America of course has a very recent art history. Here some of the most valuable work was done by primitive or naive artists in the late 17th and early-mid 19th century before the advent of photography. These artista while their perspective was often weak often did provide very detailed reproductions of clothing in their portaits which is of emense value in assessing historical fashion trends. Perhaps the American artist most associated with children is Mary Cassat. Of course the greatest American portratist has to be John Singer Seargent, but unfortunately he painted only a small number of children. This is, of course, only a preliminary list. We hope that HBC readers will suggest other American artists that we should included on this list.
Following American artisistic trends chronologically provides a great deal of fashion information. And we hope to eventually create decade pages on artistic works. We have noticed a number of interesting paintings, but have no idea who the artists are. This is especially the case in the 19th century. Many may be artists who did not sign their works and are not well recognized. Even so they are valuable for HBC's assessment of clothing styles. These unsigned works are also usually not dated so our dating is often only estimates. The British settlement of America began with Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth (1620). By the end of the 17th century, the British were well established along the eastern seaboard of North America. There were, however, no artists other than journeymen painters in the 1th 17th century. This only changed in the mid-18th century when a remarable group of artists began to leave a wondeful collection of 18th century colonial life and figures of the Revolutuinary period. The most important The most important were Charles Wilson Peale, Peale's son Rembrandt, John Trumbull, and Gilbert Stuart. They producd art at the European standard and each painted George Washington and may other Revolutoinary figures. [Howard] One of the best aruist of the day, John Singleton Copley, had to leave America because of his political leanings.
Over time we have developed an extensive list of American artists, including foreign-born immigrants. Until mid-centyury virtually all trained artists werre foreigners or Americans who studied in Europe. Here are the American artists that we have found. Of course these are the artists which have left portraits and genre works with images of children that can be useful in assessing period fashions or assessing childhood in different periods. This is of course especially important in the period before the invention of photograpy. Unfortunastely many early works, especially early-19th century naive paintings are unsigned. We continue to add artists to our list. These artists have left us an invaluable social record.
We have archived the work of several anonamous artists on HBC. Most come from the colonial and early American period before the invention of photography (1839. As such while they can not be identified, they do proviode a variety of useful social mand fashion information. A good example is the unknown Virginia artist who painted the Spotswood grandchildren in the 1790s.
American artists have worked in several destinct styles. The first might be called folk or naive art. Naive artists are especially important in Ameica because there were so few trained artists. Unlike Europe, there were no schools and academic institutions were artists could train. Many of the naive artists are known by name. This is less true in Europe, because talented individuals coukd normally acquire some training or study the great masters in museums. There are, however, also many anonamous artists.
Many fascinating American primitives exist providing a wealth of information about children's fashions. While the artist is not known, in some cases the children depicted and the approximate date of the paintings are known. And these paintings provide many invaluable images of children's garments before the invention of photography provided us with a great wealth of imagery. And the images are in color, an element lacking in black-and-white photography which was the dominant type uuntil the 1970s.
We have noted some paintings that seem to have been made from photographs. Some may even have been painted over photographs, I'm not sure prescisely how this was done. Others may simply have been painted in a very realistic photograph-like style. Some photographic studios may have had contracts or business associations with local artists. It sees to have been popular to paint portraits of younger children in formal attire. We note quite a few of these formal portraits. They were often done before the children reached school age. A good example is an unidentified portrait painted about 2005.
HBC has found a number of naive artists who are known by name. We have found a number of these artists and would be interested in any additional artists with which readers are familiar. They have produced particularly interesting portraits showing childrens' fashions during the late-18th and early-19th century. This is of course before we have photography tp create a vast record. Photography created a very accurate and low-cost way of creating portraits. The number of these primtive portrait is small compared to the future photographic record. Much of our knowledge of clothing and fashion from the 18th and early-19th century comes from these primitive artists. And while the depiction of faces may be lacking, the clothing depiction is very detiles as well as providing color information.
Howard, Hugh. The Painter's Chair: George Washington and the Making of American Art.
Johnson, Dale T. "Deacon Robert Peckham: 'Delineator of the Human Face Divine,'" American Art Journal Vol. 11, No. 1 (January 1979), pp. 27-36.
Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske, eds. "Leutze, Emanuel" Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography (New York: D. Appleton, 1892).
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