cover image The Unforgettables: Expanding the History of American Art

The Unforgettables: Expanding the History of American Art

Edited by Charles C. Eldredge. Univ. of California, $45 (464p) ISBN 978-0-520-38555-9

Smithsonian research associate Eldredge (Georgia O’Keeffe: American and Modern) broadens the canvas of American art history in this incisive study of 63 artists dating from the 18th century up to the modern era. Brief essays written by curators and scholars showcase some better-known artists (John Greenwood, Bill Traylor, Raymond Loewy), but most are unfamiliar, among them 18th-century Puerto Rican painter José Campeche y Jordán, who was born to an enslaved father and had painted the Spanish royal coat of arms on mail ships by the age of 13; and Japanese painter Miki Hayakawa, who immigrated to the United States at age nine and depicted her models to be as engaging as possible, but was an emotionally private person herself. There are some missteps: most of the featured artists are painters or sculptors (only seven designers are mentioned), and Native American artists are noticeably scarce (Harry Fonseca, who grew up in post–WWII California and was of Nisenan-Maidu descent, is one of the four). Even so, the book succeeds in bringing to light the lives and work of artists whose talents have long been neglected. Art buffs would do well to pick up this canon-expanding survey. (Nov.)