“American Art: History and Culture,” by Wayne Craven

“American Art: History and Culture”
By Wayne Craven
688 pp., McGraw-Hill Education
$61.12

Wayne Craven’s American Art set the standard for American art survey courses for the last decade by providing a thorough and engaging chronology of American art, including painting, sculpture, architecture, decorative arts, photography, folk art, and graphic arts.

Craven presents art and artists within the context of their times, including insights into the intellectual, spiritual, and political environment. Along the way, Craven charts the growth of a distinctly American art culture. The resulting book is as much a history of American culture as of American art.

Library Journal says: How often does one come across a textbook that attracts and holds the interest of audiences outside as well as inside the classroom? Craven here shares his considerable knowledge of and excitement over the subject, developed through decades-long participation in the strong American art history program at the University of Delaware. The result is a survey that art lovers, collectors, and students will all enjoy. Taking the approach that American art holds greater meaning when viewed in a cultural context, Craven has expanded the traditional scope of the topic, namely, art, sculpture, and architecture, to include photography and decorative arts as well. He divides the volume into six sections, beginning with the Native American and European material culture of New Spain and ending with Cindy Sherman and postmodern photography. The result is a visual feast of 785 photographs, 99 in color. Were all textbooks so glorious and inspiring! Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. — Kathleen Eagen Johnson, Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown, N.Y.

Booklist says: This substantial and well-illustrated survey takes an unusually holistic approach to discussing American art by placing architecture, decorative arts, painting, photography, and sculpture within cultural and historical contexts. Craven begins his history just before the arrival of European colonialists and takes care to chronicle the art of America’s full spectrum of races and ethnic groups, men and women alike. His volume is also free of any regional bias; the Southwest, Deep South, Midwest, and California are covered just as thoroughly as the Northeast. Craven establishes seven main stylistic periods–colonial, Federal, romantic, the American Renaissance, early modern, postwar modern, and postmodern–and then goes into great detail within each section, profiling individual artists and discussing the effects of various social, political, and technological changes on aesthetics and the role of art in daily life. His coverage of American photography and twentieth-century art are particularly dynamic, but his examples and emphases prove to be insightful and creative throughout. A cogent and comprehensive resource.  — Donna Seaman