Exhibition | America: Painting a Nation

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 27, 2013

The exhibition, organized by several American institutions including the Terra Foundation for American Art, debuted as Art Across America at the National Museum of Korea, in Seoul, and then traveled to Korea’s Daejeon Museum of Art. From the press materials of the Art Gallery of New South Wales:

America: Painting a Nation
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 8 November 2013 — 9 February 2014

Portrait of a Black Sailor (Paul Cuffe?), circa 1800, 25 × 20 inches (LACMA)

Portrait of a Black Sailor (Paul Cuffe?), ca. 1800 (LACMA)

This exhibition is a voyage through American history, across the American landscape and into the minds of the American people. It begins in the 18th century, among pious farmers and republican merchants. It traverses the continent, alongside Native Americans and frontiersman. It explores the great cities, and the lives of workers and bohemian artists. Answering the question, ‘What makes Americans American?’ is complex, but these paintings are a guide, revealing the self-reliance and communal beliefs, optimism and anxieties, that makes America tick.
Chris McAuliffe, Curatorial consultant

America: Painting a Nation is the most expansive survey of American painting ever presented in Australia. It is part of the Sydney International Art Series which brings the world’s outstanding exhibitions to Australia, exclusive to Sydney, and has been made possible with the support of the NSW Government through Destination NSW. Over 80 works, ranging from 1750 to 1966, cover more than 200 years of American art, history and experience. The exhibition sets a course from New England to the Western frontier, from the Grand Canyon to the burlesque theatres of New York, from the aristocratic elegance of colonial society to the gritty realism of the modern metropolis. This exhibition will reveal the breadth of American history, the hardy morality of the frontier, the intimacy of family life, the intensity of the 20th-century city, the epic scale of its landscape and the diversity of its people. The works being presented – many by American masters – are the works Americans love and works that represent the stories they have grown up with.

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From the Art Gallery of NSW:

Angela Miller and Chris McAuliffe, America: Painting a Nation (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2013), 264 pages, ISBN 978-1741741018, $45.

Spectacular landscapes, epic stories and diverse peoples feature in this expansive historical survey of American painting. The 89 artworks by some 74 artists traverse over 200 years of rich history, from the colonial era to the mid 20th century. Readers will encounter the sublime poetry and drama of the land, the ambition and optimism of the country’s pioneers, the challenges of the frontier, the intimacy of family life and the intensity of the modern city. The roots of the American character and nation will be revealed through images ranging from the Grand Canyon to the Brooklyn Bridge, from classic portraits to modern abstraction.

America: Painting a Nation includes works by artists such as Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler from the collections of some of the finest art museums in the USA: The Terra Foundation, Chicago; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Essays by Angela Miller and Chris McAuliffe, combined with entries on each of the artworks and biographies on each artist, illuminate this fascinating survey of American painting from 1750 to 1967.

Symposium | Revolutionary Ideas: The Building of an American Nation

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on October 27, 2013

In connection with the exhibition America: Painting a Nation, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is hosting a symposium on the visual arts and American ideas of nationhood:

Revolutionary Ideas: Perspectives on the Building of an American Nation
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 16 November 2013

Presented in conjunction with the Sydney Intellectual History Network at the University of Sydney

This symposium considers the role of the visual arts and other forms of cultural expression in building an idea of nationhood in America from its foundation as a colony through the beginning of the 20th century. It addresses the aims of portraiture, the meanings of landscape, the rise of genre subjects and the significance of garden projects in the contexts of relationships with Britain, claims of independence, pivotal wars, and moments of dramatic social change.


10.30  Registration and morning tea, Domain Theatre foyer

11:00   Welcome, Michael Brand, director, Art Gallery of NSW and Jennifer Milam, Sydney Intellectual History Network, University of Sydney

11:15  Laura Auricchio, What Makes ‘American art’ American?

‘American art’ has always been created in a context of international exchange. In the 18th and 19th centuries, much of the art that we now consider American was made by artists who spent many years living and studying in Europe, and whose work was steeped in European traditions. Yet other US-born artists working in the same period set out to develop a distinctly national idiom, forging styles and focusing on subjects that, in their view, expressed the unique character of their native land. Is one of these groups more American than the other? Or do they represent two different but related understandings of what it means to be American? Looking closely at a selection of paintings by artists ranging from the European-inspired John Singleton Copley, Mary Cassatt and F Childe Hassam to the self-consciously American Edward Hicks and Frederic Remington, this presentation proposes a variety of answers to the central question: what makes ‘American art’ American.

12:00  Kate Fullagar, Native Americans before and after the Revolution: Resistance, Representation, Removal

This paper traces both the broad history and the European representation of Native Americans through the 18th and 19th centuries. Specifically it looks at the rise and fall of two key ‘revolutionary ideas’ in this period. The first is that, far from a tale of destruction or neglect, Europeans in 18th-century North America in fact accommodated indigenous people more often than not. This engagement, however, narrowed after the American War of Independence when several key circumstantial factors changed for indigenous people. The second is that European representations of Native Americans during the early 18th century can be seen to stand for a critique of European activity just as often as they could for a confirmation, whereas into the 19th century their ‘savage’ attributes began to signify less and less with a European viewing public. Even while Native Americans began to shake off some initial stereotypes, their graphic representation became increasingly elegiac.

12:45  Exhibition viewing and lunch

2:00  Jennifer Milam, American Landscapes: Painting and Planting Democratic Ideals

In a 4th of July letter written in 1805 to his granddaughter, Thomas Jefferson defined gardening as a fine art, ‘not horticulture, but the art of embellishing grounds by fancy…it is nearly allied to landscape painting’. This talk looks at the relationship between landscape painting and garden design in 19th-century America. It considers how nature was perceived as an expression of democratic ideals in the formation of American identity following the Revolution of 1789. Although drawing on pastoral conventions established in Europe, American artists and garden designers were nevertheless keenly aware that the landscape presented elements for the creation of a novel visual language, full of promise for the future. The American landscape – extending further westward and the object of exploration – became a source of inspiration for forging a new nation.

2:45  Shane White, African Americans and American Art

Nearly 70 years ago now the great novelist Ralph Ellison asked: ‘Can a people live and develop for over 300 years simply by reacting?’ He went on: ‘Are American Negroes simply the creation of white men, or have they at least helped to create themselves out of what they found around them?’ Bearing this admonition in mind, White will talk about slavery, and the way white painters have depicted the so-called ‘Peculiar Institution’. Slavery was central to American development in both the 18th and 19th centuries and its legacy still helps shape the United States to this day. Then the talk jumps to the 20th century to look at the Great Migration and examine those who, in search of what Richard Wright called ‘the warmth of other suns’, moved to Harlem. In the 1920s, Harlem became the Negro Mecca, the Black Metropolis, the black capital of the world. It was a place of wonder that inspired the Harlem Renaissance. As the then recently coined Negro adage put it: ‘I’d rather be a lamppost in Harlem than Governor of Georgia’.

3:30  Drinks


Laura Auricchio is Associate Professor of Art History and Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at The New School in New York. She has published widely on French and American visual culture in the Age of Revolution and on topics in 20th-century American art. Her next book, The Marquis, a visually informed biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution, will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2014.

Kate Fullagar is a senior lecturer in modern history at Macquarie University. Her most recent books include The savage visit: New World Peoples and Popular Imperial Culture in Britain, 1710–1795 (2012) and, as editor, The Atlantic World in the Antipodes: Effects and Transformations since the 18th Century (2012). She has also published articles on New World travellers, Joshua Reynolds, and Pacific historiography. She was assistant editor of The Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture, 1776–1832 (1999).

Jennifer Milam is Professor of Art History and 18th-century Studies at the University of Sydney. Her books include The Historical Dictionary of Rococo Art (2011), Fragonard’s Playful Paintings: Visual Games in Rococo Art (2006), and Women, Art and the Politics of Identity in 18th-Century Europe (2003). She has taught American art at Princeton University, published on the 19th-century still-life artist William Michael Harnett, and written articles on American and European drawings, painting, and gardens.

Shane White is the Challis Professor of History and an Australian Professorial Fellow in the History Department at the University of Sydney. He has written, or co-written, five books including Stylin’: African American Expressive Culture from Its Beginnings to the Zoot Suit (1999), The Sounds of Slavery (which won the Queensland Premier’s History Prize in 2006) and, most recently, Playing the Numbers (which won the NSW Premier’s General History Prize in 2011). As well, he and his collaborators have created a prizewinning website called Digital Harlem. Currently, White is completing a book about Jeremiah G Hamilton, Wall Street’s first black millionaire.

Lecture | Laura Auricchio on Lafayette’s Legacies

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on October 27, 2013

From the Sydney Intellectual History Network (SIHN) at the University of Sydney:

Laura Auricchio | Hero and Villain: Lafayette’s Legacies
University of Sydney, 12 November 2013

Tuesday, 12 November 2013, 6:00 pm, New Law School Foyer

LafayetteAmericans have long hailed the Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834) as an extraordinarily admirable figure—a wealthy French nobleman who, at the age of 19, volunteered to fight in the War of Independence and prodded his king to support the rebel cause. But in France, Lafayette is seen by partisans on both the left and the right as an opportunist, a misguided dreamer, even a traitor. In her talk, Auricchio will consider how Lafayette, a man who lived by a principle that he called “moderation,” could have garnered such disparate reputations. While part of the answer lies in the very different roles that he played and decisions that he made in the French and American revolutions, this talk focuses on the importance of visual, material, and print cultures in shaping and sustaining Lafayette’s divided legacies.

Laura Auricchio is Associate Professor of Art History and Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at The New School in New York. She has published widely on French and American visual culture in the Age of Revolution and on topics in twentieth-century American art. Her next book, The Marquis, a visually informed biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution, will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2014.

This event is co-sponsored by Sydney Ideas and the Sydney Intellectual History Network (SIHN@Sydney). For further information about SIHN@Sydney, please contact Jennifer Milam, Professor of Art History and Eighteenth-Century Studies (jennifer.milam@sydney.edu.au).

Conference | The Enlightenment and Philosophical Anthropology

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on October 27, 2013

From the Sydney Intellectual History Network at the University of Sydney:

The Enlightenment and the Development of Philosophical Anthropology
University of Sydney, 4–6 November 2013

hoppius_anthropomorphaThe conference focuses on the development of various forms of anthropology in the second half of the eighteenth century, with a special focus on philosophical anthropology, as a distinct discipline that competed with metaphysics, both in scope and aim.

The birth of philosophical anthropology in the mid-eighteenth century and its development well into the nineteenth signaled a fundamental shift – not only did it emphasise the historical character of thought, but it also sought to understand the human being in context, whether biological, cultural-historical, literary or psychological. For this reason, Odo Marquard has termed it one of the “three great epochal shifts” (alongside aesthetics and the philosophy of history) in the history of modern Europe.

The main focus will be on the way in which various forms of anthropology, philosophical (Germany) but also medical (France) both contributed to and challenged the notion of “Enlightenment” in Europe. That the European Enlightenment was a contested ground is well known; however, the fact that anthropology played a fundamental role in its orientation remains an understudied topic.

Many of the papers will focus on the role that Johann Gottfried Herder played in the development of philosophical anthropology, and in examining the debate between him and his former teacher, Immanuel Kant, this conference will be one of the first to address the ways in which philosophical anthropology developed in relation to the larger project of Enlightenment in Europe.

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Monday, 4 November

Peter Anstey (Sydney), The Enlightenment natural history of man

Charles Wolfe (Ghent), ‘Whoever takes man as an object of study must expect to have man as an enemy’: The tension between naturalism and anthropocentrism in La Mettrie and Diderot

Jennifer Milam (Sydney), Doggie Style: Rococo Representations of Interspecies Sensuality and the Pursuit of Volupté

Stephen Gaukroger (Sydney), The demise of anthropological medicine: the challenges of experimental medicine and Mesmerism

Ofer Gal (Sydney), Anthropology vs. metaphysics: Hobbes and Spinoza on the passions

Tuesday, 5 November

Daniela Helbig (Sydney), Self-positing: experimental subjects in Kant’s thought and in scientific practice

Nigel DeSouza (Ottawa), Between Leibniz and Kant: the philosophical foundations of Herder’s anthropology

Anik Waldow (Sydney), Natural history and the formation of the human being: Kant and Herder on active forces

Dalia Nassar (Sydney), Kant and Herder on analogy

Stefanie Buchenau (Paris), Herder: From comparative anatomy to philosophical anthropology

Wednesday, 6 November

John Zammito (Rice), The Animal-Human Boundary and Anthropology: Herder between Reimarus and Tetens

Kristin Gjesdal (Temple), Hermeneutics and Anthropology in Herder’s Early Thought

Gabriel Watts (Sydney), Herder’s theological anthropology

Marion Heinz (Siegen), Cultural theory in Kant and Herder

Michael Forster (Bonn), Herder’s anthropology and human rights

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