Art History:   Grade 3 Lesson 5

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  Red White and Blue Art - American Patriotic Art


  1. Paul Revere, c. 1768-70, John Singleton Copley, American (1738-1815), 35 x 28 ½" oil on canvas. Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Reproduction photograph.

     The Boston silversmith was already well known in the colonies as a devoted patriot. He was active in political organizations such as the Sons of Liberty and was critical of British policy in his engravings and assumed a crucial role as mediator between the intellectual leaders of the revolution and the much larger group of workers that supported them.

    Paul Revere is typical of Copley’s male portraits in showing the attributes of the subject’s profession. Revere is painted in a white undershirt, a heavier white shirt and a blue-green waistcoat, with no jacket. His teapot and engraving tools remind us of his daily work. In no other portrait does Copley show a man holding his head in such an evocative manner. An equally striking effect derives from the teapot held in Revere’s other hand. In fact, the silver teapot view vies with the subject’s face for our attention, and its material existence promises to bear Revere’s fame after his death. The highly polished wood surface with an elaborate front molding is obviously not Revere’s regular workbench. The shiny wood gives the painter an opportunity to show his skill at rendering reflections. Though Revere wears a work shirt, it is perfectly clean for the occasion. The whiteness of the linen and the bold illumination of the folds and gathers are exactingly detailed.
    Paul Revere and John Singleton Copley were best friends. Copley was born in Boston in 1738. His father died when he was quite young and his mother then married a man named Peter Pelham who was a portrait painter and engraver. Young Copley grew up in an atmosphere of pictures and paints, and even took lessons from his stepfather. He soon painted far better than his teacher, and at 17 was painting portraits of prominent citizens. Copley had a talent for catching the likeness of a person and his personality as well.


    Copley - Biography

    Paul Revere Web Site


  2. Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1931. Grant Wood, American, (1891-1942) oil on canvas.  Metropolitan Museum of Art. Reproduction print.

     This is an example of a contemporary artist painting an historic scene. The night of April 18, 1775 was made famous nearly a hundred years later by the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was arranged for a signal to be flashed from the steeple of the Old North Church in Boston. Two lanterns would mean that the British were coming by water and one lantern, by land. Revere carried the news of the approach of the British to Lexington. He left Boston at about 10:00 PM and arrived in Lexington at midnight, riding a borrowed horse. He warned those at Lexington and proceeded on to Concord. He was captured en route by a British cavalry patrol, but was later released, without his horse to return to Lexington. The next afternoon, in Lexington, shots rang out across the village green. The American Revolution had begun.

    Grant Wood was inspired, not only by the known facts of Revere’s courage, but also by Longfellow’s poem. Here we see the dark silhouette of horse and rider galloping through a village. Grant Wood was an American regionalist painter from the Midwest. He spent several years in Europe, where, in Paris, he admired the Impressionists and, in Munich, he learned much from studying the skillful execution of the Flemish old masters. When he returned to his native town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he taught art and received a commission for a local stained glass window. He painted scenes of simple, hardworking farm life and in 1930 received national recognition for his portrait, American Gothic.

    Note the "bird's eye view" in this painting.


    Grant Wood - Biography

    see also Grade 3 Lesson 2 for more Grant Wood


  3. Spirit of '76, 1876, Archibald McNeal Willard, American (1837-1918) Abbot Hall, Marblehead, MA, Reproduction print.

    This is the famous patriotic scene painted about 1876 by the American artist. The scene shows a fife player and two drummers leading American troops during a battle in the Revolutionary War. It began as a humorous sketch called “Yankee Doodle” which Willard made in 1874 or 1875 for a 4th of July celebration. Later, he changed the sketch to a painting with a serious theme for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. His father, a Baptist minister, was the model for the central  figure. Hugh Mosher, a soldier friend, posed for the fife player, and the son of John H. Devereux, a pioneer railroad executive, became the drummer boy.

    Willard produced at least four versions of this painting which was exhibited in cities from coast to coast. Devereux bought one in 1880 and gave it to Marblehead, MA where it hangs in Abbot Hall, the town hall. Willard was a carriage painter from Wellington, Ohio.

    click for enlargement


  4. I want you for the US Army! c 1917, James Montgomery Flagg, American ( - ) WWI recruiting poster. Smithsonian Institute. Reproduction print

      James Montgomery Flagg, the most famous poster artist of the World War I period, created the picture in which Uncle Sam, with grave and commanding expression, points straight out from the Army recruiting poster saying, “1 WANT YOU.” The lean, stern face of Uncle Sam bears a marked resemblance to that of the artist. The illustration was originally painted as a cover for Leslies’ Weekly, but it soon became the most famous poster in our history. Flagg’ s Uncle Sam became so well known that over the years we’ve accustomed ourselves to the way Uncle Sam “should look.”

    Note: the foreshortening of the finger


  5. Allies Day May 1917, 1917, Childe Hassam, American (1859-1953) 36 3/4 x 30 1/4 in. (93.4 x 76.8 cm) oil on canvas National Gallery of Art, Washington, Reproduction print.

     ---looking north on Fifth Avenue, with St. Thomas’ and the Gotham Hotel on the left.

    One of the first acts of Mayor John Purroy Mitchel in the spring of 1917 was to proclaim Fifth Avenue “The Avenue of the Allies” and to suggest that appropriate flags be displayed. The response was immediate; the next day the New York Times had no less than eight advertisements for flags. “Show your colors,” one suggested. As it developed, the Mayor’s proclamation quickly led to the designation of various blocks to honor the different Allies. It is no exaggeration to say that the appearance of the international rainbow symbolized the entry of America into the great world; this massive fluttering of the banners of a dozen nations on the main street of our largest city forecast the death of American isolationism.

    The artists of America were no less anxious than others to make their contribution to the war effort. In May 1917. a huge exhibition of paintings was held in New York; they were contributed by artists and were to be sold for war relief. Childe Hassam gave one of the canvasses. It was an impartial New England scene; but before the war was over, the conflict would provide Hassam with the finest subject of his career It was a subject far from the bloody trenches of France, for the United States, unlike the other Allies, did not send painters to cover the war. Hassam’s theme was New York, particularly Fifth Avenue, panoplied like a dreadnought prepared for an
    admirals review.

    Chide Hassam’s New York flag paintings represent one of those fortunate meetings of talent, subject, and conviction. Born in 1859, near Boston, the painter grew up with a strong feeling for his native land. He expressed this patriotic pride in a letter to Robert Louis Stevenson: “ ancestors fought in every war... for human liberty. Stephen Hassam... was a powder boy at Bunker Hill and lived to bury a son who was killed at Malvern Hill in our Civil War. They lie side by side in the old town of Charleston, N.H.; John Hassam, age 21, Stephen Hassam, age 100.

    Thus it was natural that the Avenue of the Allies, with its brilliant decorations should have become Hassam’s supreme theme.

    On November 15, 1918, four days after the armistice, New York’s Durand-RueI Galleries, one of the major dealers in impressionist art, held an exhibition of Hassam’s flag paintings. They are numbered twenty-three, though he painted one more in 1919.

    From American Heritage, June 1969


    See also Grade 1 Lesson 5


  6. George Washington, 1795, Gilbert Stuart, American (1775-1828), Andrew Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC,   Reproduction print.

     Gilbert Stuart was raised in Newport, Rhode Island, where his father worked in the tobacco business. As a boy he took art lessons from a Scottish painter then working in Newport. In 1775 he traveled to London where he studied with Benjamin West for four years. Stuart was the most sophisticated and highly regarded American portrait painter of his generation. His technique developed out of the fashionable style of late-eighteenth century British portraiture as practiced by Gainsborough and Romney. With rapid brushstrokes and a keen appreciation for the optical blending of colors, he created a soft and atmospheric effect in his paintings. His American works were highly successful, and by the end of his life he was recognized as his country's foremost portrait painter. Stuart produced over 114 portraits of Washington, over 60 of which were replicas of the famous "unfinished" work, which has become the "official" portrait of the first president.


  7. Flag Replicas, cloth objects.

     The flag designed by Betsy Ross has 13 stars in a circle (representing the original 13 colonies).

    The star spangled banner represent 15 states - KY and VT plus the original 13. (The poem for the National Anthem "The Star spangled Banner" was composed in 1812 by Francis Scott Key, a lawyer who was held captive aboard a British Ship during a battle.)

    The '76 Bennington flag was used during the Battle of Burlington (now Vermont) during the Revolution.


  8. Three Flags, c.1955, Jasper Johns, American (1930-) Whitney Museum, NY Reproduction print.
    Jasper Johns, a contemporary of Andy Warhol, was born in Georgia and raised in South Carolina. The abstract movement of the 1950s led America, and Johns, in to the international Art arena. He painted a series of American Flag paintings, of which this is one.Jasper Johns: Three Flags


    Johns - Biography (Nat Gall of Art)

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