Art History – Fri, 20 Dec 2013 14:53:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 American Bronze Casting Fri, 20 Dec 2013 14:53:41 +0000 American bronze casting is an integral part of the story of great US art. In fact a fine bronze casting is often the state gift of choice from the US Government to world leaders. However, while the tradition of casting bronze into works of art has been part of the Asian, African and European cultures for centuries, American craftsmen didn’t develop the necessary skills for bronze casting until quite late in the day.

Until the middle of the Nineteenth Century American sculptures were commonly made in marble, but by the end of the 1800s America had the foundries and craftsmen they needed for bronze casting, and work began to create grand public monuments and works for the home, including bonze sculptures.

Some of the earliest examples of American bronzes came from Henry Kirke Brown. By the 1840s his small Brooklyn foundry was turning out fine works of art. His partnership with the Ames Manufacturing Company in Massachusetts, famous for producing military equipment, led to the creation of some important monuments. In fact Brown’s naturalistic style influenced many artists who followed him, like John Quincy Adams Ward.

Other foundries and makers sprang up from those seeds planted by Brown, with Amoroux, John Williams, and Henry-Bonnard creating a hub of skilled foundrymen in New York. Many of the great bronzes in American art have taken a patriotic form, often depicting frontiersmen and heroes of the American West. The vivid works of Frederic Remington are wonderful examples of this.

By the turn of the century displays of bronzes in galleries like Tiffany and Company created an appetite for replicas among ordinary people, and Remington’s most famous bronze casting, Bronco Buster, was one of the first to be reproduced for that market. But Remington’s work isn’t just to be found in everyday homes. A bronze casting of Bronco Buster has been enjoyed by every White House incumbent since Teddy Roosevelt.

Production of fine art bronzes came to a standstill during the Great War, but the era that followed, the Art Nouveau and the Art Deco periods, was a renaissance for bronze casting. The tactile nature of the material, the capacity for lovely, skin-like finishes, and the intricacy that could be achieved in bronze, lent themselves to Art Nouveau nature studies and to the stylised human forms of Art Deco. Paul Manship’s Hoop Girl is one of the beauties of American bronze casting during the Nouveau period.

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Harlem Renaissance Thu, 17 Oct 2013 07:07:00 +0000 The Harlem Renaissance flourished between the two world wars, and was known as “the New Negro Movement”, after a 1925 anthology. Encompassing music, literature and art, it also encouraged cultural expression among Southern migrants in urban areas of the northern United States. Use an online art gallery to view any of the artists involved.

Visual art of the Harlem Renaissance favoured stylised images. Painters included Palmer C. Hayden, Malvin Gray Johnson and Laura Wheeler Waring, but it was Aaron Douglas who best represented the “New Negro” philosophy. His four panel series, Aspects of Negro Life, traces the journey from freedom to enslavement, and from post-Civil War liberation to city life.

Jacob Lawrence’s Migration also deals with migration from Africa, focusing in particular on the years in the southern American states. The first mainstream African American artist, he produced the series towards the end of the Harlem Renaissance period.

Lois Mailou Jones from Boston, now buried on Martha’s Vineyard, was the only female African American artist from the Harlem Renaissance to find fame abroad. Working in oil and watercolours, she wanted her most important achievement to be “proof of the talent of black artists”.

Harlem Renaissance sculptors like Richard Barthe, Sargent Claude Johnson, and Augusta Savage used such media as clay, wood and bronze. In 1934, Florida-born Augusta Savage was the first African American woman to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors also known as the National Association of Women Artists, and she continued to work for equal rights in the arts.

Literature of the Harlem Renaissance also carried visual representations in the form of etchings and drawings by Albert Alexander Smith, and block prints from James Lesesne Wells. Painter Aaron Douglas designed book covers as well as illustrating the inside pages.

Photographer James VanDerZee documented the lives of black New Yorkers, one of his most famous subjects being Marcus Garvey. His photographs recorded family life and individuals, situations and ceremonies; and street scenes like the 1924 demonstration of the immaculately uniformed Black Nurses of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Also a skilled musician, he experimented with techniques such as retouching, to bring an artistic interpretation to his pictures.

In questioning the stereotypes of “the Negro”, the influence of the Harlem Renaissance spread as far as Paris, home to French-speaking black writers and artists from the colonies. Its ideas evolved to feed into the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as an important part of U.S. history.

Image: Betsy Graves Reyneau via wikipedia

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