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David Lubin
David M. Lubin is Charlotte C. Weber Professor of Art at Wake Forest University.
Lubin, David
Lubin, David
United States of America
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Act of Portrayal: Eakins, Sargent, James
In the post-Civil War Era, American portraiture began to show a new complexity of character, a character at odds with itself and brimming with tensions between masculine and feminine sensibilities. David M. Lubin here examines three major works of portraiture, two paintings and one novel, from the 1880s: Thomas Eakins' The Agnew Clinic, John Singer Sargent's The Boit Children, and Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady. Discussing several contradictory tendencies evident in the three works, Lubin probes at greatest length the contradiction each artist sensed between masculine power and feminine passivity and relates this troublesome dichotomy to issues of property, propriety, social and authorial control, formalism, realism, and patriarchal family life. He argues that the conflict enacted depicts the pressures of a masculine-ordered bourgeois ideology and speaks of social problems in American culture both a century ago and today.

Act of Portrayal reveals not only how Eakins, Sargent, and James construct portraits but also how the subjects within those portraits view themselves or others, and how we, by our constructive, synthetic act of reading, add ourselves to the portrait-making process.
Print publication date January 1986 (out of print)
Print ISBN 9780300032130
EISBN 9780300235845
Illustrations 23 Illus.
Print Status out of print
Description: Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century America
When artists depict the world around them, says David Lubin, their images necessarily respond to the underlying social conflicts of their time. Lubin here examines the work of six nineteenth-century American artists to show how their paintings at once embraced and, paradoxically, resisted dominant social values.

The artists considered—John Vanderlyn, George Caleb Bingham, Robert Duncanson, Lilly Martin Spencer, Seymour Guy, and William Harnett—came from a variety of backgrounds: several began in the working class, some were immigrants, three hailed from the West, one was an African-American, another was a woman. Drawing on letters, diaries, newspaper reviews, conduct manuals, poetry, fiction, and political speeches, as well as on modern critical theory, Picturing a Nation describes the America that created these artists and that these artists helped to create. Insisting on the complexity of nineteenth-century culture, Lubin provides multiple interpretations of individual paintings in a manner both subtle and revealing. His analyses take into account the nation's ambivalence toward domesticity, its conflicting ideas about child raising, its racial disharmony, territorial expansion, and many other issues central to the formation of modern America. He argues that the paintings speak to us today in contradictory voices because such was the nature of the societies that produced and received them.

Published with the assistance of the Getty Grant Program.
Print publication date May 1994 (out of print)
Print ISBN 9780300057324
EISBN 9780300235852
Illustrations 184 illus.
Print Status out of print