Lens on American Art

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2020-03-24
  • Publisher: Electa

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


A reflection of American art's most iconic portraits that feature eyeglasses, and their significance to the artists--from Grant Wood to Alex Katz--through the lens of renowned art historian John Wilmerding.

This book celebrates and interprets eyeglasses in American art through painting, prints, folk art, sculpture, and photography from the end of the eighteenth century to the present. Accompanying an exhibition at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, the book includes eighty works by illustrious artists such as Mary Cassatt and Alice Neel.

Though we know eyeglasses are for looking through, we often overlook their role in portraits and figure images. This survey looks at their appearance and uses in American art, from 1784 when Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocal, to the present day. Spectacles in artwork served as emblems of literacy, fashion, and self-identity; old age and wisdom; inner or psychological vision; and sometimes just contemplation. Contemporary works include bespectacled self-portraits by Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring; and eyeglasses as pure design by Alex Katz and Wayne Thiebaud.

Author Biography

John Wilmerding is Sarofim Professor of American Art, emeritus, at Princeton University. He is an emeritus trustee of the Shelburne and Guggenheim museums and on the board of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. He is the author of many books, including volumes on the work of Fitz Henry Lane, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Eakins.

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