Lecture Series - American Realism: An Independence of Style

April 27, 2021

If you are unable to attend the live sessions, do not worry - all those who register will automatically be sent copies of the lectures to view in your own time (from around four hours after they take place).  Further details on how to register can be found at the end of this newsletter.

American Realism: An Independence of Style

Pre Civil War America celebrated its dwindling wilderness and newly discovered western frontiers through the grandiose panoramas of the Hudson River School of landscape painters. In post Civil War America – its innocence lost - artists were now eager to depict real life from direct experiences. Photographers, cartoonists and illustrators became the new artists who turned to painting to depict a change in the nation’s cultural mood. Sentimentality was abandoned with art presented not in moral terms, but through everyday scenes of modern life. Over the course of two lectures, James Hill will explore the changes in American art at the dawn of the twentieth century as conventional norms were challenged by an emerging group of observational realists working in New York City. In the first he will introduce a small group of painters known as the Ashcans, who were active from around 1900, and their later influence. In the second, James will investigate the life, times and art of Edward Hopper, America’s most renowned realist whose memorable and uncanny paintings influenced the art and psyche of America for much of the last century.

Lecture 1 - True to Life: The Ashcan School  Tuesday 27 April 2021 at 11am BST  

Originally newspaper illustrators, The Ashcans drew on their journalistic origins in their immediate and visceral treatment of the rich and poor, the seedy and the joyous in the urban life of New York of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The ironic use of the term ‘school’ and the ‘ashcan’ label came about when the critics reacted negatively to what was seen as unworthy subject matter, painters of ash cans and tin alleys. Lead by Robert Henri, the movement was ‘tongue-in-cheek’ with little by way of a political or moral agenda to underpin it. Yet Henri and his associates, including William Glackens and John Sloan, would not only enjoy the patronage of New York’s great and good, but would influence thereafter in the art of America immediately after the Great Depression.
Lecture 2 - The Spaces Between Us: The Art of Edward Hopper  Tuesday 4 May 2021 at 11 am BST  
The American realist painter, Edward Hopper, understood how to communicate a sense of place and mood like no other. In his paintings the psychological tension of alienation and loneliness are placed in the context of everyday settings: offices, diners, petrol stations, hotels and homes. Their almost eerie disquiet is offset by his use of vivid colour, theatrical lighting and a finely tuned talent for composition. His work is often seen as ambiguous in intention, whether placed in an urban, coastal or rural setting, yet more than a half-century after his death in 1967, Hopper’s art tells us much not only much about the artist and his America but also about ourselves.

Format for Lecture 

James will give two one-hour illustrated lectures for £19. During the lecture you will have the chance to submit written questions which James will answer at the end if time permits.

James produced reading and slide lists:

Lecture 1.

Lecture 2.

You will not need to download any software and the lecture will work in any browser. For the best experience use a desktop or laptop - but it will also work on an iPad or similar tablet. You will be also able to re-watch or watch a recording after the lecture.

Register for Lectures - 27 April & 4 May at 11am

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