‘We at least had our Ancient Trees’: The Development of Myth and Identity in Nineteenth Century American Painting

Justin J Morris

Abstract


Modern history has looked on the United States of America as a country with a very distinct and proud national heritage and identity, though this was not always so. When founded in 1776, America was a nation that had not yet developed the identity and customs that would soon come to define the country nationally and internationally. The articulation of this distinct identity fell to the artist class and, in particular, first and second generation American painters. Painters such as Thomas Eakins, Thomas Cole, and the Hudson River School of artists pulled from their natural surroundings to create art that would foster pride in the values of peace, liberty, and freedom. Without these early painters, the United States would not have the strong identity that is so well known today.

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