The Invention of Painting in America

David Rosand

Columbia University Press

The Invention of Painting in America

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Pub Date: May 2007

ISBN: 9780231132978

246 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: November 2004

ISBN: 9780231132961

246 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£75.00

The Invention of Painting in America

David Rosand

Columbia University Press

Struggling to create an identity distinct from the European tradition but lacking an established system of support, early painting in America received little cultural acceptance in its own country or abroad. Yet despite the initial indifference with which it was first met, American art flourished against the odds and founded the aesthetic consciousness that we equate with American art today.

In this exhilarating study David Rosand shows how early American painters transformed themselves from provincial followers of the established traditions of Europe into some of the most innovative and influential artists in the world. Moving beyond simple descriptions of what distinguishes American art from other movements and forms, The Invention of Painting in America explores not only the status of artists and their personal relationship to their work but also the larger dialogue between the artist and society. Rosand looks to the intensely studied portraits of America's early painters—especially Copley and Eakins and the landscapes of Homer and Inness, among others—each of whom grappled with conflicting cultural attitudes and different expressive styles in order to reinvent the art of painting. He discusses the work of Davis, Gorky, de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, and Motherwell and the subjects and themes that engaged them. While our current understanding of America's place in art is largely based on the astonishing success of a handful of mid-twentieth-century painters, Rosand unearths the historical and artistic conditions that both shaped and inspired the phenomenon of Abstract Expressionism.

Within the modest confines of this trim and attractive volume...Columbia art historian Rosand...tells the big story of how American painting grew and struggled from colonial obscurity to its stunning mid-20th-century coming-of-age.

Publishers Weekly

I can think of no other work that treats the painter as protagonist in the national drama in the same way, certainly not with the same scope, ease, and breadth. Rosand demonstrates a clear command of the material as he traces the self-realization of the painter from the colonial period to Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s.

Howard Risatti, Virginia Commonwealth University

With eloquence and economy, Rosand shows how the American art tradition—at once realist and abstract—answered the questions that guided it: What is painting? What is an artist? This is rigorous scholarship, yet Rosand writes from the heart. Like an artist, he puts faith in painting and the individualist society it shapes.

Richard Shiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art, The University of Texas at Austin

Readers will be reinspired, and their souls and minds reinvented...Highly recommended.


Indispensable...Rosand provides a unifying, and uniquely satisfying, view of painting in America.

Margaret Moorman, Columbia Magazine

An academic treatise that will stimulate artists and fellow scholars.

Stephen May, American Arts Quarterly
List of Illustrations
1. Declarations of Independence
2. Style and the Puritan Aesthetic
3. Artists of Recognized Standing
4. Subjects of the Artist

About the Author

David Rosand is Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History at Columbia University. He is the author of several books, including The Meaning of the Mark: Leonardo and Titian; Painting in Sixteenth-Century Venice: Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto; Robert Motherwell on Paper: Drawings, Prints, Collages; Myths of Venice: The Figuration of a State; and Drawing Acts: Studies in Graphic Expression and Representation.