The Beginnings The United States' rich artistic history stretches from the earliest cultures to the more recent globalization of contemporary art. Centuries before the first European colonizers, Native American peoples had crafted ritual and utilitarian objects that reflected the natural environment and their beliefs. These include works from South America and North America, which includes Central America
European Influence After the arrival of Europeans, artists looked to European tendencies in portraiture and landscape painting to craft representations of the new land, but it was not until the middle of the 19th century with the Hudson River School. Hudson River School, America’s first well-known “school” of landscape painting appeared in the 1820’s. This school was led by Thomas Cole. Their paintings combined technical skill with romantic scenery. They were visual explorations of light and natural wonder.
Hudson River School Hudson River School paintings reflect three themes of America in the 19th century: discovery, exploration, and settlement. They also depict the American landscape as a pastoral setting, where human beings and nature coexist peacefully. Hudson River School landscapes are characterized by their realistic, detailed, and sometimes idealized portrayal of nature. Representatives: Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Frederic Edwin Church.
Other notable artist were Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. Homer portrayed rural America, the seas, the mountains and the men and women who lived there. Eakins was a realist who turned away from romanticism. John Singleton Copley painted emblematic portraits for the increasingly prosperous merchant class. Benjamin West painted portraits as well as history paintings of the French and Indian War.
Art and Sculpture after 1900 Much American art and sculpture after 1900 has been a series of revolt against tradition. A new school which portrayed the life of the city, especially daily life of New York, appeared, and this group of artists was called the “Ash-can” school. The school included Robert Henri, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, etc.
By the 1920’s there was a renewed sense of nationalism, artists portrayed the rural Midwest and New England with new realism. American realism became the new direction for American visual artists at the turn of the 20th century. Painters chose to adopt various—in some cases academic—styles of realism in depicting American urban and rural scenes. Grant Wood, Reginald Marsh, Guy Pène du Bois, and Charles Sheeler exemplify the realist tendency in different ways.
In the 1940’s and 1950’s a radical movement called abstract expressionism captured world attention and made New York City one of the art capitals of the world. The first generation of abstract expressionists included Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell etc.