Melody Barnett Deusner, Indiana University and Matthew Fisk, University of California, Santa Barbara | Newberry

Melody Barnett Deusner, Indiana University and Matthew Fisk, University of California, Santa Barbara

Friday, November 9, 2012

2 pm to 5 pm

Towner Fellows’ Lounge

Center for American History and Culture Programs
American Art and Visual Culture Seminar

A Network of Associations: Aesthetic Painting and its Patrons in England and America
Melody Barnett Deusner, Indiana University

This book explores a new way of thinking about works of art associated with the transatlantic Aesthetic Movement in painting and interior decoration: as interconnected, systematically organized objects thoroughly engaged with the ‘networked’ mentality of their historical moment. Part III, “Aestheticism and the American Businessman,” examines how art patrons’ collaborative collecting arrangements, tastes, and long-term relationships with American artists created a self-reinforcing cycle whereby Aesthetic values converged with the competencies necessary for successful operation of the American office and corporation. The chapter shared here, “Harmonious Systems: Expansion and Standardized Production in Detroit and Beyond,” discusses paintings created by Thomas Wilmer Dewing and Dwight Tryon for the home of industrialist Charles Lang Freer as active objects that shaped, framed, and resonated with their owner’s social and business activities.

“Risk, Speculation, and the Body Politic: The Origins of the Federalist Ideal in John Trumbull’s Portrait of General George Washington (1780)”
Matthew Fisk, University of California, Santa Barbara

At the height of the Revolutionary War, the Connecticut artist John Trumbull debuted in London with a painting and mezzotint portrait of General George Washington (1780, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The portrait met with immediate success, yet Trumbull’s subject was daring and his representation of Washington’s body in particular served as a vehicle for a sophisticated synthesis of aesthetic, political, and commercial awareness that characterized his subsequent works. Through a close analysis of this object, late eighteenth-century European elite portraiture, and the body politic, and this paper explores the extent to which risk management directed Trumbull’s artistic practice and professional identity.

Commentator: Christopher Dingwall, University of Chicago

Cost and Registration Information 

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, e-mail the Scholl Center at  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.