By Jules David Prown, John Walker, Alexis Gregory
The tale of yankee portray starts within the Colonial interval, within the 17th century. «The most blatant truth approximately early American painting,» writes Jules David Prown, «is that there has been so little of it. whilst ecu colonists started to determine everlasting settlements at the jap flank of North the US, that they had different issues on their minds than the portray of images. confronted with a urgent necessity to fulfill their basic lifestyles needs—food, preserve, clothing—they followed a life-style and a view of the area that was once inevitably pragmatic. For them the humanities appeared dangerously inappropriate, a distraction from the intense initiatives handy. That pragmatic perspective has characterised American tradition from its inception to the current day, and has profoundly affected the trajectory of yankee art.»
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Officer. The subject of the painting also contributed greatly to its popular success. England had endured a long period of war marked by few victories. News from America was not good, and even success in the colonies involved Englishmen killing Englishmen. But a victory over a traditional continental foe, the French, was a different matter, and on Jersey the triumph was made all the more gratifying in that it had been snatched from the jaws of defeat. The poignant death of a youthful hero cut down at his moment of glory, the retribution exacted by a faithful Negro servant, and the selfless devotion of the mortally wounded drummer who ignores his own wounds to turn toward his lost leader, all added to the picture's appeal.
Figures are related to the landscape not by the subtle modeling of solid forms in space but by the interaction of hues in the figure plane with hues in the landscape plane, and by the complementary color play of foreground and background. Despite some stylistic advance in his later work, Feke remained wedded to the two-planar concern with surface design and background that had characterized American art from the start, as in Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Daughter Mary. In Feke's gifted hands this limitation became an asset, not a liability, as he achieved extraordinarily appealing results in color, line and surface design.
History paintings as a matter of course treated contemporary themes allegorically, with the figures draped in togas, amidst soaring angehc choirs or the shades of heroic predecessors. Classical dress and details helped to demonstrate that the hero and his deeds transcended ordinary life and were worthy of the ancients. In The Death of Wolfe West inverted the emphasis, stressing the contemporaneity of it all. This man who heroically gives his life for his country, is an eighteenth century Englishman; the heroism, courage and dignity he demonstrates, these classical virtues, are in fact eighteenth century realities.