American Art John Gadsby Chapman Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1398 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: American History

American Art

John Gadsby Chapman, "Baptism of Pocahontas"

John Gadsby Chapman painted "Baptism of Pocahontas" to proudly establish white male hegemony as the underwritten social code of the United States of America. Although it was likely the artist's intention to evoke feelings of wonder and awe of how God blesses America and converts its native heathens, the impression for the Native American viewer must have been far different.

This painting was commissioned in 1839 and hung in 1840 in the Capitol rotunda. The timing is significant. This was the peak time for Manifest Destiny. The Oregon Trail was being established, and Westward expansion was beginning. The Indian Removal Act had been passed. The Seminoles in Florida were revolting. This was a time of great turmoil for slaves, as well, as Nat Turner's rebellion was squelched. Chapman's painting attempts to draw attention away from the problems of America and present the nation as a myth. Similarly, the painting firmly entrenches the doctrine of Manifest Destiny by portraying the Native Americans as entirely submissive.

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3. By hearkening to a glorious time in the past, the artist is highly successful in romanticizing the myth of America as the land of the free. The Pocohontas story was particularly meaningful in a time when the federal government was enacting some of its most brutal Indian removal policies. The painting serves to assuage the American conscience, by depicting brutality as a function of God's will.

B. John Trumbull, "Declaration of Independence"

1. John Trumbull is trying to portray the solemnity of the moment of signing the Declaration of Independence, what is essentially the birth certificate of the United States of America. The men are serious and intense, especially after the many years of long debating in the Continental Congress. There is a sense of grave responsibility, as these men are founding a new nation.

TOPIC: Research Paper on American Art John Gadsby Chapman, Assignment

2. This oil painting was commissioned in 1818 and hung in the U.S. Capitol in 1826. This was forty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The year is significant in that the War of 1812 helped to redefine American borders, which remained in flux for some time as Westward expansion began. The Battle of New Orleans is one example of how territorial acquisitions were emboldening the new nation at this critical period.

3. The artist is supremely successful in capturing the solemnity of the moment. All them men look serious and there is a gravity to the scene. The eye is in fact drawn to the carpet on the floor, as if to symbolize the gravity of the situation. The founding fathers feature prominently, as if to remind the viewer to remember the causes for which they fought and the sacrifices that were made to honor the United States of America as a radical experiment in freedom.

C. Robert W. Weir, "Embarkation of the Pilgrims"

1. Robert W. Weir is trying to portray the emotional journey from the known Old World to the unknown New World. The artist captures the religiosity that the Pilgrims felt, and it was their belief in God that sustained them on their long journey across the sea. Their belief in God also characterized their colonies upon landing at Plymouth Rock and founding the new colony. The artist is conveying feelings of intense gratitude, as viewers will sense the suffering of the Pilgrims.

2. The painting was commissioned in 1843, and was hung that same year. This was a period in which the United States was engaged in Westward Expansion. Its northern neighbors had formed a strong confederation of Canada. There was the need for a bolder United States. Leadership in the nation was being currently called into question, though, as Tyler succeeded Harrison, who died in office. Yet Tyler was unpopular and the Senate attempted to impeach him.

3. The artist is successful in communicating the emotion that the Pilgrims must have felt when they left the known world behind. They had no idea what they were getting into; only that God was on their side. The artist captures the religious fervor in their souls, in the upturned eyes looking towards the heavens, and one man on one knee. A bible is illuminated.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "American Art John Gadsby Chapman" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

American Art John Gadsby Chapman.  (2013, December 2).  Retrieved September 17, 2021, from

MLA Format

"American Art John Gadsby Chapman."  2 December 2013.  Web.  17 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"American Art John Gadsby Chapman."  December 2, 2013.  Accessed September 17, 2021.