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read the “first” doc

Choose five works of art from Topics 1 through 5

Choose at least one primary source document from Topics 1 through 5

Choose at least one technique video from Topics 1 through 5

Choose at least one secondary source reading from Topics 1 through 5.

ARTS 1A: Document Analysis 2

Nicolas Poussin

Read the following excerpt from a primary source document and address the questions
which follow in your notebook.

Excerpts from an unfinished treatise by seventeenth-century French artist Nicolas

The first thing that, as the foundation of all others, is required, is that the subject matter
shall be grand, as are battles, heroic actions, and divine things. But assuming that the
subject on which the painter is laboring is grand, his next consideration is to keep away
from details to the best of his abilities, lest he offend against the dignity of historical
painting by passing over with a hasty brush things magnificent and grand, and lingering
amid vulgar and slight ones.

. . . the painter is required to exercise not only art in giving form to his matter, but
judgment in appraising it, and he must choose a subject that will naturally admit every
ornament and perfection. Those who choose offensive subjects take refuge in them
because of the weakness of their talents. But good painters shall avoid crude and lowly
subjects. . . .

As for the thought, it is but an offspring of the mind laboring on things. . . . The design of
a scene shall be such as will bring out the thought embodied in the scene. . . . The
structure or arrangement of the parts shall not be farfetched, not strained, not laborious,
but lifelike and natural. . . .

Color in painting exists as pleasure for persuading the eyes.

* * *

Turn to the next page.

In your notebook write a response to each of the following questions. As part of each your
response, practice quoting from this document—that is, literally place “quotation” marks
around something that is stated, as part of your answer to each question.

After completing your written responses to the questions below, keep them in your notes
portfolio to use during our upcoming quiz, your analysis paper, and our exams.

1. Which three subjects did Poussin include in his definition of the “grand manner”?

2. Poussin suggested that artists who paint grand subjects should “keep away from

details.” Why?

3. Poussin believed that painters who chose offensive subjects did so for what reason?

* * *

ARTS 1A: Document Analysis 4

Carrie Mae Weems

An excerpt from an interview with Carrie Mae Weems by Dawoud Bey, published in Bomb 108 (Summer 2009), 60-67.

Dawoud Bey: There are some things that I want to ask you that are more specific to your work. Things I haven’t actually asked you but have thought about for some time. One has to do with an aspect of your work in which you are, conceptually, both in front of and behind the camera. You’re the subject and you’re the photographer. Certainly the earlier Kitchen Table series introduced that idea quite forcefully. More recently there’s a recurring figure that has been appearing in your work; what I would call a silent witness to history. This woman, although we can’t always see her face, seems to be a kind of omnipotent presence, signaling perhaps that what she bears witness to is more highly charged than what we might think. She seems like a witness who, through witnessing, almost carries the weight of each place. This woman—this avatar—who is she? What’s her function in relation to places and the narratives you’re constructing?

Carrie Mae Weems: I call her my muse—but it’s safe to say that she’s more than one thing. She’s an alter-ego. My alter-ego, yes. But she has a very real function in my work life. I was in the Folklore program at UC Berkeley for three years, working with Alan Dundes on the strategy of participant/observer. I attempt to create in the work the simultaneous feeling of being in it and of it. I try to use the tension created between these different positions—I am both subject and object; performer and director. I only recently realized that I’ve been acting/performing/observing in this way for years—the work told me.

The muse made her first appearance in Kitchen Table; this woman can stand in for me and for you; she can stand in for the audience, she leads you into history. She’s a witness and a guide. She changes slightly, depending on location. For instance, she operates differently in Cuba and Louisiana than in Rome. She’s shown me a great deal about the world and about myself, and I’m grateful to her. Carrying a tremendous burden, she is a black woman leading me through the trauma of history. I think it’s very important that as a black woman she’s engaged with the world around her; she’s engaged with history, she’s engaged with looking, with being. She’s a guide into circumstances seldom seen.

Much of my current work centers on power and architecture. For instance, I find myself traveling in Seville, Rome, and Berlin. It’s been implied that I have no place in Europe. I find the idea that I’m “out of place” shocking. There’s a dynamic relationship between these places: the power of the state, the emotional manipulation of citizens through architectural means, the trauma of the war, genocide, the erasure of Jews, the slave coast, and the slave cabins. Here [in Rome] I can see an Egyptian obelisk in every major square, one riding on the back of Bernini’s sculpture. The world met on the Mediterranean, not on the Mississippi—these things are linked in my mind. From here, Africa is just one giant step away. Spain is closer than Savannah, Rome closer than Rhode Island. Mark Antony lost his power languishing in the arms of Cleopatra; Mussolini established Italian colonies in Egypt; the Moors and Africans controlled the waters of Spain, leaving their mark in the Alhambra. Money was minted here, not in Maine. See what I mean? I’m not here to eat the pasta. I’m trying in my humble way connect the dots, to confront history. Democracy and colonial expansion are rooted here. So I refuse the imposed limits. My girl, my muse, dares to show up as a guide, an engaged persona pointing toward the history of power. She’s the unintended consequence of the Western imagination.

It’s essential that I do this work and it’s essential that I do it with my body.

Address the following questions in your notebook:

1. In the first paragraph, Dawoud Bey acknowledged the dual roles of Carrie Mae Weems in her “Kitchen Table” series. Weems was not only the photographer but also
what else

2. What did Carrie Mae Weems study for three years at UC Berkeley?

3. Carrie Mae Weems was living in Rome when she participated in this interview. In the last paragraph, she said, “I’m not here to eat the pasta. I’m trying in my humble way connect the dots, to . . .” do what?

* * *

ARTS 1A: Spotlight on Technique 1


Watch the first video, “The Etching Process presented by artist Christopher P. Wood,” and
address the following questions in your notebook:

1. How long might you leave a plate in acid for a “very fine line”?

2. How long might you leave a plate in acid for “dark, thick lines”?

Watch the second video, “The Rembrandt House Tour (Part 3): Etching,” and address the
following questions in your notebook:

1. Toward the end of the demonstration, printmaker Fonz van Laar mentions that
every etching is “hand printed” so there can be “small differences” between the
prints. How many prints can be made from one copper plate?

* * *

ARTS 1A: Document Analysis 3

Joshua Reynolds

Read the following excerpt from a primary source document, and address the questions which

follow in your notebook.

Excerpts from a speech by Joshua Reynolds, “A DISCOURSE: Delivered to the Students of

the Royal Academy, on the Distribution of the Prizes, December 11, 1769, by the President.”

. . . Dividing the study of painting into three distinct periods, I shall address you as having passed

through the first of them, which is confined to the rudiments, including a facility of drawing any

object that presents itself, a tolerable readiness in the management of colours, and an

acquaintance with the most simple and obvious rules of composition. . . .

When the artist is once enabled to express himself with some degree of correctness, he must then

endeavour to collect subjects for expression; to amass a stock of ideas, to be combined and

varied as occasion may require. He is now in the second period of study, in which his business is

to learn all that has hitherto been known and done. Having hitherto received instructions from a

particular master, he is now to consider the art itself as his master. . . . This period is, however,

still a time of subjection and discipline. Though the student will not resign himself blindly to any

single authority when he may have the advantage of consulting many, he must still be afraid of

trusting his own judgment, and of deviating into any track where he cannot find the footsteps of

some former master.

The third and last period emancipates the student from subjection to any authority but what he

shall himself judge to be supported by reason. Confiding now in his own judgment, he will

consider and separate those different principles to which different modes of beauty owe their

original. In the former period he sought only to know and combine excellence, wherever it was

to be found, into one idea of perfection; in this he learns, what requires the most attentive survey

and the subtle disquisition, to discriminate perfections that are incompatible with each other.

He is from this time to regard himself as holding the same rank with those masters whom he

before obeyed as teachers, and as exercising a sort of sovereignty over those rules which have

hitherto restrained him. Comparing now no longer the performances of art with each other, but

examining the art itself by the standard of nature, he corrects what is erroneous, supplies what is

scanty, and adds by his own observation what the industry of his predecessors may have yet left

wanting to perfection. Having well established his judgment, and stored his memory, he may

now without fear try the power of his imagination. The mind that has been thus disciplined may

be indulged in the warmest enthusiasm, and venture to play on the borders of the wildest

extravagance. The habitual dignity, which long converse with the greatest minds has imparted to

him, will display itself in all his attempts, and he will stand among his instructors, not as an

imitator, but a rival.

* * *

In your notebook, write a response to each of the following questions. As part of each your

response, practice quoting from this document—that is, literally place “quotation” marks around

something that is stated, as part of your answer to each question.

After completing your written responses to the questions below, keep them in your notes

portfolio, to use during this week’s quiz, as well subsequent exams and the analysis paper.

1. In your own words, describe the “rudiments” of art, as noted by Reynolds in the first

2. In the second paragraph, Reynolds urges students to “collect subjects”. What kinds of
subjects you think Reynolds would find worthy of representation in an art academy? And

what subject categories would he find unworthy?

3. After art students completed the third stage of their work at the academy, Reynolds
believed they should evaluate their work by which standard? See especially the fourth


* * *

ARTS 1A: Spotlight on Technique 2

Wheel thrown pottery

Watch the first video, “Making Greek Vases,” and address the following question in your

1. Aside from a potter’s wheel, a sponge, and a metal shaver, what was the potter’s
main tool when forming a vessel?

Watch the second video, “Rope Textured Vase,” and address the following questions in
your notebook:

1. Gaylen Peterson uses a “rib” for what purpose?

2. Once the vessel is finished, how long must it dry before it can be fired?

* * *

ARTS 1A: Spotlight on Technique 5

Oil painting

Watch the first video, “Laag voor Laag (Layer by Layer),” without using the closed-captioning button, as the film is already subtitled. Address the following question in your notebook:


1. What is the purpose of “underdrawing” in a fifteenth-century painting?

Watch the second video, “Conservation: Flowers in a Glass Vase Painting,” without using the closed-captioning button, as the film is already subtitled. Address the following question in your notebook:


2. The narrator of this video refers to Flowers in a Glass Vase as “a meditation on transience”. What does she mean by this?

Watch the third video, “How to Paint Like Mark Rothko: No. 16 (Red, Brown, and Black),” and address the following question in your notebook:


3. Rothko often “stained” his canvases. What did he add to his paint to thin it sufficiently to be able to use his paint as a stain?

* * *

ARTS 1A: Spotlight on Technique 4

Stone carving

Watch the first video, “Carving marble with traditional tools,” and click the closed-
captioning button (cc) if you would like English subtitles. Address the following questions
in your notebook:

1. What are the two functions of a tooth chisel?

2. What is a rasp?

Watch the second video, “The Art of Making in Antiquity: Stoneworking in the Roman
World,” and click the closed-captioning button (cc) if you would like English subtitles.
Address the following questions in your notebook.

1. What the two categories of stone working tools?

* * *

ARTS 1A: Spotlight on Technique 3


Watch the first video, “Launch Pad: Ancient and Byzantine Mosaic Materials,” without using the

closed-captioning button, as the film is already subtitled. Address the following questions in your


1. What is the definition of “in situ”?

2. What are “tesserae”?

Watch the second video, “Launch Pad: Making Ancient and Byzantine Mosaics,” without using

the closed-captioning button, as the film is already subtitled. Address the following questions in

your notebook:

1. What was the name of the first-century architect who described the ideal foundation for a
mosaic in four layers?

* * *

ARTS 1A: Document Analysis 5

First read the following seventeenth-century poem by Willem Godschalk van
Focquenbroch, our primary source document this week. Address the questions which
follow in your notebook.

“Thoughts in my Room,” by Dutch poet Willem Godschalk van Focquenbroch, written
after 1649, translated by Maria A. Schenkeveld.

In this small room there is no sound,
A solitary joy is my treasure
Since fortune here no more is found
I now get from my books my pleasure
And thereby mock the world around.

All worldly joy I consider a ghost
A short and vanishing illusion.
I sit and smoke here, by which aid
I daily come to the conclusion:
Of less than smoke is pleasure made.

My room thus fosters sanity:
Wherever I look I see the glaring
Examples of foolishness
That teach me,
while my eyes are staring
The world is nothing but vanity.

The grinning mask that I see
Shows that the world needs close inspection.
To pose as truth, will untruth try
And fools will put on a saint’s perfection:
A fool would trust what meets the eye.

My fiddle and my flute display
A lesson, strikingly appearing
Because like a sound that fades away
Almost before it strikes one’s hearing,
So fleeting is a mortal’s stay.

The jewels that I look upon,
As a diversion once presented,
Give often cause to ponder on
The hollow joys of youth, lamented
When old age comes and spring is gone. Turn to the next page.

When on a bottle my eyes fall
With balm for many wounds entrusted,
Life looks not great to me at all
In that it sometimes is adjusted
By drops of medicine so small.

And when the coats-of-arms I see
My old nobility displaying,
Then I am from the cares set free
That always around the Courts are staying;
I mock at all that slavery.

Or when I contemplate the face
Of Charles, who once ruled Britain’s nation
I ponder: is not life a case
Of stage-play and dramatization
Where each man fills an actor’s place?

True, one portrays here majesty,
A Lazarus, or other.
As different as their stations be,
Their graves reveal that they are brothers.
Bones show no inequality.

And when a sidelong glance I cast
At pictures of my blood relations
I think: death claims us all at last.
Though on my walls hang imitations
The models perished in the past.

The fate that death turns each to dust,
All servants, serfs and lords see beckon;
Both poor and rich men always must
With their return to ashes reckon;
Death equalizes all, I trust.
This is the food my privacy
Brings ever to my ruin.
I learn that no security
Comes from the world’s luxury.
For everything is vanity.

Turn to the next page.

In your notebook, write a response to the following questions. As part of your notetaking
practice, quote from this document—that is, literally place “quotation” marks around
something that is stated, as part of your answer.

1. What did presence of a “grinning mask” teach the writer?

2. What did the “bottle . . .with balm for many wounds” signify to the writer, and

3. For this poet, what “Comes from the world’s luxury”?

* * *

Essay prompt:

We have explored several categories of “subject matter,” including:  

· Landscape

· History

· Portraiture

· Genre

· Still Life

How are these categories of subject matter different from each other?

And what are some of the reasons artists produce works of art within these categories of subject matter?

Choose two categories of subject matter to compare

 as you respond to these questions.


Below is an example of how you might begin to think about this essay prompt.

If I was a student in our class and I wanted to write about landscape and portraiture, I might ask myself the following:

· How do the differences between landscapes produced by Vincent van Gogh and Jiang Shijie demonstrate that the artists had different reasons for making landscape imagery?

· How do the differences between the portraits of Isidora, Frida Kahlo, and the Empress Theodora indicate that the artists who made those portraits had different reasons for making them? (On the other hand, you may wish to explore the similarities in these portraits, asking, What do these three works of art have in common? Also, do the similarities between these portraits suggest that the artists had similar reasons for making them?)

· What is fundamentally different about landscape and portraiture? In other words, why would we not categorize Van Gogh’s landscape painting as a portrait? Why would we not categorize Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair as a landscape?

The writing exercises are designed to help you write your own history of art by analyzing sources.

The art, documents, technique videos, and readings posted in the ARTS 1A modules comprise the sources you need to complete your midterm exercise. See below:

· Choose five works of art from Topics 1 through 5

· Choose at least one primary source document from Topics 1 through 5

· Choose at least one technique video from Topics 1 through 5

· Choose at least one secondary source reading from Topics 1 through 5.

Avoid doing online or library research to complete this essay. (Doing research will not earn you points.) Instead, build on the skills you are learning each week as you analyze art, documents, technique videos, and readings.

1. This is an exercise, not a formal paper. You will very likely do well on this assignment if you follow the instructions carefully.

2. Avoid trying to write a fancy introduction and conclusion. Instead, in your introduction describe what you plan to accomplish with your paper. In your conclusion, ask, Did I accomplish what I set out to do? Write your essay in complete sentences and organize your sentences into paragraphs for clarity. 

3. Write in your own voice and from your own perspective. Use the pronoun “I”.  Write an essay only you can write.

4. Write about each of the five works of art you choose in detail. Describe the visual aspects of each and include the title and the name of the artist.

5. As you write about documents, spotlight on technique videos, and readings, quote from them directly and call attention to your thinking process, explaining why you chose to use them. Integrate your analysis of works of art with the documents, spotlight on technique videos, and readings you choose. You do not have to footnote your sources or include a bibliography, since we are all using sources found in our course materials since this is an exercise and not a formal paper.

6. This is not a research paper. You are discouraged from going beyond the parameters of our class materials to write this exercise. So be careful: if you use resources from outside our class modules, you need to call attention to them with footnotes and provide a bibliography. Any uncredited ideas you borrow from other writers will result in an F grade on this assignment. 

7. There is no required “length” for this exercise. You will likely receive full credit if you explore the prompt thoroughly and clearly as you analyze at least five works of art discussed in class in conjunction with at least one document, spotlight on technique video, and reading

8. If you do not understand the essay prompt or have questions about any aspect of this assignment, contact me.


Up to 15 points:  Detailed analysis of five or more works of art discussed in the modules
Up to 3 points:    Use of one or more documents discussed in the modules
Up to 3 points:    Use of one or more spotlight on technique videos discussed in the modules 
Up to 3 points:    Use of one or more reading exercises discussed in the modules
Up to 3 points:    Clarity of communication
Up to 3 points:    Thoroughness in answering the essay prompt

     Total: 30 points


Topic 4 Reading

Click on the following link to read the essay, “Work and Leisure:
Eighteenth-Century Genre Painting in Korea” by Eleanor Soo-ah Hyun,
published on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website:


After reading the essay, address the following questions in your

1. When did French writers begin to call “illustrations of everyday life” genre painting?
(See paragraph 1.)

2. Name the artist about which Gang Sehwang wrote the following: ”all the activities
of people’s daily lives, street scenes, ferry crossings, stores, scenes of civil examinations
. . . those who witnessed his work could not fail to cry out and clap in wonder at each
brushstroke.” (See paragraph 2.)

3. According to the author, what was a “turning point in the Korean people’s
perception of their own culture and that of their neighboring countries”? (See
paragraph 5.)

* * *

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

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A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

This paper presents a detailed analysis of the perplexing painting Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo.
Unfortunately, there is little information on the provenance of the portrait, including the identity of the
artist, sitter and patron. It will be argued that it is the work of Augustus Earle and that it is a portrait of
Daniel Cooper II and was commissioned by his uncle, also named Daniel Cooper. The aim of this article is
to start to unravel the ambiguities of the image, and I suggest that the painting is a strong statement on the
rights of freed convicts in Australian colonial society.

Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo (Fig. 1) is a baffling painting. Odd and idiosyncratic,
for many years it has been surrounded by conjecture and debate. This paper will attempt
to explain some of the enigmatic qualities of Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo and
demonstrate that even in a portrait as seemingly innocent as a boy feeding a bird we can
detect references to the political disputes of the era. It will be argued that the painting is
the work of the travel artist Augustus Earle, who arrived in Sydney in May 1825 and left
over three years later in October 1828. During his sojourn, Earle gained a keen
understanding of local politics; his paintings, drawings and engravings reveal that he was
involved in a range of issues surrounding social and class divisions. 1 He was aware of the
political manoeuvres in the fledgling colony and I will contend that this work was
immersed in the power struggles taking place in Sydney.

At its simplest level, the painting depicts a boy holding a banana that he feeds to a
sulphur-crested cockatoo, which sits on a perch on the far left. As was the custom at the
time for young boys, he is wearing a dress and knickerbockers, indicating that he was
aged between five and seven.2 His dark clothes may indicate that he is in mourning and
that there may have been a recent death in the family. In a somewhat awkward stance, the
boy strides purposely over a large red cap on the floor (far too big to be his) and he peers
out of the painting with a confident and self-possessed air. Even though he is young, he
seems much more preoccupied with what is happening outside of the canvas than with
feeding the bird. The backdrop is resolutely stark. The deep tonality allows for the walls
and floors almost to merge and the interior firmly encloses the boy.

1 Earle travelled to New Zealand from October 1827 to May 1828, as well as venturing to inland NSW during

his stay. For an account of Earle’s time in Australia see Hackforth-Jones, 1980, as well as Bowker, 2004,
pp. 29-37 and 107-112; Buscombe, 1978, pp. 46-59; Butler, 2002, pp. 114-126; Hackforth-Jones and Kerr;
Spencer, 1966; Thomas, 2008.

2 [Victoria and Albert Museum], n.d.

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

emaj issue 3 2008 2

Fig. 1 – Augustus Earle (attr.), Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, c. 1828, oil on canvas, 90.3 x 69.0 cm,
Adelaide, M. J. M. Carter Collection, Art Gallery of South Australia.

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

emaj issue 3 2008 3

Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo only became widely known when sold at auction by
George Cowlishaw at Sotheby’s in Sydney, 1984.3 Unfortunately, it is not signed or dated
and since the late 1980s, there has been considerable speculation over its patronage.
When the painting arrived at the Art Gallery of South Australia on long-term loan in
1987, both the identity of the boy and the patron of the painting were still unknown.
Ron Radford and Jane Hylton have attributed the work to John Lewin but there is little
evidence to support this supposition.4 Lewin was amongst the first professional artists to
arrive in Australia as a free-settler and he did advertise as a portrait painter and a
miniaturist. He was, however, primarily a natural history painter and the vast majority of
his surviving work depicts the flora and fauna of New South Wales. He produced some
watercolour likenesses of Tahitians and Indigenous Australians but there is no proof of
him actually working on portrait commissions or producing oil portraits such as Boy with
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. Moreover, and although there is evidence that Lewin was
working in oils as early as 1812, the vast majority of his works are watercolours (it was
only in the mid to late 1820s, after Lewin had died, that oil portraits start to proliferate in
the colony). If Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is by Lewin, it would be a striking
exception to his oeuvre rather than in keeping with his other work. In a review published
in Art Monthly Australia in 1995, Andrew Sayers also rejected the Lewin attribution,
arguing that the painting was ‘by a completely different hand’ from that of Earle.5 Sayers’
argument was based on stylistic comparisons with Earle’s other works, although in this
short article he did not pinpoint exactly what these stylistic differences are. Anita
Callaway has also stated that the Earle attribution is ‘surprising’, but does not elaborate
on why.6

Patricia McDonald and Barry Pearce were the first to propose that the painting is by
Augustus Earle: an attribution that I argue is still the most convincing.7 There are several
reasons to not dismiss the Earle attribution and revisit McDonald and Pearce’s original
proposition. Firstly, there are compelling historical and associational grounds for
suggesting the image is by Earle. There is widespread agreement that the costume dates
the work to no later than the 1820s. In the early years of settlement, there were very few
portraitists working in Australia. There have been suggestions that it may not have been
painted in Australia but the cockatoo seems to be a clear reference to Sydney, implying
that it was painted here.8 The only other portraitists residing in Sydney at this time were
John Lewin (discussed above), Richard Read Sr. and Richard Read Jr. Like Lewin, the
Reads primarily worked in watercolour and also on a smaller scale than Boy with
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. Once again, such a painting would have been an exception
for these artists rather than a continuation of their usual portrait productions.

Secondly, the work also exhibits certain stylistic affinities with Earle’s other oil
paintings. A comparison with key portraits such as that of Ann Piper and her Children

3 See Sotheby’s, 1984.
4 Radford and Hylton, 1995, p. 28.
5 Sayers, 1995, pp. 29-30.
6 Callaway, 2000, p. 14.
7 McDonald and Pearce, 1988, p. 54.
8 It has been suggested that the portrait was not painted in Australia but this seems unlikely. As I

demonstrate later in the article there is ample evidence that the patron came from Sydney.

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

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(Fig. 2) and Sir Thomas Brisbane (Fig. 3) reveals many similarities, including Earle’s
propensity to tilt the floor forward; his awkwardness in painting figures (the Piper
children reveal the same diffident handling as in the cockatoo painting); and the
dependence on items of red and yellow to lift the colour palette. One of the most striking
parallels is Earle’s penchant for arraying his sitters with very specific props and
attributes. McDonald and Pearce convincingly suggest that Earle’s portraits can be
divided into two groups: the ‘head and shoulders’ likenesses against a plain background,
and the full-length depictions that rely heavily on symbolism.9 Boy with Sulphur-Crested
Cockatoo falls into the latter category. As we can see in Ann Piper and her Children (Fig.
2), the scene is full of books, furniture, musical instruments: the older boy even carries a
bow as the group sit comfortably inside their home of Henrietta Villa. Governor Brisbane
(Fig. 3) is also surrounded by all sorts of paraphernalia. This shows the influence of
Earle’s uncle, the American portraitist Ralph Earl (Augustus added the ‘e’ to his own
name later). While Earle was born and trained in England, his work is arguably
dominated by the influence of the American portraitists.10

Augustus and his uncle had much in common and we can see in his work that Augustus
was emulating his quite famous uncle. For instance, a comparison of the full length
portrait of Captain John Piper 1826 (Fig. 4) and Ralph Earl’s Daniel Boardman 1789
(Fig. 5) reveals very similar compositions: both sitters are placed on the far right, both
carry their hats in their left hand and present themselves with a sense of elongated
arrogance. Ralph Earl was also recognised for producing portraits that included landscape
settings that related specifically to the lives of his sitters; his interiors were decorated
with furniture, professional attributes, books, and other possessions that helped to
individualise his patrons’ identities.11 A similar individualisation marks Boy with
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. One of the most telling props used in Boy with Sulphur-
Crested Cockatoo is the cap on the floor, which is almost a hallmark of Earle’s work. The
cap appears in other paintings by Earle, such as his self-portrait Solitude, Watching the
Horizon at Sun Set 1824 (Fig. 6), in which Earle depicts himself in a similar cap, and in
the shipping scene Scudding before a Heavy Westerly off the Cape (Fig. 7) 1824.

Overall, there are many stylistic and historical reasons for agreeing with McDonald and
Pearce’s attribution. However, the lack of documentation has not only created problems
in identifying the artist but has also caused difficulty in interpreting the iconography and
symbols in Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. The peeled banana (with the peel resting
in the dish the boy holds) and the bird are unusual and puzzling. McDonald and Pearce
have noted that the banana was seen as ‘one of the noblest and most lovely of vegetable

9 McDonald and Pearce, p. 1988, p. 54.
10 As is often the case with Australian portraiture, the American influence is much more substantial than it

is often recognised. Augustus Earle had many family connections with America. He was the son of an
American portrait painter, James Earl, referred to as a portrait painter to the Loyalists who fled America
after the revolution. Ralph Earl was an even more eminent portrait painter who traveled to London in
1783 and studied under Benjamin West. While his father died young and he never would have met Ralph
Earl, Augustus had travelled to America and must have had a keen awareness of the work and success of
such close relatives. For a brief discussion of these connections see Buscombe, 1978, pp. 56-57.

11 See Kornhauser, 1991, pp. 10-15 for a discussion of Ralph Earl’s work, where it is also argued that this
attention to detail comes via John Singleton Copley.

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

emaj issue 3 2008 5

productions’ and the cockatoo is a clear reference to the colony of New South Wales,
where the birds could frequently be found.12 Both the banana and the bird have more
generally been read as references to the exotic. However, and despite these explanations,
the perplexing quality of the painting remains, suggesting a much more contrived and
layered image than some critics have previously indicated.

Feeding a banana to a cockatoo is rather beguiling. As cockatoos do not eat bananas, it is
unlikely that this scene actually took place: the composition can be understood as a kind
of fancy. Indeed, it is strange to include a banana at all; there were no bananas grown in
New South Wales in the 1820s and the Australian banana industry had not yet been
founded. Bananas were also notoriously difficult to transport and so Earle may have
based the image on his recollections from other travels. Moreover, at the time of painting,
the banana had not yet taken on its ‘noble’ connotations as argued by McDonald and
Pearce: their reference to von Humboldt’s Aspects of Nature was published in 1849, some
twenty years after the dating of this portrait.13 So why does a painting with such a strong
Australian reference as a cockatoo also include, and indeed focus on, a banana? If Earle
had wanted to create a sense of the exotic there was a plethora of Australian fauna and
flora that he might have drawn upon to this end. So why choose a banana as the major

It cannot be coincidental that around the same time that this image was painted, in the
mid-to-late1820s, banana plants were exported for the very first time from Southern
China, via Mauritius, to England.14 The naturalist Charles Telfair had introduced the
banana to Mauritius from southern China in 1826 and three years later sent plants to
England where they were presented by a Mr Barclay of Burryhill to Lord Cavendish, the
Duke of Devonshire (hence the Cavendish banana). The plants were successfully
cultivated by Joseph Paxton, who was in charge of the Chatsworth greenhouses. These
events open up numerous lines of enquiry. For example: is the banana a reference to the
Cavendish family? A thorough search of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (where
the patron of this work is most likely to be found), however, does not reveal anyone with
connections to the Cavendish family living in Australia.15

McDonald and Pearce note that the Sydney of the mid-1820s was a ‘very small, hermetic
society’ and it can be assumed that the boy belonged to a ‘handful of well-connected

12 McDonald and Pearce, p. 54.
13 See Smith, 1985, p. 212 for a discussion of von Humboldt’s quote.
14 For a discussion of the banana transportation and history see Stover and Simmonds, 1987, pp. 114-116. I

have been unable to find evidence of this story reported in either the Sydney Gazette or The Australian
but this does not mean that news of the Cavendish banana did not reach Australia via other sources.

15 Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition (http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/adbonline.htm).

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

emaj issue 3 2008 6

families’.16 Given this premise, it must be possible to identify who commissioned this
work. Was the banana meant to conjure up associations with Mauritius? There were
certainly many colonists who had traveled through or who had connections with this
region. Or was the banana an oblique reference to the profession of the naturalist? Or
perhaps it was intended to refer to the export trade and the success of exporters and
importers in transporting such a fragile fruit as the Cavendish banana? It is this
hypothesis – that the banana is a symbol of export – that opens up the most productive and
plausible possibilities for interpretation.

Significantly, this reading is also supported and reinforced by Earle’s inclusion of the cap
on the floor underneath the boy. In Earle’s work, this style of cap is very much associated
with travel and shipping and in images such as Scudding before a Heavy Westerly off the
Cape (Fig. 7) many of the travelers on deck wear similar caps. How might this relate to
the patron of the work? Given that we know Earle tailored his portraits to his patrons,
further investigation of the Australian Dictionary of Biography reveals that there were
many exporters living in Sydney in the 1820s who might have commissioned Boy with
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. Amongst them, only a small subset had children of the age of
the boy in Earle’s work. In narrowing down the group, the most likely patron of Boy with
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is Daniel Cooper. He had the wealth, motive and opportunity
to commission the portrait.17 While Cooper did not have children of his own, he did have
a nephew in whom he vested a considerable amount of interest, funding his schooling in
England and eventually leaving his fortune to him. The nephew was also called Daniel
Cooper (Daniel Cooper II) and was born in July 1821, making him the right age for
Earle’s painting.

It can then be argued that Daniel Cooper II (later to be Sir Daniel Cooper) is the boy
depicted in Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. What evidence do we have for Daniel
Cooper being the patron? First of all, the Cooper estate was broken up in the late
nineteenth century, and this would explain why the provenance of the picture has been
lost.18 A comparison with a later photograph of Sir Daniel (Fig. 8) and a painting by
Barrable (Fig. 9), while not providing resounding evidence that the boy is Daniel Cooper
II, certainly leaves the possibility open. A comparison of the child in the painting and the
man in the later works shows that they have common features: the large and high
forehead, the close-set eyes, the wispy hair and pointed chin. Ultimately, however, my
argument that the boy is Daniel Cooper II relies on fitting together a whole range of

16 McDonald and Pearce, 1988, p. 54. It has been suggested that the boy may be Alexander Septimus Piper,

the son of Captain John Piper, see de Vries-Evans, 1988 (although according to the State Library of New
South Wales catalogue Piper’s son was named William Sloper Piper). There is no substantial reason for
believing that this is who the boy is, apart from the fact that Earle did work for Piper. There are
arguments, however, against this identification, not least why there is not the same documentation and
provenance as the other Piper portraits. Also the restraint and lack of excess in Boy with Sulphur-Crested
Cockatoo is not in keeping with the flamboyance and opulence of Piper’s other commissions.

17 For information on the Cooper family see biographical cuttings on Daniel Cooper (NLA, Cooper) and
Davidson, 1966 and Martin, 1969.

18 Daniel Cooper II left Sydney in 1861 and the estate was broken up later in the century – see NLA,

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

emaj issue 3 2008 7

pieces – an alignment of historical events, iconographic deductions and the right person
being in the right place at the right time.

Daniel Cooper was a highly successful businessman who had formed a partnership with
Solomon Levey. Their company of Cooper & Levey had a large shipping network and
was involved in the trading of a wide variety of cargoes, everything from textiles to
potatoes. As has been noted, this success was all the more spectacular because both
Cooper and Levey had arrived in Australia as convicts.19 In 1815, Cooper had been
convicted of stealing and was sentenced to transportation for life. Once settled in
Australia, as well as becoming a successful businessman, Cooper was a very active
member of colonial society and was particularly vocal in championing the rights of the
freed convicts, the emancipists.

As an emancipist himself, Cooper had every reason to promote the rights of this group.
The dividing lines and battles between the emancipists and the exclusionists (those who
did not want to see emancipists admitted to society) were particularly intense in the 1820s
and it is against this background that we can make sense of the commissioning of Boy
with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. When Brisbane arrived he was advised that he should
make it as difficult for an emancipist to enter public office as a ‘camel to pass through an
eye of a needle’.20 The tension that existed around the issue of the emancipists continued
into Governor Darling’s administration when he took over in 1825. The grievances of the
emancipists were severely aggravated by the granting of a charter to Australian
Agriculture Company in 1825. The company was given one million acres near Port
Stephens and in return agreed to raise flocks of sheep and to introduce large capital and
agricultural skills to the colony. The emancipists objected on the grounds that anti-
emancipists such as Macarthur were behind the scheme and that the best land was taken
over by the exclusionists.

Given the tenuous social position held by emancipists such as Daniel Cooper, the
inclusion of the cockatoo may begin to make sense. The bird sits on a perch rather than
within a cage. Is it significant that it is a free bird? Is the patron of the work making a
statement about freed ex-convicts? If Cooper commissioned this work, the cockatoo may
allude to his status as a freed man. Here, the banana may also double as not only a
symbol of export but may be a subtle reference to the issue of slavery. In this reading I
am grateful for Sarah Thomas’s suggestion that the banana may also allude to forced
labour. In the 1820s, slavery was a pressing concern and one that Earle was well aware of
from his stay in Brazil from 1820 to 1824. During this time Earle gained first hand
experience and contact with African slaves working on banana and sugar plantations: an
experience that and influenced his abolitionist stance. As Thomas has argued, in many of
his works Earle made subtle comparisons between slavery and the convict system.21 It
may be that the banana is acting as a call for freedom, just as freedom was being pursued
in Brazil.

19 See Davidson for further details of the company.
20 For an introduction to this historical background see Clark, pp. 53-69.
21 Thomas, 2008. Earle also depicted a Brazilian banana plantation in The banana, Brazils, 1822,

watercolour, 18.4 x 12.7 cm, Canberra, National Library of Australia.

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

emaj issue 3 2008 8

While Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo no doubt functioned as a sentimental piece for
Cooper and he would have wanted an image of his nephew hanging in his home, it is also
significant that he chose his nephew rather than himself to be depicted in this painting.
The inclusion of the child, with all his references to the future, implies that the potential
of Australia rests on the support and opportunities that should be given to the
emancipists, just as the young Daniel Cooper II almost seems to stride up the bird perch
as if it were a ladder.

To add another twist in this tale, it was Daniel Cooper who bought the estate of Captain
Piper after he had fallen from grace and into bankruptcy in 1827.22 There can be little
doubt that when acquiring the estate, that Cooper would have become aware of Earle’s
work, although in the small settlement of Sydney he had probably known of Earle well
before then. There was considerable tension between Piper and Cooper; Piper had made
his fortune through importers such as Cooper, as well as working to secure land for
exclusionists, and Cooper bitterly criticised Piper’s Chairmanship of the Bank of New
South Wales. Further proof of Cooper’s disdain for Piper emerges when we know that
Cooper quickly stripped and auctioned off the contents of Piper’s pride and joy, Henrietta
Villa (the residence was eventually demolished by Daniel Cooper II and in 1856 he laid
the foundations of his own Woollahra House). Within the context of this tension, it is
tempting to read Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo as a statement of Cooper’s victory
and success as an emancipist, with the stripped down and stark interior a sober contrast to
the flamboyant interior of Ann Piper and Children (Fig. 2) or the sweeping vistas in the
grand full-scale portrait of Piper himself (Fig. 4).

In looking at Earle’s part in this colonial intrigue, it can be argued that by 1827/28 Earle
had every reason to produce a painting with an anti-exclusionist undertone. He had in the
past worked for exclusionists23 but in 1827 he himself had been refused a land grant.24 He
would have been able to empathise with the likes of Cooper. To add a final piece in this
puzzle we have resounding evidence that Earle moved in the same circles as Cooper. He
painted companion portraits of Barnett Levey and his wife (now in the Art Gallery of
South Australia). Barnett Levey was the brother of Solomon Levey, with whom Cooper
had formed Cooper & Levey and all of these men were closely inter-connected.25 It is
most likely that Earle entered this new group of patrons after returning from his visit to
New Zealand in May 1828. It is possible that after his lucrative exclusionists
commissions had dwindled, with Piper retiring to Bathurst in 1827, that he turned to the
emancipists. If Earle only started working with the emancipist such as Levey and Cooper
in 1828, this may be the most likely date for Boy with Sulphur-Crest Cockatoo.

22 See Barnard,1967 for a discussion of Piper.
23 Earle’s patrons in Sydney came from diverse backgrounds. Another ex-convict he painted was Laurence

Hynes Halloran. Another of his patrons, John Mackaness, was a supporter of the emancipists. Many
others were exclusionists, including Blaxland, Brooks, Goulburn and Townson (many of whom were
also members of the Benevolent Society and the Bible Society).

24 Buscombe, 1978, p. 48.
25 Bergman, 1967.

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

emaj issue 3 2008 9

In working through the conundrum of Boy with Sulphur-Crest Cockatoo, one mystery
that remains is why Daniel Cooper II’s appears to be in mourning dress. There simply is
not enough biographical information on the Coopers to explain if someone may have died
during this period and why he seems to be in mourning. Until further evidence come to
light, Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo could be renamed Portrait of Daniel Cooper II
with a Banana and, as McDonald and Pearce first proposed, should be attributed to
Augustus Earle and be dated to about 1828. An interpretation of the banana in the boy’s
hand and the cap on the floor as symbols of export and shipping, leads to an identification
of the young sitter as the nephew of the trader Daniel Cooper. The cockatoo sitting on the
perch, not within a cage, is also highly emblematic and as argued here may allude to
Daniel Cooper’s status as an emancipist, a freed convict who believed strongly in his
place in the future of Australia. The painting is redolent of the bitter battles taking place
between the emancipists and the exclusionists in New South Wales in the 1820s. Through
his nephew, Daniel Cooper may have made a defiant statement of his success as a freed
convict and the rights of his heirs to their place in an expanding colonial society.

Dr Elisabeth Findlay is a lecturer in Art History at The Australian National University.
She convenes a wide range of subjects, from Introduction to Art History through to The
History of Portraiture, and in 2007 received a Carrick Award for excellence in teaching.
Dr Findlay’s main area of research is Australian colonial portraiture and she is
currently working on a book on the history of portraiture in Australia from European
settlement through to the end of the 19th century. She has published numerous articles on
portraiture, as well as a monograph published by the National Library of Australia on
the artist William Westall.

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

emaj issue 3 2008 10


Barnard, 1967: Marjorie Barnard, “Piper, John (1773 – 1851)”, Australian Dictionary of
Biography, Online Edition.

Bergman, 1967: George Bergman, “Levey, Barnett (1798 – 1837)”, Australian
Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition.

Bowker, 2004: Sam Bowker, “Beyond the canvas: Nineteenth-Century Travelling Artists
and the Commoditization of the ‘Artist-as-Person’ Mythology’”, Honours thesis, The
Australian National University, 2004.

Buscombe, 1978: Eve Buscombe, “A discussion about Augustus Earle and some of his
portraits”, Art Bulletin of Victoria, no. 19, 1978, pp. 46-59.

Butler, 2002: Rex Butler, A Secret History of Australian Art, Sydney: Craftsman House,

Callaway, 2000: Anita Callaway, Visual Ephemera in Nineteenth-Century Australia,
Sydney: University of New South Wales, 2000.

Clark, 1986: Manning Clark, A Short History of Australian Art, rev. edn., Sydney:
Penguin Books, 1986.

Davidson, 1966: J. W. Davidson, “Cooper, Daniel (1785 – 1853)”, Australian Dictionary
of Biography, Online Edition.

De Vries-Evans, 1988: Susanna de Vries-Evans, “Augustus Earle”, Australian Business,
24 August, issue 41, 1988, pp. 98-99.

Hackforth-Jones, 1980: Jocelyn Hackforth-Jones, Augustus Earle: Travel Artist,
Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1980.

Hackforth-Jones and Kerr: “Augustus Earle”, Dictionary of Australian Artists Online.

Kornhauser, 1991: Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, Ralph Earl: The Face of the Young
Republic, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Martin, 1969: A. W. Martin, ‘Cooper, Sir Daniel (1821 – 1902)’, Australian Dictionary of
Biography, Online Edition.

McDonald and Pearce, 1988: Patricia McDonald and Barry Pearce, The Artist and the
Patron: Aspects of Colonial Art in New South Wales, Sydney Art Gallery of New South
Wales, 1988.

Elisabeth Findlay, A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

emaj issue 3 2008 11

NLA, Cooper: Biographical cuttings on Sir Daniel Cooper, former fifth baronet of
Woollahra, NSW, Canberra, National Library of Australia.

Radford, 1993: Ron Radford, 19th-Century Australian Art: M.J.M Carter Collection, Art
Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 1993.

Radford and Hylton, 1995: Ron Radford and Jane Hylton, Australian Colonial Art
1800-1900, Adelaide: Art Gallery Board of South Australia, 1995.

Sayers, 1995: Andrew Sayers, ‘Bibliofile 2’, Art Monthly Australia, no. 83, September
1995, pp. 29-30.

Smith, 1985: Bernard Smith, European Vision and the South Pacific, 2nd edn., Sydney:
Harper & Row, 1985.

Sotheby’s Australia, 1984: The Cowlishaw Collection of Early Australian Colonial
Books and Paintings, Paddington: Sotheby’s Australia, 1984.

Spencer, 1966: Harold Spencer, ‘The Brisbane portraits’, Journal of the Royal
Australian Historical Society, Papers and Proceedings, vol. 52, pt. 1, March 1966, pp. 1-

Stover and Simmonds, 1987: Robert Harry Stover and Norman Willison Simmonds,
Bananas, Harlow: Longman Scientific and Technical, 1987.

Thomas, 2008: Sarah Thomas, “The wanderer, the slave and the Aborigine: Augustus
Earle in Rio de Janiero and Sydney in the 1820s”, paper presented to Crossing Cultures:
Conflict Migration, Covergence, 32nd Congress of the International Committee of the
History of Art, Melbourne, January 2008 (to be published late 2008 by Melbourne
University Press).

[Victoria and Albert Museum], n.d.: ‘Boys Dress’, Victoria and Albert Museum of

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

Representing and Reconstructing

Memories of the World Wars in


Neelima Jeychandran


This paper examines the material memorialization of the World Wars in India by
looking at the India Gate, the archway located at the center of the Indian national
capital, New Delhi. Although dedicated to soldiers who lost their lives in World
War I, the India Gate has become a symbolic commemorative monument that
represents the sacri+ces of all the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the
battles fought by the modern Indian state. Focusing on the multi-textured
renderings of history, this paper illustrates how old memories and histories are
repurposed and refashioned at the India Gate.



A Memorial for Indian Soldiers

Remembering the Wars


[1] After World War I, the colonial British government in India constructed various
memorials in order to pay tribute to fallen Indian soldiers. Several modest
monuments and memorial plaques still stand in Indian cities like Mumbai,
Bangalore, and New Delhi to commemorate the sacri+ces of Indian soldiers in the
World Wars. While most of these memorials are small and austere, the India Gate,
formerly known as the All-India War Memorial, in the national capital of New Delhi
is an imposing structure and a symbolic monument of public importance (Fig. 1).

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

1 The view of the India Gate as seen from the Rajpath (photo by author, 2015)

[2] Other than the World War memorials, there are also cemeteries maintained by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that preserve the memory of the
dead. These include the cemetery in the cantonment area of Delhi and the war
cemetery in the city of Kohima in the northeastern state of Nagaland, the latter
speci+cally designated for soldiers who fought for the British Empire against the
invading Japanese forces in World War II. The histories of the World Wars are also
featured in the Maharaja Ranjit Singh War Museum at Ludhiana in the northern
Indian state of Punjab, since a sizeable number of combat and noncombat
recruits of the British Indian Army were from the state of Punjab. Besides the
occasional commemoration ceremony performed during national festivals at
some of these sites, memories of the World Wars are often disregarded in
contemporary India and most of these memorials are neglected and overlooked.
Although military and political historians have analyzed the participation of
Indians in the two World Wars, there is very little study on the experiences and
memories of Indian soldiers and the process of memorialization in India.

[3] The India Gate is one notable exception, a World War I memorial that is also
New Delhi’s most prominent landmark and a symbol of modern India. While built
to commemorate the lives of soldiers killed in various theaters of war during
World War I, today it exists as a palimpsest memorial where memories of past
wars are [email protected] with more recent wars fought by the Indian state. The
monument and its surroundings have become a signi+cant site for the Indian
state to perform national rituals and spectacles of the state. Moreover, the
precincts of the India Gate are also an important space for disenfranchised
publics to stage resistance against the government and for citizens’ movements
to showcase concerns about various issues. By mobilizing arguments put forth by
Memory Studies scholars, I discuss how an archway that was constructed to
monumentalize the lives of Indian soldiers who died in World War I has over the
years been transformed into a site of remembrance for various social and political

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

battles fought within India as well as on international soil, and how it survives as
a place of superimposed and multi-textured memories.

[4] To begin, I [email protected] examine Indians’ roles in the World Wars and outline how
the British government monumentalized India’s contributions by constructing a
memorial arch in their newly planned imperial capital of New Delhi. I then discuss
how memories about India’s complex participation in World War I have become
enmeshed with the memories of the wars that the Indian state has fought over
subsequent years with its neighbors. In the second half of the chapter, I draw on
arguments of memory theorists to frame the India Gate as a site of memory and
discuss the potency and emblematic valence of the India Gate and its
surrounding landscape. Finally, I demonstrate the ways in which histories of
war(s) are often resuscitated and remembered through choreographed state
performances and counter movements by populations.

A Memorial for Indian Soldiers
[5] Although soldiers from undivided India constituted one of the largest
volunteer forces in the World Wars, the participation of Indians does not feature
in mainstream historical discourses, either in India or elsewhere.1 Santanu Das
argues that the voices of the Indian soldiers have been muBed. Das notes that
“[c]oming largely from the semiliterate, peasant-warrior classes of northern India,
these men and their stories have been doubly marginalized: they have mostly
been ignored in Indian nationalist-elitist historiography as well as in the modern
European memory of the First World War.”2 Indian soldiers fought in an alien land
in adverse weather and hostile conditions, yet despite their exploits in Europe
and their courage and determination, their contributions have been prominently
represented in neither memorials and museums nor mainstream institutional
discourses and literary works.

[6] In World War I, a total of 800,000 Indian soldiers fought in all theaters of the
war including Gallipoli and North and East Africa.3 After the outbreak of war in
Europe, the colonial British Empire urged assistance and support from Indian
political parties and rulers of princely states. Support in the form of +nance and
manpower came from diGerent fronts in the hope that the British would consider
and grant self-government in India. Amongst the countries under the British
Empire, India made the largest contribution in terms of manpower with a total
number of 877,068 combatants and 563,369 noncombatants, in addition to
239,561 men who served in various capacities in the British Indian Army in 1914. 4

Besides, in 1917 about 48,000 laborers were also dispatched forming an Indian

1 Kaushik Roy, “Introduction: Warfare, Society, and the Indian Army during the Two World
wars”, in: The Indian Army in the Two World Wars, ed. Kaushik Roy, Leiden/Boston 2012,
1-30, here 1-2.
2 Santanu Das, Race, Empire and First World War Writing, Cambridge 2011, 70.
3 The exact number of Indian soldiers who fought for the British Army in World War I is a
contested topic with several historians giving a diGerent number.
4 Das, Race, Empire and First World War Writing, 70.

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

Labor Corps with recruits largely from the northeastern part of India.5 The total
causalities of war were 121,598, with about 53,486 dead, 64,350 injured, and
3,762 declared either missing or imprisoned.6

[7] In World War II again, India supported the British with about 2.5 million
soldiers who fought in diGerent fronts of war and the princely states funded a
great deal of war expenses.7 Kaushik Roy states that “the Indian units fought in
Egypt and South-East Asia against Axis powers. From 1943 onwards, the war in
Burma was mostly conducted by the Indian Army.”8 Unlike World War I, Indian
soldiers’ participation in the World War II was complicated as the Indian National
Army (INA) revived by Subhas Chandra Bose collaborated with the Axis powers
and fought mostly in the eastern theaters of war. Bose, a popular, yet
controversial leader of the Indian nationalist movement, felt that militaristic
strength and strategic external alliances were the path to oust the British from
India and establish self-governance. Soldiers of the INA fought alongside the
oGensive Japanese forces at the Arakan Mountains along the India-Burma border
and also in Imphal and Kohima in northeastern states of India, where they
suGered heavy losses and were forced to retreat.9 The fraught situation of Indian
soldiers aligning with the Japanese to +ght against the British Indian Army
generated contesting memories of World War II in the subcontinent. After the war,
while European writers of popular literature ignored the Indian soldiers’ tactical
approach and adeptness on foreign soil in favor of racial appearance and ethnic
getups, on the home front, the bravery and fortitude of Indian soldiers were soon
forgotten as the nationalist movement gained impetus with the struggle for an
independent India. Although memories of Indian participation in the World Wars
soon lapsed as @uid cultural memories, they became nonetheless crystallized
through commemorative monuments.

[8] It was a practice of the colonial British government to build monuments to
honor the role of native soldiers who fought under their banner during World Wars
I and II. The All-India War Memorial was planned for the new imperial capital of
Delhi and was an initiative of the Imperial War Graves Commission. The
monumental gateway was intended to publically acknowledge the contributions
and valor of Indian soldiers, as well as to assuage the worsening relationship
between the leaders of the Indian freedom movement and the imperial regime. In
1921, the foundation stone of the monument was laid by the Duke of Connaught
in a public ceremony and a miniature model of the memorial archway was placed
on display for the public to view. The construction of the monument was fully

5 Claude Markovits, “Indian Soldiers Experience in France During World War I: Seeing
Europe From the Rear of the Front”, in: The World in World Wars: Experiences, Perceptions
and Perspectives from Africa and Asia, eds. Heike Liebau et al., Leiden 2010, 29-44, here
6 Budheswar Pati, India and the First World War 1914-1918, New Delhi 1996, 38.
7 Thomas M. Leonard, ed., Encyclopedia of the Developing World, New York 2006, 361.
8 Roy, “Introduction”, 1.
9 Kaushik Roy, India and World War II: War, Armed Forces, and Society, 1939-45, New
Delhi 2016, 106.

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

completed in 1931 and was unveiled when the new imperial capital was
inaugurated by the then viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, who dedicated the
monument to the public of India.

[9] The monument was designed by the English architect Edwin Lutyens, who had
constructed several war memorials and cenotaphs, while the construction of the
memorial was undertaken by the Punjabi contractor Sobha Singh, who also built
several other signi+cant buildings in Delhi such as the South Block and The
National Museum. Lutyens designed the monument as part of the architectural
plan of Delhi and he made a conscious eGort to avoid any Hindu or Islamic
architectural features and stylistic elements in order to render it a secular
memorial to represent various cultural and religious groups. Although Lutyens
was commemorating the sacri+ces of Indian soldiers, his conception of the
memorial was rooted in ideas of British imperial paternalism.10

[10] The monument is about 139 feet tall (42,3 meter) with its main structure
resting on a base of Bharatpur stone, a common feature of all the signi+cant
buildings in Lutyens’ Delhi. From the red color stone base rises a coGered arch
with stylized imperial suns at the top and a dentilled cornice above them.
Inscribed at the top on the massive molding on both faces is “India”, bordered by
the Roman numeral MCMXIV (i.e. 1914) on the left and MCMXIX (i.e. 1919) on the
right. In describing the stylistic characteristics of the monument, art historian
Monica Juneja notes: “The massive, austere façade is punctuated by sculpted
panels of stonework relief and a dentilled cornice separating the huge central
arch from the heavy masonry of the attic above.”11 Surmounted on top of the
structure is a shallow vessel intended to be +lled with oil and lit on anniversaries,
although this tradition is no longer followed. Within the side arches, large stone
pine cones are set on top of urns to symbolize renewal and perpetuity.

[11] As is true for the design and iconographic symbolisms of most
commemorative structures, Lutyens was attempting to illustrate how the
sacri+ces of the dead shall not be forgotten in the historical memory of the
subcontinent. The names of 60,000 Indian soldiers who died overseas in World
War I, as well as about 13,516 British and Indian oOcers who lost their lives in the
Afghan wars, are engraved on the brick surface. As a later addition to this
memoryscape, names of soldiers who lost their lives on wars fought by the Indian
state were inserted. Monica Juneja has argued that like other war memorials, the
India Gate “partakes of the elegiac qualities of war memorials across the globe.”12

As Juneja points out, this elegiac tone is set by the inscription on the top of the
arch, which states:

To the dead of the Indian armies who fell and are honoured in France and
Flanders Mesopotamia and Persia East Africa Gallipoli and elsewhere in the near
and the far east and in sacred memory also of those whose names are here

10 David A. Johnson, New Delhi: The Last Imperial City, New York 2015, 192.
11 Monica Juneja, “The Making of New Delhi”, in: Modernity’s Classics, eds. Sarah C.
Humphreys and Rudolf G. Wagner, Berlin/Heidelberg 2013, 23-54, here 42.
12 Juneja, “The Making of New Delhi”, 42.

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

recorded and who fell in India on the north west frontier and during the Third
Afghan War.

[12] In the design of the All-India War Memorial, Lutyens borrowed stylistic and
architectural elements of monuments he previously executed in South Africa and
Britain, yet it was not until the All-India War Memorial that he achieved the scale
he wanted and was able to elaborate on the classical form of the Arc de Triomphe
de l’Étoile.13 Although he was designing a memorial to commemorate the
sacri+ces of Indian soldiers and suit the architectural characteristics of a new
imperial city, Lutyens design of the memorial owes most to the Neoclassical
Parisian landmark. Moreover, the All-India War Memorial was positioned by
Lutyens at the end of the ceremonial axis on the King’s Way, similar to the
placement of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Élysées. In addition, a
memorial to the Immortal Soldier lies under the vault of the India Gate, again
mirroring the Arc de Triomphe under which lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

[13] The All-India War Memorial was designed as the focal point of Lutyens’
architectural layout of New Delhi. The memorial lies at one end of the long axis
known as Rajpath, which was formerly called the King’s Way. At the other end of
this processional axis is the magni+cent Rashtrapati Bhavan or Presidential
House, which was the Viceroy’s residence during the British Raj. At the shoulder
of the long axis are oOcial buildings and along this processional road are
manicured lawns and fountains. The long processional axis of the Rajpath is the
venue for the spectacular Indian Republic Day parade and other cultural events.

[14] Visible through the archway of the India Gate is a tall canopy or chattri
designed by Lutyens to house the statue of George V, although the statue was
removed along with other such relics of the British Raj following independence in
1947. While there were plans to place a statue of Mahatma Gandhi under the
canopy, they were never carried out and today the chattri stands empty. The land
beyond the India Gate and the chattri was allocated to rulers from the princely
states to build their palaces. The empty chattri represents just one of many
transformations that have taken place at the site since its construction. Following
India’s independence from the British rule, the All-India War Memorial was
renamed as the India Gate and repurposed by the state as a national heritage

[15] In 1971, a war memorial was commissioned to be erected under the vault of
the India Gate to honor the memories of Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the
Bangladesh Liberation War fought against Pakistan. Many lives were lost as India
and Pakistan employed massive ground and air attacks mostly on the western
border. The war ended on December 17, 1971, as Pakistani forces in East
Pakistan surrendered spurring to the formulation of a new state called the
People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The then Prime Minster of India, Indira Gandhi,
rushed to build a memorial that would be inaugurated on the Indian Republic Day
ceremony on January 26, 1972. The solemn memorial called the Amar Jawan Jyoti
(“the @ame of the immortal soldier”) is a modest cenotaph-like structure in black

13 Jeroen Geurst, Cemeteries of the Great War by Sir Edwin Lutyens, Rotterdam 2010, 415.

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

marble on which an inverted [email protected] is surmounted, crested by a soldier’s helmet.
Etched in gold are the words amar jawan (“immortal soldier”) on the four faces of
the cenotaph in Hindi. The structure of the amar jawan stands on a plain
rectangular edi+ce (Fig. 2). An eternal @ame called amar jawan jyoti (“the @ame
of the immortal soldier”) placed on the four corners on the edi+ce burns
perennially day and night. The memorial is guarded around the clock by oOcers
hailing from the three services of the Indian Armed Forces.

2 The Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial under the vault of the India Gate (photo by author,

[16] Currently a National War Memorial is planned for the lawns right behind the
India Gate to honor the soldiers who dedicated their lives for India, as well as to
showcase the military history of ancient and modern India. Although +rst
proposed in 1960, the project was shelved and only reconsidered in 2012. In
2015, the government approved the proposal to build a national war memorial
and a museum, and has then launched a global architectural competition to seek
designs that will “combine architectural aesthetics and public sentiments” to pay
tribute to the brave soldiers.14

[17] Today on the façade of the India Gate, alongside the names of the martyrs of
the World Wars, the names of soldiers who died in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War
and Kargil War are engraved. Moreover, names of soldiers who are honored with
the highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra are also inscribed alongside
the names of soldiers of World War I. On this architectural structure, old and new
memories are continuously re-inscribed as the Indian state battles with new
enemies and external threats. The façade of the India Gate has become a
palimpsest memoryscape as reminiscences of old and new wars are etched
alongside the surface of the memorial to collectively articulate a grand narrative
on Indian nationalism that is so often politically scripted. Old memories and

14 https://www.mygov.in/task/global-design-competition-national-war-memorial/ (accessed
April 8, 2017).

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

histories of the monument were once again rekindled and reinvented when on
March 10, 2015, the President of India Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the
Centenary Commemoration of the First World War to be observed from 2014 to
2018. The Prime Minster of India Narendra Modi, the Union Defense Minister,
chiefs of three wings of the armed forces and also foreign dignitaries have visited
the Amar Jawan Jyoti to pay their homage. The centenary commemorative
ceremony began on March 10 to remember the day the Battle of Neuve Chapelle
started in France in which the Garhwal Brigade and the Meerut Division of the
Indian Corps fought for the British Indian Army.15 Time and again, at the India
Gate memories of the great wars as well as new wars fought by India are
collectively remembered and also constantly reinterpreted and repurposed to
serve the occasion.

Remembering the Wars
[18] We have seen that war memorials and monuments operate as sites that
preserve the memories of traumatic episodes of the past. These sites are created
by the state to facilitate the remembrance of speci+c events and the narration of
histories. Like other war memorials, the India Gate is also a public space freely
accessible to the people and plays an emblematic role in the articulation of
institutional and social memory of the many wars.

[19] Memory studies have seen a renewed discussion about the remembering of
fraught historical events, as scholars attempt to unpack how new memories
displace old ones and how at times diGerent memories are [email protected] to create
new patterns of recall. To further understand how diGerent memories of the World
Wars and other wars coalesce at the India Gate memorial, it will be useful to
explore the theoretical concept of multidirectional memory proposed by Michael
Rothberg. According to Rothberg, memory has no one format of approach, since it
is as an ongoing negotiation subjected to change and external mediation. Thus its
forms of rendition can be diverse, in turn prompting multiple forms of
remembrances.16 Exemplifying Rothberg’s arguments, the India Gate hosts a
multidirectional recollection of the past, one that simultaneously makes reference
to colonial history, memorialization of the dead soldiers of World War I, [email protected]
remembrance of World War II, a decolonized historical narrative of the Indian
state, and a celebration of the modern India that includes commemoration of
martyrs of India’s many wars.

[20] The phrase “urban palimpsest” is an apt reference for the India Gate and the
Amar Jawan Jyoti, the former memorial built to articulate India’s colonial history of
war and the latter to represent India’s fraught post-independence history and
cross-border political [email protected] I borrow the term “urban palimpsest” from
Andreas Huyssen to illustrate the multiple additional operations of these two

15 Dinaker Peri, “Pranab Mukherjee Inaugurates WW-I Centenary Commemoration”, 2015,
commemoration/article6975218.ece (accessed April 8, 2017).
16 Michael Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of
Decolonization, Stanford 2009, 2-3.

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

memorials. As Huyssen suggests, an urban palimpsest “implies voids,
illegibilities, and erasures, but it also oGers a richness of traces and memories,
restorations and new constructions that will mark the city as a lived space.” 17

Material traces from the colonial era become enmeshed with nationalistic display,
thereby demonstrating how colonial monuments are repurposed and re-
presented in the postcolonial phase. At the India Gate, the visible material traces
of the past also signal the absent narratives of the collaboration of the Indian
National Army with the Japanese forces during World War II. The rearticulation of
the past at the India Gate is thus +lled with obscurities as fraught histories of
colonial British government imprisoning and even persecuting Indian soldiers who
fought alongside the Japanese forces remain largely untold in the grand narrative
of commemoration of Indian soldiers. The various place-making moves have
transformed the India Gate into a palimpsest memorial that metonymically
signi+es a geography of death, a war memoryscape, and a symbol of Indian

[21] Places of memory are often venues for performing cultural and national
rituals, and the India Gate is no exception. Through mnemonic practices and
commemorative performances orchestrated by the state, the sacri+ces of Indian
soldiers are celebrated at both the India Gate and the Amar Jawan Jyoti,
especially during the celebrations of Indian Republic Day and Independence Day.
During the Republic Day celebration on January 26, the day that marks the
establishment of the Constitution of India, all Indian soldiers who have fought and
sacri+ced their lives for the country are remembered. On this occasion, the Prime
Minister of India along with the chiefs of the three service forces pay homage to
the martyred soldiers by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti. Amongst the
highlights of the Republic Day celebrations are the conferring of bravery awards
to soldiers by the President of India followed by a grand parade on the Rajpath. It
is an occasion to display India’s militaristic strength through the showcase of
military technology and aircrafts, as well as to present the vibrant culture through
@oats and folk performances. Since this ceremony has become an avenue to
showcase the history and development of the Indian state, the complex colonial
history of the venue and the sacri+ces of Indian soldiers during the World Wars
have become buried under a grand narrative celebrating the progression of the
Indian state. Although all rituals and festivities of the Republic Day celebration
are extensively televised with detailed commentary, there is hardly any mention
of the association of the India Gate with the two World Wars. When the Prime
Minister of India participates in state rituals at the India Gate, the narrative is
more nationalistic in tone and one hears that the ceremony is performed to honor
the sacri+ces of soldiers who died protecting the nation during the India-Pakistan

[22] Other than two important national celebrations, the Republic Day and
Independence Day, the sacri+ces of Indian soldiers are also remembered on two
other occasions. Vijay Diwas, or Victory Day, on December 16, marks India’s

17 Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory,
Stanford 2003, 84.

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war. India’s victory over Pakistan on July 26,
1999, when Indian troupes ousted Pakistani in+ltrators, is celebrated as Kargil
Vijay Diwas, Kargil Victory Day. On both occasions, ceremonial placing of the
wreath is performed by the Defense Minister of India and the chiefs of the three
service forces.

[23] Places of memory such as war cemeteries and monuments are often used to
make statements and illustrate cultural and political histories. In analyzing the
diGerent formats through which memory is mapped, scholar of memory Aleida
Assmann distinguishes four diGerent frames or dimensions of memory and she
states that while individual and social memory is embodied and subjective, the
political and cultural formats of memory are mediated by histories and power
structures.18 In the case of the India Gate, political agendas of the ruling
governments have played a major role in de+ning and redesigning the
commemoratives practices of war(s), martyrdom, and sacri+ce. After India’s
independence, the newly formed nation faced the challenge of connecting and
establishing solidarity amongst a population that was diverse, dispersed, and
disparate. The imagery of secular monuments and heritage sites such as the
India Gate were used to construct a national identity that enunciated the secular
and non-partisan ideals of a new nation. Thus the image of the India Gate is now
featured on postal stamps, various government pamphlets, and in
advertisements promoting the brand “India”.

[24] Today, the India Gate is packaged and endorsed as a heritage site by the
tourism industry and is a popular tourist attraction in New Delhi visited both by
domestic and international tourists. In examining the touristic value of memory
places such as the India Gate, authors Carole Blair, Greg Dickinson, and Brian L.
Ott have noted, memory places are destinations and they require visitors to
travel to them to understand the past.19 Despite being a war memorial, during
the day the site bustles with tourists and vendors selling inexpensive jewelry,
postcards, Indian @ags, toys, balloons, sodas, ice-creams, cotton candy, popcorn,
and a variety of Indian savories (Fig. 3).

18 Aleida Assmann, “Re-framing Memory: Between Individual and Collective Forms of
Constructing the Past”, in: Performing the Past: Memory, and Identity in Modern Europe,
eds. Karin Tilmans, Frank Van Vree, and Jay Winter, Amsterdam 2010, 35-50, here 40, 42.
19 Carole Blair, Greg Dickinson, and Brian L. Ott, “Introduction: Rhetoric/Memory/Place”, in:
Places of Public Memory: The Rhetoric of Museums and Memorials, eds. Greg Dickinson,
Carole Blair, and Brian L. Ott, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 2010, 1-54, here 26.

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

3 Street vendors selling toys, sweets, and savories near the India Gate (photo by author,

[25] While access to the India Gate and the Amar Jawan Jyoti are cordoned oG by
the police, tourists still have a photo opportunity in front of the archway. In the
night, the lush green lawns and parks in the environs of the monument attract a
lot of local residents. It is also a favorite picnic spot and the locals throng the
place during weekends to enjoy fresh air and rest on the lush green grounds with
families and friends in a city which is otherwise congested and busy.

[26] As well as a site for state-organized ceremonies, public celebrations, picnics,
India Gate is now a site for protest. The India Gate and the perpendicular road in
front of it have witnessed several public marches, candle light vigils, and silent
demonstrations calling for civil action and justice. Such calls became popularized
after the blockbuster Bollywood movie Rang De Basanti (2006), in which the
young heroes protest against a corrupt Defense Minister and the government in
order to seek justice for the death of their friend, a pilot in the Indian Air Force
who was killed as a result of faulty aircraft machinery. The movie shows a crowd
of people led by the heroes marching with candles on the Rajpath towards the
India Gate to alert the public of India about the rampant corruption in the
Defense Ministry. For students, hungry farmers, women empowerment groups,
and disenfranchised communities seeking justice, the India Gate has become a
site to publicly appeal for and seek action on issues against the government and
lawmakers. With the surroundings of the India Gate now an important setting for
the civil protestors who want to make their cause more visible it has become an
avenue for staging social protest theater, thereby adding yet another layer of
meaning to the palimpsest memoryscape of the India Gate.

[27] As a public space, the India Gate and the lawns around the monument have
come to serve many diGerent purposes for diGerent people. Although designed as
a World War memorial, the India Gate has become in the present day a symbolic

RIHA Journal 0170 | 27 June 2017

commemorative monument to honor the sacri+ces of all the Indian soldiers who
lost their lives in battles fought by the Indian state. At this site, not only is a
multi-textured narrative of the wars knit together and disseminated as public
discourse, but also other old memories and histories are repurposed and
refashioned through commemoration rituals organized by the state. The symbolic
signi+cance of the sight is further enhanced during the Indian Republic Day
parade, which is a theatrical spectacle through which militaristic power,
patriotism, and cultural heritage are all showcased on the Rajpath.
Choreographed acts by the state thus play an important role in rede+ning oOcial
histories to their own bene+t in order to generate a discourse premised on Indian
nationalism. For a majority of the Indian citizens, the India Gate is a monument
that marks the emergence of India as an independent nation and a site that also
honors the soldiers who lost their lives during the Indo-Pakistan war(s).
Purposeful histories of Indian participation in World War I and poignant memories
of India’s bloody wars with neighboring state Pakistan become enmeshed at the
India Gate to produce knowledge of the past – however [email protected] – that is
discursive and dynamic.

Guest Editors of Special Issue

Christian Fuhrmeister and Kai Kappel (eds.), War Graves, War Cemeteries, and
Memorial Shrines as a Building Task, 1914-1989. Die Bauaufgabe
Soldatenfriedhof/Kriegsgräberstätte zwischen 1914 und 1989, in: RIHA Journal

Recommended Citation

Neelima Jeychandran, Representing and Reconstructing Memories of the World
Wars in India, RIHA Journal 0170, 27 June 2017, URL: http://www.riha-
URN: [see metadata].


The text of this article is provided under the terms of the Creative Commons License

ARTS 1A: Document Analysis 1

Vincent van Gogh

A letter written by an artist is one example of a primary source document. Read this
document and address the questions which follow in your notebook.

A letter written by Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo van Gogh, July 5, 1888, Arles,
France. Translated by Imogen Forster and Sue Dyson and published in “The Van Gogh
Letters Project” by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

My dear Theo,

Work occupies me so much, I can’t manage to write. I’d have liked to write to Gauguin
again, because I fear he may be iller than he says — his last letter in pencil looked so
much that way.

In that case, what’s to be done — I have no reply from Russell yet.

Yesterday, at sunset, I was on a stony heath where very small, twisted oaks grow, in the
background a ruin on the hill, and wheatfields in the valley. It was romantic, it couldn’t be
more so, à la Monticelli, the sun was pouring its very yellow rays over the bushes and the
ground, absolutely a shower of gold. And all the lines were beautiful, the whole scene had
a charming nobility. You wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see knights and ladies
suddenly appear, returning from hunting with hawks, or to hear the voice of an old
Provençal troubadour. The fields seemed purple, the distances blue. And I brought back a
study of it too, but it was well below what I’d wished to do. Tasset hadn’t sent enough
zinc white the other day. I get on very well using it, but it has the disadvantage of drying
very slowly, so, for example, the studies done at Saintes-Maries aren’t dry yet.

I’d planned to go to the Camargue, but the vet who ought to have come to pick me up to
do his rounds with him left me in the lurch. I don’t really mind, as I’m only moderately
fond of wild bulls.

It’s to my astonishment that I can already see the bottom of my wallet; it’s true that I had
my month’s rent to pay. You must clearly know that if I deduct food and lodging, all the
rest of my money still runs away on canvases. In short, they turn out rather expensive,
without counting the trouble they cause. However, I dare hope that one day the money
we spend will come back in part, and if I had more money I would spend even more
trying to find good rich colorations.


Here’s a new subject. A corner of a garden with round bushes and a weeping tree, and in
the background, clumps of oleanders. And the lawn that has just been mown, with long
wisps of hay drying in the sun. A little corner of blue green sky at the top.

I’m reading Balzac, César Birotteau, I’ll send it to you when I’ve finished it— I think I’ll re-
read all of Balzac.

When I came here I had hoped it would be possible to create art lovers here — so far, I
haven’t made a centimetre’s progress into people’s hearts. Now Marseille? I don’t know,
but that could well be nothing but an illusion. In any case, I’ve rather stopped speculating
about it. So, many days pass without my saying a word to anyone except to order supper
or a coffee. And it’s been like that from the start. But up until now loneliness hasn’t
bothered me very much, I’ve found the stronger sunshine and its effect on nature so

Write to me a day or two earlier if you can; the end of the week will be a bit tight.


Ever yours,


* * *

In your notebook, write a response to each of the following questions. As you respond,
“quote” from the document directly, that is, literally place “quotation” marks around
something Van Gogh has written. Since you will quote from documents in your Midterm
exercise, Analysis paper, and Final exam, doing so in this homework assignment offers
you a chance to practice.

After completing your written responses to the questions below, keep your responses in
your notes portfolio to use during this week’s quiz.

1. In the paragraph which begins “Yesterday, at sunset,” Vincent van Gogh described for
his brother a landscape near Arles, France. On what, exactly, was Vincent standing as he
looked at the landscape?

2. In the same paragraph, Vincent told his brother that he made a “study” of the landscape
(this is the painting we now call Sunset at Montmajour) “but it was well below what I’d
wished to do.” The artist’s disappointment appears to have something to do with Tasset,
who supplied him with art materials from Paris, not sending enough of what?

3. Near the end of the letter Vincent wrote, “When I came here I had hoped it would be
possible to create art lovers here — so far, I haven’t made a centimetre’s progress into
people’s hearts.” While the artist was disappointed he had not been able to stir the hearts
of people in southern France with his paintings, what kept Vincent from being bothered
very much by his loneliness? Use the artist’s own words as you construct your response.

* * *


Topic 1: Landscape

Topic 1

First, watch the following short video, “Sunset at Montmajour: A New

This video is narrated in Dutch, with English subtitles.

Turn off the closed captioning feature, since this video is already

Pair 1: Vincent van Gogh and Jiang Shijie

Vincent van Gogh

I. Several factors are used to determine the authorship of a
work of art. When scholars at the Van Gogh Museum in
Amsterdam learned of a painting that had possibly been made by
Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh but which had been out of public
sight for several decades, they studied Sunset at Montmajour for
two years to determine if it was really painted by van Gogh.

To authenticate the painting, museum professionals visited the
site represented in the painting, which they recognized as a place
that van Gogh had painted. They also compared the painting
technique of this work of art to other known paintings by van Gogh
and found its brushwork similar. Further, they found that the layers
of oil paint were mixed together, indicating that the artist had
painted the entire work in one session. Van Gogh was known to
have worked that way. They analyzed the paint itself and identified
the exact chemical properties of cobalt blue and red lake that
existed in other paintings by the artist.

Museum professionals also established a provenance: a record
of ownership of a work of art. They documented the provenance
in two ways. First, van Gogh himself described this painting in a
letter dated July 5, 1888. Second, they found that this painting was
listed in an inventory which had been made of van Gogh’s works
after his death.

All of these factors indicated to scholars that this is indeed a
painting by van Gogh. One final factor sealed their understanding
of its authorship: they found that, on a purely visual level, Sunset at
Montmajour held their visual attention similar to the way that other
known works by this artist held their visual attention.

Vincent van Gogh

Sunset at Montmajour


Oil on canvas

II. Van Gogh intended for viewers to feel something when
observing this painting. He was one of the first artists in history
who wrote about his desire for people to feel emotion when
looking at works of art he created. He is one of several artists in
history to use a distinctive painting technique art historians call
impasto: the process of applying paint thickly on the surface. Van
Gogh was one of the first artists to use this technique to guide
viewers to feel emotion when looking at his art. His choice of
colors and subject were additional factors he considered as he
directed people to feel emotion when looking at his art. What do
you think the artist wanted you to feel when looking at this

Jiang Shijie

I. Chinese artist Jiang Shijie carefully recorded what he felt
when he created his album, “The Three Perfections.” In the poem
next to one of the images, the artist described the sadness he felt
about the passing of the Ming dynasty; of having to leave a friend;
and of returning home one evening after a drinking party. But while
Vincent van Gogh made art to connect with viewers, Jiang Shijie
was primarily painting for personal development, the goal of
China’s literati painters: scholar painters who were primarily
interested in making art “to satisfy the heart”.

Jiang Shijie

Untitled (Landscape and Poems)
From “The Three Perfections”

Late 1600s

Ink on paper

II. Jiang used a narrower range of colors than Vincent van Gogh,
but he was an expert in the manipulation of line. Look carefully at
an untitled work from the album, which depicts a mountain, trees,
rocks, birds, and a small building. Follow with your eyes some of
the actual lines: physical, extended points that have both length
and width. Some lines are short and delicate (the birds and the
leaves) while others are wide and lengthy (the rocks and tree
trunks). Jiang made art not to sell but so that he would have a
satisfying life.

Pair 1


Analysis Exercises: Pair 1

Exercise 1: How did both artists use their art tools and materials to
assist viewers in feeling something—or to feel something
themselves—when looking at these works of art?

Exercise 2: In what ways are these works are of so different that you
would never mistake the painting by Vincent van Gogh as the work
of Jiang Shijie, and vice versa?

Exercise 3: Vincent van Gogh often signed his paintings, but this
painting he did not sign. Why did you think he did not sign this
painting? Compare it with Jiang’s work as you speculate about why
Vincent van Gogh may have chosen to omit his name from this

Pair 2: Joachim Patinir and Caspar David Friedrich

Joachim Patinir

I. Flemish artist Joachim Patinir was the first artist in European
history to be called a landscape artist. While his Landscape with
Saint Jerome includes a representation of a religious person, and
while it was made for Catholic viewers to aid in prayer, Patinir
gave careful attention to the representation of trees, mountains,
grass, sky, and rocks. Even though Patinir’s painting recalls the life
of a Christian saint, is tempting to categorize Patinir’s work as
landscape: a subject category in which the environment is the
most important aspect of the work of art.

Joachim Patinir

Landscape with Saint Jerome


Oil on wood

II. Patinir’s goal was not to explore the environment for its own
sake but, rather, to help people of faith experience devotion.
Patinir would not have made this painting if it were not for the
inclusion of St. Jerome, a subject of greater interest to the Catholic
buyers of his paintings in the sixteenth century than the
representation of the environment. Still, he clearly wanted viewers
to take time to experience the painted landscape. He made
attempts to convey the illusion of a recession of space. Not only
did his viewers see a difference in size from objects nearby to
objects in the distance, but he achieved the illusion of space by
using aerial perspective: a way to suggest distance by showing
how objects far away appear to lose their color.

Caspar David Friedrich

I. The German artist Caspar David Friedrich also had
patrons who used art to experience devotion, but this artist
pushed his patrons to experience intellectual insight, as well.
Patrons: the clients, customers, or buyers of works of art,
acquire art for a wide range of reasons, but those who
purchased art by Patinir and Friedrich often did so for
explicitly religious reasons, either as an aid to prayer (in the
case of Patinir) or to stimulate religious ideas (in the case of

Friedrich’s Monk at the Sea was purchased by a devout
Protestant, the King of Prussia, Frederick Wilhelm III. The
painting does not glorify any person or nation but rather
positions a man who has taken vows of poverty, chastity, and
obedience in relation to an expansive and impressive
universe over which he holds no power. King Frederick did
not commission this work but purchased it after it was
completed. Did he use it to remind himself that he, too, was
powerless in the eyes of God?

Caspar David Friedrich

Monk at the Sea


Oil on canvas

II. Unlike Patinir, who relied on objects of interest and a
strong use of aerial perspective to guide viewers’ attention
through Landscape with Saint Jerome, Friedrich divided his
composition into three horizontal bands. The lines caused by
the intersecting edges of each band—sky to sea, sea to
land—stretch across the painting to both sides, leading our
eyes to the margins of the picture plane instead of deeper
into it. These lines which direct the eye but are not actual
lines are called leading lines.

The leading lines created by Caspar David Friedrich in
Monk at the Sea help us understand the importance of the
element of line to artists. When you read our primary
source document this week, written by Vincent van Gogh,
look for a comment he made as he stood looking at the
landscape near Montmajour: “all the lines were beautiful.”

Pair 2

Analysis Exercises: Pair 2

Exercise 1: In what ways does the relative size of the human
figures in each painting help us understand what was important
for the artists to communicate each of these works?

Exercise 2: Which of these paintings do you feel conveys a
greater sense of space, and why?

Exercise 3: As a Protestant artist, Friedrich may have been trying
to produce landscape imagery that looked quite different from
traditional Catholic landscape painting. In what ways did he
succeed in conceiving a different approach to landscape?

Pair 3: Rembrandt van Rijn and Yishay Garbasz

Rembrandt van Rijn

I. By the seventeenth century, landscape imagery had become
popular for its own sake, and artists were able to construct and
sell landscape imagery that did not contain religious figures. One
of the most popular landscape artists in Europe during the
seventeenth century was the Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn,
who provided viewers with enough details of the local
environment that some sites were recognizable.

Rembrandt mass produced his designs with a printmaking
technique called etching: a way of making prints from a metal
plate, usually copper, into which the design is incised with acid.
Artists who worked with the etching technique in the seventeenth
century could produce from 75 to 100 prints from a single copper
plate, hence selling a design not once but up to 100 times.

An accomplished printmaker, Rembrandt used an approach to
line called cross-hatching. With cross-hatching, an artist achieves
a sense of shading with intersecting sets of parallel lines.

Rembrandt van Rijn

The Three Trees


Etching and drypoint

II. Even though there are no figures who may be identified
specifically as “religious” in The Three Trees, this etching likely
held symbolic significance for viewers. Most of Rembrandt’s
patrons were strict Protestants, and some would have seen the
reference to three trees as a reminder of the crucifixion of Christ,
who was executed between thieves on either side. While many
Dutch buyers of such prints were religious, most preferred to buy
works of art which encouraged contemplation of spiritual matters
through symbolism instead of obvious religious subjects.

Yishay Garbasz

I. Like Rembrandt, contemporary Israeli artist Yishay Garbasz
mass produces landscape imagery to convey ideas. In the
photograph Christianstadt, the artist presents an image of a ruin:
the remnants of a building or monument which has been
destroyed or has disintegrated. Constructed for her book In My
Mother’s Footsteps, Christianstadt represents one of the sites the
artist contemplated as she visited camps at which her mother was
incarcerated during the Holocaust.

Yishay Garbasz

From In My Mother’s Footsteps



II. More than most landscape artists, Yishay Garbasz engages
her own body in the pursuit of landscape imagery. To produce the
book In My Mother’s Footsteps, the artist underwent physical
difficulty as she visited and photographed places associated with
her mother’s suffering, often walking long distances to reach them.
Yishay Garbasz’s work is tied to the practice of confronting
traumatic memories: memories with the potential to cause long-
term problems, resulting from an experience of violence.
Moreover, she has used her own body as the subject of her art,
photographing herself over a period of months when undergoing
sex reassignment surgery.

Pair 3Pair 3Pair 333

Analysis Exercises: Pair 3

Exercise 1: Who might have purchased landscape prints by
Rembrandt in the seventeenth century, and who is likely to
purchase landscape prints by Yishay Garbasz today?

Exercise 2: What objects in each landscape might viewers find to
be symbolic?

Exercise 3: What evidence do you find in each landscape that the
sites are real rather than imagined?

Pair 4: Jørn Utzon and Kunlé Adeyemi

Jørn Utzon

I. Architecture, like works of art, can have close ties to subject
categories. Danish architect Jørn Utzon won the opportunity to
design the Sydney Opera House through a competition. His
design evokes the sails of boats on the harbor near which the
opera house sits. When Utzon submitted his design, he was not
completely sure how the design could be achieved in physical
form, and he worked within a process he called additive
architecture to build it. Utzon defined additive architecture as an
architectural practice that develops on the basis of growth
patterns in both culture and nature.

Jørn Utzon

Sydney Opera House
Sydney, Australia


Concrete and pink granite

II. To complete his design, Utzon worked with precast
concrete: a construction material made by casting liquid
concrete in molds which are then transported to a site to be used
in the construction of buildings. In doing so, you might say that
Utzon worked similar to a sculptor, building an form that evoked
sailing ships while producing a building that had a practical
function: an opera house.

Kunlé Adeyemi

I. Unlike Utzon’s design for the Sydney Opera House, Kunlé
Adeyemi’s design for a floating school was not meant to be
permanent. This Nigerian architect practices an approach to
architecture called sustainable architecture: an architectural
practice that seeks to minimize damage to the environment. For
this project, Adeyemi considered building materials that were
readily available so as not to demand an unnecessary toll upon
the environment. Also, the materials could be reused or recycled
at a later time. The Makoko Floating School in Lagos served the
children who studied there for less than five years. But it is a
design that can be repeated as often as needed.

Kunlé Adeyemi

Makoko Floating School
Lagos, Nigeria


Bamboo, wood, and plastic barrels

II. Adeyemi’s design for a floating school emerged from his
understanding of the environmental conditions of the urban
environment of Lagos. Adeyemi’s sensitivity to the environment
demonstrates his understanding of urbanism: the study of the
physical needs of an urban society, especially how humans
interact with built environments.

Pair 4

Analysis Exercises: Pair 4

Exercise 1: In what ways are these buidings by Utzon and Adeyami
tied to the subject category of landscape?

Exercise 2: How did each architect use the element of line to
create a dynamic visual experience for viewers of these buildings?

Exercise 3: How it is clear to you from observing these buildings
that both architects had to be experts in different building materials
in order to realize their designs?

* * *?

26 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1




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In 1890, The Faithful Colt and Emblems of Peace went on display in the windows of Black, Starr & Frost, the oldest and one of the most elite jewelry firms in New York City (figs. 1, 2). Both paintings—still lifes by American artist William Harnett—portray objects that have been handled, used, and bear the marks of age. The
Faithful Colt depicts a rusted .44-caliber Model 1860 Colt Army Revolver hanging
against weathered wooden planks coeval with the surface of the picture plane. Its
companion, Emblems of Peace, pictures an eclectic collection of objects haphazardly
stacked upon a carved wooden table; the collection includes six leather-bound books,
a musical score and newspaper, a ceramic jug and flute, a candlestick and scissors, an
overturned meerschaum pipe, a box of tobacco, and matches. These things—not to
mention the rustic and antiquated settings in which they were depicted—would have
differed markedly from the opulent surroundings in which the paintings were origi-
nally displayed. In the late nineteenth century, Black, Starr & Frost sold everything
from fine clocks, watches, and leather goods to silver and gold tea services, trophies,
and flatware. These elegant items were displayed in the firm’s luxurious showrooms,
which moved up Broadway and, later, Fifth Avenue no fewer than six times, following
the flow of consumer traffic.1

Despite the obvious differences between the objects displayed in The Faithful Colt
and Emblems of Peace and the goods for sale at Black, Starr & Frost, scholars have
characterized the artworks as trompe l’oeil deceptions that sought to trick the viewer,
if only momentarily, into thinking their tableaux were extensions of the settings in
which they were seen.2 Rendered with imperceptible brushwork, the paintings have
been understood as an attempt to acclimate their original viewers, who were also
consumers, to the deceptions of modern capitalism; they were teaching these view-
ers to be more attentive to the illusionism of commodities, which promise more than
they could ever deliver.

Harnett, however, would have seen the products for sale at Black, Starr & Frost
as much more than commodities. From 1869 to 1875, the artist worked as a silver
engraver at Wood & Hughes and, it is thought, Tiffany & Company. These firms, along
with Black, Starr & Frost (which acquired Wood & Hughes in 1900) and Gorham
Manufacturing Company, constituted the most reputable silver manufacturers in the
country.3 That Harnett worked in the silver industry is one of the few facts we have
about his life. He left no letters, no journals, no personal or professional correspon-
dence of any kind. In the absence of such documents, Harnett’s work is well suited
to poststructuralist readings that consider his paintings in terms of their reception.4
Although there are no written insights into the artist’s motivations and interests, the
Archives of American Art holds a sketchbook of ornamental designs Harnett made in
the early 1870s during his time as a silver engraver.

The drawings in the sketchbook look unlike anything scholars have come to
expect from Harnett. There are neither tattered books, elegant instruments, nor any
three-dimensional objects represented; there are only fifteen pages of ornamental
designs likely destined for silver flatware. Though Harnett’s drawings and paintings
differ dramatically in subject matter, the sketchbook offers unexpected insights into
the technique he used to create his paintings and, by extension, the cultural as well
as professional concerns that motivated his fine art. Using the sketchbook as a key
primary source, this essay brings Harnett’s paintings into conversation with his work

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Fig. 1

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29 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 1
William Michael
Harnett, The Faithful
Colt, 1890. Oil on
canvas, 22 ½ x 18 ½ in.
The Ella Gallup Sumner
and Mary Catlin
Sumner Collection
Fund, 1935.236.
The Wadsworth
Atheneum Museum
of Art, Hartford, CT.
Photograph by Allen

Fig. 2
William Michael
Harnett, Emblems of
Peace, 1890. Oil on
canvas, 27 ½ x 33 ¾ in.
Michele and Donald
D’Amour Museum of
Fine Arts, Springfield,
MA. Gift of Charles
T. and Emilie Shean.
Photograph by David

as a silver engraver to offer a new perspective on the impeccable brushwork that has
come to characterize his art.

The years in which Harnett worked in the silver industry are normally associated
with rapid industrialization.5 Bolstered by the discovery of new silver reserves, silver
manufacturing increased exponentially, and ever more machinery was introduced to
make the most of this supply. Ironically, however, the ability to mass-produce silver
goods coincided with renewed emphasis on skill at every step in the production pro-
cess—from designing to engraving, and from the training of employees to the mar-
keting of finished products. Having worked in the industry, then, Harnett would not
have seen the goods for sale at Black, Starr & Frost as illusionistic commodities, but
rather as works of impeccable craftsmanship. The polished tea sets and flatware were
the end result of a series of creative decisions and technical maneuvers executed by
men of skill and training.

Harnett’s sketches offer insight into his seemingly routine, yet decidedly imagina-
tive, role in this process. Further, they suggest that, like the ornaments he inscribed
on silverware, trompe l’oeil was also a matter of technique. Rather than a pictorial
style and a mode of deception, it was a mode of production that asserted Harnett’s
manual skill and, by extension, defined his paintings over and against the scourge
of mechanically reproduced images in late nineteenth-century America. Trained in
the silver industry and the nation’s premier art academies, Harnett did not approach
painting as a tool to adapt the public to a rapidly industrializing consumer culture so
much as a craft that needed to be upheld and preserved in the face of it.

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30 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Harnett began his career as an engraver in 1865. First he worked on steel, copper, and wood, and eventually graduated to silver.6 As an engraver in the jewelry business, Harnett would have inscribed monograms and other designs onto silver flatware and other custom objects—work that fine art-
ists of the period, such as Asher B. Durand, considered rather tedious and monoto-
nous.7 These basic facts about Harnett’s career make the sketchbook in the Archives
all the more surprising. In the eighteenth century, a craftsman like Paul Revere
would have executed or overseen everything from the design to the inscription of the
objects he was commissioned to make, so we might expect him to have sketched out
all of these details.8 But by the 1870s, when companies like Gorham divided this labor
into no fewer than twelve trades, it seems remarkable that a silver engraver, in what
appears to have been a rather low-level position, would have kept a sketchbook, let
alone one so whimsical and experimental as Harnett’s.9 Perhaps further scholarship
on the silver industry and the early professional lives of artists will prove that it was
common for engravers of flatware and other decorative objects to make such studies.
Whether or not it is an anomaly in the industry, Harnett’s sketchbook offers welcome
insight into his training, manual skill, and the cultural imperatives behind them.

In the sketchbook’s fifteen pages, Harnett is given to incredible flights of fancy.10
Only in rare instances, such as pages 4, 7, and 12, does he adopt a methodical
and relatively systematic approach, dividing the sheets into sections, each contain-
ing its own discrete motif or set of designs. Otherwise and elsewhere, his approach
is more haphazard. Pages 1, 9, 19, and 28, for example, are covered with a flurry
of designs, whereas the frontispiece (cover verso) and pages 5, 13–18, 21, and 25
bear only a few unrelated motifs. Two large designs anchor page 3, but the rest of
the sheet is filled with all manner of motifs, many of which bear no obvious formal
relationship to one another (fig. 3). Although the designs that extend across
the top of the page are clearly variations on a theme, below them lighter, more
whimsical motifs introduce wispy lines and decorative dots unrelated to the row
of designs above. Only the semicircle at the bottom of the page, with its crisp and
even line, appears to have been executed with the aid of a compass or a similar
tool for ensuring precision. Otherwise, the lines are sketchy and imprecise; they
double back on themselves and are asymmetrical, loose doodles rather than firm
plans. While free line work and eclectic imagery are typical of artists’ sketchbooks
and journals, these features would have been highly unusual for an engraver,
who was expected to do little more than inscribe initials and standard designs
on the ends of flatware. Harnett’s sketchbook, however, reveals the imagination
intrinsic to the trade as it was practiced among the most elite firms in the late
nineteenth century. As a result, it revises modern perceptions of engraving as
a professional practice, our understanding of drawing as an artistic medium, and,
ultimately, Harnett’s interest in trompe l’oeil.

The sketchbook represents one of two approaches to drawing that Harnett prac-
ticed in his early adult years. While he worked as a silver engraver, Harnett also took
classes at three prestigious art academies: the National Academy of Design (NAD),
the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and the Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA).11 Institutions like Wood & Hughes and PAFA
employed drawing in radically different ways, and these differences reveal the impor-

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31 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

tance Harnett would have ascribed to sketching and to the principles and values he
picked up through his relation to the silver industry.

Two of Harnett’s figurative academic studies survive: a drawing of the Venus
de Milo and another of the Borghese Warrior (fig. 4). In both works, the eponymous
sculptures are rendered in charcoal on oversized paper as Harnett seeks to work
out, with mixed success, human anatomy, foreshortening, and translating the body
from three dimensions to two. The drawings’ fidelity (desired or actual) to their
models enables us to understand the freedom and creativity that Harnett found
and embraced in designing and engraving ornaments. Harnett is known to have
taken antique classes at PAFA and life classes at NAD.12 In both schools, he became
acquainted with the cornerstone of academic painting at the time, the human fig-
ure—first, in the form of casts of classical statuary and, later, at a more advanced
level, through work with live models. But rather than learn to paint this subject, he
and his classmates were taught to draw it.13 Through careful observation and meticu-
lous draftsmanship, they learned to copy. Drawing was not the time to invent, inno-
vate, and imagine, but to imitate, replicate, and reproduce. It was the first step in
the production of a significant work of fine art, but it was also the most routine and
mechanical part of the process. Like the casts on which they were based, academic
drawings of the Borghese Warrior and Venus de Milo were reproductions, simply in
two dimensions instead of three.

Rather than copying and transcribing, designers and engravers in the silver
industry used drawing to devise new and original motifs and silhouettes. This is not
to say they came up with them out of thin air. Their work was based on models, but
the goal was not to copy these models so much as to reimagine and reinvent them.

Fig. 3

Fig. 3
William Michael
Harnett sketchbook,
1870, 3. Graphite on
paper, 5 ½ x 7 ¼ in.
William Harnett
Sketches, Archives
of American Art,

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32 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Fig. 4

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33 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Fig. 5

Fig. 6

Fig. 4
William Michael
Harnett, Borghese
Warrior, 1873. Charcoal
and white chalk on pink
(toned) laid paper,
39 ½ x 34 in. Courtesy
of the Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine
Arts, Philadelphia.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs.
David J. Grossman,
acc. no. 1960.16.

Fig. 5
William Michael
Harnett sketchbook,
1870, 20. Graphite
on paper, 5 ½ x 7 ¼ in.
William Harnett
Sketches, Archives
of American Art,

Fig. 6
Owen Jones, The
Grammar of Ornament,
plate XIX, Greek No. 5
(detail). (London: Day
and Son, 1856).

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34 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Fig. 7

The ornaments in Harnett’s sketchbook engage such an inherited vocabulary of
motifs. On pages 2, 4, 20, 27, and 28, for example, there are lotus blossoms and pal-
mettes that one might find on ancient Greek and Etruscan vases (figs. 5, 6). The design
on the frontispiece is comprised of the kinds of interwoven lines that characterize
Celtic carvings. The chandelier-like designs on pages 6, 7, 11, 19, and elsewhere in the
sketchbook are, next to the lotus blossoms and palmettes, its most common forms,
and resonate with the cascading vines in Italian Renaissance decoration (fig. 7).

These historical motifs and others filled books like The Grammar of Ornament
(fig. 8), a compendium of designs spanning the entire globe and human history,
which the British architect and designer Owen Jones published in 1856. Jones wanted
to encourage designers to return to nature and reinterpret it for the modern age.
Indeed, his goal was to

aid in arresting that unfortunate tendency of our time to be content with
copying, whilst the fashion lasts, the forms peculiar to any bygone age,
without attempting to ascertain, generally completely ignoring, the pecu-
liar circumstances which rendered an ornament beautiful, because it was
appropriate, and which as expressive of other wants, when thus trans-
planted, as entirely fails.14

Jones, however, was unsuccessful in this endeavor, as The Grammar of Ornament
became one of the definitive sourcebooks for designers in the United States.15 In fact,
Tiffany & Company and Gorham built libraries and collections on site precisely to

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35 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Fig. 8

provide their employees with reference materials such as Jones’s book. As curator
Charles Venable notes, “The collections of natural specimens, art reproductions, and
books noted in these passages [of articles on the design firms] were, along with the
talent of the designers, the life blood of each firm’s design room. Consequently, these
collections were often extensive.”16 Describing his visit to the Tiffany studio on Prince
Street in New York in 1887, one visitor went as far as to compare it to the American
Museum of Natural History, since it was full of “well-preserved counterfeits of birds
and smaller animals, as also gourds, ears of corn, grasses &c., all of which have

Fig. 7
William Michael
Harnett sketchbook,
1870, 19. Graphite on
paper, 5 ½ x 7 ¼ in.
William Harnett
Sketches, Archives
of American Art,

Fig. 8
Owen Jones, The
Grammar of Ornament,
plate LXXVI,
Renaissance No. 3
(London: Day and
Son, 1856).

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36 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

already served or still serve, as studies.” “Running back the entire length of the long,
light room are drawing-boards, at which sit busy designers,” he went on to observe,

“while about them hang plaster casts, models and electrotypes of designs which have
graced work previously done.”17 These resources were a designer’s and, it appears,
engraver’s first recourse in developing new work: these individuals researched extant
objects, models, and motifs, revising them into novel configurations.

The designs in Harnett’s sketchbook make visible this process of interpreta-
tion, translation, and transformation. Take, for example, the row of seven motifs
that extend across the top of page 3 (see fig. 3). The first iteration looks like a stylized
Venetian mask. One unbroken line creates a pointy “nose” and bends back upon itself
to create two square “eyes,” each of which graces a “flap” on either side of the “nose.”
In the next iteration, the line is broken, and the “eyes” are removed. The third version
is almost the inverse of the other two; the negative spaces have been shaded with thin
horizontal lines. The fourth marks a radical departure that combines elements of all
the previous versions, such as the shading from iteration three and the broken line
from version two. In the fifth version, Harnett retains the three closed shapes that
emerged in the fourth and underscores two of them with doubled lines. The sixth
and seventh iterations take another drastic turn, as the doubled line introduced in
version five becomes the governing element and shape, and results in a semicircular
form punctuated by a central column containing a stylized floral design. The fact that
the first motif in the series appears fully formed and resolved suggests that Harnett
likely imported it from somewhere else, but the source is unknown.

The important thing to note is not the reference point for this motif, which we may
yet discover in a late nineteenth-century design catalogue, but what Harnett does
with it. Each successive motif responds to and expands upon elements developed
within previous iterations. Although the process, as described here, sounds relatively
methodical and systematic, the varied size, spacing, and hand of the sketches suggest
it was incredibly intuitive and creative. Harnett appears to embark on these formal
experiments without any recognizable goal other than dismantling and reconstruct-
ing the visual vocabulary he would have inherited from the eclectic collections and
vast libraries maintained by the firms where he worked.

The sketchbook does not contain any records of the objects on which Harnett
worked, any written testimonials to his area of specialization, or any insights into his
entrée into the silver industry. While we cannot say for sure where Harnett’s designs
ended up, they were likely destined for custom-made flatware and other silver goods.
By the second half of the nineteenth century, the manufacture of silver goods was, in
large part, mechanized, but specialty items—from utensils to trophies to tea sets—
continued to be made by hand.18 Unlike mass-produced objects, such items provided
ample opportunities and demand for formal as well as technical experimentation.
Engravers could (and, in fact, had to) take liberties with their sketches in order to
adapt them to a range of items, while designers had to draw fully integrated objects
that machines would be able to (re)produce.

The sketchbooks kept by Edward C. Moore, a designer, manager, and ultimately
artistic director of Tiffany & Company during this time, exemplify the possibilities for
and restrictions on such work.19 A prototypical page bears designs for three spoons,
each with a different silhouette that dictates the parameters and the geometry of the

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37 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Fig. 11

Fig. 10

Fig. 9

ornamentation upon it (fig. 9). The motifs reinforce and underscore elegant aspects of
the silhouettes, but they are also fully embedded within them. By contrast, Harnett’s
motifs float freely on the page, divorced from particular objects. They would have to
be adapted, and adaptable, to different types of utensils and perhaps other kinds of
things altogether.

Although none of the silverware that Wood & Hughes or Tiffany & Company
produced in the early 1870s has been specifically linked to Harnett, a napkin ring
that the artist made for the family of his friend William Ignatius Blemly, a colleague
from Wood & Hughes, survives in the Blemly family collection and offers a sense of
what Harnett’s finished work might have looked like (fig. 10). The initials “MJB” are
inscribed in cursive script in the center of the ring and surrounded by an ornate
geometric pattern similar to one on page 3 of Harnett’s sketchbook (fig. 11). Although
we cannot definitively link the sketch to the napkin ring, they are both comprised
of two interlocking open bands that conclude in swirls—yet with some important
differences between them. The sketch is much simpler and comprised strictly of full,
straight lines, whereas the engraving is far more florid: one of the two lines in each
band is serrated rather than straight; additional curlicues spin out of the concluding
spirals; there is shading within the large spirals as well as the triangles at the top and
bottom of the motif; and, of course, there is the monogram itself, at the center of it all.
These differences, however, seem related to and indicative of the process of translat-

Fig. 9
E. C. Moore,
Designs. MS. Catalogue
#311. © Tiffany & Co.
Archives 2016.

Fig. 10
William Michael
Harnett, napkin ring,
ca. 1869–1875. Silver,
approx. 1 ½ x 2 in.
Inscribed: MJB. Blemly
Family Collection.
Image courtesy of
Loranne Carey Block.

Fig. 11
William Michael
Harnett sketchbook,
1870, 3 (detail).
Graphite on paper,
5 ½ x 7 ¼ in. William
Harnett Sketches,
Archives of American
Art, Smithsonian

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38 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

ing a sketch on paper to an ornament in silver. Harnett takes the opportunity to vary
the lines, forms, and shapes overall from sketch to finished product.

But the final product—the engraving on the napkin ring—does not betray any of
this work. It reads as a relatively generic design, easily and perhaps mechanically
reproduced. The lines are firm, deliberate, and precise—if not altogether even and
perfectly symmetrical. Harnett’s sketchbook, however, reveals the story behind such
relatively pristine images. It allows us see the creative work that went into them and
thus understand what engraving meant to Harnett and to those who produced and
consumed silver goods at the end of the nineteenth century. It was not a mechani-
cal and routine endeavor, solely dependent upon technical skill, but an imaginative
process that invested commercial objects with personal value. This value certainly
inhered in any initials that might be inscribed upon the objects, but it also emerged
from the extended process of devising engravings of all kinds. Harnett appropriated
a vocabulary of letters and images from extant sources, sketched and transformed
them into new configurations or original combinations, and then adapted and trans-
posed these designs into lines on silver. It was a creative process that would have
differed dramatically from the kind of work he was doing at NAD and PAFA. Rather
than reproducing extant models, he reimagined them in ways that lent commercial
objects a personal touch, literally and figuratively.

The silverware on which Harnett worked was largely made by hand and benefited
from the concerted attention of a number of trained craftsmen and technicians. As
Harnett embarked on his career as a professional painter, he would abandon the flo-
ral and geometric imagery that characterizes his sketches, but retain the silver indus-
try’s investment in manual technique and technical skill. These concerns would
become the substance of his work, manifest in the imperceptible handiwork that his
paintings shared with his earlier engravings.

In his obituary for Harnett, the artist’s friend E. Taylor Snow suggests that mecha-nization forced Harnett out of the silver industry and into painting full time. Electroplating, a cheaper alternative to objects made entirely out of silver, obvi-ated the need for skilled engravers and, Snow claims, cost Harnett his job.20 Given
that specialty objects continued to be made even as technologies of mass produc-
tion were introduced into the trade, Snow’s claims are dubious; nonetheless, they do
point to the explicit contest between mechanical production and manual skill that
compelled the work that the silver industry required of Harnett and, as I will claim,
motivated his approach to painting.

Through extensive training in both engraving and drawing, Harnett spent his
early adult years cultivating his manual and technical skills to create unique, hand-
made objects, be they paintings or flatware. Ironically, however, art historians
have frequently compared his paintings to photographs because of their seemingly
mechanical style. Douglas Nickel, for instance, has claimed that Harnett’s “imper-
ceptible brushwork and seemingly equal regard for every detail and surface made his
works appear more the creation of a machine than the human hand.”21 David Lubin
has further noted that the paintings “look as though they have never been touched
by painter or owner. They look instead as though they were made by an intricate,
inordinately sophisticated, superphotographic machine.”22 While, for the most part,

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39 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Harnett’s brushwork is imperceptible, his work and training in the silver industry
should encourage us to think about the physical and intellectual work required to
achieve this ostensibly effortless effect.

Recently scholars have explored how Harnett’s paintings and, more specifically,
their “machine aesthetic” may have met the sociological needs of a rapidly expand-
ing consumer economy.23 In his discussion of the discourse of deception around
Harnett’s work, for example, Michael Leja asserts that nineteenth-century accounts
of the paintings fooling Americans were exaggerations that testify to the haptic
and psychological desires the works stirred and, therefore, to the participation of
Harnett’s paintings in cultural anxieties around commodity desire.24 But my analysis
of Harnett’s sketchbook suggests that, as an engraver and academically trained art-
ist, Harnett would have been less concerned with the fetishism of commodities than
with mechanical reproduction’s impact on manual labor, technical skill, and thus the
cultural value of the kinds of art and craft in which he had spent more than a decade
(1865–1877) becoming well versed. In a rapidly changing commercial as well as visual
and material landscape, his imperceptible brushwork should not be understood
exclusively as a means to deceive the viewer, but also as a way to invest his paintings
with the technical skill and personal touch attributed to hand engraving. Harnett
envisioned his paintings as handcrafted objects whose emphatically material quality
was meant to distinguish them from, rather than imitate, the mechanical character of
photography. The paintings, of course, might take on other lives and meanings once
they entered the commercial marketplace, but to recognize Harnett’s motivations
is to consider the paintings on their own terms and thereby to understand the picto-
rial and cultural imperatives behind them, in addition to the social functions they
may have served.

Conservation reports on Harnett’s paintings reveal how he achieved the immacu-
late surfaces that characterize his work and provide insight into his technique. First,
he applied a thick ground in vertical strokes, which would obscure the natural weave
of the canvas and evoke the grain of the wooden paneling that would be painted
on top of it. Next, he would score the ground, likely with the back of a paintbrush, to
create the cracks and splits that appeared to mar the wood. He then painted each
object individually into the composition; if there was any overlap among the objects
(such as the gun and newspaper clipping displayed against the wooden planks in
The Faithful Colt), they were depicted in successive layers.25 It was an incredibly labo-
rious and, one imagines, tedious process that was the source of much speculation
among critics.

Although scholarship has focused on the admittedly apocryphal anecdotes about
people trying to touch, pick, scratch, or otherwise test the veracity of the artist’s
hyper-realistic paintings, much of the period criticism on Harnett’s work marvels at
the time and effort he must have taken to produce it. For example, an unnamed critic
for the Springfield Daily Republican claimed that Harnett spent seven months on
Ease and asserted that “in every detail of the great variety of textures thus presented
to the artist for his skill to reproduce, he has been sufficient to the task.”26 Likewise,
upon seeing The Faithful Colt and Emblems of Peace on view at Black, Starr & Frost,
critic Frank Linstow White wrote that “both paintings are executed with the pains-
taking care so characteristic of Harnett. The ivory pistol and flute, discolored and

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40 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

cracked with age, the well-browned meerschaum, the gray stone-ware of the jug, the
tobacco curling out over the edge of the paper-box—everything is delineated with
truth in the minutest detail.”27 Whether, like White and the Springfield reviewer, crit-
ics commended Harnett’s attention to detail or they belittled him for it, professional
reviewers were significantly less interested in the potentially deceptive aspects of
Harnett’s work than in the labor that went into it. Today, we think of visible brush-
work as the mark of an artist’s hand, but in late nineteenth-century America, the
opposite was true, too. It was the decided lack of visible brushwork in his paintings
that revealed Harnett’s skill to both art insider and bourgeois consumer.

Indeed, silver manufacturers expended much time, money, and effort on both
cultivating and advertising the skill of the craftsmen who produced their wares. In
addition to housing reference libraries and study collections, firms like Tiffany &
Company hosted classes and courses that Charles Venable suggests “went beyond the
standard apprenticeship system.”28 For example, he notes that “to hone its trainees’
skills, Tiffany’s held competitions and offered cash awards to those producing the
finest designs and examples of chasing, repoussé, raising, and other technical
skills.”29 This training was announced in the finish and polish of the objects them-
selves, but also in the marketing materials and display strategies used to sell them.
The illustrations in a self-published history of Black, Starr & Frost, where Harnett
showed The Faithful Colt and Emblems of Peace in 1890, demonstrate how the
company advertised its employees’ experience and training; these images can help
explain how and why Harnett was interested in announcing his skill, too. One
illustration in the brochure depicts an early showroom at the firm’s sixth location
(fig. 12). Framed paintings hang above the glass vitrines, which are filled with all sorts
of silver wares. The manufactured products were thus aligned with works of fine art,
as objects of comparable value as well as skill. Significantly, it was in this era (the
1860s through the turn of the century) that silver manufacturers started naming flat-
ware after key cities, artists, and styles in the history of art, and displaying paintings
in their showrooms or in separate “art rooms” designed for this purpose.30

Should such displays and illustrations prove too subtle, Black, Starr & Frost made
the labor that went into its items explicit in other areas of the brochure. Its anony-
mous author assures potential customers, for instance, that

it must be borne in mind that all work is done right in the building, in
the manufacturing shops on the upper floors, under the constant supervi-
sion of the department heads and of the members of the firm. It means
a good deal to realize that even the most precious gems may be entrusted
to the firm, with the absolute assurance that they will not go out of the
building, and that whatever work is to be done will be executed by men
of skill and training.31

For the author and his customers, the fact that all work was done on site was a mat-
ter of efficiency and ability as much as safety and security: while the final two pages
of the brochure contain illustrations of two show pieces, the previous four reproduce
photographs of men diligently at work in the silver engraving shop (fig. 13), the watch
and clock shop, the jewelry shop, and the fine jewelry and diamond setting depart-

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41 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

ment, respectively. Rather than describe or even picture the goods for sale, the
brochure pictured and touted the work, labor, and time that created them. In the
midst of sweeping mechanization, advertising the manual labor that the design and
manufacture of silver wares required helped validate their status as luxury goods.

For Tiffany, Gorham, and Black, Starr & Frost, encouraging and advertising the
training, care, and talent of their workers assured customers that the goods they
bought were original, valuable, and unique. These concerns might seem far removed
from Harnett’s still lifes, which, in recent decades, have been described as repetitive,
imitative, and even figuratively mass-produced.32 But the technique he used to pro-
duce them and his investment in the materiality of paint suggest that a comparable
interest in originality, or at least the handmade, compelled Harnett’s paintings.

Recall that in the mid-nineteenth century, electroplating and other technologies
were being introduced into the silver industry at the same time that photography was
becoming instrumental to both the fine and decorative arts in the United States. In
the early 1860s, for instance, Gorham established a photography department in order

Fig. 12
“Fifth Avenue and
Twenty-Eighth Street,”
in At the Sign of
the Golden Eagle,
1810–1912 (New York:
Black, Starr & Frost,
1912), 12. Image
courtesy of the Hagley
Museum and Library.

Fig. 12

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42 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Fig. 13
“Silver Engraving
Shop,” in At the Sign of
the Golden Eagle, 1810–
1912 (New York: Black,
Starr & Frost, 1912), 21.
Image courtesy of the
Hagley Museum and

Fig. 13

to produce images of its new products, which could then be distributed to travel-
ing salesmen and used as a resource in the company’s library.33 Photographs also
served as useful study tools in art academies, though not without much debate and
at times controversy.34 Describing a studio at PAFA in 1879, just two years after the
last class Harnett is recorded to have taken there, art critic William Brownell noted
that “around the walls are, perhaps, the most complete collection of carbon photo-
graphs from old masters in the country (outside of the Braun agency), and the benefit
to be obtained from a study of them, and possibly it would not be too fanciful to say
the insensible benefit of a daily view of them, must be of consequence.”35 The photo-
graphs were meant to acquaint students with the fine-art canon and, more so, serve
as both model and muse. But like the managers of Gorham and other prominent
silver manufacturers, American artists also used photography to promote their work.
In 1875, for instance, PAFA’s infamous instructor Thomas Eakins enlisted the Braun
agency mentioned by Brownell to produce a collotype of his Portrait of Dr. Samuel
D. Gross (The Gross Clinic) and created a small gray-scale version of the painting to

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43 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

facilitate its translation into a black-and-white print.36 For designers and engravers
as well as fine artists, then, photography was a tool of mass production. It was not its
polish that appealed to or interested them, as scholarship on Harnett has suggested,
but its reproductive capabilities and, consequently, the extended access it afforded to
what would otherwise be singular and solitary objects.

In recent decades, the photograph’s status as a multiple has been the subject of
work by artists and scholars alike.37 But as Geoffrey Batchen’s writing on cartes de
visite suggests, discussions of nineteenth-century photography still tend to adhere to
art-historical conventions derived from the traditional arts and so prioritize images
that deviate from the “norm,” portray noteworthy sitters, or come from noted studio
operators.38 Rather than focusing on exceptional cartes de visite, Batchen examines
the popular interest in, and socio-economic logic behind, the genre in the nineteenth
century. Cartes were the primary form of portraiture in the United States throughout
the 1860s and into the early 1870s, when Harnett was working in the silver industry
and training in art academies, and their formulaic character offers much insight
into the threat photography would have posed to a professionally and academically
trained painter like himself.39 Just decades earlier, daguerreotypes had attempted
to compete with painting; they could even be hand-painted in color to enliven their
subjects and so underscore the uniqueness of the image itself. But cartes de visite
embraced and exploited photography’s reproductive capabilities. Using a multi-lens
camera and a moving plate holder, successive exposures on a single plate of glass cre-
ated eight unique images. These were then mounted on approximately 4 x 2 ½-inch
cards that could be distributed to family, friends, and colleagues.

In support of Batchen’s point, it is difficult today to find multiple cartes of a typi-
cal bourgeois sitter, but images from single sittings by Abraham Lincoln are plentiful.
Harnett’s contemporary John Peto included an engraved reproduction of a Lincoln
photographic portrait in more than a few of his still lifes (fig. 14). The cartes that pho-
tographer Alexander Gardner produced on August 9, 1863 (figs. 15, 16) illustrate the
multiplicity afforded by this popular photographic format. To promote the opening
of his new portrait studio in Washington, DC, Gardner had solicited and advertised
the US president as his first patron.40 Presented together, the multiple images betray
slight shifts in the location of Lincoln’s legs as well as the camera itself, but what
stands out overall are the similarities across the pictures. In each, Lincoln assumes
the same seated pose, presents a newspaper in his left hand, and holds eyeglasses
in his right. Its surface underexposed in the photographic or printing process, the
newspaper looks like a blank piece of paper—one that could evoke the Emancipation
Proclamation, which Lincoln had issued to great acclaim a mere seven months prior,
or the blank card stock on which the photograph itself was pasted. Whether wittingly
or not, through this one object, Gardner allegorized both the photographic process
and commemorations of the Emancipation Proclamation, and aligned the reproduc-
tion and proliferation of images and ideas.

Fittingly, Lincoln is said to have declared of his earlier visit to Mathew Brady’s
portrait studio in 1860, “Brady and the Cooper Institute made me President.”41
Batchen and Andrea Volpe argue that carte-de-visite portrait photographs had politi-
cal stakes for bourgeois sitters, too. The relatively generic images formulated and
constituted a visual identity for the middle class, one that chipped away at patrician

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44 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

Fig. 14
John Frederick Peto,
Old Time Card Rack,
1900. Oil on canvas,
30 x 25 in. Acquired
1939. The Phillips
Washington, DC.

Fig. 15
Alexander Gardner,
Abraham Lincoln,
August 9, 1863.
Albumen print on
carte-de-visite mount,
4 x 2 ⅓ in. Prints and
Photographs Division,
Library of Congress,
Washington, DC,

Fig. 16
Alexander Gardner,
Abraham Lincoln,
August 9, 1863.
Albumen print on
carte-de-visite mount,
4 x 2 ⅓ in. Prints and
Photographs Division,
Library of Congress,
Washington, DC,

Fig. 14

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Fig. 15 Fig. 16

ideals like “individuality, creativity, genius, eternal value, [and] mystery.”42 But as the
conventions of photographic portraiture empowered, or at least defined, the middle
class, they also threatened to devalue the painted portrait. If photography democ-
ratized portraiture, making it available to a broader cross section of the population,
it also challenged the significance of underdrawing and paint application, which
were the fundamental skills taught in American art academies in the late nineteenth
century. In its ability to capture a sitter’s likeness almost instantaneously, photog-
raphy obviated the need for the repeated sittings on which painted portraits relied
and, by extension, any index of the artist’s hand. While some painters embraced the
new technology as a powerful tool and ally in creating accurate likenesses, others,
including Rembrandt Peale, asserted painting’s higher goals.43 Writing in The Crayon
shortly before Harnett entered art school, Peale claimed that painting, as opposed
to photography, could capture all those fleeting and contingent qualities of life that
were revealed over time.44 For him and other skeptics of the medium, the wealth of
detail that photography afforded was a poor substitute for the intimacy and, thereby,
originality of a painted portrait. In just a few years, with the rise of the carte de visite,

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the medium would not only engender a wealth of detail, but a wealth of reproduc-
tions, too, and so further increase the distance between artist and sitter as well as that
between image and hand. Quantity would, in every way, replace quality as American
artists had defined it since the start of the century.

Just as individual photographs may have read as polished and finished
surfaces, then, the medium itself would have been understood—by a professional
silver engraver and academically trained artist like Harnett—as a technology for
producing multiples. It therefore would have been less of a model for his paintings
than a challenge for him to overcome. In the midst of this photographic whirlwind,
Harnett sought to assert the value and significance of his paintings as unique, hand-
made works of art. As he imitated the objects in front of him, Harnett created paint-
ings that emphasized and exploited the material properties of paint. By laboriously
and meticulously crafting his paintings layer by painstaking layer, he built up the
literal depth of the canvas in ways that critics were quick, if not always glad, to rec-
ognize. For Harnett and others acquainted with the silver industry, as we have seen,
clean and clear lines were a mark of the skill used to produce them. When he turned
to painting, trompe l’oeil offered him a way to announce and advertise this aspect of
his work—the labor required to create it. That is how Harnett’s most strident support-
ers and harshest critics read his paintings, too—as products of his hand.45 Indeed, his
detractors said that his paintings were about skill to the detriment of substance. But
for Harnett—an artist trained and versed in silver manufacturing, and a man who, for
ten years, was immersed in an industry that trumpeted skill above all else—the way
in which an object (including a painting) was made could constitute its substance.
This is not to say that the subjects he depicted are not important. On the contrary,
the literary, manual, and musical devices in his paintings often serve (among other
things) as keys to how the paintings—as objects—should be read. And so we can see
how Harnett’s sketchbook, and the industrial world onto which it opens up, reveal
that his imperceptible brushwork was not a mode of pictorial deception, but a mark
of manual production. It was a means to frame the paintings, like the silver wares
Harnett worked on as an engraver, as unique and handcrafted works of art.

Just as Black, Starr & Frost exhibited art in order to highlight the craftsmanship of
their manufactured products, so did Harnett associate his paintings with silver goods
in order to underscore the comparable workmanship of paintings like The Faithful
Colt and Emblems of Peace. The paintings were not intended to be read as illusions
or deceptions but as the product of skill, time, and training. His work thus stands
in contrast to that of the Peale family at the turn of the nineteenth century, whose
trompe l’oeil paintings of everything from family members to other works of art to
an exhibition catalogue often carried subtitles like A Deception. According to Wendy
Bellion, these paintings participated in a broader culture of images and objects that
worked to cultivate critical looking and engaged citizenship.46 Terms like “illusion”
and “deception” were not used to describe Harnett’s paintings until well into the
twentieth century. Anecdotes about uninitiated viewers touching the paintings did
circulate in the artist’s moment, but, for the most part, critics were concerned with
how the works were made.47 The term “trompe l’oeil” only came into common cur-
rency as a means to describe Harnett’s work in the 1930s, and only in the 1950s, with
the first dedicated study of the artist, was Harnett anointed the frontrunner of a

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47 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

group of late nineteenth-century American still-life painters that also included John
Peto and John Haberle.48

While Harnett clearly shared with these artists an interest in aged, man-made
things, his laborious technique brings his work into unexpected dialogue with
explicitly labored paintings in other genres, such as the portraits of Thomas Eakins
and the landscapes of George Inness. Like Eakins and Inness, Harnett sought to
announce the painstaking process used to produce his images through the facture
of the paintings themselves. Representative of widely divergent genres, the work of
these and other artists reveals the pervasive interest in the materiality of paint in
late nineteenth-century America.49 Futher, Harnett’s work helps us understand at
least one of the factors behind this interest. Considered together, the sketches for
his engravings and his interest in trompe l’oeil reveal the decided pressure that the
material and visual culture of mass production exerted on American painting in this
era. As industrial mechanization took hold, the commercial marketplace expanded
exponentially, as did the images within it. Through his work, Harnett did not seek
to prepare the viewer for its deceptions so much as preserve painting’s aesthetic
and cultural significance in the face of them. As hyper-realistic images, then, The
Faithful Colt and Emblems of Peace did not attempt to trick the eye, but rather to
show their hand.

Nika Elder is a visiting assistant professor of modern and contemporary art at the University of Florida.
A specialist in American art from the colonial period to the present, she has published on Ad Reinhardt
and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and is currently at work on her first book, “William Harnett’s
Curious Objects.”

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48 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1


My deepest gratitude goes to Rachael Ziady
DeLue for her support of my research on
Harnett and her feedback on earlier incarna-
tions of this essay. I would also like to thank
the anonymous reviewers for the Archives
of American Art Journal and editor Tanya
Sheehan for their thoughtful and helpful

1 Black, Starr & Frost, At the Sign of the
Golden Eagle 1810–1912 (New York: Black, Starr
& Frost, 1912).

2 For readings of Harnett’s paintings in
terms of consumer culture, see Michael Leja,
“Touching Pictures by William Harnett,” in
Looking Askance: Skepticism and American Art
from Eakins to Duchamp (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 2004), 125–52; David Lubin,
“Masculinity, Nostalgia, and the Trompe l’Oeil
Still-Life Paintings of William Harnett,” in
Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in
Nineteenth-Century America (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1994), 273–319; and Cécile
Whiting, “Trompe l’oeil Painting and the
Counterfeit Civil War,” Art Bulletin 79, no. 2
(June 1997): 251–68.

3 Tiffany & Company can neither confirm nor
deny that Harnett worked there. The artist’s
name does not appear in their employment
records, but it is uncertain whether those
records account for engravers. According to
Paul Raymond Provost, author of the only
published essay on Harnett’s experience as
a silver engraver, the artist worked at Tiffany
& Company in the early 1870s. Provost’s
claim is based on the research of Alfred
Frankenstein, who wrote the first monograph
on Harnett. Paul Raymond Provost, “Burin to
Brush: Harnett as an Artisan,” in William M.
Harnett, ed. Doreen Bolger, Marc Simpson, and
John Wilmerding (Fort Worth: Amon Carter
Museum; New York: Metropolitan Museum of
Art, 1992), 131–35.

4 See, for example, Leja, “Touching Pictures
by William Harnett”; Lubin, “Masculinity,
Nostalgia, and the Trompe l’Oeil Still-Life
Paintings of William Harnett”; and Whiting,
“Trompe l’oeil Painting and the Counterfeit
Civil War.”

5 For accounts of the introduction of
mechanical technology into the silver industry,
see Charles Venable, Silver in America, 1840–
1940 (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1995); and
Barbara McLean Ward and Gerald W. R. Ward,
eds., Silver in American Life: Selections from the
Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at
Yale University (Boston: D. R. Godine, 1979).

6 E. Taylor Snow, “William Michael Harnett,
A Philadelphia Catholic Artist,” American
Catholic Historical Researches 10 (April 1893): 74.

7 See Alice Newlin, “Asher B. Durand,
American Engraver,” Metropolitan Museum

of Art Bulletin, n.s. I, no. 5 (January 1943):
165. Durand’s expressions of frustration with
monogramming came about fifty years before
Harnett entered the trade, but can be under-
stood to dramatize the difference between
engraving for the silver industry and for other
entities, such as the United States Treasury,
throughout the century.

8 For a discussion of colonial metalwork-
ing, see Barbara McLean Ward, “‘The Most
Genteel of Any in the Mechanic Way’: The
American Silversmith,” in Ward and Ward,
Silver in American Life, 17–18. For a discus-
sion of Revere’s work in the trade, see Kathryn
C. Buhler, Paul Revere, Goldsmith, 1735–1818
(Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1972).

9 Stephen K. Viktor, “‘From the Shop to the
Manufactory’: Silver and Industry, 1800–1970,”
in Ward and Ward, Silver in American Life, 29.

10 Harnett’s sketchbook is not paginated.
The pages cited in this article adhere to the
“sketch” numbers ascribed to the digital
reproduction of the book on the Archives
of American Art website. See http://

11 “Chronology,” in Bolger, Simpson, and
Wilmerding, William M. Harnett, 309–10.

12 Ibid.

13 Doreen Bolger, “The Education of the
American Artist,” in In This Academy: The
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1805–
1976 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy
of the Fine Arts, 1976), 62. For more on the
role of drawing in American art schools in the
nineteenth century, see Pennsylvania Academy
of the Fine Arts: 200 Years of Excellence
(Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the
Fine Arts, 2005); Lois Marie Fink and Joshua
C. Taylor, Academy: The Academic Tradition
in American Art: An Exhibition Organized on
the Occasion of the One Hundred and Fiftieth
Anniversary of the National Academy of Design,
1825–1975 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian
Institution Press, 1975); Mark Mitchell, The
Artist-Makers: Professional Art Training in
Mid-Nineteenth-Century New York City (Ph.D.
diss., Princeton University, 2002); and Ronald
J. Onorato, The Pennsylvania Academy of the
Fine Arts and the Development of an Academic
Curriculum in the Nineteenth Century (Ph.D.
diss., Brown University, 1977).

14 Owen Jones, The Grammar of Ornament:
Illustrated by Examples from Various Styles of
Ornament (London: Day and Son, 1856), 1.

15 Venable, Silver in America, 76.

16 Ibid.

17 Cited in ibid., 76. The contents of the
Tiffany & Company library are well docu-
mented in that institution’s archive.

18 Venable, Silver in America, 82.

19 For more on Edward C. Moore, see John
Loring, Magnificent Tiffany Silver (New York:
Harry N. Abrams, 2001).

20 Snow, “William Michael Harnett, A
Philadelphia Catholic Artist,” 74.

21 Douglas R. Nickel, “Harnett and
Photography,” in Bolger, Simpson, and
Wilmerding, William M. Harnett, 177.

22 Lubin, “Masculinity, Nostalgia, and the
Trompe l’Oeil Still-Life Paintings of William
Harnett,” 291. On the relationship between
Harnett’s work and photography, see also
Elizabeth Jane Connell, “After the Hunt,” in
Bolger, Simpson, and Wilmerding, William M.
Harnett, 277–85.

23 Lubin, “Masculinity, Nostalgia, and the
Trompe l’Oeil Still-Life Paintings of William
Harnett,” 293. For additional readings of
Harnett’s paintings in relation to consumer cul-
ture, see Leja, “Touching Pictures by William
Harnett”; and Whiting, “Trompe l’oeil Painting
and the Counterfeit Civil War.”

24 Leja, “Touching Pictures by William
Harnett,” 152.

25 This material has been culled from
conservation reports on Harnett’s paintings
in the files of the Allen Memorial Art Gallery,
Oberlin College; the Fine Arts Museum of San
Francisco; and the National Gallery of Art,
Washington. For published information on
Harnett’s technique, see Jennifer Milam, “The
Artist’s Working Methods,” in Bolger, Simpson,
and Wilmerding, William M. Harnett, 169–174.

26 “A Fine Still-Life Painting,” Springfield
Daily Republican, November 7, 1887, 6.

27 Frank Linstow White, “Art Notes,” Epoch,
December 12, 1890, 301. Additional reviews of
Harnett’s work that raise the issues of time and
skill can be found in the bibliography of Bolger,
Simpson, and Wilmerding, William M. Harnett.

28 Venable, Silver in America, 151.

29 Ibid., 151.

30 Ibid., 147.

31 Black, Starr & Frost, At the Sign of the
Golden Eagle, 23.

32 See, for example, Lubin, “Masculinity,
Nostalgia, and the Trompe l’Oeil Still-Life
Paintings of William Harnett,” 291.

33 Venable, Silver in America, 26.

34 See Kathleen Foster, “Photography: Science
and Art,” in Thomas Eakins Rediscovered:
Charles Bregler’s Thomas Eakins Collection
at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

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49 A R C H I V E S O F A M E R I C A N A RT J O U R N A L 5 5 : 1

(Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the
Fine Arts; New Haven: Yale University Press,
1997), 108. Foster discusses French critic
Charles Baudelaire’s concerns about the use of
photography by artists like Jean-Louis-Ernst
Messonier and Jean-Léon Gérôme, Thomas
Eakins’s instructor at the École des Beaux Arts
in Paris.

35 William Brownell, “The Art Schools of
Philadelphia,” Scribner’s Monthly 18, no. 5
(September 1879): 739.

36 For more on Braun’s calotype of Eakins’s
The Gross Clinic, see Foster, “Photography:
Science and Art,” 106–20; and Michael Leja,
“Composite Images in a Hybrid Medium by
Thomas Eakins and His Contemporaries,” in
Shared Intelligence: American Painting and
the Photograph, ed. Barbara Buhler Lynes and
Jonathan Weinberg (Berkeley: University of
California Press; Santa Fe: Georgia O’Keeffe
Museum, 2011), 28–41.

37 See Douglas Crimp, “The Photographic
Activity of Postmodernism,” October 15 (Winter
1980): 91–101.

38 Geoffrey Batchen, “Dreams of Ordinary
Life: Cartes-de-visite and the Bourgeois
Imagination,” in Image and Imagination, ed.
Martha Langford (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s
University Press, 2005), 67–68.

39 Andrea L. Volpe, “Cartes de Visite
Portrait Photographs and the Culture of Class
Formation,” in Looking for America: The Visual
Production of Nation and People, ed. Ardis
Cameron (Malden: Blackwell Publishing,
2005), 43.

40 Richard S. Lowry, The Photographer and
the President: Abraham Lincoln, Alexander
Gardner, and the Images that Made a Presidency
(New York: Rizzoli, 2015), 89. For more on popu-
lar depictions of Abraham Lincoln, particu-
larly within the context of the Emancipation
Proclamation, see Harold Holzer, Gabor S.
Boritt, and Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Lincoln
Image: Abraham Lincoln and the Popular
Print (New York: The Scribner Press, 1984);
and Harold Holzer, Edna Greene Medford,
and Frank J. Williams, The Emancipation
Proclamation: Three Views (Social, Political,
Iconographic) (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 2006).

41 George Alfred Townsend, “Still Taking
Pictures,” New York World, April 12, 1891, 26.

42 See Volpe, “Cartes de Visite Portrait
Photographs and the Culture of Class
Formation,” 42–57; and Batchen, “Dreams
of Ordinary Life: Cartes-de-visite and the
Bourgeois Imagination,” 63–74.

43 See, for example, Mary Panzer, Mathew
Brady and the Image of History (Washington,
DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997). In
the chapter “Photography and American Art at

Midcentury” (70–91), Panzer discusses profes-
sional partnerships between photographers
and portrait painters.

44 Rembrandt Peale, “Portraiture,” The Crayon
4, no. 2 (February 1857): 44–45.

45 For critical reviews of Harnett’s paint-
ings and their prioritization of skill, see, for
example, “Art and Artists,” Chicago Daily
Tribune, September 16, 1883, 10; “Exposition
Art. A Sermon on the Choice of Pictures for
the Home,” Minneapolis Tribune, September
12, 1887, 5; and Clarence Cook, “Academy of
Design. Fifty-Fourth Annual Exhibition. Fourth
Article,” New-York Tribune, April 26, 1879, 5.

46 Wendy Bellion, Citizen Spectator: Art,
Illusion, and Visual Perception in Early
National America (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 2011), 16.

47 See, for example, the anecdotes discussed
by Leja in “Touching Pictures by William
Harnett,” 128 and 137.

48 On how Harnett came to be canonized as
a trompe l’oeil painter, see the 1935 correspon-
dence between gallerist Edith Halpert, who is
widely credited with Harnett’s rediscovery, and
Everett Austin, then director of the Wadsworth
Atheneum Museum of Art, regarding the
purchase of The Faithful Colt. See object file,
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. For
insight into how Harnett came to be associated
with Haberle and Peto, see Alfred Frankenstein,
After the Hunt: William Harnett and Other
American Still Life Painters, 1870–1900
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953).

49 See Michael Leja, “Eakins’s Reality Effects,”
in Looking Askance, 59–92; and Rachael
Ziady DeLue, George Inness and the Science
of Landscape (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2004).

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Topic 2: History

Topic 2

First, watch the following short video,
“Service Episode: Ehren Tool Segment”:

If you need the closed captioning feature, click the “CC” button on
the bar at the bottom of the screen.

Pair 1: Ehren Tool and Pamphaios/Nikosthenes

Ehren Tool

I. Gulf War veteran and artist Ehren Tool makes cups to give
away rather than to sell. He considers making cups his vocation:
something he feels called to do as his life’s work. He supports
himself financially by working as a ceramics mechanician in the
Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley, but when he is not
working as a lab tech he produces cups. Tool says that cups are
”the appropriate scale to talk about war and violence.” He makes
them primarily as gifts for other veterans. “The cup,” Tool says, “it’s
a little thing; it’s not confrontational. It’s just a cup.” The cup made
by Ehren Tool included in this chapter features a representation of
an AH-64A Apache Helicopter, which was used to fire the first
shots in Operation Desert Storm.

Ehren Tool


after 1991

Stoneware with glaze

II. Ehren Tool often depicts scenes of war on his cups, which
place them in the category of the history subject: representation
of historical events, religious figures, or scenes from literature. In
the past, artists who represented history subjects often glorified
war, seeking to commemorate or memorialize acts of soldiers.
Ehren Tool does not believe in war memorials (“I think that peace
is the only adequate war memorial,” he has stated), but in 2007
he made a video, “1.5 Second War Memorial,” in which he
depicted several of his cups being shot. He instructs viewers to
find out how many soldiers were killed in any particular war, then
to multiply the number of casualties by 1.5 seconds, which is the
time it takes to watch one of his cups being shot. If the viewer
selected World War II, she or he would have to watch “1.5
Second War Memorial” for almost two years.

Pamphaios (potter) and
The Nikosthenes Painter

I. Artists have been producing cups with imagery of soldiers for
thousands of years. Pamphaios and the Nikosthenes Painter, a
team of artists in ancient Greece, produced a kylix: a cup for
drinking wine, in which the underside reveals ten running
infantrymen bearing shields and carrying helmets. These soldiers
possibly participated in a 400-meter race called the
“hoplitodromos” or “race of the soldiers,” a feature of the
Panathenaic Games, which were held in ancient Athens every
four years. The hoplitodromos was both a competition and a
military training exercise.

Pamphaios (potter)
and the Nikosthenes Painter

Kylix with Running Warriors

Late 6th century B.C.

Glazed terracotta

II. In ancient Greece, vase painters often used the red-figure
approach or the black-figure approach to glorify the acts of
soldiers on wheel thrown pottery: a technique of making vessels
in which clay is centered on a turning wheel while the potter
bends the clay between her or his fingers, stretching it upward. In
black-figure ware, the figures are black and the background is
terracotta red. In red-figure ware, the opposite is the case: red
figures are depicted against a black background. The Kylix with
Running Warriors is an example of red-figure ware.

Pair 1

Analysis Exercises: Pair 1

Exercise 1: Compare the image on Ehren Tool’s cup with the
underside of the ancient kylix. In what ways are these images
different from each other?

Exercise 2: While comparing these cups, consider the thousands
of years that separates their creation. How does the imagery on
the cups indicate that warfare has changed over the centuries?
How does the imagery on the cups indicate that warfare has
remained the same?

Exercise 3: Ehren Tool is responsible for throwing the cup and
producing imagery on it. The ancient Greek kylix is the creation of
at least two people. Why might throwing vessels and designing
imagery have been distinct pursuits in the ancient world?

Pair 2: Poussin/Mellan and Polykleitos the Elder

Nicolas Poussin

I. Unlike Rembrandt, who both designed and prepared the
copper plates for his etchings, French artist Nicolas Poussin
produced designs for prints that were then turned over to
professional printmakers who prepared the plates. Poussin, who
specialized in history subjects—especially stories about ancient
Greeks and Romans and their gods—chose to live in Rome so he
could study ancient sculpture as well as imagery by artists who
were influenced by ancient art. In Poussin’s introductory
illustration for the book Quinti Horatii Flacci Opera (The Works of
Horace), published in 1642, a female figure who embodies
inspiration bestows the ancient Roman writer Horatius with a
theatrical mask, signifying his achievement as a storyteller. The
winged child above their heads is about to crown Horatius with
laurel leaves, another mark of achievement.

This book illustration is not an etching but an engraving. Like
etching, engraving is a form of printmaking categorized as intaglio
printmaking, in which grooves in a plate are filled with ink and
pressed into paper. In etching, the grooves are formed by acid. In
engraving, the grooves are formed by the printmaker’s use of a
burin: a sharp v-shaped tool used to gouge metal. In the case of
Poussin’s Quinti Horatii Flacci Opera (The Works of Horace), the
plate was engraved by Claude Mellan, a professional French
printmaker who copied an original drawing by Poussin to mass
produce this image. Mellan also produced original paintings but
he was widely known as a printmaker.

Nicolas Poussin; engraved by Claude Mellan

Frontispiece to the book Quinti Horatii
Flacci Opera (The Works of Horace)



II. Nicolas Poussin was an enthusiastic advocate for what he
called the grand manner: scenes of battles, heroic actions, and
the divine. In other words, Poussin was an enthusiast of history
subjects. However, not all history subjects contain battles, heroic
actions, or divine things. Poussin’s design for Quinti Horatii Flacci
Opera (The Works of Horace) has a grand manner theme because
it includes representation of ”divine” figures: the winged child and
the female personification of inspiration. If this engraving had
represented Horatius alone, it would still be categorized as a
history subject, but one without a grand manner theme.

Polykleitos the Younger

I. Just as buildings designed by Jørn Utzon and Kunlé Adeyemi
may be tied to the subject category of landscape (recall chapter 1),
other structures may be discussed in relation to the history subject
category. This is the case with the ancient Greek theatre of
Epidaurus, designed in the 4th century B.C. by Polykleitos the
Younger. Since art historians define the history subject category as
subjects associated with history, religion, and literature, we can tie
museums (associated with history), buildings used for worship
(associated with religion), and theatres (associated with literature)
to this subject category.

Polykleitos the Younger

Epidaurus, Greece

4th century B.C.


II. The theatres designed by the ancient Greeks were conceived
in parts. The theatron was the seating area where the audience sat
to view the performance; the circular orchestra was the area used
as a stage; and the skene was an area behind the orchestra for the
chorus and dancers. The skene opened up into a view of the
landscape beyond the theatre. The Greek word theatron stems
from a verb form which translates as “I view.” The word theatron
has also been used to describe a place of military conflict, as in
“theatre of war”. Many Greek plays were tragedies involving
military conflict.

A contemporary photograph demonstrates the scale of an actor
in relation to the monumental size of the theatron in Epidaurus.
Scale is a principle of design that refers to the relative size of an

Pair 2

Analysis Exercises: Pair 2

Exercise 1: Consider what it would have been like to watch a play
performed in ancient Epidaurus. Which would have been the
better seats: those closest to the actors or those farthest away, and
why? (Note: The accoustics are excellent at Epidaurus; those who
sat in the highest seats could still hear the performance very well.)

Exercise 2: Poussin’s design for the introductory illustration in a
book containing writings by the ancient Roman writer Horatius
includes figures who appear to be ancient Romans. What did
Poussin need to consider when designing this image, to be able to
convince viewers that this image represented people from history
rather than his own day?

Exercise 3: What types of history subjects interest you?

Pair 3: Polykleitos the Elder and Pablo Picasso

Polykleitos the Elder

I. The designer of the theatre at Epidaurus, Polykleitos the
Younger, had a widely-respected teacher: his father, Polykleitos the
Elder, who designed a famous sculpture, the Doryphoros.
Polykleitos the Elder used mathematical formulae to design the
body of the Doryphoros in an attempt to create a perfectly-
proportioned human figure. Proportion refers to the harmonious
relation of parts to each other, or to the whole. While most
consider the concept of a perfectly-proportioned human figure to
be an outdated or even harmful idea, this project by Polykleitos
the Elder demonstrates that the ancient Greeks valued the concept
of the “ideal”: that which they believed to be better than nature

Polykleitos the Elder


Designed c. 440 B.C.;
Roman copy made second century B.C.


II. Polykleitos the Elder may have chosen to idealize the
Doryphoros, which translates as “spear bearer,” because this
sculpture honors a soldier. Not only did the sculptor attempt to
construct an ideal body to represent the soldier, he also attempted
to make him appear somewhat lifelike by showing the figure in a
relaxed posture called contrapposto, where the figure rests its
weight on one leg, with the opposite knee bent. It is important to
note that this sculpture is an ancient Roman copy of a Greek
original sculpture by Polykleitos the Elder. This Roman copy is
damaged. Not only are parts of the body broken or lost, but the
surface of the marble has absorbed dirt. Today it looks
considerably different than it would have looked after it was
produced in an ancient Roman workshop.

Pablo Picasso

I. Most students who studied at European art academies from
the sixteenth century onwards were encouraged to admire history
subjects produced by ancient Greek sculptors. As a child, the
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso studied art at the Escuela de Bellas
Artes in Barcelona, where became an expert in drawing works of
ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. In a drawing featured in this
chapter, Study of a Torso, Barcelona, Picasso demonstrated to his
teachers that he understood how to represent light falling upon an
object that has an uneven surface. The representation of shadows
and highlights on an object which has an uneven surface is called
chiaroscuro, based on the Italian words for light/dark.

Pablo Picasso

Study of a Torso, Barcelona


Charcoal and black pencil on laid paper

II. In art school, students like Picasso typically spent several
years learning to draw in preparation for learning to paint. This
charcoal and black pencil drawing by Picasso was made on laid
paper: handmade paper which dried on screens, leaving the
surface somewhat rough. Specifically, Picasso was looking at a
copy of a work of sculpture by an ancient Greek artist, Phidias.
Like Polykleitos the Elder, Phidias produced sculpture in the fifth
century B.C. The subject of Picasso’s drawing is a remnant of
architectural sculpture from the Parthenon, the largest temple on
the Acropolis, the hilltop which soars above Athens. The figure
itself is a representation of a river god.

Pair 3

Analysis Exercises: Pair 3

Exercise 1: If art students like Pablo Picasso were taught to draw
by copying ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, how might such
a practice affect their concept how to represent actual human

Exercise 2: Carefully examine the Doryphoros. How does it
become clear to you that it is not a representation of a real
person, but is instead a form that has largely been invented by the

Exercise 3: If Picasso and other students at art academies were
directed by their teachers to draw sculpture representing history
subjects, do you think it more likely that their work would
become focused on men or women?

Pair 4: Angelica Kauffman and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Angelica Kauffman

I. Swiss-born artist Angelica Kauffman was not trained in an art
academy because women were were largely forbidden or
discouraged from attending art school in Europe until the
twentieth century. Taught by her father to draw and paint,
Angelica Kauffman nevertheless became and accomplished
professional artist. She was invited to be a founding member of
the British Royal Academy of Arts in London by Joshua Reynolds,
its first president. This invitation was extended to Angelica
Kauffman because she was a specialist in paintings that featured
history subjects. As a teacher at the academy in London, she
coached students in the production of academic art: imagery
which retained the values of administrators of European art

Angelica Kauffman

Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi

c. 1785

Oil on canvas

II. The type of academic art in which Angelica Kauffman
excelled was called Neoclassicism: a revival of ancient Greek
and Roman ideas and forms. In Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi,
Angelica Kauffman placed at the center of this history painting an
ancient Roman woman celebrated for her virtue. When a
neighbor shows Cornelia her jewels, Cornelia points to her
children, indicating that they, rather than jewelry, are her
treasures. Because her sons would grow up to be political
reformers in ancient Rome, Cornelia’s virtue was linked to the
idea of good government. As an artist working for a government-
financed academy, Angelica Kauffman’s choices of history
subjects should be considered in light of eighteenth-century
European political ideas and practices.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

I. Tsukioka Yoshitoshi was a nineteenth-century Japanese
printmaker who specialized in ukiyo-e: Japanese woodblock prints
which included a wide range of subjects, including history,
imagery of people in every-day life, and landscape. One of the
series of images designed by Yoshitoshi was “100 Aspects of the
Moon,” which included the print Joganden Moon, an image best
categorized as a history subject. In this print, the 10th-century
courtier and poet Tsunemoto destroys with his bow and arrow a
deer he thought might attack Emperor Shujaku.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Joganden Moon
From the series “100 Aspects of the Moon”

c. 1885-1892

Woodblock print

II. Ukiyo-e is an example of relief printmaking, in which an
artist prepares a block or plate for printing by cutting away from
the surface the areas not to be printed. In relief printing the
raised surface receives the ink, whereas in intaglio printing the
recessed areas receive the ink. In the production of multi-colored
ukiyo-e prints, a separate block is carved for each color utilized in
the design. As such, a single print could require more than a
dozen different blocks, depending upon how many colors of ink
are used.

Pair 4

Analysis Exercises: Pair 4

Exercise 1: How effective were Angelica Kauffman and Tsukioka
Yoshitoshi as storytellers?

Exercise 2: What were the different lessons that Angelica Kauffman
and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi intended to teach with these images?

Exercise 3: Do all artists who produce imagery or architecture tied
to the history subject category need to be able to tell a story or
teach a lesson? Why or why not?

* * *


Topic 4: Genre

First, watch the following short video,
“Frank Wong: Chinese Historical Society of America”: 5

Pair 1: Frank Wong and Mona Hatoum

Frank Wong

I. San Francisco artist Frank Wong has succeeded in
transforming his memories of Chinatown into physical form.
He makes miniature scenes of places he recalls from his
childhood, each in the form of a diorama: a model of a scene
with three-dimensional figures. For Dining Room, this former
Hollywood prop master constructed tiny chairs, lamps, plates,
and other objects associated with daily life to reconstruct a
highly detailed setting that corresponds with his memory of
this room.

Frank Wong

Dining Room
From the “Chinatown” series

Before 2004


geII. Each of the dioramas in Frank Wong’s “Chinatown” series
is meant to evoke a scene of daily life rather than a specific
historical event. As such, they should not be categorized as
history subjects. While it might be tempting to categorize them
as landscapes (after all, they conveya strong sense of place),
the the environment is not the most important aspect of these
works. Rather, Frank Wong’s goal is to recall the day-to-day
experience of living in Chinatown when he was young. As
such, these should be categorized as genre subjects: scenes of
everyday activity. While the concept of what is “everyday” is
different from artist to artist, the genre subject category
includes representation of those types of activities considered
ordinary and normal for many: bathing, shopping, working,
sitting down for a meal, going to school, resting.

Mona Hatoum

I. In 2000, Palestinian-born artist Mona Hatoum assembled
a bed, chairs, desk, toys, kitchen utensils and other objects
often found in homes, to make an installation: an artist’s
construction of an environment for the purpose of immersing
observers in an experience. But viewers of this installation,
Homebound, may not enter the gallery space in which it is
located, since Mona Hatoum has directed that live electrical
wires connect the objects, rendering the installation
dangerous. Steel cables are stretched across the entrance to the
installation to prevent observers from touching the objects and
being electrocuted.

Mona Hatoum




II. When compared with Frank Wong’s Dining Room, Mona
Hatoum’s Homebound offers an alternative approach to what
constitutes “everyday living” for some people. Whereas Frank
Wong desires viewers to enjoy the nostalgia and comfort he
feels when he thinks about Chinatown’s past, Mona Hatoum
offers the opposite: a setting where objects associated with
daily living are fraught with conflict and violence.

Light is one of the elements of art, and both Frank Wong
and Mona Hatoum have brought artificial light into the
construction of these works of art. In Dining Room, three
miniature lamps emit artificial light: incandescent, fluorescent,
or neon light; in Mona Hatoum’s Homebound, large box
lamps at the center glow and then diminish as the sound of the
electrical current sweeps through the installation.

Pair 1

Analysis Exercises: Pair 1

Exercise 1: Frank Wong relied on personal memories to
produce the diorama. While Mona Hatoum may or may not
have relied on personal memories to produce Homebound.
Still, why do genre subjects tend to provide the impression that
the artist is sharing a personal experience?

Exercise 2: Both artists seek to give observers of these works a
sense of “home”. Which, in your opinion, is a more powerful
look at the concept of home, and why?

Exercise 3: Both artists chose to implement artificial lighting as
a fundamental part of these works of art. Why do you think
each artist chose to include artificial lighting?

Pair 2: Carrie Mae Weems and Johannes Vermeer

Carrie Mae Weems

I. Carrie Mae Weems’s series, the “Kitchen Table,”
addresses domesticity, a theme sometimes explored by artists
who utilize the genre subject category. Whereas genre subjects
can include any aspect of everyday living, domesticity
specifically refers to the concept of home life or family life. In
the untitled photograph by Carrie Mae Weems included in this
chapter, a woman and a man embrace near a table, upon
which is placed a newspaper and what appears to be a glass of
water. The setting is pared down. Only a few objects and
pieces of furniture are included in the picture plane, requiring
observers to focus on the couple.

Carrie Mae Weems

From the “Kitchen Table” series


Gelatin silver print

II. One of the ways Carrie Mae Weems makes this
photograph visually powerful is through her understanding and
application of light value: the variation of light and dark in a
work of art. The artist offers a range of light values, from very
dark (the man’s shirt) to very light (note the artificial light
above the heads of the couple), to variations of gray between
the black and white, including a shadow on the rear wall
which graduates from light at the bottom of the picture plane
to dark at the top. By keeping the most extreme light values at
the center—the darkest dark and the whitest white—Carrie
Mae Weems keeps our attention where she wants it to be.

Johannes Vermeer

I. The seventeenth-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer
produced paintings best categorized as domestic genre scenes.
Working in an era before artificial light was invented, Vermeer
mastered the illusion of natural light: sunlight, moonlight, and
firelight, in the paintings he produced. In The Lacemaker,
sunlight falls upon the hands of the young woman,
illuminating each facet of her fingers with a different light
value. This leaves observers with an impression that there must
be a window outside the picture plane to the right, which
admits sunlight into the room. The wall at the back reveals a
slightly higher light value to the left, suggesting there is an
additional window outside of the picture plane, to the left.

Johannes Vermeer

The Lacemaker

c. 1669-1670

Oil on canvas

II. In addition to carefully incorporating the effects of
natural light to make forms look natural, Vermeer often used a
specific painting technique that allowed him to blend the
edges of forms, resulting in the illustion of softer forms. The
technique is: wet-on-wet, in which an oil painter places a
layer of paint on top of paint which is still wet, enabling the
layers to combine. You may remember that Vincent van Gogh
(recall Chapter 1) used this technique, partly out of necessity,
since he painted quickly. Vermeer did not paint quickly.
Vermeer used the wet-on-wet technique because of the effects
that were possible through use of this technique.

Pair 2

Analysis Exercises: Pair 2

Exercise 1: These works of art reveal very little about the
location of the subjects, yet observers usually assume that the
subjects are at home. Do you? Why or why not?

Exercise 2: Imagine that you gave permission to a
photographer to follow you for an entire day as you do
ordinary things. Describe an image of you engaged in an
everyday activity that a photographer might capture. How is
your ”imagined” image similar to, or different from, genre
imagery by Carrie Mae Weems or Johannes Vermeer?

Exercise 3: Which artist—Carrie Mae Weems or Johannes
Vermeer—has produced a more convincing glimpse of
everyday life? Explain your answer.

Pair 3: Unidentified Greek and Roman artists

Unidentified Greek artist

I. Numerous works of marble sculpture dating from the
third millennium B.C. have been found on the Cyclades, Greek
islands in the Aegean Sea. These works are generally small and
usually depict women in a reclining position, that is, lying
down. Many appear to be pregnant. But some of the figures
depict men, including the Male Harp Player featured in this
chapter, a representation of a professional musician at work.
This work of art is an example of an approach to sculpture
called sculpture in the round, in which the object is
freestanding, not attached to anything. Set in a museum case,
you can walk around it and view it from any position.

Sculpture in the round
Bronze age

Unidentified artist

Male Harp Player

c. 2700-2300 B.C.


II. The Male Harp Player offers a glimpse of everyday life
within a community of Greek people who thrived during the
Bronze Age: a historical period which dated from the fourth to
the first millenia B.C., and which is characterized by the ability
of people to produce bronze objects from an alloy of copper
and tin. Bronze tools were likely used by ancient sculptors to
produce works such as the Male Harp Player. Bronze is a
harder and more durable substance than stone or other metals
available to sculptors during that era.

Unidentified Roman artist

I. In the ancient Mediterranean world, Classical antiquity
followed the Bronze Age, leading to the development of new
technologies for sculptors. Classical antiquity refers to the
ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, dating roughly from the
8th century B.C. through the 4th century A.D., and is
characterized by widespread development of language and
culture. Many of today’s social practices and beliefs are rooted
in political and religious ideas held by the Greeks and Romans
during Classical antiquity.

In Interior of the shop of a cloth merchant, a marble
sculpture produced during Classical antiquity, an unidentified
Roman sculptor has designed a genre subject—a representation
of people shopping—probably to be used as a shop sign on the
exterior of a building. Some figures are seated, as if observing or
waiting, while others stand, holding or testing cloth items
featured in the store, including belts and pillows.

Unidentified artist

Interior of the shop of a cloth merchant

Before 300 A.D.


II. Unlike the Male Harp Player, this marble sculpture is an
example of an approach to sculpture called sculpture in relief,
where the figures emerge from a background of the same
material, and to which they remain a part.

Sculpture in the round and sculpture in relief are not
techniques in themselves; rather, they represent different
approaches to three-dimensional representation of subjects.
Once a sculptor determines that a work will be made in the
round or in relief, the sculptor can then choose tools and
materials to engage in a technical process to complete it.

Pair 3

Analysis Exercises: Pair 3

Exercise 1: Unlike works by Carrie Mae Weems and Johannes
Vermeer, in which people were represented at home, these
works by ancient Greek and Roman artists were meant to
represent people working in public places. What indicates

Exercise 2: What are the advantages of observing a work of art
sculpted in the round? What are the advantages of observing a
work of art sculpted in relief?

Exercise 3: Describe the specific actions of the figures in these
works. While genre subjects are scenes of everyday activities,
how active are the subjects in each of these works?

Pair 4: Gérôme and
Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative

Jean-Léon Gérôme

I. The French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme specialized in the
production of genre paintings based not on every-day reality but on
every-day fantasy. For The Bath, he imagined a setting in which an
enslaved woman with brown skin bathes a woman with pink skin.
Everything in the picture plane, from the text on the tiles above the
two women to the fountain, the bath shoes, the garments, and the
jewelry, were designed by Gérôme to transport viewers to an
alternative reality. Gérôme participated in a mode of cultural
production which Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said called
Orientalism: a widespread European tendency to stereotype people
and places in “the East” as timeless, uncivilized, and exotic. The world
depicted in The Bath did not exist but instead was based on French
ideas about people who lived in places as diverse as Turkey, Asia, and
northern Africa.

Jean-Léon Gérôme

The Bath

c. 1880-1885

Oil on canvas

II. Gérôme was a successful and popular painter in nineteenth-
century France. One reason for this was his approach to technique:
he was a highly detailed painter who exercised careful control of his
brush. The Bath reveals many such details, which continue to affect
viewers’ perceptions of its forms, since the greater the detail, the
more viewers are inclined find a painting believable. Another aspect
of this artist’s work which resulted in his popularity was his narrow
approach to concepts of female beauty. The seated woman in The
Bath is an example of a body type that many heterosexual men in
Paris in the 1880s found both beautiful and sexually appealing.

While Gérôme was a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts
(School of Fine Arts), more than two thousand students received
instruction from him in his atelier, or teaching workshop. Through his
teaching, Gérôme had a significant influence on cultural production
in France which extended well into the twentieth century.

Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative

I. The Jagonari Educational Resource Centre in London was
designed by Matrix, a feminist architecture cooperative formed in
1980 to explore women’s issues in relation to built forms. A
cooperative is an organization that is owned and managed by its

Members of London’s Bangladeshi community, and
Bangladeshi women, in particular, worked with Matrix to achieve a
successful design for the center. They sought a design which would
acknowledge architectural forms associated with their heritage, yet
not call too much attention to their cultural differences, given their
concerns about racism. Racism is one of the ramifications of the
stereotypes perpetuated by Orientalism.

All the women of South Asian descent who worked with
Matrix to design and construct the Jagonari Educational Resource
Centre had been racially harassed while living in London, so safety
was a primary concern. From the beginning of the project, it was
determined that protective grilles would be placed over the

Members of Matrix designed grilles which evoked traditional
Islamic design but with an exaggerated geometry, allowing for a
modern look. The decorative grilles were fundamental to the
project’s success and are present in the original model.

Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative

Model of the Jagonari Educational Resource Centre


Brick with steel grilles

II. In addition to producing the Jagonari Educational Resource
Centre, the Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative published a book,
Making Space: Women and the Man Made Environment, wherein,
among other things, they advanced the concept of domestic work as
labor. Matrix is an outgrowth of the New Architecture movement, a
British group which urged architects to take more seriously the needs
of the actual users of buildings. When designing public buildings,
architects have traditionally been concerned with pleasing those who
paid them rather than the needs of a building’s users.

Pair 4

Analysis Exercises: Pair 4

Exercise 1: Gérôme imagined a world beyond the borders of France
for his patrons. In what ways did the Matrix Feminist Design Co-
operative also exercise imagination in working directly with people
of South Asian descent to produce a cultural center in London?

Exercise 2: Safety was a concern for Matrix and its patrons in the
design of the Jagonari Educational Resource Centre. How did
Gérôme create the illusion of a safe environment for the woman
receiving a bath in his painting?

Exercise 3: The Jagonari Educational Resource Centre was a public
building yet has grilles over its windows. What contrasting elements
exist within The Bath by Gérôme?


Topic 3

Topic 3

First, watch the following short video,
“Etre-là: Zanele Muholi”:

Pair 1: Zanele Muholi and Frida Kahlo
Zanele Muholi

I. For the series “Faces and Phases,” artist Zanele Muholi used
portraiture to document the presence of LGBTQ people in South
Africa, the first nation to acknowledge and include protection for
this community in its constitution. Portraiture is a subject type in
which the identity of the subject is the most important aspect of the
work of art.

In spite of the constitutionally protected status of the LGBTQ
community in South Africa, widespread homophobia has led to
acts of violence upon many black lesbians and others who identify
as LGBTQ. Zanele Muholi titled each portrait with the subject’s
name and the location where each was photographed. Each
portrait was meant to be a document of the existence of the

Zanele Muholi

Xana Nyilenda, Newtown, Johannesburg
From the “Faces and Phases” series


Gelatin silver print

II. Zanele Muholi’s answer to the different forms of violence
enacted upon members of this community is to increase the
visibility of those who identify as LGBTQ in South Africa. In the
portrait Xana Nyilenda, Newtown, Johannesburg, the artist
manipulated photographic equipment to create a sharp, highly
detailed portrait. The implied texture, that is, the illusion of
variation on the surface of the image, especially the details of the
subject’s t-shirt and leather jacket, aids viewers in seeing Xana
Nyilenda as possessing a strong material presence and reality,
defying attack or erasure.

Frida Kahlo

I. Unlike Zanele Muholi, who uses portraiture to document the
lives of people, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo painted people and
objects “just as I saw them with my own eyes and nothing more”.
Even so, in her Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair the artist offered
direct access to her identity. For this self-portrait, which refers to a
portrait of an artist created by the artist herself, Frida Kahlo
represented herself seated, looking directly at the viewer. The
details of surfaces are less important than the artist’s need for the
viewer to notice and consider the range of objects included in the
picture plane: a pair of scissors, hair strewn on the floor, a bright
yellow chair, an oversized man’s suit, and musical notes and lyrics
hovering above the artist.

Frida Kahlo

Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair


Oil on canvas

II. Largely self-taught, Frida Kahlo is often labeled a Surrealist.
Surrealism refers to a historical period in the 1920s and 1930s
during which artists produced imagery stemming from their
subconscious or unconscious selves, including imagery from
dreams. Whether or not Frida Kahlo applied this label to her work,
she exhibited her work with Surrealists. Viewers were not meant to
see Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair as a document of a specific
event. Rather, the artist communicated her state of mind while
making this self-portrait. The song at the top of the picture plane
offers a clue as to the tone this work was meant to achieve: “Look,
if I loved you it was because of your hair. Now that you are
without hair, I don’t love you anymore.”

Pair 1

Analysis Exercises: Pair 1
Exercise 1: Observing works by Zanele Muholi and Frida Kahlo
side by side, consider the use of clothing as an aspect of the
identity of each subject. How have you used clothing to convey
aspects of your own identity when posing for portraits?

Exercise 2: If you were to produce a self-portrait, what objects or
props would you include in the picture plane?

Exercise 3: Both images are intended to communicate aspects of
violence. Zanele Muholi portrays Xana Nyilenda to face and
eventually overcome violence against the LGBT community in
South Africa. Frida Kahlo represented herself enacting violence on
her own hair. Take a few minutes to find additional portraits or
self-portraits online. How typical is it for portraiture to contain a
reference to violence?

Pair 2: Unidentified artists from Fayum and Ravenna

Unidentified artist from Fayum

I. Nearly for as long as people have been making art, people
have been making portraits. The ancient Egyptians found it
necessary to attach a portrait of a deceased person to her or his
mummy: the preserved body wrapped in cloths, because they
believed that an individual’s life force would go on living after
death, and regularly needed to reunite with the body. Hundreds of
portraits still attached to mummies have been found buried at the
Egyptian oasis of Fayum.

Unidentified artist from Fayum



Encaustic on wood

II. The portrait of a woman named Isidora made by an
unidentified painter at Fayum was produced by means of a
painting technique called encaustic, in which soft wax is mixed
with pigment (ground minerals or plant matter) then brushed onto
a wooden support. Such a technique was difficult to master but
permanent, since the sticky wax adhered well to wood. A skilled
artist using the encaustic technique could produce portrait
likenesses in great detail. Isidora’s golden headpiece, as well as
her earrings, indicate that she was an elite, like the others at
Fayum who were sufficiently wealthy to be mummified and have
their portraits attached to their mummy.

Unidentified artist from Ravenna

I. A mosaic is made by embedding small pieces of stone or
glass in cement, on surfaces such as walls or floors, and was a
widely used technical process throughout the period of the
Roman Empire. Later, during the sixth century, when the Emperor
Justinian and the Empress Theodora ruled over Byzantium, a
territory roughly equivalent with that which had been ruled by the
ancient Romans, an unidentified artist designed a representation
of the empress to be constructed on the wall of San Vitale, a
church in Ravenna, Italy. In this mosaic, Theodora is depicted as
participating in the Christian ceremony of the Eucharist (also
called “communion” or “mass”) which celebrates the death and
resurrection of Jesus. Robed in purple at the center of the
composition, she holds a ceremonial cup of wine.

Unidentified artist from Ravenna

Empress Theodora Participating in a Ceremony
San Vitale, Ravenna

c. 526-547


II. More than most technical processes of art making, a
mosaic has actual texture: physical surface variation. If a mosaic
is constructed on the floor, the variation in the surface diminishes
over time, since it is walked on, and eventually becomes worn
smooth. But the mosaic depicting the Empress Theodora
participating in a church ceremony was constructed on a wall at
San Vitale, and as such it has retained its textured surface. If
someone holding a candle were to stand near the mosaic, the
tiny pieces of colored stone or glass used to construct it would
reflect the candlelight unevenly, since the surface of this work of
art is highly textured.

Pair 2

Analysis Exercises: Pair 2

Exercise 1: Look closely at each image. What can you determine
about the social status of Isidora from her portrait? Is she wealthy?
Is she poor? What can you determine about the social status of
Theodora from her portrait?

Exercise 2: The artist who painted Isidora likely met his subject.
What in the portrait itself suggests this? The artist who designed the
mosaic of Theodora did not likely meet his subject. How does the
portrait suggest this?

Exercise 3: If you were going to ask an artist to make a portrait of
someone you care about, would you prefer that the artist work
with encaustic paint or produce a mosaic? Explain your choice.

Pair 3: Amy Sherald and Joshua Reynolds

Amy Sherald

I. In March of 2020, twenty-six year old Breonna Taylor was killed
while sleeping in her bed in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. She
was shot by law enforcement officers when they entered her home
during a failed narcotics raid. The tragedy of Breonna Taylor’s death
became a matter of intense public outrage. Artist Amy Sherald, the first
African-American artist to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait
Competition at the National Portrait Gallery, was asked by a guest
editor at the magazine Vanity Fair to produce a portrait of Taylor.

The recipient of a heart transplant, Amy Sherald is immuno-
compromised. For this reason she had been unable to participate in
Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020. In a published
interview with Vanity Fair, Sherald referred to this portrait of Taylor as
her way of contributing to the “moment and to activism—producing
this portrait keeps Breonna alive forever.”

”I also made this portrait for her family,” said Sherald. “I mean,
of course I made it for Vanity Fair, but the whole time I was thinking
about her family.” Sherald normally makes physical studies of
people whose portraits she constructs, but she did not have this
opportunity with Taylor, since this is a posthumous portrait, that is,
a portrait made after the death of the subject. Instead, Sherald
talked to Taylor’s friends and family. She learned, for example, that
Taylor’s boyfriend had been planning to propose marriage. Taylor
wears an engagement ring in Sherald’s portrait.

Once the painting was finished, it was photographed and
printed by means of lithography as the magazine’s cover for the
September 2020 issue, six months after the death of Breonna Taylor.
But what would happen to Sherald’s original painting?

Amy Sherald

Breonna Taylor


Oil on linen

Like many professional artists today, Amy Sherald works with a
private gallery to sell her work to individuals or institutions. (Most
galleries retain half of the sale of a work of art if they can identify
a buyer for it.) But in the case of this portrait of Breonna Taylor,
Sherald worked with nonprofit arts organizations to place the
painting at museums who have made a commitment to share it
with the public: the National Museum of African American History
and Culture at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and The
Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Taylor’s home town. A nonprofit
arts organization is a group who use their resources not to make
money but to further specific causes or goals. The nonprofit arts
organizations which helped Sherald find museums to share the
responsibility of keeping this work in the eye of the public are the
Ford Foundation and the Hearthland Foundation.

Joshua Reynolds

I. Completed soon after becoming the first president of
Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts in London, Joshua Reynolds
painted The Archers not to sell but to exhibit at the annual
exhibition of the new academy. Exhibitions, that is, public
displays of works of art, were the primary ways that academic
artists like Reynolds attracted public attention to their work. A
portrait of two friends, this painting remained in Reynolds’s studio
until the death of Colonel Acland, pictured on right. In 1779, the
colonel’s widow, Lady Harriet Acland, purchased the painting
from Reynolds.

Joshua Reynolds

Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney:
The Archers


Oil on canvas

II. In The Archers, Reynolds represents two friends, Lord
Sydney and Colonel Acland, as hunters within an extensive
landscape. To achieve this, he relies on a strong sense of
foreground and background. In the foreground, the part of the
landscape closest to the viewer, he places the friends in a thick
grove of trees, along with the animals they have killed during the
hunt. Reynolds achieved the illusion of depth receding into the
landscape by opening up the trees to offer a glimpse of the land
in the background, the part of the landscape behind the subjects.

Angelica Kauffman arranged Cornelia, Mother of the Gracci
(recall chapter 2) with similar attention to foreground and
background. Recall that it was Joshua Reynolds who invited
Angelica Kauffman to become a founding member of the British
Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Pair 3

Analysis Exercises: Pair 3

Exercise 1: In what ways did the makers of both portraits
succeed in representing real people, while at the same time
suggesting a sense of timelessness about them?

Exercise 2: The portrait by Joshua Reynolds includes a strong
presence of the natural environment. Why do we call it a
portrait rather than a landscape?

Exercise 3: Both portraits were painted in oil, a medium
which gives artists great potential for mixing the exact colors
they want to convey. With this in mind, describe each artist’s
approach to color.

Pair 4: Lina Bo Bardi and Thomas Jefferson

Lina Bo Bardi

I. Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi completed her university
training as an architect in 1939, opened a professional studio in
1942, and oversaw the realization of one of her designs for the
first time in 1950: The Glass House, built in the rain forest outside
of São Paulo, Brazil. A proponent of rationalist architecture, that
is, an approach to architectural design and construction which
values efficiency, visual simplicity, and practical function, Lina Bo
Bardi also worked as an illustrator, journalist, and administrator
for prominent magazines such as Domus and Habitat. Prior to
moving to South America, she traveled throughout war-torn Italy,
advocating for reconstruction.

Lina Bo Bardi

The Glass House
Morumbi, São Paulo, Brazil


Concrete and glass

II. Lina Bo Bardi’s efforts at raising public awareness for
postwar reconstruction in Italy eventually served as the basis for a
prominent architectural career in Brazil, where she oversaw the
transformation of several existing buildings into museums, a
theatre, and a community center. For herself and her husband she
designed The Glass House, a structure composed of concrete
slabs and glass walls set on a hillside. The architect raised the
house on pilotis: piers that elevate a building above the ground or
water. The use of pilotis allowed the couple to live up amongst the
trees. An intensely personal project, Lina Bo Bardi described the
house as “an attempt to arrive at a communion between nature
and the natural order of things; I look to respect this natural order,
with clarity, and never liked the closed house that turns away from
the thunderstorm and the rain, fearful of all men.” She lived in the
house for four decades.

Thomas Jefferson

I. Lina Bo Bardi’s Glass House and the Virginia home that
Thomas Jefferson designed for himself and his family, Monticello,
may be linked to the practice of self-portraiture, since both
projects emphasized the values of the architect residents.
Jefferson’s Monticello was informed by his engagement in the Age
of Enlightenment: a seventeenth and eighteenth century cultural
movement which prioritized pursuits of reason, science, and
individual liberty. Jefferson had begun construction on his home
prior to relocating to France in the 1780s, where he served as U.S.
ambassador. Upon being exposed to Neoclassicism (recall
chapter 2), wherein architectural design was inspired by ancient
Greek and Roman forms, Jefferson redesigned Monticello to
reflect the ideals of his Enlightenment education.

Thomas Jefferson

Charlottesville, Virginia

begun 1792; redesigned 1796-1809


II. In the truest sense of the word, Thomas Jefferson was an
amateur architect. The word amateur has its roots in the Latin verb
amare: to love. An amateur is one who engages in an activity not
as a result of financial necessity but because she or he is
passionate about that activity. Often called “the architect of the
Declaration of Independence,” Jefferson approached the practice
of architecture with a degree of seriousness similar to his devotion
to political ideas. In addition to designing Monticello, he also
designed the campus of the University of Virginia, the Virginia
State Capitol, and his vacation home, Poplar Forest—structures
which are nationally protected and widely considered to be
among the most accomplished examples of architectural design in
the United States in the nineteenth century.

Few people have the resources to practice architecture as an
amateur, but Jefferson inherited the land on which he built
Monticello as well as most of the slaves who provided the labor to
build it.

Analysis Exercises: Pair 4

Exercise 1: In what ways may Lina Bo Bardi’s Glass House
and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello be linked to the subject
category of portraiture?

Exercise 2: Consider that both houses are located within
heavily forested areas. What are the similarities and
differences of The Glass House and Monticello? Are there
more similarities or differences between these structures?

Exercise 3: Which house would you rather live in: The Glass
House or Monticello, and why?

Pair 4


Topic 5: Still Life

First, watch the following short video, “Cézanne’s
Still Lifes at His Studio: Aix-en-Provence, France”:

Pair 1: Cézanne and Chardin

Paul Cézanne

I. Still life is a subject category in which the representation
inanimate objects is the most important aspect of the work of
art. Students who attended art school in France in the
nineteenth century spent a good deal of time painting objects,
ultimately to demonstrate to their teachers that they could
convey a sense of three-dimensionality on a flat surface. Most
students attempted to create the illusion of three-dimensionality
through careful consideration of light value while depicting
shadows and highlights. By contrast, Paul Cézanne chose to
model objects with color in addition to light value.

Paul Cézanne

Still Life with Apples and Pears

c. 1891-92

Oil on canvas

II. One of the reasons Cézanne’s still life paintings are
considered visually powerful is because he chose to use colors
that were mixed with very little black or white paint. Color
intensity refers to the degree of purity of a color. Cézanne’s Still
Life with Apples and Pears is an example of a painting in which
the color intensity is strong. The shadows cast by objects are not
produced with greys but with violets, blues, and greens. The
brightest highlights on the objects are not produced with white
but with different versions of yellow.

Jean-Baptise-Siméon Chardin

I. More than a century and a half before Cézanne produced
Still Life with Apples and Pears, another academically-trained
French painter, Chardin, produced a still life painting, Attributes
of the Painter, which represents materials and tools used by oil
painters. Oil paint is a painting medium in which pigment is
mixed with linseed oil. Oil paint is known for its tendency to
dry slowly; for its translucent quality; for the wide variety of
colors that may be produced with it; and for its ability to be
used in varying qualities of thickness or thinness.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

Attributes of the Painter


Oil on canvas

II. A look at one of the objects in this still life—the painter’s
palette—reveals three colors placed next to each other which
are considered primary colors: those colors (red, yellow, and
blue) from which all other colors may be made. While
Chardin’s still life is produced largely by means of earth colors
like brown and red, the light blue color of the rolled-up paper
to the right of the palette indicates that the artist attempted to
balance this composition by offsetting the warm reds at the left
with a cool blue at the right.

Analysis Exercises: Pair 1

Exercise 1: Who was likely to purchase a still life painting from
Cézanne? Or from Chardin? Provide a rationale for your
response, based on the works of art themselves.

Exercise 2: Why do you think so many artists throughout history
have used fruit as a still life subject?

Exercise 3: Both Chardin and Cézanne were oil painters, a
painting medium recognized in part for the wide variety of colors
that may be produced with it. How did these artists approach
color differently?

Pair 1

Pair 2: David Bailly and Rebecca Scott

David Bailly

I. David Bailly was a seventeenth-century Dutch artist who
produced still life paintings which served to encourage people to
consider their attitudes about money and ambition. Such works
are called vanitas paintings. Vanitas is a theme within literature
and art which warns about the emptiness of wealth and power. By
the time Bailly produced Vanitas Still Life of 1651, The
Netherlands had become the most wealthy county in Europe due
to its participation in the global mercantile economy, based in
large part on colonialist practices.

David Bailly

Vanitas Still Life


Oil on wood

II. David Bailly included objects in this still life which ask
viewers to consider their mortality. Such objects are called
memento mori, which means “be mindful of your own
mortality”. The candle has been snuffed out, the bubbles are
about to burst, the flower is dying. But the most obvious
memento mori is a skull. Dutch patrons of vanitas paintings were
usually religious people who believed in an afterlife and felt that
it was better to give one’s money to charity than get bogged
down by it during one’s lifetime. On illusionistically painted
“paper” in the lower right corner the artist has painted the words
”Vanity, vanity. All is vanity,” a quote from the ancient Jewish
king Solomon found in the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Rebecca Scott

I. Like David Bailly, British contemporary artist Rebecca Scott
paints still life works to encourage viewers to consider or
reconsider their values. Her oil painting, Oh, it’s a perfect day, is
from a series she calls “Perfect Life.” She finds inspiration for this
series in photographs of expensive luxury objects in commercial
home furnishing catalogues. Fine bedding and fashionable
tableware figure prominently in these works.

Viewers may feel tempted simply to enjoy the appearance of
luxury objects in Scott’s paintings, just one’s eyes may find
pleasure in the painted objects in David Bailly’s still life. But like
Bailly, Scott’s intention is to call out viewers for their
materialism, challenging them to ask, Does the acquisition of
expensive tableware define a perfect life?

Rebecca Scott

Oh, it’s a perfect day
From the “Perfect Life” series


Oil on canvas

II. Rebecca Scott’s technical approach to oil painting is
painterly, that is, it calls attention to large brushstrokes as
evidence of the act of painting. David Bailly, on the other hand,
concealed his brushwork, painting with tiny, fine strokes.

Moreover, the table top in Rebecca Scott’s Oh, it’s a perfect
day reveals the artist’s wide command of color, including
secondary colors, that is, colors which made by mixing two or
more primary colors. Green, orange, and violet are examples of
secondary colors.

Pair 2

Analysis Exercises: Pair 2

Exercise 1: Do you prefer to look at paintings in which the artist
has taken a painterly approach, as in Rebecca Scott’s work
discussed in this chapter, or do you prefer the approach of
David Bailly, in which the brushwork is disguised?

Exercise 2: If you were to hang a still life painting in your home,
would you want it to convey a message, or would you prefer to
enjoy it on a “formal” level, that is, from the standpoint of the
elements of art and principles of design?

Exercise 3: Explain how can there be continuity between the
messages of David Bailly’s and Rebecca Scott’s work, given that
they were produced more than three and a half centuries apart?

Pair 3: Julie Green and Carel Fabritius

Julie Green

I. One morning in 1999 artist Julie Green came across a
description in a newspaper of the execution of an individual
imprisoned in the state of Oklahoma. As she read the menu of
the individual’s final meal, she found that she had a lot of
questions. Green considered the importance and personal role
of food in her life and in the life of her family, and she began
to seek out accounts of the final meals of others who had died
through capital punishment. She began a series, ”The Last
Supper,” in which she would eventually paint the final meals
of 1,000 people who have been executed in the United States.

Julie Green

Montana 16 February 1917. One apple.


Cobalt blue glaze on found plate; kiln fired

(The artist at “Flown Blue,” a midcareer retrospective exhibition at the
American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, California.)

II. Believing that the subject of a work of art should match
the medium, Green tried embroidering the last meals of
executed people onto napkins. However, she found that
technique to be prohibitively time consuming. She decided
instead to paint the final meals on ceramic plates she had

The art historical term for each plate used by Julie Green in
this series is found object. A found object is not made by the
artist but chosen by the artist to be included in a work of art. In
Green’s painting shown on the previous slide, Montana 16
February 1917. One apple., the found object is a white plate
with faint blue decoration on one side.

Green’s “The Last Supper” series has been widely
exhibited. The American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona,
California, organized a midcareer retrospective exhibition of
her work in 2019. A retrospective is an exhibition which looks
back at the scope of an artist’s career.

By the time Julie Green’s work was shown in Pomona, she
had completed more than eight hundred plates in “The Last
Supper” series. You can examine each plate in the series on the
artist’s website, which she organized by the states in which the
individuals were executed.

Carel Fabritius

I. The apple painted by Julie Green to memorialize an
individual executed in Montana in 1917 is highly detailed,
from the bright highlight to the shape of the stem. But
because she chose to paint all the meals in a single hue—
blue—the representation of the food takes on an otherworldly

By contrast, seventeenth-century Dutch artist Carel
Fabritius desired to depict objects so realistically as to fool
the eye. For The Goldfinch, Fabritius chose subtle browns and
creams as well as varying shades of grey for the purpose of
drawing as close to the colors of nature as possible. We refer
to Fabritius’s attempt to fool us into believing that this is not a
painting but an actual goldfinch as trompe l’oeil, a French
term which may be translated as “deceives the eye.”

Carel Fabritius

The Goldfinch


Oil on wood


II. In Fabritius’s The Goldfinch it is not through detail but
through color that the artist attempted to fool the eye. He
painted this subject on an unusually thick wooden support
which may have served as part of the construction of a
window in his studio. His deep understanding of the ways
natural light affects the surface of different objects enhanced
Fabritius’s ability to create a lifelike representation of the

The goldfinch is chained to a perch. Is this a
representation of someone’s pet? If so, is it portrait? Or should
the daily life of a songbird be categorized as a genre scene?
Because the artist paints the bird as an inanimate object
many scholars believe it is best discussed as as a still life.
Perhaps we should determine that this is a hybrid subject: a
work of art which may be categorized as more than one
subject type.

Pair 3

Analysis Exercises: Pair 3

Exercise 1: Capital punishment, captivity . . . the themes
addressed by these works carry immense emotional weight.
What choices have the artists made—in purely visual terms—
to enable viewers to spend time contemplating these difficult

Exercise 2: In both cases these works have a relatively “flat”
background with little to distract the eye beyond the primary
subject. Why are the backgrounds chosen by the artists
suitable for these subjects?

Exercise 3: Julie Green created a sense of volume in her
representation of an apple through bright white highlights on
the apple itself. How did Carel Fabritius create a sense sense of
volume in his representation of the goldfinch?

Pair 4: Gehry, Oldenburg, and Van Bruggen
and Nils-Udo

Frank Gehry, Claes Oldenburg, and Coosje van Bruggen

I. An artistic collaboration signifies a temporary or long-
term partnership between two or more creative people who
share vision and labor to produce a work of art or architecture.
A successful collaboration is one in which we cannot imagine
the finished work without the contributions of each

The Chiat/Day Building in Venice, California, is an
example of a successful collaboration between architect Frank
Gehry and the sculpture team Claes Oldenburg and Coosje
van Bruggen.


Frank Gehry (architect)
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen (sculptors)

Chiat/Day Building (Binoculars Building)
Venice, California


Steel, concrete, and painted cement plaster

II. This project, commissioned by the Chiat/Day advertising
agency, enabled experimental architect Frank Gehry to design a
building which evoked the history of still life representation.
Giant Binoculars, a work of sculpture designed by the artistic
team Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, serves as the
building’s doorway.

Long committed to producing monumental sculpture of
mundane objects, Oldenburg had been active in the Pop Art
movement of the late 1950s, during which artists prioritized the
representation of objects associated with ordinary life. Produced
more than thirty years after the height of Pop Art in the United
States, the design of the Chiat/Day Building acknowledges not
only the creative projects of the advertisers who worked inside it,
but the history of art itself.


I. German artist Nils-Udo is committed to making art
that is transitory, that is, temporary and likely to disappear
over time. For this reason he chooses elements of nature
such as plants and sticks to construct works of sculpture. He
expects La Couvée (The Brood), which is sculpted in
marble, to wear away over time.


La Couvée (The Brood)
Fondation Carmignac, Hyères, France


Carrara marble, earth, forest

II. In the 1960s, while Pop artists like Claes Oldenburg
were redefining the relationship between art and consumer
culture in urban environments, Nils-Udo turned to the rural
environment and began using plants as his primary medium.
He wrote, “Potential Utopias are under every stone, on every
leaf, and behind every tree, in the clouds and in the wind. . . .”
A utopia is a place where everything is ideal, or perfect.

Nils-Udo’s use of the term “utopia” may offer an important
key to understanding his motivation to produce a work such as
La Couvée (The Brood). It suggests that perfection is not
something artists make but which artists can discover if they
make art in conjunction with nature. By association, viewers
too can discover perfection if they search for it in the natural
environment in which the work is situated.

Pair 4

Analysis Exercises: Pair 4

Exercise 1: If the Chiat/Day Building by Frank Gehry, Claes
Oldenburg, and Coosje van Bruggen offers a look back at the
history of art, in what ways does Nils-Udo’s La Couvée (The
Brood) offer a look forward?

Exercise 2: The Chiat/Day Building and La Couvée (The Brood)
both incorporate monumental sculpture. Why do you think
that some artists choose to work in an oversized scale?

Exercise 3: Do you think that each of these works are well
suited to their environments? Why or why not?


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