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6.1: Introduction (1800 CE – 1900 CE)

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    By the 19th century, the continents were generally known, trade had expanded across the oceans, the balance of power had changed, settlers moved freely from one continent to another, and the industrial age fueled massive economic changes. The 1852 Colton Map of the World on Mercator's Projection (6.1.1) was the most advanced map of the world known. In the 19th century, they endured multiple revolutions and wars, uprisings from slavery, or faraway rulers. European countries changed significantly in the 19th century with the collapse of previous empires and kingdoms and the establishment of new power centers. By the end of the century, social and political changes developed with multiple factions and views demanding reforms, sowing the seeds of revolution in the next century. The British Empire became the world's powerhouse, overseeing and controlling extensive territory in Canada, South Africa, parts of Africa, multiple islands, Egypt, India, and ports in China. When the century ended, the empire controlled a fifth of the world, including twenty-five percent of its population. The Royal Navy exercised its control of the oceans for trade and supremacy. They integrated the entire empire into a global power based on a Pax Britannica (British Peace), establishing the kingdom as the world's arbitrator and controller of the territories. The British ideals of free markets helped spur the industrial revolution and economic growth, developing shipping lines and trading policies with steamships and linking the world with telegraph cables. However, by the end of the century, the old Ottoman Empire crumbled, and the development and industrialization of Germany and the United States started the decline of British dominance.

    A colorful map of the world from the perspecitive of an American cartographer.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): 1852 Colton's Map of the World on Mercator's Projection (Public Domain)

    European Art

    Throughout European art history, there has been a noticeable shift from romanticized depictions to Realism. This style sought to highlight the struggles and realities faced by ordinary people. This transition was aided by industrialization, which introduced innovative techniques and tools that made it easier for artists to work and enhanced the printing process. As Realism gained popularity, it paved the way for Impressionism, a revolutionary movement experimenting with light, color, and brushstrokes in outdoor settings. This approach to art challenged traditional notions of representation and paved the way for newer styles and movements. As technology progressed, artists had access to new materials and methods, leading to the emergence of multiple art movements that spread globally. This expansion of artistic possibilities also opened new opportunities for female artists and artists of color to showcase their talents in the contemporary art world, making it more inclusive and diverse.

    American Art

    America was a fledgling and inexperienced nation at the beginning of the 19th century. Expanding westward with the Louisiana Purchase started the movement of people out of the original coastal states and into the midwestern regions. In 1820 approximately ten million people lived in the twenty-two states and territories; 1.5 million were slaves. The official institution of slavery remained solidly supported in America from its beginnings until the end of the Civil War in 1865. With the addition of California in 1850, the United States existed from coast to coast. The telegraph opened communications across the states. Most of the significant industrial factories were in the northern states. In contrast, the southern states focused on large agricultural plantations supported by slave labor, growing cotton for the mills of the north and tobacco for export.

    The growth of the United States and the government's acquisition of Native American lands were greatly facilitated by the railroad system. Following the nation's independence, numerous tribes were forced to relocate from the eastern and midwestern states to the western regions. Unfortunately, as half of the west of the country expanded, Native Americans were once again relegated to undesirable reservations.

    After the civil war, the transcontinental railroad fueled another industrial expansion, including steel manufacturing, the telephone, the sewing machine, and the light bulb. The western states held vast mineral resources transported by the railroads. By the end of the century, millions of people immigrated to the United States to work in factories, and craft industries and small shops disappeared. The industrial revolution helped propel America's growth and economic status; the internal destruction of Native Americans ended formal slavery and opened the lands to the world's immigrants within one century.

    Early in the 1800s, American artists were still influenced by European styles, painting portraits, and everyday life until the new ideas of American landscape painting were established based on concepts of the new country and natural wonders, creating a new genre. Artists still went to Europe for training; American Realism painters embodied themes of democracy, heroic American life, and westward expansion instead of religious art or paintings of royalty. After the civil war and the opportunities to move throughout the country, photography, prints, and magazine illustrations became popular art expressions.

    Asian Art

    In China, significant changes occurred as the Qing dynasty began collapsing towards the end of the 1800s and new nation-states grew. The superiority and conquests of the Western countries, especially England, changed the concepts of the government and the need for better armament and ships. They also established methods to learn Western production and how to advance their technologies. The Chinese expanded the construction of modern railroads and mining techniques, which were unsuccessful as foreign imperialism took most of the progress and money. It was not until 1900 that China successfully started to change. As the European influence grew, the ideals of art also began to change. Art was based on ink and water-soluble minerals on silk or paper. Specific images were considered high art and the only type acceptable. The new foreign cultures started a style of picture-making, incorporating the ideas of tradition, and imported ideas.

    Many artistic movements were created in the 19th century. At the beginning of the century, female artists generally concealed their identity and signed their work with a first initial before their last name. However, women artists made significant progress in the latter half of the century, creating an impact and changing the status quo. Social, economic, and technological changes democratized art, opening the doors for female artists.

    The process of painting was also revolutionized in this period. Making and storing paint was laborious; each color was mixed by hand with the appropriate raw materials, and it was a struggle to keep the mixed paints from drying before the artist could use them. The primary method of storing their mixed paint was in a pig's bladder. The artist stuck a pin in the bladder to squeeze out the paint; however, the hole was difficult to cover, and the bladder tended to break when moved. Artists drew sketches outdoors and returned to their studios to paint the image. An American painter, John Rand, experimented with forming tin into a tube shape and adding a screw cap. Now his paint could be stored and easily reused. Acceptance of the tube concept was slow until the Impressionist period, when the ability to purchase paint in tubes allowed artists to move outside and paint the world in place. Easels had long been wooden frames an artist rested a painting on in a studio, not portable. In the 19th century, the French Box Easel was invented, a portable easel set on telescopic legs and a paint box to carry supplies with a palette built into the easel. The complete set was perfect for the artist trekking through the fields and hillsides, searching for the ideal light.

    This page titled 6.1: Introduction (1800 CE – 1900 CE) is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Deborah Gustlin & Zoe Gustlin (Open Educational Resource Initiative at Evergreen Valley College) .

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