Visual arts of the United States refers to the history of painting and visual art in the United States. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, artists primarily painted landscapes and portraits in a realistic style. A parallel development taking shape in rural America was the American craft movement, which began as a reaction to the industrial revolution.
The Hudson River painters' directness and simplicity of vision influenced such later artists as Winslow Homer (1836-1910), who depicted rural America—the sea, the mountains, and the people who lived near them. Middle-class city life found its painter in Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), an uncompromising realist whose unflinching honesty undercut the genteel preference for romantic sentimentalism. Henry Ossawa Tanner who studied with Thomas Eakins was one of the first important African American painters.
Paintings of the Great West, particularly the act of conveying the sheer size of the land and the cultures of the native people living on it, were starting to emerge as well. Artists such as George Catlin broke from traditional styles of showing land, most often done to show how much a subject owned, to show the West and it's people as honestly as possible.
Many painters who are considered American spent some time in Europe and met other European artists in Paris and London, such as Mary Cassatt and Whistler.
In the 1880s, through a series of technical advances that greatly simplified its practice, photography had expanded from being the province solely of the specialist into an activity accessible to the millions. To define photography as a discipline distinct from its casual, commercial, and scientific applications became the overriding goal of many American artists in the last two decades of the century, who claimed for it a place commensurate with those artistic endeavors that celebrated the complex, irreducible subjectivity of their makers. The photographs of Thomas Eakins are a perfect example of this development.
During the mid-1880s, as French Impressionism lost its radical edge, American collectors began to value the style, and more American artists began to experiment with it after absorbing academic fundamentals. Exhibitions of Impressionist works were held in American cities and sales were strong. In 1886, with a series of brilliant images of New York's new public parks, William Merritt Chase became the first major American painter to create Impressionist canvases in the United States. At about the same time, Americans began to visit artists' colonies that centered on outdoor painting, most notably Giverny, where Monet had settled in 1883. Those who sought inspiration there included Sargent, Willard Metcalf, and Theodore Robinson, who transmitted Monet's ideas to his compatriots back in the United States.
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