Cover image for American art : a cultural history
American art : a cultural history
Bjelajac, David.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Abrams, 2001.
Physical Description:
416 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 27 cm
The invention and mapping of America, 1492-1760 -- Religious rituals and the visual arts in colonial America, 1620-1760 -- Art and the consumer revolution in colonial America, 1700-75 -- Revolutionary icons and the representation of republican virtue, 1765-1825 -- National identity and private interests in antebellum America, 1825-65 -- Art and commerce in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905 -- Modernist art and politics, 1905-41 -- Modernism, postmodernism, and the survival of a critical vision, 1941-2000.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N72.S6 B55 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A survey of American painting, sculpture, photography and architecture. Bjelajac seeks to show the interrelation of art, politics and social change by encouraging readers to look at art from the point of view of audiences contemporary with the artist.

Author Notes

David Bjelajac is professor of art and the human sciences at The George Washington University.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Bjelajac (art and human sciences, George Washington Univ.) abandons the quest for "American-ness" in favor of a contextual history of art in American society. Basically chronological, his book is also arranged around themes (e.g., 17th-century religious imagery, populism and public art in the Depression). Maps, Masonic symbols, and folk art are brought into the mix in sometimes illuminating relationships with the more traditional fine arts. Neither traditional art history nor a social history, this book is an attempt to view aspects of the latter through the testimony of the objects the author discusses. Much of this will not be news to scholars in the field, and though the text is selective, the scope of the book means that nothing is covered in great depth. Chapters are subdivided into sections that can be read independently of an overall narrative or argumentDthey might almost be web pages or sound bites in other media. The color illustrations are oleaginous and horrible. Not an essential purchase.DJack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The first published survey of American art that lays claim to a "revisionist" approach, Bjelajac's book is a determined product of the "new art history." In lieu of the normative formalist account tracing the genealogy of styles, the author views the national artistic project under such ideological rubrics as religion, freemasonry, phrenology, populism, and sectionalism. For Bjelajac (George Washington Univ.), art is never, but never (well hardly ever), created for its own sake. Rather, it is the relentless product of "discursive practices" and conflicted notions of race, gender, and class resulting in diverse multicultural sights/sites. Detractors of postmodernist identity politics will not, however, find this cultural history especially threatening. Despite all disclaimers, the author has a "good eye" for aesthetic nuances, an ill-concealed affection for art and, mirabile dictu, no stomach for the deconstruction of the time-honored canon of American art. Most of the usual suspects are respectfully accounted for, though, alas, not especially well reproduced. Recommended as an antidote to the available works. General readers; undergraduate and graduate students; professionals. R. L. McGrath; Dartmouth College

Table of Contents

1 The Invention and Mapping of America: 1492-1760
2 Religious Rituals and the Visual Arts in Colonial America: 1620-1760
3 Art and the Consumer Revolution in Colonial America: 1700-1775
4 Revolutionary Icons and the Representation of Republican Virtue: 1765- 1825
5 National Identity and Private Interests in Antebellum America: 1825-1865
6 Art and Commerce in the Gilded Age: 1865-1905
7 Modernist Art and Politics: 1905-1941
8 Modernism, Postmodernism and the Survival of a Critical Vision: 1941-2000
9 Globalization and the Culture Wars: 1980-2003