Seeing America

Culture and society

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videos + essays

Over the next two years, Seeing America will grow to include 100 videos, 18 essays, quizzes, discussion questions and lesson plans.

Thought the Puritans were dour? Think again!
Thought the Puritans were dour? Think again!

We think of Puritans aesthetics as restrained and humble, but this elaborate cupboard proves otherwise.

Abstract Expressionism in Cold War America
Abstract Expressionism in Cold War America

Spirituality and transcendence were important postwar themes expressed in Rothko's work.

A Harlem street scene by Jacob Lawrence, <em>Ambulance Call</em>
A Harlem street scene by Jacob Lawrence, Ambulance Call

Lawrence captures the vitality of Harlem and highlights the advancements in medical care for and by people of color.

The Culture Wars and Richard Serra’s <em>Tilted Arc</em>
The Culture Wars and Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc

Who should be the arbiter of taste—the person on the street, the artist, the courts?

Wartime alienation in Edward Hopper’s <em>Nighthawks</em>
Wartime alienation in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks

Hopper gives us a window into the urban isolation and anxiety of WWII-era New York.

As contested as the nation: understanding <em>American Gothic</em>
As contested as the nation: understanding American Gothic

Though often thought of as a simple image of American values, this painting resists easy interpretation.

Heavyweights: illicit boxing and racial tensions in New York City
Heavyweights: illicit boxing and racial tensions in New York City

The violence and physicality of this boxing match reflect contemporary racial tensions in pre-WWI New York.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: the first African-American celebrity artist
Henry Ossawa Tanner: the first African-American celebrity artist

Tanner studied in Philadelphia and Paris, and his style combined elements of American Realism and the Old Masters.

Unveiling 19th-century American values in <em>The Greek Slave</em>
Unveiling 19th-century American values in The Greek Slave

Though at first glance this nude seems plucked from classical antiquity, it actually alludes to modern politics.

Dignity in the face of injustice: <em>The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas</em>
Dignity in the face of injustice: The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas

This dignified portrait of a Native leader belies the cruel treatment he endured at the time of its painting.

Becoming a city: daily life in 1820, Brooklyn
Becoming a city: daily life in 1820, Brooklyn

This snowy image of a bygone Brooklyn is sprinkled with farm animals, townspeople... and casual racism.

A portrait and a poem: the making of Paul Revere’s fame
A portrait and a poem: the making of Paul Revere’s fame

Well known in his own day as a silversmith, Revere is shown in casual attire, with a teapot brimming with meaning.