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Live, Online Professional Development Seminars
for History and Literature Teachers

The Ashcan School

Date: Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009
Time: 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m. (EST)

How did the ethnically and culturally diverse urban environment of early twentieth-century America find its way into art? How did artists see the new immigrants who flooded into American cities from 1890 on? What kinds of visual languages did they draw on in approaching a subject that had been generally off limits to painters of the previous generation—the urban poor? This workshop will look at how the Ash Can artists built on older visual and art historical traditions, while also considering what was new about their work. It will also consider the subject matter they shared with the popular culture of early twentieth-century films, graphic journalism, and cartooning. Using a variety of perspectives, this workshop will consider the role of the visual in exploring the defining challenges of a pluralistic urban democracy in the new century.

Professor of Art History and Archaeology
Washington University in St. Louis
Link will become active two weeks prior to seminar date

As you study the images and read the texts, please keep the following questions in mind. They will guide discussion in the seminar.

  1. What kinds of challenges did the new American city of immigrants in the early twentieth century pose for artists in particular, and more generally, for native-born citizens?
  2. What kinds of urban, social, and gender themes emerge from the paintings, prints, and writings of the Ash Can artists?
  3. Think about the range of responses and attitudes toward the city and immigrant cultures registered in the readings and in the images. Identify sources of anxiety, excitement, and possibility toward the new cultural pluralism of the 20th century city.
  4. How are conventional notions of the beautiful redefined by the Ash Can artists?

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Revised: November 2009