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A Brief Timeline of Art in America

Are you wondering how different eras of American art relate to one another? We did not just wake up one day to works of American art such as Hyper-realism or bananas being taped to the wall selling for $120,000. Each school of art builds upon the other. 

1700-1825: The foundation of American art began with portraits of the wealthy and genre scenes - just like what was being created over seas in Europe at the time. Artists such as Gilbert Stuart (Responsible for painting Washington's portrait) and John Singleton Copley devoted their artistic energy preserving portraits of America's wealthy and elite.

1825-1845: Thomas Cole is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School. The Hudson River School was the first art movement in the United States. Thomas Cole famously took a steamship up the Hudson River in the Fall of 1825. The colors of the American landscape became the inspiration for Cole to branch out and begin painting the magnificent and untouched American landscape. Thomas Doughty and Asher Durand joined Cole in portraying America's majestic homeland.

(Pictured Above: Thomas Cole's Distant View of Niagra Falls Circa 1830)

1848-1870: The father of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole, passed away in 1848. However, his legacy lived on. The new period was known as the 2nd Generation of Hudson River School Painters. Artists included in this era include Sanford Robinson Gifford, John Frederick Kensett, Frederick Eric Church, and Jasper Francis Cropsey. This loosely held together school of artists travelled the nation west (manifest destiny) in search of capturing the beauty of America. These artists through their physical hands are accredited with preserving the essence of America's natural landscape as more of it becomes urbanized year after year. 

1870-1897:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art was Founded in 1870 by a group of businessmen and artists with the purpose of bringing art and education to American citizens. The National Academy of Design was the preeminent art group at the time. In 1877 the Society of American Artists was formed as alternate outlet to meet and exhibit artwork, brought about because The National Academy of Design was becoming too conservative. Artists associated with the Society of American Artists included Robert Swain Gifford, Alexander Helwig Wyant, John Henry Twachtman, Julian Alden Weir, and Louis Comfort Tiffany. 

1898-1908John Henry Twachtman, Julian Alden Weir, and Childe Hassam championed a new artists' group known as The Ten in 1898. The Ten were discontented with the conservativism of the American art establishment. The Ten included Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman, Julian Alden Weir, Frank W. Benson, Joseph De Camp. Thomas W. Dewing, Edmund Tarbell, Willard L. Metcalf, Robert Reid, and E.E. Simmons. Upon Twachtman's death in 1902, he was replaced by William Merritt Chase. Most of these artist painted in an Impressionist manner - not terribly different from artists in the Society of American Artists. 

1908-1913: The Eight (The Ashcan School) was a group of American realists reacting against the contemporary tradition of abiding to European aesthetics. The Ashcan School had a single show - located at Macbeth Galleries in New York City. The group painted impressionistic brushstrokes in a darker color palette, often depicting scenes of the poorer and rougher neighborhoods in New York City. The Eight included Robert Henri (he was the leader), John Sloan, Everett Shinn, William Glackens, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, and Maurice Prendergast.

1913: The International Exhibition of Modern Art (also known as the Armory Show of 1913) forever changed the trajectory of American art. This show was the first time that the phrase "avant-garde" was applied to art - meaning it was experimental, radical, and new. The show hosted over 87,000 guests in New York's Upper East Side. The majority of artists were American, but the European artists that displayed were the ones that stole the show. These included artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Marcel Duchamp. Art in America was forever Changed.

1913-1940: Ever since the 1913 Armory Show, "Avant Garde" art was here to stay. Cubism, Expressionism, Dada, and Surrealism became front and center.

1940-1960: Abstract Expressionism art began to become a sensation. This era was defined by artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Frank Stella. As a counter genre to Abstract Expressionism, artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns used everyday objects to make absurd creations in the Neo-Dada style. Neo-Dada artists bridged the gap between Abstract Expressionism and later styles such as pop-art and minimalism.

1960-1970: Although art created in the 1960's embraced and built upon all the previously mentioned art movements, the decade was dominated by pop-art, minimalism, and the emergence of photorealism. Pop-art used images that the vast population recognized, perhaps the most famous example is Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans.

1980's-Present Day: American art is a summation of all its previous experiences. Artists can be found building upon all the foundations from previous eras. One thing is for certain, artist will continue find new and bizarre ways to beat new paths along the art road. Damien Hurst famously displayed a shark in a glass case with formaldehyde. Jeff Koons has created iconic balloon shaped dog statues and a massive sculpture in the shape and design of play doh. All the prior styles of art are still alive and well in American art, in fact - they seem to just keep getting more exaggerated!