Philosophy and Christian Art

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Philosophy and Christian Art

United States, 1868
Paintings
Oil on canvas
40 3/8 x 50 3/8 in. (102.55 x 127.95 cm)
Gift of Will Richeson (M.69.48)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Although most of Huntington’s long career was taken up in painting more than one thousand portraits, he also painted landscapes and probably thought of himself as a painter of allegories and ideal sub...
Although most of Huntington’s long career was taken up in painting more than one thousand portraits, he also painted landscapes and probably thought of himself as a painter of allegories and ideal subjects. His interest in religious and allegorical painting had been kindled by the Raphaelesque Italian and German ideal subjects he had seen in Rome on his first trip to Europe in 1839. By the 1860s his models were the Venetian artists of the High Renaissance, especially Titian (c. 1488-1576), whose example can be seen in the costumes and figure types depicted in Philosophy and Christian Art. The model or the type of the old man also appears in Huntington’s Sowing the Word, 1868 (New-York Historical Society). The influence of the Venetian school can also be seen in the rounder forms and richer palette of his paintings of this period. Even the halflength format seems to echo Venetian examples. The model for the painting to which the young lady gestures, however, appears to be The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1650, by José Ribera (1588-1652) in the Louvre, Paris. The painting is conceived as a conversation between embodiments of opposing, but equally worthy points of view. The wisdom of the aged scholar, reading a book by lamplight, is contrasted with the intuitive perceptions of the young woman who examines a work of art by the daylight signified by the window. Huntington has cast in terms of ideal figures one of the pressing problems of his own times, when scientific findings seemed to challenge the truth and wisdom of religion conveyed by artistic and other nonscientific forms of perception.
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About The Era

After the Jacksonian presidency (1829–37), the adolescent country began an aggressive foreign policy of territorial expansion, exemplified by the success of the Mexican-American War (1846–48)....
After the Jacksonian presidency (1829–37), the adolescent country began an aggressive foreign policy of territorial expansion, exemplified by the success of the Mexican-American War (1846–48). Economic growth, spurred by new technologies such as the railroad and telegraph, assisted the early stages of empire building. As a comfortable and expanding middle class began to demonstrate its wealth and power, a fervent nationalist spirit was celebrated in the writings of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville. Artists such as Emanuel Leutze produced history paintings re-creating the glorious past of the relatively new country. Such idealizations ignored the mounting political and social differences that threatened to split the country apart. The Civil War slowed development, affecting every fiber of society, but surprisingly was not the theme of many paintings. The war’s devastation did not destroy the American belief in progress, and there was an undercurrent of excitement due to economic expansion and increased settlement of the West.
During the postwar period Americans also began enthusiastically turning their attention abroad. They flocked to Europe to visit London, Paris, Rome, Florence, and Berlin, the major cities on the Grand Tour. Art schools in the United States offered limited classes, so the royal academies in Germany, France, and England attracted thousands of young Americans. By the 1870s American painting no longer evinced a singleness of purpose. Although Winslow Homer became the quintessential Yankee painter, with his representations of country life during the reconstruction era, European aesthetics began to infiltrate taste.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Hoopes, Donelson F.  American Narrative Painting.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1974.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.
  • About the Era.
  • Hoopes, Donelson F.  American Narrative Painting.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1974.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.
  • LACMA: Obras Maestras 1750-1950: Pintura Estadounidense Del Museo De Arte Del Condado De Los Angeles. Mexico, D.F.: Museo Nacional de Arte, 2006.
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