A man sits on a bench, with his hands clasped around his knee, looking at a large landscape painting hung on a maroon colored wall

American Views, Viewpoints, and Manipulations

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.

A countryside scene at sunset. In the background is a mountain range and a pink cloudy sky

Frederic Edwin Church, Mt. Ktaadn, 1853. Yale University Art Gallery, Stanley B. Resor, B.A. 1901, Fund

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