Pastoral Inventions: Rural Life in Nineteenth-Century American Art and Culture

Sarah Burns, Author Temple University Press $34.95 (377p) ISBN 978-0-87722-580-5
This study, examining how 19th century American artists ``masked and blunted social realities even as they exalted cultural values and ideals,'' primarily concerns itself with how art conveys--and falsifies--history. A professor at the School of Fine Arts of Indiana University, Burns surveys historical data and sources such as poetry, diary entries and sermons from the period 1830-1900 to illuminate how pastoral art by William Sidney Mount, Winslow Homer and others acted primarily to reinforce an outmoded but still cherished ideal of natural harmony, refusing to portray farm life as it had become by this era: big business. Displayed alongside the familiar ``pastoral inventions'' of Currier and Ives and the Hudson River School, the little-known black-and-white illustrations unearthed by Burns from journalistic sources (e.g., Harper's ) are not offered as an alternative 19th century tradition, but rather as documentary evidence of grueling agrarian reality. Academically dry in tone, confined in approach and repetitious in argument, Burns's case is presented conscientiously but breaks little new ground. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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