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American Artists and Their Works

American painting as an independent phenomenon began to develop around the 16th century – after the appearance of the first European colonizers on the continent. The visual art of the indigenous population (American Indians) was rather primitive and did not have a significant impact on the work of visiting artists, who were guided mainly by the European currents that prevailed at that time.

One of the first American artists whose paintings gave the public an insight into the nature of North America and the customs of the tribes that inhabited Roanoke Island was John White. Born in England, in 1585 he went on an expedition led by Richard Grenville, and worked on water-colours along the way. Later, a series of engravings was created from those sketches, which quickly became popular among art lovers.

American painting of the 17th century is a vivid example of the Anglo-Dutch visual art. The most popular genre among customers was a portrait, created without perspective. Family members were depicted against a dark background with bright contrasting colors. Paintings on biblical subjects were also popular. In the 18th century, the historical and landscape genres also became in high demand. In the paintings by American artists of that time, you can see scenes from the French and Indian War (Benjamin West), the American War of Independence (John Trumbull), and portraits of famous political figures of that era and wealthy merchants (John Copley).

Most of the painters of that time were self-taught: they studied the works of other artists, copied them, and experimented with paints and techniques. This continued until 1820 – the year when the first American art school was founded by Thomas Cole. Besides him, the Hudson School also included such painters as Thomas Doughty, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church and others. John Kensett, George Inness, Albert Ryder, Winslow HomerRobert Duncanson and John Audubon were among those who studied there. Paintings by the American artists of the Hudson school show viewers the beauty of local nature, tell about the lives of ordinary farmers and wealthy shopkeepers, and introduce the representatives of the American fauna.

American visual art of the late 19th – early 20th centuries is all about portraits, landscapes, historical and allegorical paintings. For example, William Bird created a cycle of tale-like paintings, the main characters of which were animals that found themselves in comic situations. Artist John Gast captured on his canvases the process of bringing western lands into cultivation, while Thomas Anshutz preferred to depict scenes from the life of ordinary peasants and workers.

During this period, there appeared a new art movement – tonalism, which later faded away under the sway of Impressionism. At the same time, mural painting, Precisionism, Abstractionism, Avant-garde, and the Harlem Renaissance also came into play. Mixing of styles and genres that became possible in the second half of the 20th century gave the world such geniuses of painting as Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean-Michel Basquiat, etc. This baton was picked up by a new generation of American artists of the 21st century, whose works have already become part of the cultural heritage of the United States.
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