The Culture and Art of Death in 19th Century America

The Culture and Art of Death in 19th Century America

by D. Tulla Lightfoot


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Nineteenth-century Victorian-era mourning rituals—long and elaborate public funerals, the wearing of lavishly somber mourning clothes, and families posing for portraits with deceased loved ones—are often depicted as bizarre or scary. But behind many such customs were rational or spiritual meanings.
This book offers an in-depth explanation at how death affected American society and the creative ways in which people responded to it. The author discusses such topics as mediums as performance artists and postmortem painters and photographers, and draws a connection between death and the emergence of three-dimensional media.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476665375
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Publication date: 04/23/2019
Pages: 266
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.53(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

D. Tulla Lightfoot is an emeritus faculty member of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and lives in Aventura, Florida. She is the author of many academic articles on art and art education, has edited academic journals and has made several presentations in her field.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface 1

1. The Victorian Age 5

2. Psychic Artists, Performance Art and Death 12

The Afterlife 12

Mesmerism as Performance Art 18

Séance as Performance Art 21

Performing Medium: Performance Art 25

Houdini, Conan Doyle and Twentieth Century Investigations 32

3. Traditional Artist and Death 39

Nineteenth Century Visual Artists 39

Portraits of the Deceased 44

Spirit Painting 45

Post-Impressionists and Death 50

Theosophy, the Anthroposophy Society, Rudolph Steiner and Abstract Art 56

Clairvoyance and Abstract Art 59

4. Mourning Garb 65

Mourning Franklin, Hancock and Washington 65

Etiquette 68

Mourning Princess Charlotte 71

Marie Antoinette and Rose Bertin 73

Emerging Magazines 76

Napoleon Bonaparte and Fashion Designer Hippolyte Leroy 77

American Ladies’ Journals 79

Books on Etiquette 82

Creation of Patterns, Empress Eugénie and Charles Frederick Worth 86

Changing Fashion Styles in the Victorian Era 91

Retail Mourning Clothes 92

The Role of Widows and Charles Dana Gibson 95

5. Illustrious Widows’ Influence on Art and Design 99

Mourning Clothes 99

Queen Victoria—Fashion Trendsetter 100

Mary Todd Lincoln—Fashion Designer 105

6. Memorial Jewelry 115

7. Artists Working in Hair 134

8. Photography and Death 148

Postmortem Portraits 148

Matthew Brady and the Civil War 157

Spirit Photography 167

9. Art and the Corpse 178

Graveyard Design and Tradition 178

Early Stonecutters and Grave Markers 189

Death and the Landscape Artist: The English Garden 206

Rural or Garden Cemeteries in America 214

Monuments to Death 219

The Importance of Memorial Sculpture for Emerging Artists 232

Granite and Concrete Grave Markers 238

Funeral Arts 239

Epilogue 243

Bibliography 247

Index 257

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