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70729-01 - Seminar: Nature in American Art: 1585-1899 3 KP

Semester Frühjahrsemester 2024
Angebotsmuster einmalig
Dozierende Charles Oliver O'Donnell (charlesoliver.odonnell@unibas.ch, BeurteilerIn)
Inhalt Starting with European first contact with the New World and continuing up to the end of the 19th century, the ideal of pictorial naturalism - the goal of producing images that closely resemble the objects they represent - dominated artistic production in what is now the United States. From exacting practices of colonial portraiture to careful studies of the continent’s flora and fauna to blatantly ideological representations of its grand vistas, naturalistic images of America and Americans were put to radically diverse ends before 1900, evidencing as they do the nation’s great triumphs and its great tragedies. If the naturalism of such images can at times make them appear self-evident and even innocuous, this course will help you see that they are anything but. Indeed, the traditions of artistic naturalism that developed and were practiced by the European settlers of North America are fraught and overdetermined, tracking as they do the political dynamics of the continent before the rise of modernism.
This block seminar will focus on famous examples and episodes of artistic engagements with “nature” in American art prior to the 20th century. Not taking such images for granted as self-explanatory will be a guiding principle of the meetings, a significant portion of which will cover a period when North America was largely a British colony, meaning that British art and Britain itself will play a forceful role throughout. Beginning with how Europeans first described and depicted Native Americans, and inspired by John Locke’s famous assertion that “in the beginning all the world was America,” the course commences with the example of the album of drawings by John White - preserved in the British Museum - from a late 16th-century English expedition to “Virginia.” And the course concludes by considering how the exacting mechanized technologies of the 19th century - both photography and printmaking - resonate with the political problems that have so defined the United States since its foundation: slavery, immigration, and the exploration and exploitation of nature itself.
Literatur Course Outline and Readings (to be expanded or contracted to fit the semester schedule)

1. Representing First Contact
a. Kim Sloan, A New World: England’s first view of America (London: British Museum Press, 2007), selection.
b. Michael Gaudio, Engraving the Savage: The New World and Techniques of Civilization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), selection.
2. Colonial Portraiture: Smibert and Copley
a. Margaretta Lovell, “The Drawing in the Painting,” in Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), 184-224.
b. Jennifer Roberts, “Copley’s Cargo: Boy with a Squirrel and the Dilemma of Transit,” American Art 21, no.2 (Summer 2007): 20-41.
3. History Painting and the Crisis of Virtue
a. Edgar Wind, “The Revolution in History Painting,” Journal of the Warburg Institute 2, no.2 (1938): 116-127.
b. David Solkin, “On Painting, Commerce and the ‘Public’ in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” in Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 1-26.
4. Tromp-l’oeil Painting: the Peales and Harnett
a. Wendy Bellion, “Illusion and Allusion: Charles Wilson Peale’s Staircase Group at the Columbianum Exhibition,” American Art 17 (Summer 2003): 18-40.
b. Paul Staiti, “Illusionism, Trompe-l’oeil, and the Perils of Viewership,” in William M. Harnett, ed. Marc Simpson et. al. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992)
5. Indigenous American Nature from Inside and Out
a. Kristine Ronan, “‘Kicked About’: Native Culture at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 3, no.2 (Fall 2017).
b. Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes: Nine Indian Writers on the Legacy of the Expedition, ed. Alvin Josephy, Jr. (Vintage Books: New York), selection.
6. Landscape Painting and Empire
a. Alan Wallach, “Making a Picture of the View from Mount Holyoke,” in American Iconology, 80-91.
b. Angela Miller, “Thomas Cole and Jacksonian America: The Course of Empire as a Political Allegory,” Prospects 14 (1990), 65-92.
7. Sculpture and Slavery
a. Martina Droth and Michael Hatt , “The Greek Slave by Hiram Powers: A Transatlantic Object,” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 15, no.2 (Summer 2016).
b. Caitlin Beach, Sculpture at the Ends of Slavery (Berkeley, UC Press, 2022), selection.
8. Photography and Politics
a. Alan Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs: Images as History, Matthew Brady to Walker Evans (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989), selection.
b. Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), selection.
9. Enshrining Nature by Hand: Audubon and Church
a. Roberta Olson, “The ‘Early Birds’ of John James Audubon,” Master Drawings 50, no.4 (Winter 2012), 439-494.
b. Jennifer Raab, Frederic Church: The Art and Science of Detail (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), selection.
10. Late 19th-century Realism: Thomas Eakins and Henry Ossawa Tanner
a. Michael Leja, “Eakins’s Reality Effects,” in Looking Askance: Skepticism and American Art from Eakins to Duchamp (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 59-92.
b. Albert Boime, “Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Subversion of Genre,” The Art Bulletin 75, no. 3 (Sept 1993), 415-442.


Teilnahmebedingungen Für den Besuch der Seminare sollte das Grundstudium abgeschlossen sein.
Anmeldung zur Lehrveranstaltung Belegen über Online Services notwendig.
Unterrichtssprache Englisch
Einsatz digitaler Medien kein spezifischer Einsatz


Intervall Wochentag Zeit Raum
unregelmässig Siehe Einzeltermine
Bemerkungen Vorbesprechung: 1.3.24 14.15-16.00 Uhr (per ZOOM)
5./6. April und 2./3. Mai 2024


Datum Zeit Raum
Freitag 01.03.2024 14.15-16.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, per ZOOM
Freitag 05.04.2024 14.15-17.00 Uhr Kunstgeschichte, Seminarraum 1. Stock 131
Samstag 06.04.2024 10.15-17.00 Uhr Kunstgeschichte, Seminarraum 1. Stock 131
Freitag 03.05.2024 14.15-17.00 Uhr Kunstgeschichte, Seminarraum 1. Stock 131
Samstag 04.05.2024 10.15-17.00 Uhr Kunstgeschichte, Seminarraum 1. Stock 131
Module Modul: Epochenübergreifende Fragestellungen (Bachelor Studienfach: Kunstgeschichte)
Modul: Frühe Neuzeit (Bachelor Studienfach: Kunstgeschichte)
Modul: Moderne / Gegenwart (Bachelor Studienfach: Kunstgeschichte)
Modul: Profil: Frühe Neuzeit (Master Studiengang: Kunstgeschichte und Bildtheorie)
Modul: Profil: Moderne (Master Studiengang: Kunstgeschichte und Bildtheorie)
Modul: Werk und Kontext (Master Studienfach: Kunstgeschichte)
Modul: Werk und Kontext (Master Studiengang: Kunstgeschichte und Bildtheorie)
Leistungsüberprüfung Lehrveranst.-begleitend
Hinweise zur Leistungsüberprüfung Short essay (5-6 pages)
An-/Abmeldung zur Leistungsüberprüfung Anmelden: Belegen; Abmelden: nicht erforderlich
Wiederholungsprüfung keine Wiederholungsprüfung
Skala Pass / Fail
Wiederholtes Belegen nicht wiederholbar
Zuständige Fakultät Philosophisch-Historische Fakultät, studadmin-philhist@unibas.ch
Anbietende Organisationseinheit Fachbereich Kunstgeschichte