterns they create. His work is characterized by bold, fluid brushwork, strong draughtsmanship and composition, and particularly by a lack of sentimentality.

Homer was the second of three sons of Charles Savage Homer, a hardware importer, and Henrietta Benson Homer, a gifted amateur watercolourist. Brought up in Cambridge, MA, where he attended school, he had an active outdoor boyhood that left a lifelong liking for the country. An independent, strong-willed young man, he showed an early preference for art and was encouraged in his interest by both parents. Like a number of self-educated American artists, Homer was first known as an illustrator. At 19 he became an apprentice at the lithographic firm of ...

Article

Style of painting popular in Europe and the USA mainly from the 1920s to 1940s, with some followers in the 1950s. It occupies a position between Surrealism and Photorealism, whereby the subject is rendered with a photographic naturalism, but where the use of flat tones, ambiguous perspectives, and strange juxtapositions suggest an imagined or dreamed reality. The term was introduced by art historian Frank Roh in his book Nach-Expressionismus: Magischer Realismus (1925) to describe a style deriving from Neue Sachlichkeit, but rooted in late 19th-century German Romantic fantasy. It had strong connections with the Italian Pittura Metafisica of which the work of Giorgio De Chirico was exemplary in its quest to express the mysterious. The work of Giuseppe Capogrossi and the Scuola Romana of the 1930s is also closely related to the visionary elements of Magic Realism. In Belgium its surreal strand was exemplified by René(-François-Ghislain) Magritte, with his ‘fantasies of the commonplace’, and in the USA by ...

Article

Mari Carmen Ramírez

(b Bayamón, June 17, 1833; d Cataño, May 17, 1917).

Puerto Rican painter. He studied from 1851 to 1853 at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid under Federico de Madrazo y Küntz and in Paris from 1858 to 1863 under Thomas Couture and Charles Gleyre at the Ecole Impériale et Spéciale de Dessin and at the Académie Suisse. There he met Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne and Armand Guillaumin, who together with Couture and the work of Courbet influenced his work towards Realism and Impressionism. His masterpiece The Wake (1893; Río Piedras, U. Puerto Rico, Mus. Antropol., Hist. & A.), with its penetrating insights into 19th-century Puerto Rican rural society, is a monumental tribute to the artistic tenets championed by Courbet.

Oller, however, cannot be characterized exclusively as a Realist or Impressionist. In the course of his prolific career he produced portraits, landscapes and still-lifes, adapting his style to the subject. In the Ponce Silk-Cotton Tree...

Article

Anthony Páez Mullan

(b Venezuela, c. 1820; d New York City, 1897).

Venezuelan painter, author, diplomat and botanist. Ramón Páez was a son of José Antonio Páez, one of Bolívar’s most trusted generals and the colorful first president of Venezuela. Little is known of his childhood. Páez himself refers to his education in Caracas as a boy and later on in 1841 as a student at the Jesuit college of Stonyhurst in England. Early sources of artistic inspiration were probably Páez’s cousin, Carmelo Fernández (1810–87; a landscape artist who was member of the Comisión Corográfica, the first national expedition to survey Colombia for more precise information on indigenous groups, the topography and the natural resources of the country); the English portrait painter, Lewis Adams (1809–53), who painted most members of the Páez family; Charles Thomas, an English miniature painter; and the German landscape painter Ferdinand Bellermann (1814–89).

In 1850, General Páez was exiled and was accompanied by Ramón. From ...

Article

Anne K. Swartz

Style of painting, and sometimes sculpture, that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s that involves creating works in extreme detail as a reaction to the abstraction celebrated in the 1940s and 1950s. Photorealist art refers to images of reality rendered in extreme detail, often with aid of photographs. The subjects of this style include portraits, still-lifes, and genre scenes. The genre images usually depict daytime scenes, occasionally night-time scenes, but often at midday so the shadows are at their most dramatic.

Photorealist artists were influenced by Pop art, in which the artists were concerned with media saturation (using media as a source for art) and the reproduction or simulation of mass-produced objects as art. They were also informed by Minimalism, in which the artists emphasized a cool detachment and industrial emphasis. Conceptual art and the artistic interest in the 1960s of making ideas into realities also underscore Photorealism....

Article

Meredith Davis

In American art, realism refers to a range of styles and approaches made in the 19th and the 20th century that, in general, focus on everyday subjects, strong visual statement, and involvement with the contemporary social situation.

Discussions of realism can be confusing, since this term is used in a variety of ways: it can be used generally, to describe relative levels of verisimilitude in art (as when one work of art is described as more ‘realistic’ than another), but it can also refer to a specific historical movement; for example, when capitalized as Realism, it is understood to refer to the mid-19th-century European movement famously championed by French artist Gustav Courbet that was practised throughout Europe in many variations. Furthermore, scholars use terms such as ‘literary realism’, ‘American realism’, and ‘social realism’, adding to the accumulation of meanings for this term. One way that historians avoid confusion is to refer to works that attempt to replicate nature as achieving varying degrees of ‘naturalism’ and to limit use of the term ‘realism’ to the arts of the 19th century. In the 20th century, realist practices continued in both Europe and the USA, but are often identified under the terms ...

Article

Tom Williams

(b New York, 1962).

American painter. He studied film at the Rhode Island School of Design between 1980 and 1982 before attending the School of Visual Arts and receiving a BFA in 1985. His paintings usually display a kind of naturalism that is more characteristic of scientific illustration than modernist painting, but he deploys these artistic conventions in an effort to radically re-imagine the natural world and humanity’s place within it. His work frequently explores the implications of genetic engineering and ecological collapse by presenting “an unofficial version of the future” where civilization has been overtaken by the non-human world. As the son of an archaeologist, he developed a familiarity with scientific ideas early in his life, and his work often displays a great knowledge of biology and natural history. Accordingly, he has also traveled quite widely on naturalist expeditions to regions of the world such as Tasmania and Guyana.

In many respects, his work represents a latter-day manifestation of the visionary landscape tradition that originated in Romantic painters, such as ...

Article

Richard Ormond

(b Florence, Jan 12, 1856; d London, April 25, 1925).

American painter and draughtsman, active in England. The most fashionable portrait painter working in England and the USA in the late 19th century, he was brought up by expatriate American parents in an environment of restless travel and insulated family life. He was cosmopolitan in outlook, a linguist, a fine pianist, and an avid reader of the classics. The spirit of self-sufficiency and isolation, both physical and emotional, remained with him all his life. He never married, grew wary of emotional entanglements and remained closest to his sisters, especially the eldest, Emily.

From an early age Sargent was committed to the idea of becoming an artist and threw all his energy into the pursuit of this. The artist’s father, Dr Fitzwilliam Sargent, was anxious about the vagaries of an artistic career but did not stand in the way of his son’s evident vocation. Together in 1874 they decided that he should enter the Paris studio of the portrait painter ...

Article

Margaret F. MacDonald

(b Lowell, MA, July 11, 1834; d London, July 17, 1903).

American painter, printmaker, designer and collector, active in England and France. He developed from the Realism of Courbet and Manet to become, in the 1860s, one of the leading members of the Aesthetic Movement and an important exponent of Japonisme. From the 1860s he increasingly adopted non-specific and often musical titles for his work, which emphasized his interest in the manipulation of colour and mood for their own sake rather than for the conventional depiction of subject. He acted as an important link between the avant-garde artistic worlds of Europe, Britain and the USA and has always been acknowledged as one of the masters of etching (see Jacque, Charles(-Emile)).

From his monogram jw, Whistler evolved a butterfly signature, which he used after 1869. After his mother’s death in 1881, he added her maiden name, McNeill, and signed letters J. A. McN. Whistler. Finally he dropped ‘Abbott’ entirely.

The son of Major George Washington Whistler, a railway engineer, and his second wife, Anna Matilda McNeill, James moved with his family in ...