Drawing on America's Past: Folk Art, Modernism, and the Index of American Design by Virginia Tuttle Clayton, Elizabeth Stillinger, Erika Doss, Deborah Chotner |, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Drawing on America's Past: Folk Art, Modernism, and the Index of American Design

Drawing on America's Past: Folk Art, Modernism, and the Index of American Design

by Virginia Tuttle Clayton, Elizabeth Stillinger, Erika Doss, Deborah Chotner
     
 

This beautifully illustrated book commemorates the sixtieth anniversary of the National Gallery of Art's acquisition of the Index of American Design. Widely regarded as one of the New Deal's most important art projects, the Index began in 1935 as a unit of the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project. Its aim was to compile and eventually publish a

Overview

This beautifully illustrated book commemorates the sixtieth anniversary of the National Gallery of Art's acquisition of the Index of American Design. Widely regarded as one of the New Deal's most important art projects, the Index began in 1935 as a unit of the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project. Its aim was to compile and eventually publish a visual archive of American folk, popular, and decorative art from the time of settlement to about 1900. The approximately 1,000 artists involved in the project created more than 18,000 meticulous watercolor portraits of Americana.

The book presents 82 of the finest watercolor renderings along with a selection of the artifacts they represent. The original objects range from quilts, weather vanes, and hand-carved toys to carousel animals, stoneware, and cigar-store figures. Three essays explore the history, operation, and ambitions of the Index of American Design, examine folk-art collecting in America during the early decades of the twentieth century, and consider the Index's role in the search for a national cultural identity in the early twentieth-century United States.

Drawing on America's Past is the companion publication to an exhibition that runs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from 27 November 2002 through 2 March 2003.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The National Gallery of Art celebrates the 60th anniversary of its acquisition of the Index of American Design with this book and exhibit of the same name (through March 2003). From 1935 to 1942, artists created more than 18,000 watercolor renderings of American folk, popular, and decorative art for the index, which was part of the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project. This work includes 82 outstanding examples in color plates, which present a watercolor illustration adjacent to the original object. The select bibliography, an annotated list of state projects, and the artists' biographies make this pictorial archive of Americana an exceptional value. Essays make up almost one-third of the text and offer new insights into the project and its progenitors. Clayton, associate curator at the gallery, writes on the history, purpose, and success of the project. Folk art collecting provided an impetus for the index, and Elizabeth Stillinger (Historic Deerfield) discusses those implications. Erika Doss (Elvis Culture) provides an analysis of the connection between national identity and design. Essential for specialized collections of Americana and folk art, this book is also recommended for all art collections.-Rebecca Tolley-Stokes, East Tennessee State Univ. Lib., Johnson City Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807827949
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
02/24/2003
Edition description:
1
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 11.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Drawing on America's Past

Folk Art, Modernism, and the Index of American Design
By Virginia Tuttle Clayton Elizabeth Stillinger Erika Doss Deborah Chotner

The University of North Carolina Press

Copyright © 2003 University of North Carolina Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8078-2794-9


Foreword

Sixty years ago the National Gallery of Art acquired the Index of American Design, an extraordinary collection of more than 18,000 watercolor renderings of American folk, popular, and decorative art. The Index was the product of a government-supported program that operated from 1935 to 1942 as a unit of the WPA's Federal Art Project, offering relief work to some of the many artists unemployed and impoverished during the Great Depression. After the project ended, Federal Art Project director Holger Cahill favored the allocation of the Index of American Design to the National Gallery because he understood that the Gallery would properly care for and exhibit this incomparable survey of Americana. The National Gallery eagerly accepted the offer of this unique compendium of watercolors and over the past six decades has committed its curatorial and conservation resources to maintaining the Index and organizing many exhibitions of its renderings that have traveled throughout the United States. In 2000 the Gallery received a grant from the Save America's Treasures program of the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, to perform new conservation on the watercolor plates, and this work has now been successfully completed.

To celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the gallery's acquisition of the Index, the National Gallery is presenting Drawing on America's Past: Folk Art, Modernism, and the Index of American Design, an exhibition of about eighty outstanding Index renderings that reunites nearly half of them with the actual artifacts they portray-for the first time since the project was in operation. In the essays for the exhibition catalogue, Virginia Clayton, Elizabeth Stillinger, and Erika Doss examine the organization and day-to-day functioning of the Index project, its relationship to American art between the two world wars, and the role it played in forming our present notions of what is American in American art. Deborah Chotner's catalogue entries contribute up-to-date information about the works of folk, popular, and decorative art depicted in the Index.

We are indebted to the Henry Luce Foundation for providing the generous support that allowed us to realize this exhibition and its catalogue. We are also grateful to all the public institutions and private collectors who graciously allowed us to borrow for the exhibition the original artifacts portrayed in the Index of American Design.

Earl A. Powell III Director, National Gallery of Art

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Drawing on America's Past by Virginia Tuttle Clayton Elizabeth Stillinger Erika Doss Deborah Chotner Copyright © 2003 by University of North Carolina Press. Excerpted by permission.
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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
More than a coffee table book, the well-written essays and new research on the objects and illustrators elevate Drawing on America's Past to the position of good American studies and art history scholarship as well.—John A. Burrison, Georgia State University

This large-scale, lavishly-produced volume. . . . [with] eighty-two magnificent color reproductions. . . . make[s] this volume appealing to a general audience.—American Studies

Includes 82 outstanding examples in color plates, which present a watercolor illustration adjacent to the original object. The select bibliography, an annotated list of state projects, and the artists' biographies make this pictorial archive of Americana an exceptional value. . . . Essential for specialized collections of Americana and folk art, this book is also recommended for all art collections.—Library Journal

Meet the Author

Virginia Tuttle Clayton is associate curator of old master prints at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Stillinger is a historian of American decorative arts who lives in Connecticut.

Erika Doss is professor of art history in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Colorado at Boulder

Deborah Chotner is assistant curator of American and British paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

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