city at night

city at night

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Broader Horizons

In the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, the United States was emerging as a major economic power, and the opportunities for artists were expanding.  Many American artists still went to Europe to study, but now there were art schools, museums and galleries here.  Art in the United States showed a greater variety of styles and subject matter.

William Sidney Mount lived on Long Island and painted scenes of rural life there.  He was an avid musician, and a number of his paintings revolve around music.  His painting "The Power of Music" depicts not only its universal appeal, but also gives a subtle commentary on racial division.  The African American laborer is enjoying the music of the fiddler as much as the white men in the barn.  But in spite of their shared enjoyment, the barrier between them remains.

One of the most important American painters of the 19th century was Winslow Homer.  "The Briarwood Pipe" was painted during the Civil War, and is based on a popular poem in which a soldier carves a pipe while daydreaming about home.

Homer is best known for his seascapes painted along the coast of Maine where he eventually set up his studio.  "Early Morning After a Storm at Sea" was painted late in his career around the turn of the century.

Another important artist was Thomas Eakins.  He spent almost his entire career in Philadelphia.  His portraits abandon formal poses, and depict people in their daily life at work or at leisure.  This 1873 painting shows a rowing race on Philadelphia's Schuylkill River.

Albert Pinkham Ryder's enigmatic and unique paintings have led some art historians to classify him as a modernist.  One of his most famous works, "The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse)" was inspired by a friend who committed suicide after losing a large bet at the racetrack.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the most famous sculptor in 19th century America.  An allegorical statue called "Amor Caritas" was so popular that he made 20 smaller versions (this being one of them) which were sold at upscale stores such as Tiffany and Co.

William Charles Merritt was a follower of the Impressionist movement in Europe.  After studying overseas he set up a teaching studio in New York City.  His first pupil was Dora Wheeler, even though it was highly unusual for an artist to except a woman as a private student.  This portrait of her won a gold medal at a contemporary art exhibit in Munich. Wheeler went on to open a decorating business with her mother.  It was one of the first successful firms in the country operated by women.

Another American Impressionist was Childe Hassam.  Although he studied in France, he loved New York City, and considered it the most beautiful city in the world.  His painting of Fifth Avenue captures the city's hustle and bustle with flecks of color and blurred images.

Maurice Pendergast was a Post-Impressionist painter whose unique style... almost like a mosaic... is seen in this work, "On the Beach, No. 3".

The late 1800s, when the new class of millionaire American industrialists lived in ostentatious splendor, was known as the Gilded Age.  The painter most associated with that era is perhaps John Singer Sargent who did portraits of high society on both sides of the Atlantic.  His picture of Lisa Colt Curtis, an heiress to the Colt firearms fortune.


In contrast to the Gilded Age, a group of artists known as the "Ashcan School" painted realistic scenes of the gritty life of poorer urban neighborhoods.  One member of the movement was Ohio-born painter George Bellows.  Although he did do portraits of the wealthy elite, he is better known for paintings such as this image of a boxing match, "Stag at Sharkey's".

One of the founders of the "Ashcan School" was John Sloan.  He painted this scene, called "A Woman's Work" while looking out the window of his Manhattan apartment.

George Luks, another member of the "Ashcan School", usually did paintings of tenement life in New York City.  This sunny picture, "Holiday on the Hudson", is a departure from his norm.

There is still more to come from the Cleveland Museum of Art.


  1. Wonderful post! Thanks. Winslow Homer is one of my favorite artists. There are so many.......

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. I hope my readers are not getting bored with so many posts about the art museum. It about the only travel I am doing right now. But next month I will return to Mexico at long last!

  2. Bored? Never. The CMA is one of the finest museums in the US.