The global turn in art history has tended to minimize narratives about the relationship between art and national identity in the late nineteenth century in favor of discussions of cosmopolitan exchange. Yet, the discourses of art making and art criticism of the late nineteenth century are rife with commentaries about how national cultures might be constituted through artistic production. Furthermore, as the art historian Michael Rosenthal has written in an anthology about British landscape, “…the idea persists that the image of nation is the image of its landscape.” This talk analyzes case studies in paintings of the United States, Australia, and France to consider the productive tensions between impressionism and nationalism. In what ways are the movement’s origins “French”? What happens when artists in other locales experiment with the techniques associated with impressionism, naturalism, and plein-air painting? In looking closely at examples from the United States and Australia, this talk elucidates how critics and artists tested the relationship between the local and the national, and raised the cultural concepts of freshness, vitality, newness, and authenticity, which became usefully adapted to their cultural nationalisms.
Lecture by Dr. Emily C. Burns, Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) and Assistant Professor of Art History, Auburn University.