Seeing America

Seeing America was created by Smarthistory with 16 leading museums and examines the long history of the United States, from before European settlers to the modern era.

All teaching guides

Guides to help your students explore works of art as primary documents (more coming soon).

All videos + essays

Luis Alfonso Jiménez, <em>Eagle</em>
Luis Alfonso Jiménez, Eagle

A symbol of the U.S. and Mexico, the eagle reflects Jiménez's Chicano identity.

Ilana Savdie, <em>Thirty-Seven Counts</em> and <em>Trismus</em>
Ilana Savdie, Thirty-Seven Counts and Trismus

Abstracted human, animal, and parasitic forms create both an alluring and grotesque image.

Thomas Cole, <em>The Voyage of Life</em>
Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life

Cole’s extraordinary series chronicles each stage of human life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age.

George Inness, <em>The Lackawanna Valley</em>
George Inness, The Lackawanna Valley

Inness captures a tension between industrial progress and its effect on the American landscape.

Rembrandt Peale, <em>Rubens Peale with a Geranium</em>
Rembrandt Peale, Rubens Peale with a Geranium

An unusual double portrait: a botanist and his geranium.

Francisco Oller y Cestero, <em>President William McKinley</em>
Francisco Oller y Cestero, President William McKinley

In this remarkable portrait, Oller marks the moment that control of Puerto Rico was transferred from Spain to the United States.

Alice Aycock, <em>Low Building with Dirt Roof (For Mary)</em>
Alice Aycock, Low Building with Dirt Roof (For Mary)

A work of non-functional architecture, Aycock’s structure evokes personal memories and associations to the ancient past.

William F. Cogswell, <em>Queen Lili’uokalani</em>, and Maria Kealaulaokalani Lane Ena, ʻAhu ʻula (The Kalākaua Cape)
William F. Cogswell, Queen Lili’uokalani, and Maria Kealaulaokalani Lane Ena, ʻAhu ʻula (The Kalākaua Cape)

This royal portrait and cape convey the power of the Hawaiian monarchy and the tensions around the momentous historical events of 1898.

Jonas Lie, <em>The Conquerors (Culebra Cut, Panama Canal)</em>
Jonas Lie, The Conquerors (Culebra Cut, Panama Canal)

Lie portrays man’s dominance over nature in his painting of the construction of the Panama Canal.

The New York Obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle
The New York Obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle

Why is this ancient Egyptian obelisk in New York City?

Martin Puryear, <em>Lookout</em>
Martin Puryear, Lookout

Pierced with holes, this architectural sculpture offers both shelter from and exposure to the surrounding elements.

Kerry James Marshall, <em>Now And Forever</em>; Elizabeth Alexander, “American Song,” Washington National Cathedral
Kerry James Marshall, Now And Forever; Elizabeth Alexander, “American Song,” Washington National Cathedral

Kerry James Marshall and Elizabeth Alexander create words and images that fill the Washington National Cathedral with hope.

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.