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: 9780520241886
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 6/14/2006
  • Series: Ahmanson-Murphy Fine Arts Bks.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 317
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.88 (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

Introduction : a critical overview of visual culture studies 1
1 Educating for distinction? : art, hierarchy, and Charles Wilson Peale's Staircase group 25
2 Samuel F. B. Morse's Gallery of the Louvre : social tensions in an ideal world 42
3 Cartoons in color : David Gilmour Blythe's very uncivil war 66
4 "Ain't I a woman?" : Anne Whitney, Edmonia Lewis, and the iconography of emancipation 84
5 Cultural racism : resistance and accommodation in the Civil War art of Eastman Johnson and Thomas Nast 103
6 Custer's last stand : high-low on old and new frontiers 124
7 Reenvisioning "this well-wooden land" 142
8 At home with Mona Lisa : consumers and commercial visual culture, 1880-1920 160
9 Gustav Stickley's designs for the home : an activist aesthetic for the upwardly mobile 177
10 Handicraft, Native American art, and modern Indian identity 194
11 Alone on the sidewalks of New York : Alfred Stieglitz's photography, 1892-1913 210
12 The colors of modernism : Georgia O'Keeffe, Cheney brothers, and the relationship between art and industry in the 1920s 228
13 The invisibility of race in modernist representation : Marsden Hartley's North Atlantic folk 247
14 Caricaturing the Gringo tourist : Diego Rivera's Folkloric and touristic Mexico and Miguel Covarrubias's Sunday afternoon in Xochimilco 266
15 The Norman Rockwell Museum and the representation of social conflict 280
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