American Views, Viewpoints, and Manipulations: Six lectures by John Walsh

In each of the six lectures in this series, John Walsh selects an American painting in the Gallery’s collection and examines the similarities and differences between depiction and reality.

About the Series

A number of paintings on view in the Yale University Art Gallery’s newly reinstalled American paintings and sculpture galleries are apt to incite curiosity about the artists’ chosen subjects. What was special about a particular view? What did the painter actually see, and from what viewpoint? While credible-looking paintings, particularly landscapes, are often assumed to be accurate, the artist has frequently manipulated observable reality for effect by exaggerating, rearranging, interpolating, or inventing. In each lecture in this series, John Walsh selects an American painting in the Gallery’s collection and examines the similarities and differences between depiction and reality, returning to the painter’s original vantage point in an attempt to work out just what happened when he returned to the studio.

How much imagery did these artists borrow from others? How often did they modify what they saw, and for what purposes? Romantic literature and art in Britain and on the Continent helped to shape the attitudes toward nature held by 19th-century American artists and their patrons, for whom national self-regard and expansionist beliefs were important factors. In the 20th century, new enthusiasms and anxieties suggested newer points of view—both literal and figurative—to artists, who found fresh ways to express their relationship to the world around them.

Note: All lectures are held in the Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Lecture Hall. Seating is limited. Doors open one hour prior to each lecture.

Generously sponsored by the Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund.

Lecture Videos

To view a recording of the most recent lecture from this series, play the video at left. Previous lectures in the series are available on the Gallery’s YouTube channel.

View Playlist on YouTube

Schedule

Lecture Series: American Views, Viewpoints, and Manipulations: Thomas Cole’s Catskills

Friday, October 27, 2017, 1:30 pm

Thomas Cole (1801–1848) spent decades living near Catskill Creek, the Hudson River tributary in upstate New York, and he painted the creek with the Catskill Mountains in the distance more often than any other subject. What did these compositions represent to him? This lecture considers Cole’s North Mountain and Catskill Creek of 1838 and other works by the pioneer Romantic painter, whose portrayals of a wild new land were a mix of observation, pictorial tradition, and poetic manipulation. Generously sponsored by the Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund.

Lecture Series: American Views, Viewpoints, and Manipulations: Frederic Church in the Maine Wilderness

Friday, November 3, 2017, 1:30 pm

In the mid-19th century, Thomas Cole’s pupil Frederic Church (1826–1900) was America’s most famous artist. Church’s Mt. Ktaadn from 1853 resulted from a trip deep into the wilds of Maine, which he took after he read Henry David Thoreau’s writings. The views that Church actually saw on his travels differed from what he chose to paint, and this lecture explores how and why he altered the appearance of the actual landscape. Generously sponsored by the Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund.

Lecture Series: American Views, Viewpoints, and Manipulations: Sanford Gifford Creates “Darkness Visible”

Friday, November 10, 2017, 1:30 pm

Sanford Gifford (1823–1880) drew and painted the scenic spots favored by Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, which, by then, had become very famous. In his Twilight in the Catskills of 1861, Gifford used his imagination and his ability as a painter of light to create a solemn, disturbing vision, the meaning of which goes beyond the usual boundaries of landscape painting. Generously sponsored by the Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund.

Lecture Series: American Views, Viewpoints, and Manipulations: Albert Bierstadt Follows the Sun

Friday, November 17, 2017, 1:30 pm

Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902) rivaled Frederic Church as the foremost painter of landscape spectacles in the mid- to late 19th century. Bierstadt’s views of the Rocky Mountains and the Yosemite Valley defined the West for Americans who would never otherwise have seen it. His Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail of about 1873 depicts wildness and grandeur, but it was also composed to make a statement about possession and tourism. Generously sponsored by the Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund.

Lecture Series: American Views, Viewpoints, and Manipulations: Joseph Stella and the View from Brooklyn

Friday, December 1, 2017, 1:30 pm

Joseph Stella’s seven-foot-high Brooklyn Bridge (1919–20) is an ecstatic vision of New York—its audacious engineering, bright lights, rumbling tunnels, and omnipresent grit—compressed and stylized on canvas. A European-trained modernist smitten by American dynamism, Stella (1877–1946) constructed a synthesis of his visual impressions and visceral reactions to his adopted city. This lecture explores Stella’s imagery, its web of associations, and the artist’s distinctive means of expression. Generously sponsored by the Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund.

Lecture Series: American Views, Viewpoints, and Manipulations: At Edward Hopper’s Doorstep

Thursday, December 7, 2017, 5:30 pm

Edward Hopper (1882–1967) painted Rooms by the Sea in 1951 on Cape Cod, in the place he knew best: the studio in his house in the dunes. This agreeable-looking summer scene makes some viewers feel unsettled—a reaction that the artist intended. This lecture examines how Hopper composed the picture from his familiar surroundings and proposes some of the ideas that he may have meant to convey. Generously sponsored by the Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund. Followed by a reception.

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