19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, No 9 (2009)

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A White Atlantic? The Idea of American Art in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Tim Barringer


This article begins with the contention that 'American art' is a powerful retrospective construction, rooted in the institutional practices of art history and museology. Through a focus on the experiences of expatriate American artists (John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West) in London at the start of the nineteenth century, and the genre or landscape painting in transatlantic art (including the work of the British artist Thomas Cole), this essay exposes the complex and dynamic cultural interrelationship that existed between the United States and Europe in the period. It extends Paul Gilroy's and Joseph Roach's recent concept of the 'Black Atlantic', in which they argue that a single cultural zone brought together London and New Orleans, Kingston, Jamaica and the ports of the Ivory coast, to analyse the cultural and performative exchanges that were also taking place between America and Europe (particularly Great Britain), and that have hitherto been neglected in dominant art history narratives.

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