Rendering Violence: Riots, Strikes, and Upheaval in Nineteenth-Century American Art

Rendering Violence: Riots, Strikes, and Upheaval in Nineteenth-Century American Art

by Ross Barrett

Hardcover(First Edition)

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Rendering Violence explores the problems and possibilities that the subject of political violence presented to American painters working between 1830 and 1890, a turbulent period during which common citizens frequently abandoned orderly forms of democratic expression to riot, strike, and protest violently. Examining a range of critical texts, this book shows for the first time that nineteenth-century American aesthetic theory defined painting as a privileged vehicle for the representation of political order and the stabilization of liberal-democratic life. Analyzing seven paintings by Thomas Cole, John Quidor, Nathaniel Jocelyn, George Henry Hall, Thomas Nast, Martin Leisser, and Robert Koehler, Ross Barrett reconstructs the strategies that American artists developed to explore the symbolic power of violence in a medium aligned ideologically with lawful democracy. He argues that American paintings of upheaval “render” their subjects in divergent ways. By exploring the inner conflicts that structure these painterly projects, Barrett sheds new light on the politicized pressures that shaped visual representation in the nineteenth century and on the anxieties and ambivalences that have long defined American responses to political turmoil.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520282896
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 08/29/2014
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 244
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Ross Barrett is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of South Carolina. He has published articles in The Art Bulletin, American Art, and Winterthur Portfolio, along with catalog essays and entries on American painting and vernacular photography. He is also coeditor, with Daniel Worden, of Oil Culture, a volume of essays that examines cultural representations of petroleum and the oil industry.

Table of Contents


1. How Could a Mob Be Painted? Picturing Political Violence in the Jacksonian Era 
2. Painting That “Might Prove Injurious”: Cinque and the Representation of African American Political Violence 
3. Riot, Rowdyism, and Reform: George Henry Hall and the Picturing of Midcentury Urban Upheaval 
4. Trouble on the Home Front: Art, Democracy, and Disorder during the Civil War 
5. Painting and Political Violence at Century’s End 

List of Illustrations 

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