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Cover for Nature’s Nation

Nature’s Nation

American Art and Environment

Karl Kusserow, Alan C. Braddock


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A groundbreaking ecocritical exploration of American art that examines the complex and evolving relationship between art and the environment

Public awareness of environmental issues has never been greater, nor has the need for imagining more sustainable and ethical habits of human action and thought, including environmentally informed ways of understanding art history. This multidisciplinary book offers the first broad ecocritical review of American art and examines the environmental contexts of artistic practice from the colonial period to the present day. Tracing how visions of the environment have changed from the Native-European encounter to the emergence of modern ecological activism, more than a dozen scholars and practitioners discuss how artists have both responded to and actively instigated changes in ecological understanding.
Far-reaching in its interpretive approach, Nature’s Nation looks at artworks across genres and media—including painting, sculpture, prints, photography, decorative arts, and video—revealing important new discoveries about creative encounters with environmental history and politics through materials, techniques, subjects, and ideas. The book features work by more than one hundred artists, from Charles Willson Peale, Thomas Cole, and Winslow Homer to Georgia O’Keeffe, Jacob Lawrence, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. 
Providing a fascinating and timely reframing of more than three centuries of American art, this volume is a powerful example of how greater ecological consciousness can expand and enrich the discipline of art history.

Praise For Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment

“[an] ambitious catalogue.”—Edward Rothstein, Wall Street Journal

“The diversity of work, which encompasses three centuries and virtually every medium, defies thematic generalization, instead inviting deep investigation facilitated by a superb 400-page catalogue.”—Jonathan Keats, Forbes

“the 450-page catalog distributed by Yale University Press is also designed to be a course textbook.”—Jessica Skwire Routhier, Antiques and the Arts Weekly

Winner of the 2019 PROSE award, Art Exhibitions category

Co-winner of the 2019 Award for Excellence for an exhibition catalogue sponsored by The Association of Art Museum Curators

Winner of the 2020 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award, sponsored by the College Art Association 

“This remarkable exhibition reveals how the visual arts have been utterly essential to our understanding and appreciation of the natural world.”—Bill McKibben

Princeton University Art Museum, 9780300237009, 448pp.

Publication Date: November 27, 2018

About the Author

Karl Kusserow is John Wilmerding Curator of American Art at the Princeton University Art Museum. Alan C. Braddock is Ralph H. Wark Associate Professor of Art History & American Studies, College of William and Mary.