American Art and Visual Culture Seminar: Stephen Rice, Ramapo College and Elisabeth Ross, Northwestern University

American Art and Visual Culture Seminar
Friday, March 26, 2010

2 pm to 5 pm

“Matters of Style: Art and Fidelity in Wood Engraving in Postbellum America”
Stephen P. Rice, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Wood engraving—which was the chief means for illustrating books and periodicals through most of the nineteenth century—has received increased attention in recent years with the rise of visual culture studies. Yet studies of wood engraving generally concentrate on the treatment of subject and lack the attention to style that is often given to other visual forms. This paper, which focuses on the rise of the so-called “new school” of wood engraving and on the work of Timothy Cole and Elbridge Kingsley, considers how matters of style were of great importance to American commercial wood engravers in the last decades of the nineteenth century, and it suggests how stylistic changes may have addressed broader social concerns.

“Matters of Style: Art and Fidelity in Wood Engraving in Postbellum America”
Stephen P. Rice, Ramapo College of New Jersey

American press photographs increasingly include cameras, microphones, screens and other equipment in the picture, which suggests that the hunting and capturing of images is itself a subject of the media and public culture.  This paper examines the trope of showing equipment in the picture, focusing on press coverage of presidential politics, but also looking at equipment images in popular culture texts.  Showing equipment in the picture does significant work in fracturing the boundaries of production and circulation of press images.  The presence of cameras and other instruments within the frame suggests highly mediated looking at public events, and this visual layering raises new questions as we examine the storytelling practices of American political culture.

Commentator: Peter John Brownlee, Terra Foundation For American Art