First, in “The Civil War and American Art,” which opens tomorrow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, curator Eleanor Jones Harvey reveals how artists such as Winslow Homer, Sanford Gifford and Frederic Church, responded to the war in their work. Her show examines how artists bent traditional American landscape painting into a response to the war, how artists experienced the war first-hand and how one artist’s time in uniform led to what seems to be the only known paintings of a militarily occupied American city. The show’s catalogue, published by Yale University Press, is a smart, strikingly exciting page-turner, the best book about American art I’ve read all year.
Harvey and I discuss:
- How Hudson River School painters added Civil War-related sentiment to long-familiar landscapes;
- Why there are so few paintings of the South during the Civil War, and why we should learn more about one particular Southern painter;
- The difference between the work of artists who were there when war happened and the work of those who imagined it; and
- How the Civil War impacted the portrayal of African-Americans in art.
On the second segment, Huntington curator Jennifer Watts talks about her new show, “A Strange And Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning and Memory in the American Civil War,” an exhibition of more than 200 pictures and other objects from the Huntington’s famed Civil War-related collections. The exhibition is chock full of still-shocking battlefield pictures, rare pictures of Southern troops and of black troops and remarkable photographs of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train. Many of them are available on the Huntington’s exhibition website.
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The Modern Art Notes Podcast is an independent production of Modern Art Notes Media. The MAN Podcast is released under this Creative Commons license. For images of the works discussed on this week’s show, click through to the jump.
Albert Bierstadt, Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California, 1865. Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Sanford R. Gifford, Basin of the Patapsco from Federal Hill, Baltimore, 1862, 1862.
Sanford R. Gifford, Fort Federal Hill at Sunset, Baltimore, 1862. Collection of the New York State Military Museum, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs.