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	Image: Henry Inman No-Tin (Wind), a Chippewa Chief 1832–33 (detail), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of the 2008 Collectors Committee, photo: Museum Associates/LACMA

The American way of art

Lecture series on American art, culture and philosophy

The Gallery’s exhibition America: painting a nation is the first survey of American art ever to be seen in Australia. Our two countries share a New World heritage and parallel art traditions, and this sweeping narrative of American art offers a mirror in which we can explore our own culture.

To celebrate this landmark exhibition the Gallery’s membership organisation, the Art Gallery Society of NSW, presents this lecture series, which examines the key artists, cultural and philosophical trends, religion, architecture and literature that together make up the great cultural melting pot that is America.

From the idea of a ‘national art’ to the treatment of the First Americans, the influence of blue jeans on world fashion to the great American collectors and their extraordinary accumulation of art treasures, The American way of art will give you a fascinating insight into this rich and varied nation.

The course brings together experts from many fields, including an introductory lecture by exhibition consultant Dr Chris McAuliffe that will put the exhibition and its art into context.

Each session will be hosted and include readings by distinguished actor John Derum.

Image: Henry Inman No-Tin (Wind), a Chippewa Chief 1832–33 (detail), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of the 2008 Collectors Committee, photo: Museum Associates/LACMA

Sundays 1-29 September & 13-27 October 2013

Full subscription:
non-member $320
member $240

Individual lecture:
non-member $45
member $35
student $20

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1878


Become a member

Link above is for subscription booking

Three full working days (Mon–Fri) notice is required to qualify for a refund. All refunds attract an administration charge of 25% of the ticket price(s) with a minimum charge of $5. With subscription tickets there are no refunds for single sessions, unless a session is cancelled. Not negotiable.

Duration 2 hours, 30 minutes
Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibition: America

Proudly sponsored by
Arab Bank Australia

Week 1

What’s American about American painting?
Dr Chris McAuliffe

Does a distinctive national experience engender a distinctive national art? In what ways do American myth and ideology appear in art? Consultant Chris McAuliffe gives an overview of the themes and works in the exhibition America: painting a nation.

Puritan moral perfectionism and the Wyeths: Edenic landscapes and American philosophy
Dr Christopher Hartney

From out of a powerful American quest for prelapsarian perfectionism arise the transcendentalist movement and Henry Thoreau. Cavell’s reading of Thoreau is used to explain how the idea of moral perfectionism infuses the stunning output of the incredible Wyeth family, focusing on key examples in the works of Newell Wyeth and his youngest son Andrew.



Sunday 1 September 2013 10:30am – 1pm

Week 2

Pocahontas’ regret; Diallo’s luck
Craig Judd

Erasure of indigenous cultures by disease, war and official policy is a key characteristic of colonial expansion. However, this is not a simple formula with predictable outcomes, particularly in the USA. This lecture examines the arts and representation of Native Americans and African Americans c1600-1900.

Post-World War II architecture: Louis Kahn and the art of making a room
Dr Peter Kohane

Louis Kahn’s status as the most significant architect in the post-World War II period stemmed from his rethinking of modernist principles. This offers insight into his designs for the Salk Institute, the Exeter Library, the Yale Art Gallery, Kimbell Art Museum and the Mellon Center for British Art.



Sunday 8 September 2013 10:30am – 1pm

Week 3

Who’s a Yankee Doodle Dandy? The American influence on modern clothing
Claudia Chan Shaw

No item of clothing is more American than a pair of blue jeans. Born in the 1870s these utilitarian work pants would go on to become the most popular clothing product in the world. This lecture moves from the first pair of blue jeans and the cultivation of cotton in the land of Dixie to the emergence of companies like Brooks Brothers and the great department stores.

Cold War, hot art
Craig Judd

Just what makes the work of Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock et al so important? This lecture introduces some of the key players and broader cultural contexts of what has been constructed as the key heroic phase of USA contemporary art c1940-55.

Change to schedule: Edward Hopper and Robert Frost with Lorraine Kypiotis, which was originally advertised for 15 September, is now on 22 September



Sunday 15 September 2013 10:30am – 1pm

Week 4

The necessity of being beautiful: sublime and decrepit landscapes in American art
Dr Chris McAuliffe

The discovery of beauty in the American landscape drew ecstatic responses from 19th-century artists. For the painter, pleasure and awe were united in the sublime landscape. By the 1970s, ecstasy was replaced by entropy. This lecture will cover a large territory – from upstate New York to the Great Salt Lake – in an exploration of American beauty.

Edward Hopper and Robert Frost: the roads less travelled
Lorraine Kypiotis

Edward Hopper was familiar with Frost’s poetry – he 'admired it greatly because it was not just beautiful words beautifully arranged’. The painter and the poet, men of similar temperaments, working in New England, dedicated themselves to their calling with deliberate and austere intensity.

Change to schedule: Cold War, hot art with Craig Judd, which was originally advertised for 22 September, is now on 15 September



Sunday 22 September 2013 10:30am – 1pm

Week 5

American pragmatism: William James
Chris Hartney

William James was an American psychologist, philosopher and founding member of the school of philosophy known as American pragmatism. James wanted people to be happy and if religion makes them happy, let them feel good rather than encourage them to argue about the truth of religious beliefs.

Change of lecturer: due to illness, Chris Hartney deliver this lecture instead of Prof Robert Spillane as previously advertised.

Multiculturalism and tradition in American music and painting
Damien Freeman

British conductor Sir Simon Rattle once said, 'If European art was a very long marinated casserole, then American art is the fastest, most brilliant stir-fry.’ The different impact of multiculturalism and tradition on art forms in America leads us to think more generally about the significance of these two forces on art and artists.



Sunday 29 September 2013 10:30am – 1pm

Week 6

The great American collectors
Lorraine Kypiotis

From Isabella Stewart Gardner to Solomon R Guggenheim, philanthropists and industrialists from the 1880s through to the mid 20th century amassed collections that would shape a nation’s museums. These rich and powerful art lovers gathered together works of European 'high culture’ which not only enhanced their own reputations but would eventually find their way into the public realm.

And so this is the end: apocalyptic visions in American (outsider) art
Dr Christopher Hartney

This journey into incredible worlds of chaos, revenge, rapture and fantasy will focus particularly on outsider artists: those mad, extraordinary and obsessive creators such as Henry Darger and Norbert Kox whose visions may thrill us with their splendour yet just as equally condemn us to both world destruction and everlasting hellfire



Sunday 13 October 2013 10:30am – 1pm

Week 7

New York City round the clock
Dr Bruce Gardiner

We review some of the most vivid literary and pictorial accounts of the rhythms of daily life in New York City over the centuries. Consider novelists such as Henry James and John Dos Passos, poets Langston Hughes and Frank O’Hara, painters John Marin and Willem de Kooning, and photographers Alfred Steiglitz and Berenice Abbott.

Some brothers do have 'em: Charles Pollock
Terence Maloon

Charles Pollock, the older brother of Jackson, is the subject of a book written by Terence Maloon. Charles’ stoicism and steadiness in the light of his brother’s dazzling accomplishment and worldwide renown, and his own independent achievements as a painter, have gained him a place in the sun during the last decade.



Sunday 20 October 2013 10:30am – 1pm

Week 8

American voices in poetry: Dickinson, Whitman and Frost
Professor Barry Spurr

Writing under the general influence of Romantic and later 19th century poetry and poetics – these American poets nonetheless bring a distinctive individuality of voice and of subject matter to their poems. We will explore aspects of their subjects and techniques with a view to identifying varieties of 'American’ experience.

The rest is rust and stardust: America acted out
Tom Wright

This lecture provides a portrait of America in the 20th century through playwrights and directors. It will examine Eugene O’Neill, Richard Foreman, Lee Strasberg and the Actors Studio, Edward Albee’s perverse domesticity, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and The Living Theater.



Sunday 27 October 2013 10:30am – 1pm