Synopses & Reviews
"Fascinating, illuminating, thrilling to read. Sarah Burns critically reframes the lives and works of key nineteenth-century American artists by turning away from social history and moving, ever so deftly, toward what might be called biography of the imagination."and#151;Paul Staiti, Mount Holyoke College
"Sarah Burns leads readers through the interior worlds of seven troubled nineteenth-century painters. With a splendid eye for historical detail, she probes relationships between the work of these tormented individuals and the national upheavals associated with slavery, immigration, industrialization, and women's rights. Painting the Dark Side explores the gothic strain in American art with luminous intelligence."and#151;David Lubin, author of Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century America
"It is Sarah Burns's mission-and gift-to ask the really interesting questions about what has often been overlooked, underestimated, or otherwise minimized in nineteenth-century American painting. In this striking new book, she looks at works we thought we knew by artists like Thomas Cole, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and Thomas Eakins, discovering in their dark side the shadows that give form and depth to the standard 'sunny-side-up' version of American art history. This is the kind of original scholarship that endures."and#151;Barbara Groseclose, author of Nineteenth-Century American Art
"Burns's Painting the Dark Side reveals the pervasive darkness at the heart of nineteenth-century American life. In each fluent chapter, she couples imaginative readings of major pictures with contemporary social concerns-racial, political, and economic-all inflected by informed psychodynamic speculation. The book associates artists rarely, if ever, considered together. The result is an original and invigorating mapping of the mad, bad, and beautiful of the American pictorial gothic."and#151;Marc Simpson, author of Uncanny Spectacle: The Public Career of the Young John Singer Sargent
Voices from the dark, or "gothic," side of American life are well known through the work of writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville. But who were the Poes of American art? Until now, art historians have for the most part seen the gothic as the province of misfits and oddballs who rejected the bright landscapes and cheerful scenes of everyday life depicted by Hudson River School and other mainstream painters. In Painting the Dark Side,
Sarah Burns counters this view, arguing that far from being marginal, the gothic was a pervasive and potent visual language used by recognized masters and eccentric outsiders alike to express the darker facets of history and the psyche. A deep gothic strain in the visual arts becomes evident in these beautifully written, richly illustrated pages, illuminating the entire spectrum of American art.
Weaving a complex tapestry of biography, psychology, and history, Sarah Burns exposes dark dimensions in the work of both romantic artists such as Albert Pinkham Ryder and Thomas Cole and realists like Thomas Eakins. She argues persuasively that works by artists who were generally considered outsiders, such as John Quidor, David Gilmour Blythe, and William Rimmer, belong to the mainstream of American art. She explores the borderlands where popular visual culture mingled with the elite medium of oil and delves into such topics as slave revolt, drugs, grave-robbing, vivisection, drunkenness, female monstrosity, and family secrets. Cutting deep across the grain of standard nationalistic accounts of nineteenth-century art, Painting the Dark Side provides a thrilling, radically alternative vision of American art and visual culture.
About the Author
Sarah Burns is Ruth N. Halls Professor of Fine Arts at Indiana University. She is the author of Inventing the Modern Artist: Art and Culture in Gilded Age America (1996) and Pastoral Inventions: Rural Life in Nineteenth-Century American Art and Culture (1989).
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Art of Haunting
1. Gloom and Doom
2. The Underground Man
3. The Shrouded Past
4. The Deepest Dark
5. The Shadow's Curse
6. Mental Monsters
7. Corrosive Sight
8. Dirty Pictures