American Art
History, Development & Collections of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture in America.

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No. 5, 1948 (1948)
By Jackson Pollock.
Reputedly sold for $140 million (2006)
See Jackson Pollock's paintings.

SCULPTURE
See Best American Sculptors.

American Art (c.1750-2000)

This is a short 20 step guide to the history of American art, including painting, sculpture, architecture and contemporary art forms, from Colonial times on. For early culture in the Americas, see: Pre-Columbian Art (1200 BCE-1535 CE). For later native American culture, see: American Indian Art (1000 BCE-1900).

Contents

18th Century Colonial Artists
19th Century American Landscape Art
19th Century American Portraiture & Genre Painting
19th Century American Impressionism
19th Century Architecture
1900: Development of Modern Art in America
20th Century American Urban Art
Growth of Indigenous Modern Art in America (1920-1940)
Arrival of Modern Artists From Europe (1920-40)
Abstract Expressionism (1940-1960)
Neo-Dada (1950s): Reaction Against Abstract Expressionism
American Conceptualism (1950s/1960s)
Pop Art (1960s/1970s)
Environmental Art (1960s)
Video Art (1960s on)
Minimalism (1960s)
American Feminist Art (1960s)
Photorealism, Superrealism (1960s, 1970s)
Graffiti Art (1970s, 1980s)
Neo-Pop Art (late 1980s onwards)
21st Century American Art
Best Art Museums in America
American Art Collectors (1840-2000)

For the history and characteristics of architectural design in the United States, see: American Architecture (1600-present).

1. 18th Century Colonial Artists

American colonial art during the 17th and 18th centuries was largely confined to portraiture and some landscape painting. The few available opportunities for artists derived from contacts with the colonial class. Important American colonial painters include:

Benjamin West (1738-1820)
The "Father of American Painting", active in England where he influenced a number of artists from America, including John Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Allston Washington.

John Singleton Copley (1738-1815)
Noted for his Boston and London portraits and history paintings.

Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828)
Noted for his portraits of George Washington, Stuart is seen as the greatest 18th century American portrait painter, and the creator of a distinctively American style of art.

Other noted American painters of the 18th century include: the portraitist Ralph Earl (1751-1801) and the portrait/history painter John Trumbull (1756-1843).

American architecture of the colonial era was typically either Georgian, or Neoclassical. The latter encompassed the 'Federal Style' and Greek Revival designs. American architects of the period include Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), William Thornton (1759-1828), James Hoban (1762-1831), Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844) and Benjamin Latrobe (1764-1820).

 

2. 19th Century American Landscape Art

An independent America offered more opportunity to everyone, including artists. Although photography (invented 1839) eventually replaced painting as a chronicler of events and experience, 19th century America relied on painters to record these things. Portraiture continued to be financially rewarding, but landscapes of the American wilderness were also popular. The two most famous styles of scenic view painting, both highly romantic, were the Thomas Cole-inspired Hudson River school (c.1825-65) and its later offshoot Luminism (c.1850-75). The French plein-air Barbizon School was also influential, while a style known as Tonalism grew up in the 1880s and 90s. Important 19th century American landscape and plein-air painters include:

Thomas Cole (1801-48)
Famous for the grandeur and dramatic quality of his wilderness scenes.

George Inness (1825-1894)
Brought Barbizon School techniques to America, and helped to define the Impressionistic Tonalist movement.

Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900)
A pupil of Cole, and America's greatest ever romantic landscape painter, Church criss-crossed the continent, painting tropical forests, waterfalls, volcanoes and icebergs.

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
German-born landscape painter, member of the Dusseldorf School, the Hudson River School and the Rocky Mountain School of Romantic landscape art.

Other Hudson River artists include: Thomas Doughty (1793-1856), Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886), Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889), John William Casilear (1811-1893), Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910), Robert Duncanson (1821-1872), William Hart (1823-1894), David Johnson (1827-1908), Jervis McEntee (1828-1891), James McDougal Hart (1828-1901), Thomas Hill (1829-1908), Hermann Ottomar Herzog (1831-1932), William Stanley Haseltine (1835-1900).

Luminist artists include: John F. Kensett (1816-72), Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-80), Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900), William Trost Richards (1833-1905), Norton Bush (1834-94), Edmund Darch Lewis (1835-1910), Alfred T. Bricher (1837-1908), Thomas Moran (1837-1926).

George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879)
The celebrated and highly popular frontier oil-painter, luminist landscape and genre artist from Missouri.

Other painters of the American frontier include Frederic Remington (1861-1909) the most famous portrayer of the Cowboy West; the watercolourist Charles Russell (1864-1926); genre-painter William Sidney Mount (1807-68) noted for his rural scenes that appealed to city dwellers; Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917) noted for his romantic but somber mythological scenes.

History Painting
Much less popular than landscape painting and portraiture, the tradition of history painting in America was carried on by the German-American painter Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816-68) who is best remembered for his masterpiece Washington Crossing the Delaware.

3. 19th Century American Portraiture & Genre Painting

Aside from landscapes, American artists produced portraits and a range of subject or genre paintings. John Singer Sargent was the greatest portraitist of the age, while Winslow Homer was one of the leading subject painters. The great European art movements of Impressionism and Post Impressionism had some followers in the United States, but realism remained the dominant style.

Important 19th century American portrait and genre-painters include:

Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
One of America's most famous artists, Homer had a talent for depicting nature in a way that reflected the American pioneering spirit. Self-taught in both watercolour and oil painting, his pictures deal with the obscure lives of fishermen, soldiers, sailors, woodsmen, hunters, pioneers - the common folk of the human race.

Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)
Quite simply the greatest ever American exponent of figurative realism; received far less official recognition during his lifetime, than he deserved.

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Active in Europe and London, he was the finest American portrait artist of his era. Captured the spirit of the fin de siecle and the golden age that perished in World War I.

Realism in Sculpture
For realist statues, see End of the Trail by James Earle Fraser (1876-1953) and Fighting Stallions by Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973).

4. 19th Century American Impressionism

The pioneer of American Impressionism was the expatriate tonalist painter James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903). Active in Britain as a portraitist, landscape artist, symbolist, and member of the Aesthetic movement, he is best known for his 'arrangements', 'harmonies' and 'nocturnes'. Later American Impressionist painters included: the Pittsburgh artist Mary Cassatt (1844-1926); the Bostonian Childe Hassam (1859-1935) best known for his "flag paintings"; the Munich-trained portraitist William Merritt Chase (1849-1916); J. Alden Weir (1852-1919) who excelled at landscape, still lifes and flower paintings; Theodore Robinson (1852-96), a close friend of Claude Monet; the Cincinnati artist John H Twachtman (1853-1902); Thomas Dewing (1851-1938) the interior and landscape painter, and follower of Aestheticism; and John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Also, Robert Henri (1865-1929) and William James Glackens (1870-1938), both members of The Eight, produced a number of excellent Impressionist-style canvases.

As the American art world expanded during the 19th century, so did its organizations. The American Academy of Fine Arts was founded as early as 1802 and ran until 1841. Thereafter it was replaced by the National Academy of Design (originally called the Society for the Improvement of Drawing) which was set up in 1825 in New York. The National Academy was the most active fine arts association in America until the 20th century when its conservative nature gradually caused it to become more of a historical institution.

In addition, America commemorated much of its 19th century history in memorial sculptures, such as those by Daniel Chester French (1850-1931).

5. 19th Century Architecture

The main styles of American architecture during the nineteenth century were Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Second Empire, together with some Italianate and Romanesque-style designs. Greek Revival came first, led largely by Jefferson, Latrobe and Bulfinch. Neo-Gothic architectural design was exemplified by the work of Richard Upjohn (1802-78) and James Renwick (1818-95), while Romanesque-style designs were pursued by Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-86). The less widespread Beaux-Arts style - a mixture of Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque architecture - was championed in particular by Richard Morris Hunt (1827-95) and Cass Gilbert (1859-1934). Meantime, the first real skyscrapers were being designed by the Chicago School of architecture (c.1880-1910), led by William Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907).

6. 1900: Development of Modern Art in America

From this point onwards, European art - and, more importantly, European artists - begin to have a much greater impact on America. This is the result of two main factors. (1) the rise of American commercial power - which in turn led to the emergence of powerful American art collectors and philanthropists, who purchased European art for museums in the United States. The growth of American cities was, incidentally, made them ideal customers for - and developers of - new styles of European architecture like Art Nouveau (flourished 1890-1914) and Art Deco (1920s, 1930s). (2) The chaos and carnage of World War I and World War II led many Continental artists to emigrate to the United States. One effect of this increased European influence was the gradual emergence of a school of abstract art: initially Cubist-oriented, later geometric and colourist in nature, it provided an obvious contrast with native representationalism.

The famous avant-garde Armory Show (officially entitled the International Exhibition of Modern Art) - seen by more than a quarter of a million visitors in New York, Chicago and Boston - marked a turning point in public interest in modern art. Exhibits featured the greatest modern paintings, including works by modernist American as well as European artists. Organized by Arthur B Davies (1862-1928), President of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors - a group initiated by Robert Henri (1865-1929) - the show attracted several important patrons and collectors, including: Lillie P Bliss (1864-1931) and Katherine Dreier (1877-1952), both of whom became key benefactors of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York. Other important exhibitions dating from this period include the Carnegie International exhibition of contemporary art held since 1896 at the Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute Pittsburgh; and of course The Whitney Biennial, an invitational event held since 1932.

Several famous American art museums, endowed by US industrialist-philanthropists, date from around the turn of the century. They include: The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York (1870), which now owns more than 3 million works; The Museum of Fine Arts Boston (1870), whose collection now has 450,000 works; The Philadelphia Museum of Art (1876), with 200 galleries and over 225,000 objects; The Detroit Institute of Arts (early 1880s), with 100 galleries, and a collection valued at over $1 billion; The Art Institute of Chicago (1893), whose collection includes 33 masterpieces by Claude Monet!; The Frick Collection (1919), one of the world's top "bijou" art museums; The Phillips Collection (1921), another one of the world's top "small" museums; The Whitney Museum of American Art (1930), founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942).

An important influence on the development of American art during the early 20th century was the American photographer, editor, and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), later the husband of artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who - with the help of his close colleague Edward Steichen (1879-1973) - devoted much of his energy to promoting fine art photography as well as modernist painting and sculpture in the New York area. Other early camera artists included Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) and Walker Evans (1903–1975).

7. 20th Century American Urban Art

The growing concrete jungle of American cities, complete with its towering skyscraper architecture, attracted the technical and artistic skills of a number of talented American architects, including such diverse figures as Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), Walter Gropius (1883-1969), Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) - champion of the "International Style", and leader of the Second Chicago School of Architecture - the world famous firm of architects Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and their revolutionary designer Fazlur Khan (1929-82), as well as Philip Johnson (1906-2005), I.M.Pei (b.1917) and Frank O. Gehry (b.1929). The urban scene also attracted the attention of several mini-art movements. They included: the Ashcan School (New York c.1892-1919), a progressive set of American painters and illustrators who depicted New York City life, in a gritty, unpolished style. The Ashcan School (whose 'core' was known as 'The Eight', included Arthur B. Davies, William J Glackens (1870-1938), Robert Henri (1865-1929), Ernest Lawson (1873-1939), George Luks (1867-1933), Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924), Everett Shinn (1876-1953) and John Sloan (1871-1951). Second generation Ashcan painters included George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925). Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was also influenced by this type of urban realism. Another influence on modern painting in the United States was Precisionism (or Cubist Realism, 1920s), whose focus was modern industry and urban landscapes, characterized by the realistic portrayal of objects but in a way that also highlighted their geometric form. It was exemplified in works by Charles Demuth (1883-1935) and Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), while the urban pictures of Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) are also associated with the Precisionist style. Other Precisionists include: George Ault (1891-1948), Ralston Crawford (1906-78), and Niles Spencer (1893-1952). A later style of Social Realism was practised by urban American scene painters of the Depression era, like Ben Shahn (1898-1969), Moses Soyer (1899-1974), Raphael Soyer (1899-1987), Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), William Gropper (1897-1977), Jack Levine (b.1915), and Isabel Bishop (1902-88). Most were inspired by the traditions of the New York Ashcan School, and also the Mexican murals of Diego Rivera (1886-1957), Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) and David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974).

8. Growth of Indigenous Modern Art in America (c.1920-1940)

Most American avant-garde art was based on trends emanating from Paris, still the centre of world art. Cubism, Expressionism, Dada and Surrealism were the most important of these movements, and attracted a number of indigenous American artists, including: the New Jersey Cubist/Expressionist John Marin (1870-1953); the vigorous modernist Marsden Hartley (1877-1943); the expressionist Russian-American Max Weber (1881-1961); the New York-born Bauhaus pioneer Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956); the unfortunate Patrick Henry Bruce (1881-1937), noted for his semi-abstract impastoed pictures; Stanton Macdonald-Wright (1890-1973) and Morgan Russell (1883-1953), two Americans living in Paris who invented a colourful abstract style known as Synchromism; Arthur Garfield Dove (1880-1946) noted for his small scale abstracts, collages and assemblages; the Mondrian and De Stijl-inspired Burgoyne Diller (1906-65); the influential American Cubist Stuart Davis (1894-1964); the calligraphic abstract painter Mark Tobey (1890-1976); the surrealist Man Ray (1890-1976); the Russian-American mixed-media artist Louise Nevelson (1899-1988); the Indiana metal sculptor David Smith (1906-1965); Joseph Cornell (1903-72) noted for his installations; the Iowa-raised Grant Wood (1892-1942) and the Missouri-born Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), both of whom were champions of rural and small-town Regionalism - part of the wider realist idiom of American Scene Painting; and Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) the famous African-American artist. Meanwhile, the plain vanilla traditionalist school was represented by Grandma Moses (1960-1961), noted for her idyllic rural scenes; the sentimental illustrator and portraitist Norman Rockwell (1894-1978); and Andrew Wyeth (b.1917) the watercolour and egg tempera artist, noted for his nostalgic, occasionally symbolic depictions of Pennsylvania and the Maine Coast - such as Christina's World (1948).

Mention must also be made of the growth in fine art photography, and the emergence of landscape photographers like Ansel Adams (1902-84), Imogen Cunningham, and Edward Weston (1886-1958). For details of other influential 20th century camera artists from America, like Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-89), and Cindy Sherman (b.1954).

9. Arrival of Modern Artists From Europe (1920-40)

Important artists who left Europe and settled in America during the inter-war period, included the Armenian-born Arshile Gorky (1905-48), who settled in the US in 1920, the German-born Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), the ex-Bauhaus painter Joseph Albers (1888-1976), the Cubist Fernand Leger (1881-1955), the geometrical abstractionist Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), and the Surrealists Yves Tanguy (1900-55), Andre Masson (1896-1987), Max Ernst (1891-1976), who briefly married the American heiress and collector Peggy Guggenheim, and Andre Breton (1896-1966). The Surrealist artists were very influential with their idea of unconscious 'automatic painting' which was taken up by Jackson Pollock and others.

The exchange of ideas was helped in New York by a growing infrastructure of venues promoting modern art, including: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, founded 1929), the Whitney Museum of American Art (founded 1931 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney), Albert Gallatin's Museum of Living Art, and the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (founded 1939), the forerunner of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Education also played a part: the German artist Hans Hofmann had a huge influence on painters through his New York art school where he taught from 1933 until 1958. Lastly, numerous American patrons and collectors - notably Peggy Guggenheim - were active and creative conduits.

The action was centred on New York. In 1936, a number of New York abstract painters and sculptors formed a group known as American Abstract Artists, to exhibit and promote their work, especially to American institutions like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which tended to favour European works. The first President of AAA was Balcombe Greene (1904-90), while early members included: Joseph Albers, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. It was a sign of things to come.

10. Abstract Expressionism (c.1940-1960)

During the early 1940s, with Europe in ferment, New York quietly took over from Paris as the innovative centre of art. This coincided with the appearance of a the first major American art movement, known as Abstract Expressionism (flourished 1943 to late 1950s). Leading practitioners included: Jackson Pollock (1912-56), his wife Lee Krasner (1908-84), Franz Kline (1910-62), Robert Motherwell (1915-91), Willem De Kooning (1904-97), Mark Rothko (1903-70), Clyfford Still (1904-80), Barnett Newman (1905-70), Josef Albers (1888-1976), Ad Reinhardt (1913-67), Philip Guston (1913-80), Adolph Gottlieb (1903-74), and William Baziotes (1912-63). The second generation included: Morris Louis (1912-62), Norman Bluhm (1920-99), Richard Diebenkorn (1922-93), Jules Olitski (b.1922), Ellsworth Kelly (b.1923), Kenneth Noland (b.1924), Joan Mitchell (1926-92), Helen Frankenthaler (b.1928) and Frank Stella (b.1936). Neither purely abstract nor expressionist, the style embraced two broad groupings: the school of "Action Painting" (a style of gestural painting) whose leading members included Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning; and the more passive style of Colour Field Painting practised by Mark Rothko and others. See: Mark Rothko's paintings (1938-70). Philip Guston developed his own version, often called "Abstract Impressionism", while Adolf Gottlieb was deeply interested in Native American Art from which he developed his so-called "Pictographs". Another important Colour Field adherent was Helen Frankenthaler, who began as a Cubist before investigating abstract expressionist painting in the early 1950s. A third, lesser tendency - geometric and purely abstract - was pursued in differing ways by Josef Albers and by Ad Reinhardt. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, younger artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland, and Frank Stella developed Hard-Edge Painting, whose sharp contours contrasted with the softer focus of Albers' Homage to the Square series and other similar forms. In 1964, this tendency was given the name Post-Painterly Abstraction by the art critic Clement Greenberg (1909-94) when he curated the influential show "Post-Painterly Abstraction" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

11. Neo-Dada (1950s): Reaction Against Abstract Expressionism

During the early 1950s, an anti-aesthetic tendency known as Neo-Dada art - exemplified by Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) & Jasper Johns (b.1930) - emerged as a reaction to the intellectualism of Abstract Expressionism. Like the earlier fully-fledged Dada movement, it utilized modern materials, popular iconography, and absurdist content. It also coincided with Assemblage art - artwork made out of fragments of 'found' objects such as household debris, urban detritus - indeed any (usually recognizable) materials, large or small. Though short-lived, and one of several such anti-art groups, Neo-Dada was the forerunner of Pop Art. See also the activities of the important art dealer and collector Leo Castelli.

Other Modern & Contemporary Movements

Kinetic art (mobiles) was pioneered by the renowned engineer, cartoonist and gouache painter Alexander Calder (1898-1976). Outsider art was represented in America by Alfonso Ossorio (1916-90) who produced paintings on wax-covered paper, as well as decorative assemblages on cement with numerous add-ons. American Op-Art was exemplified by Richard Anuszkiewicz (b.1930). Fluxus art was practised by George Brecht (b.1925), Ray Johnson (b.1927) and the Japanese-American Yoko Ono (b.1933). For contemporary "body fluids art", check out Kiki Smith (b.1954), daughter of sculptor Tony Smith.

12. American Conceptualism (1950s/1960s)

Conceptual art or Conceptualism, is a worldwide movement that says the "idea" of a work of art is more important than the work itself. Conceptual artists try to produce nifty ideas designed to shock and amuse without necessarily leaving behind any impressive works of art. Are they trying to rubbish formal art, or merely extending its frontiers? Nobody seems to know for sure. Key participants in American conceptual art include: the avant-garde composer John Cage (1912–1992) who created the controversial musical composition '4-33', whose three movements contain not a single sound or note of music; the sculptor Sol LeWitt (b.1928) noted for his influential essay 'Paragraphs on Conceptual Art' (1967); the artists Allan Kaprow (b.1927), John Baldessari (b.1931), Edward Kienholz (1927-94) and Joseph Kosuth (b.1945). The first piece of conceptual fine art was Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953) by Robert Rauschenberg. It now resides in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Other American exponents of Conceptualism include: Eva Hesse (1936-70) the German-American ex-pupil of Albers; the Ohio-born installation artist Jenny Holzer (b.1950); the photomontage artist Barbara Kruger (b.1945); the Bronx conceptualist Lawrence Weiner (b.1942); and Pittsburgh-born Mel Bochner (b.1940), the Cuban-American Felix Gonzales-Torres (1957-96) and the multi-media artist Matthew Barney (b.1967).

13. Pop Art (1960s/1970s)

Influenced by Dada and Surrealism, Pop artists sought to distance themselves from the high-brow nature of Abstract Expressionism by using instantly recognizable recognized imagery (Hamburgers, Comic Strip Characters, Cigarette Butts, Cars, Baseball Glove), as well as modern printmaking technology like screen printing - all making a humorous dig at the consumerist American society. Famous US Pop artists included: Wayne Thiebaud (b.1920), Larry Rivers (1923-2002), Jim Dine (b.1935), Robert Indiana (aka John Clark) (b.1928), Alex Katz (b.1927), Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97), Claes Oldenburg (b.1929), Ed Ruscha (b.1937), James Rosenquist (b.1933), Andy Warhol (1928-87), and Tom Wesselmann (b.1931). For more about the leader of this style, see Andy Warhol's Pop Art of the sixties and seventies.

14. Environmental Art (1960s) (Earthworks, Land Art)

Land art was a form of contemporary sculpture - in which the landscape is manipulated to create artistic shapes or "events". Pioneers of this artform, many of whom participated in a major "Earth Art" exhibition at Cornell University's Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, included Robert Smithson (1938-73), his wife Nancy Holt (b.1938), Walter De Maria (b.1935), Agnes Denes (b.1938), Dennis Oppenheim (b.1938), Alice Aycock (b.1946), James Turrell (b.1943), Michael Heizer (b.1944), and the husband/wife team Christo & Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009). Note: the Presidential portraits of Mount Rushmore, although clearly works of art, are not regarded as Land Art since they do not celebrate the land but the images made from it.

15. Video Art

Video art emerged around 1963 in the United States and then Europe. It was taken up by several of the major movements, including Conceptualism and Minimalism. Important American video artists include: Joan Jonas (b.1936), Peter Campus (b.1937), Vito Acconci (b.1940), Bruce Nauman (b.1941), Dan Graham (b.1942), Gary Hill (b.1951), Tony Oursler (b.1957) and the great Bill Viola (b.1951). Later exponents include: Matthew Barney (b.1967) and the Japanese-American Mariko Mori (b.1967).

16. Minimalism (1960s)

Minimal Art is a purist form of abstract art which become an influential style around the world in sculpture, painting and architecture. Minimalist works (of sculpture and painting) typically consist of bare uniform elements making up some type of a grid or pattern. Frightening stuff! The term minimalism is usually applied to 3-D works by artists such as Massachusetts-born Carl Andre (b.1935), New York artists Dan Flavin (1933-1996) and Ellsworth Kelly, Missouri-born Donald Judd (1928-1994), the Connecticut sculptor Sol LeWitt, the Kansas City artist Robert Morris (b.1931), the North Carolina-born Kenneth Noland, the San Franciscan Richard Serra (b.1939), the New Jersey sculptor Tony Smith (1912-80), and the Baltimore artist Anne Truitt (b.1933); and to paintings by New Yorkers Robert Mangold (b.1937) and Brice Marden (b.1938), the Canadian-born Agnes Martin (1912-2004), the Italian-American Frank Stella, and Tennessee artist Robert Ryman (b.1930), among others.

17. American Feminist Art (Late 1960s)

Fifteen years after the death of the surrealist Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), art made by women about women's issues - explored what it was to be a woman AND an artist in a male dominated world. Prominent American feminist artists included the Cleveland Ohio-born Nancy Spero (b.1926), the New Yorkers Eleanor Antin (b.1935) and Joan Jonas (b.1936), Judy Chicago (born Judy Cohen) (b.1939), the Oklahoma-born Mary Kelly (b.1941), and the Iowa-trained Miriam Schapiro (b.1923). Note also the feminist sculpture of the French-born American Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010).

18. Photorealism, Superrealism (1960s, 1970s)

These terms describe a style of hyperrealistic painting which appeared in the late 1960s, in which subjects are depicted in a highly detailed manner, just like a photograph. Often used to demonstrate technical virtuosity, the idiom is exemplified by painters like Richard Estes (b.1932) who specializes in street scenes; Chuck Close (b.1940) who produces monumental portraits and self-portraits; Robert Cottingham (b.1935) who depicts advertising signs; Audrey Flack (b.1931) noted for her emotional still lifes; Howard Kanowitz (1929-2009) who employed pasted cut-outs; Ralph Goings (b.1928) who focuses on cars. Prominent sculptors include Duane Hanson (1925-96) who replicates mundane consumers, John de Andrea (b.1941) who specializes in nude sculpture, and Robert Gober (b.1954) known for his body parts in beeswax.

19. Graffiti Art (1970s, 1980s)

Also called "Writing", "Spraycan Art" and "Aerosol Art", Graffiti art is closely linked to the cultural movement hip-hop, which sprang up in various American cities, in the early 1970s, notably in the New York subway. By the mid-1970s most of the creative standards in Aerosol Art had already been established, and the genre began to stagnate. By the early 1980s, a group of avant-garde 20th century painters known as the United Graffiti Artists (UGA), founded in 1972 by Hugo Martinez, had expanded its membership to include many of the leading graffiti taggers and sprayers, with a view to showing works in official venues, like the Razor Gallery. Thereafter, during the late 1980s and 1990s, well known graffiti artists began renting studios and showing their works in galleries and renting art studios. The most famous American graffiti artist was probably Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88). Others include: Futura 2000 (b.1956), Keith Haring (1958-1990), Rhonda Zwillinger, Mike Bidlo, Kenny Scharf, David Wojnarowicz, Rammellzee (b.1960), Blade (b.1957), Vinnie Ray and Shepard Fairey. Outside the USA, the most famous graffiti painter is the stencil artist known as Banksy. Many works of graffiti art can be seen at the B5 Gallery, New York.

20. Neo-Pop Art (late 1980s onwards)

The terms "Neo-Pop" or "Post-Pop" denote the resurgence of interest in the themes and methods of the 1950s and 1960s Pop-Art movement. In particular, it refers to the work of artists like the Anglo-American Ashley Bickerton (b.1959), Jeff Koons (b.1955), and Haim Steinbach (b.1944). Employing recognizable objects, images of celebrities and symbols from popular culture, this updated form of Pop-Art also drew inspiration from Dada (in their use of readymades and found objects), and from modern conceptualism.

21. American Art in the 21st Century

Postmodernist art, exemplified by the kitsch-like innovative works of Jeff Koons, continues to hold sway in America, reflecting similar developments in Britain illustrated in the works of Damien Hirst (b.1965). However, while in Britain and on the Continent, postmodernist art stands awkwardly alongside Michelangelo and Monet, the American art world has tended to be more product-based. To put it simply, while Europeans worry about aesthetics, Americans buy and sell art as if it were just another set of products. If this is true, the 2008-9 recession is likely to set a new value on American artworks from the 19th century, the early/mid 20th century and the contemporary era. Already, contemporary art has suffered a significant decline in financial vale, while the Warhol period seems to be doing well.

The Best Art Museums in America

To experience American painting and sculpture (1750-present) at its best, visit the collections in these museums. See also Art Museums in America.

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York
Guggenheim Museum, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
• National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC
Phillips Collection, Washington DC
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC
Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA)
Art Institute of Chicago
• Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago
Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
• Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA)
• Toledo Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)
• Saint Louis Art Museum
• Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
• San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

American Art Collectors

See also: Art Collectors: Greatest.

Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924)
Boston decorative/fine art collector, focused on Renaissance paintings.

Solomon R Guggenheim (1861-1949)
US art collector, museum-founder, focused on 20th century contemporary art.

Dr Albert C Barnes (1872-1951)
America's greatest art collector, famous for his assembly of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist canvases.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942)
Founder of Whitney Museum, NY, dedicated to American painting & sculpture.

Duncan Phillips (1886-1966)
Founder of Phillips Collection, one of the greatest small art museums.

J Paul Getty (1892-1976)
Oil tycoon, art/antiquities collector, established the Getty Villa, the Getty Center and the Getty Foundation.

Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979)
Collected modern abstract art, housed at her Grand Canal home in Venice.

• For more about the evolution of painting/sculpture, see: Homepage.


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