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"American Art and Photography"




This course offers a quick survey of American art and artists. It gives you the opportunity to look at paintings and photographs, while also trying to teach you how to look at paintings and photographs. It attempts to help you decode a landscape painting, the image of Marylin Monroe by Andy Warhol or the various symbols displayed on the one-dollar bill. Here are some of the topics this course will cover: painters of the American West, American painters in Europe in the second half of the 19th century, photographers of the Great Depression, New York skyscrapers, Pop Art. While we will mainly discuss images, you are invited to read one novel, Paul Auster’s Moon Palace (1989), which offers a masterful synthesis of emblematic American themes and focuses largely on painting and vision.



Ralph Blakelock - Moonlight (1885) 

Oil on canvas, 69.2 x 82.0 cm
The Brooklyn Museum


For methodological instruments: Danielle Bruckmuller, Peinture et civilisation britannique (Ophrys, 2000).

Thomas Cole, Essay on the American Scenery (1836, distributed in class).

Francesca Marchetti et al., La Peinture américaine (Gallimard, 2002).

Miles Orvell, American Photography (Oxford UP, 2003).

Resources for 2013

Class One - A Mad Survey
Class Two - Painters of the American West
Class Three - New York


Class One: A Mad Survey

Edward Hicks. Peaceable Kingdom. 1834
Anonymous. Elizabeth Clarke Freake and Baby Mary. 1671-1674
Gilbert Stuart. George Washington.1796
Photograph of Jackson Pollock at work
Jackson Pollock. Number 18. 1950
------. Lavender Mist. 1950

American Artists in Europe : Sargent and Whistler

   John Singer Sargent. A Morning Walk. 1888.
   Claude Monet. La Promenade. La Femme à l'ombrelle. 1875.
   J.S. Sargent.
Portrait of Madame Edouard Pailleron. 1879.
   ------. Portrait of Madame X (Madame Gautreau). 1884.
   ------. Repose. 1911.
   ------. Two Girls in White Dresses. 1909-1911.
   ------. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. 1885-1886.
   ------. Garden Study of the Vickers Children. 1884.
   ------. Zuleika (watercolor). 1907.
   ------. Venice (watercolor). 1902.
   James McNeill Whistler. Arrangement in Gray and Black (The Artist's Mother). 1871.
   ------. The White Girl (Simphony in White). 1862.
   ------. Portrait of Miss Alexander. 1872-1874.
   ------. Nocturne in Black and Gold: the Falling Rocket. 1878.
   ------. Caprice in Purple and Gold. 1864.
   Claude Monet. La Japonaise. 1875.

Painters of the American West : Cole, Church, Bierstadt

   Thomas Cole. Falls of Kaaterskill. 1826. (109 x 91 cm)
   ------. The Oxbow. View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Mass. after a Thunderstorm. 1836. (131 x 193 cm)
   ------. The Course of Empire I (The Savage State). 1836.
   ------. The Course of Empire II (The Arcadian, or Pastoral State). 1836.
   ------. The Course of Empire III (Consummation of Empire). 1836.
   ------. The Course of Empire IV (Destruction). 1836.
   ------. The Course of Empire V (Desolation). 1836.
   Frederick Edwin Church. Niagara. 1857. (107 x 230 cm)
   ------. Heart of the Andes. 1859. (168 x 303 cm)
   ------. Cotopaxi. 1862. (122 x 216 cm)
   ------. Rainy Season in the Tropics. 1866. (143 x 214 cm)
   ------. Rainy Season in the Tropics (detail).
   ------. Twilight in the Wilderness. 1860s.
   Albert Bierstadt. The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak. 1863. (187 x 307 cm)
   ------. Emigrants Crossing the Plains. 1867. (170 x 260 cm)
   ------. Sunrise in the Yosemite Valley. 1868.
   ------. The Last Buffalo. 1889. (181 x 303 cm)

Georgia O'Keeffe

Photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe
Photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz
Photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe taken by Alfred Stieglitz
Georgia O'Keeffe. Light Coming on the Plains III. Watercolor. 1917 (30 x 20 cm)
   ------. Evening Star IV. Watercolor. 1917 (30 x 20 cm)
   ------. Blue and Green Music. 1919 (58,4 x 48,3 cm)
Example of abstract art: Kasimir Malevich. Black Square and Red Square. 1915
Georgia O'Keeffe. Black Iris III. 1926 (91,4 x 75,9 cm)
   ------. Oriental Poppies. 1928 (76,2 x 101,9 cm)
   ------. Jack-in-the-Pulpit III. 1930
   ------. Jack-in-the-Pulpit IV. 1930 (101,6 x 76,2 cm)
   ------. Jack-in-the-Pulpit VI. 1930
   ------. Yellow Calla. 1926
   ------. Red Canna. 1923
   ------. Deer Skull with Pedernal. 1936
Photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe with a skull in the background
Georgia O'Keeffe. Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue. 1931 (101,3 x 91,1 cm)
------. Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses. 1932
------. From the Faraway, Nearby. 1938 (91.2 x 102 cm)
------. The Ranchos Church. 1929 (61,3 x 91,8 cm)
------. Ladder to the Moon. 1958. (101,6 x 76,2 cm)
------. Sky Above Clouds IV. 1965 (243,8 x 731,5 cm)

Additional Documents

About colors in painting and the evolution from natural to chemical/industrial colors (see the section on the "Development of synthetic pigments")
Documentary on Georgia O’Keeffe at 92
Documentary on the American painters of the West by Robert Hughes: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 (six parts, 1 hour total play time)
Footage of Jackson Pollock at work (1'20)
Footage of the flappers and the Jazz Age (6'30)



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©2008 Monica Manolescu-Oancea. Dernière mise à jour : 24 mars 2013.