Seeing High and Low: Representing Social Conflict in American Visual Culture / Edition 1

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This cutting-edge volume presents a sweeping view of the evolution of visual culture in the United States through fifteen absorbing case studies by top scholars of American art that explore visual culture’s engagement with social controversy. Written especially for this work in lively and accessible language, the essays illuminate what visual forms—including traditional crafts, sculpture, painting and graphic arts, even domestic and museum interiors—can tell us about social conditions, how visual culture has contributed to social values, and how concepts of high and low art have developed. The only work on visual culture to span American history from the early republic to the present and to delve into issues from ethnicity to geography, Seeing High and Low allows readers to follow the evolution of concepts of “high” and “low” art as well as to gain new insight into American history.

Arranged roughly chronologically, these generously illustrated essays explore topics including the formative role of visual images in the process of class stratification in the Early Republic; the contribution of media images and paintings to debates on environmental crises, race relations, and urbanization in the late nineteenth century; and the difficulties of engaging with social issues while employing a modernist vocabulary.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520241879
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 6/14/2006
  • Series: Ahmanson-Murphy Fine Arts Bks.
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 317
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Johnston, Professor of Art History at Salem State College, is author of Real Fantasies: Edward Steichen's Advertising Photography (1997). She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Charles Warren Center for the Study of American History at Harvard University.

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Table of Contents


Patricia Johnston

1. Educating for Distinction? Art, Hierarchy, and Charles Willson Peale’s Staircase Group
David Steinberg
2. Samuel F.B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre: Social Tensions in an Ideal World
Patricia Johnston
3. Cartoons in Color: David Gilmour Blythe’s Very Uncivil War
Sarah Burns
4. “Ain’t I a Woman?”: Anne Whitney, Edmonia Lewis, and the Iconography of Emancipation
Melissa Dabakis
5. Cultural Racism: Resistance and Accommodation in the Civil War Art of Eastman Johnson and Thomas Nast
Patricia Hills
6. Custer’s Last Stand: High-Low on Old and New Frontiers
Patricia M. Burnham
7. Reenvisioning “This Well-Wooded Land”
JaBérénice Simon
8. At Home with Mona Lisa: Consumers and Commercial Visual Culture, 1880–1920
Katharine Martinez
9. Gustav Stickley’s Designs for the Home: An Activist Aesthetic for the Upwardly Mobile
Arlette Klaric
10. Handicraft, Native American Art, and Modern
Indian Identity
Elizabeth Hutchinson
11. Alone on the Sidewalks of New York: Alfred Stieglitz’s Photography, 1892–1913
Joanne Lukitsh
12. The Colors of Modernism: Georgia O’Keeffe, Cheney Brothers, and the Relationship between Art and
Industry in the 1920s
Regina Lee Blaszczyk
13. The Invisibility of Race in Modernist Representation: Marsden Hartley’s North Atlantic Folk
Donna M. Cassidy
14. Caricaturing the Gringo Tourist: Diego Rivera’s Folkloric and Touristic Mexico and Miguel Covarrubias’s Sunday Afternoon in Xochimilco
Jeffrey Belnap
15. The Norman Rockwell Museum and the Representation of Social Conflict
Alan Wallach

List of Illustrations


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