The Great American Thing Analysis

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After the end of World War I, Americans began to feel a distinct lack of national identity. They felt disconnected from their past and were unsure where the future was taking them. Compared to their European counterparts with their long and rich history full of art and literature, Americans felt that their country was inferior and provincial. A call to restore the American pride rose from the ranks of writers and artists, demanding the creation of a new history of the United States, one that would provide a worthy foundation of people, places, and events for American artists to draw inspiration from. They responded enthusiastically, excited to shake off the chains of worldly influence and forge ahead to create a new identity for America filled …show more content…
Called the founding father of “American Tradition” he, through both photography and paint, drew a direct line between our country’s past and its more modern and contemporary present. A good example of this is Sheeler’s Home, Sweet Home painting (Fig. 1). Showing an interior view of his South Salem home, it displays Sheeler’s assortment of American antiques and furnishings alongside a modern furnace. While Sheeler was not forthcoming in his reasons for bringing together such a collection of objects, Corn wonders if he was searching for something of value from his past (Corn 295). To note, Sheeler was not the only one mining the accessories of house and home for historical inspiration. Museum curators and collectors were recreating historic period rooms for their galleries. Several museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, set up staged rooms full of Colonial furniture and arts in grand arrangements (Fig. 2). Their goal was to educate the American people on the skill and value of the Colonial craftsmen, to show that America’s decorative arts were just as worthwhile and valuable as any …show more content…
Following the accidental discovery of Taos by Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips, interest was piqued in its unique landscapes and native peoples. Artists who came to the area found not only a beautiful landscape but a people and their home steeped in history and tradition. Eastern artists loved the purity of native art, unaffected by any European art influences. This was the America they were searching for. Artists such as Marsden Hartley raced to the newly developed art communities to creatively explore the local landscapes and people (Fig. 4). With the influx of new people and a growing of interest in local cultures it became apparent that the native traditions needed to be preserved. The School of American Research, led by Edgar L. Hewett, was dedicated to the preservation of local Indian life (Eldredge et al. 71). It was through his work that the Museum of New Mexico was established, along with the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, to serve multiple needs as both art gallery and museum of history. At the Santa Fe Indian School, Dorothy Munn established a program called “The Studio School,” to teach Native American students the traditional style of painting of their people so that their cultural practices would not be lost. Another studio within the School of American Research, promoted an exchange of techniques between local and visiting artists.

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