Tag: Nineteenth-Century Art

Susan Rather

New Haven: Yale University Press in association with the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art, 2016; 316 pp.; 100 color illus.; 80 b/w illus.; ISBN: 978-0-300-21461; Hardcover: $75.00

Reviewed by: Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire, Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, Winterthur, Del.

In times of economic and environmental crisis, illustrators for the popular press often produced images of charity that worked alongside text to explain philanthropic processes and to demonstrate the effectiveness of various types of food aid. In addition to this instructional function, depictions of food aid reinforced social boundaries between the recipients of charity, viewers, and those with the ability to offer their time and resources. As a force for difference, these images utilize food and philanthropy as legible and significant markers of class.

Trying to square oddball works against thoroughly convincing interpretations of the rest of the oeuvre can be a fruitless exercise. At the Huntington, there is one such painting by William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), “The Inner Studio, Tenth Street,” which offers a counter narrative to prevailing interpretations of his work.

In the third quarter of the nineteenth century, both baseball and sculpture could serve as markers of and conduits for ascending class and cultural identity, and the remarkable career of John McNamee (c. 1827–1895) brings these two realms together in an unfamiliar but revealing fashion.

In a collection of essays on Civil War visual and material culture, Kirk Savage wastes no time focusing the reader on the present, as he writes in the first line of his introduction: “Large parts of the world are beset by Civil War, or have been in recent years. They do not have the luxury of contemplating war’s horrors from a distance.”

Last spring, I found enlightenment in the Winterthur Library. I was there to look for images of nudes on tobacco advertisements, and I did find some, but also stumbled across some surprising and unexpectedly beautiful chromolithographs that provided an epiphany about the relationship between censorship and culture at the turn of the twentieth century.

NANITCH bills itself as an exhibition of early photographs of British Columbia, but those of us who study the art and history of the United States in a transnational context will find much of interest when visiting the Presentation House Gallery in North Vancouver.