Enfilade

New Book | Of Arms and Artists

Posted in books by Editor on October 16, 2016

From Bloomsbury Press:

Paul Staiti, Of Arms and Artists: The American Revolution through Painters’ Eyes (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2016), 400 pages, ISBN: 978-1632864659, $30.

9781632864659The images accompanying the founding of the United States—of honored Founders, dramatic battle scenes, and seminal moments—gave visual shape to Revolutionary events and symbolized an entirely new concept of leadership and government. Since then they have endured as indispensable icons, serving as historical documents and timeless reminders of the nation’s unprecedented beginnings.

As Paul Staiti reveals in Of Arms and Artists, the lives of the five great American artists of the Revolutionary period—Charles Willson Peale, John Singleton Copley, John Trumbull, Benjamin West, and Gilbert Stuart—were every bit as eventful as those of the Founders with whom they continually interacted, and their works contributed mightily to America’s founding spirit. Living in a time of breathtaking change, each in his own way came to grips with the history being made by turning to brushes and canvases, the results often eliciting awe and praise, and sometimes scorn. Ever since the passing of the last eyewitnesses to the Revolution, their imagery has connected Americans to 1776, allowing us to interpret and reinterpret the nation’s beginning generation after generation. The collective stories of these five artists open a fresh window on the Revolutionary era, making more human the figures we have long honored as our Founders, and deepening our understanding of the whirlwind out of which the United States emerged.

Paul Staiti teaches at Mount Holyoke College and is the author of several books and essays on American artists. He has co-curated exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The recipient of three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a two-time Senior Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Staiti has spoken internationally on the intersection of American art and history. He lives in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

Save

Save

Save

New Book | A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley

Posted in books by Editor on October 16, 2016

From W. W. Norton:

Jane Kamensky, A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 544 pages, ISBN: 978-0393240016, $35.

9780393240016_300Boston in the 1740s: a bustling port at the edge of the British empire. A boy comes of age in a small wooden house along the Long Wharf, which juts into the harbor, as though reaching for London thousands of miles across the ocean. Sometime in his childhood, he learns to draw. That boy was John Singleton Copley, who became, by the 1760s, colonial America’s premier painter. His brush captured the faces of his neighbors—ordinary men like Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams—who would become the revolutionary heroes of a new United States. Today, in museums across America, Copley’s brilliant portraits evoke patriotic fervor and rebellious optimism.

The artist, however, did not share his subjects’ politics. Copley’s nation was Britain; his capital, London. When rebellion sundered Britain’s empire, both kin and calling determined the painter’s allegiances. He sought the largest canvas for his talents and the safest home for his family. So, by the time the United States declared its independence, Copley and his kin were in London. He painted America’s revolution from a far shore, as Britain’s American War.

An intimate portrait of the artist and his extraordinary times, Jane Kamensky’s A Revolution in Color masterfully reveals the world of the American Revolution, a place in time riven by divided loyalties and tangled sympathies. Much like the world in which he lived, Copley’s life and career were marked by spectacular rises and devastating falls. But though his ambivalence cost him dearly, the painter’s achievements in both Britain and America made him a towering figure of both nations’ artistic legacies.

Jane Kamensky is a a professor of history at Harvard University and the faculty director of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her many books include The Exchange Artist, a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize.

Save

Save

Save