The American School

Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era

Susan Rather

View Inside Price: $75.00

March 22, 2016
316 pages, 8 1/2 x 11
100 color + 80 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300214611

Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

An in-depth look at the changing status of American artists in the 18th and early 19th century

This fascinating book is the first comprehensive art-historical study of what it meant to be an American artist in the 18th- and early 19th-century transatlantic world. Susan Rather examines the status of artists from different geographical, professional, and material perspectives, and delves into topics such as portrait painting in Boston and London; the trade of art in Philadelphia and New York; the negotiability and usefulness of colonial American identity in Italy and London; and the shifting representation of artists in and from the former British colonies after the Revolutionary War, when London remained the most important cultural touchstone. The book interweaves nuanced analysis of well-known artists—John Singleton Copley, Benjamin West, and Gilbert Stuart, among others—with accounts of non-elite painters and ephemeral texts and images such as painted signs and advertisements. Throughout, Rather questions the validity of the term “American,” which she sees as provisional—the product of an evolving, multifaceted cultural construction. 

Susan Rather is a professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas, Austin.

“A narrative that is both revealing and surprising . . . a savvy account . . . What Rather provides in The American School is a portrait of the artist as a young concept, an idea long in the making and slow in the realization.”—Bryan J. Wolf, Critical Inquiry

“This is as handsome and well-produced a volume as we can expect from Yale, and a vital addition to the canon of American art history.”—Loyd Grossman, Burlington

Winner of the 2017 New England Society Book Award for Art in the Art & Photography category.