Activity : SP20 Young - HISTORY 260 

United States History to 1865

War and Resistance Around the American Revolution

Below are some questions to consider when looking through this activity. You can click on any image to zoom in:

  • What drew you to this work in particular?
  • How do you think it was made?
  • What feeling, mood, or thought does this work evoke for you?
  • Can you draw a comparison between what you have read or discussed in class to what you see?

Visual artists use formal elements such as line, color, texture, and space to create and convey meaning:

  • Look at the form of the piece- how would you describe the colors?
  • What words capture the quality of line in this work?
  • How is space depicted?
  • Does the title of the work provide helpful information for this discussion?


Allegories of America

During the early 16th century, the Americas were a largely unknown land with a powerful allure for Europeans wanting to expand their colonial territories and exploit its natural resources. Even during colonial America artists were portraying allegorical images of America.


Take a look at this first drawing by Marten de Vos (right). This is a drawing depicting how Europeans might have imagined what America was like.

1) Take a moment and look at this drawing and write out everything you see.

2) What is strange about this drawing?

3) What could you say about the Native Woman in the center of the image? How is she portrayed?

4) What is this artist trying to say about America?


Now take a look at this bookplate (the label that goes on the inside of a book) for the New York Society Library.

1) What do you see in this engraving? What is it depicting?

2) Who are the two figures? How are they being represented?

3) What is this engraving trying to say about America, it's Native peoples and the role of the colonists?

4) What similarities do you see between these two images?




Lastly is this allegorical image created sometime after the American Revolution 

1) What is going on in this image?

2) What would be the purpose of including Roman deities?

3) What is this image saying about America?

4) All three of these images include mythical imagery. What would be the purpose of that?




The Portrayal of the "Founding Fathers"

Mythical imagery was a pretty common motif during this time period. This can be seen in this popular fabric piece of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. 

1) Take a few moments and look through these pieces of fabric. What imagery do you see? 

2) Take a moment and read through this review of these pieces. Did you see everything identified in the article?

3) We again see mythical motifs. Why do you think this was such a popular theme?


Images of War

Take a few moments and look at this painting depicting the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga.

1) How does the artist portray each side (British and American)? (think about how each side is dressed, their facial expressions etc.)

2) Take a few moments and read through this recap of the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga. Why do you think this was such a popular scene to paint? (a quick Google search will show just how many paintings were made of this battle)

Now take a look at this famous painting by Joseph Wright of Derby

1) What do you see portrayed in the painting? (look in the foreground and background)

2) What do you think this painting is depicting?

3) What do you think is the relationship between the three figures? 

4) Notice how the infant is looking directly at you, the viewer, while we don't see the face of the other two figures. What could be the purpose of painting the infant in this way?

5) Bonus question: Compare this painting to the song "Dear Theodosia" from the Broadway musical Hamilton. 

6) Looking at both of these paintings, how do they portray war? Do they seem in opposition? If so, why?

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May 19, 2020 1:48 p.m.


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