Painting American: The Rise of American Artists, Paris 1867-New York 1948

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Knopf, 2001 - Art - 436 pages
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Shortly after the Civil War, a resurgent America strode brashly onto the hallowed ground of the Paris salon to present its most distinguished painters in the Exposition Universelle of 1867. Their offereings included majestic Western waterfalls, magnificent portraits, sprawling landscapes--the cream of a nation ready to assert itself culturally as it had begun to do so economically. The Americans sat back to bask in anticipated applause.

But their confidence would be shattered when the luminaries of the French Academy condemned the spectacle as being unworthy of the great nation that had produced it. The rebuke provoked widespread soulsearching in America: Why was the land of Melville and Poe unable to produce paintings of comparable power? How was it to claim a place among nations producing art of real consequence?

In this magnificent historical panorama, Annie Cohen-Solal shows how American pragmatism furnished the solution: Learn from the best. The French were then the undisputed masters of painting, and so to France the Americans went in hordes, apprenticing themselves in the studios of reknowned masters--Gérôme, Cabanel, and others--or founding colonies such as the legendary one at Pont-Aven. From the seeds of their individual efforts would grow an extraordinary crop, one that included not only the great--Whistler, Cassatt, Sargent--but a legion of artists of all ranks who collectively pushed forward a bold new American enterprise. In two generations, Paris would be eclipsed, and the greatest French artists would begin coming to New York to be at the new center of everything.

Meticulously researched and presented as a captivating story, this book tells the saga of the rise of American artists as we have never had it before: a surging transatlatic ebb and flow of cultural energies, driven by innumberable fascinating individuals--painters, collectors, critics, titans of industry--some of them now famous, others forgotten. Informed throughout by the author's unique perspective as a scholar, a writer, and a cultural diplomat, Painting American offers an utterly new understanding of one of the greatest changes in cultural history.

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PAINTING AMERICAN: The Rise of American Artists: Paris 1867-New York 1948

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A thoughtfully conceived, well-executed study of France's influence on American art—and vice versa.In 1867, writes French cultural-affairs journalist Cohen-Solal (Sartre, not reviewed), cultured ... Read full review

Painting American: the rise of American artists, Paris 1867-New York 1948

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Translated from the French original, this engagingly written book offers a broad overview of the shift of artistic center from Paris to New York throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries ... Read full review


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About the author (2001)

Annie Cohen-Solal was born in Algeria and received a Ph.D. in French literature from the Sorbonne. She has taught at New York University and the Universities of Berlin, Jerusalem, and Paris XIII, and she writes frequently about French intellectuals and cultural policy for a variety of publications. Having served as the Cultural Counselor at the French embassy in the United States from 1989 to 1993, she is currently a Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, where she teaches a seminar in American art, and recently produced the radio series "Painters for the New World" for FranceCulture. The French edition of Painting American was awarded the Prix Bernier by the Académie des Beaux Arts. Cohen-Solal's acclaimed Sartre: A Life was an international best-seller

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