Course overview

In this course, we will discuss a range of works produced by American artists during the period from around 1800, when the United States was still a relatively new nation, to about 1914, by when it was established as a global economic superpower. We will explore how art engaged with social developments and historical events over this period of rapid expansion. This will be an opportunity to consider the work of some artists (such as J A M Whistler, Mary Cassatt, and John Singer Sargent) familiar to European audiences, and others (such as Thomas Cole, Frederick Church, Thomas Eakins, and George Bellows) who are much lauded in America but less well-known in Britain.

Course description

In 1800, the United States of America was still a relatively new nation, yet, by 1914, it was established as the largest economy in the world. In this course, we will review art produced in the United States, or elsewhere by American artists, during the period between about 1800 and 1914. We will outline the nature of the American art world in the early nineteenth century, and consider how artworks engaged with historical events and social issues. Amongst these will be the establishment of a new society with its own developing sense of nationhood, slavery and the American Civil War, westward expansion through the course of the nineteenth century, and often contradictory attitudes towards indigenous people. We will then explore art of the so-called ‘gilded age’ as the American economy expanded in the years following the civil war and wealthy Americans travelled abroad; but also look at responses to some of the harsher realities underlying American society. Finally, we will briefly consider the impact of European modernism on American art in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There will be ample opportunity to engage with and discuss a wide range of paintings, sculptures and photographs in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. (Note: this course does not include Native American / First Peoples art).

What financial support is available?

We don't want anything to stand in your way when it comes to bringing Adult learning within reach so if you need anything to support you to achieve your goals then speak to one of our education experts during your enrolment journey. Most of our courses are government funded but if you don't qualify or need alternative financial help to access them then let us know.

What other support is available?

All of our digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments are designed to be accessible so if you need any additional support you can discuss this with the education experts during your enrolment journey and we will do all we can to make sure you have optimal access.

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