02 September 2009

tea party!

in "the tea party," painter henry sargent sets the theatrical scene through light and dramatic color, outfitting the work with greek revival furnishings and fine interior appointments, all a testimony to the burgeoning material culture of the early nineteenth century. in sargent's work, he investigates themes about who is included in and excluded from the social discourse of the party, where he mixes male and female figures in fine dress standing as genteel and fashionable images in the new republic. i posit that we understand the american landscape and its populace as symbolized in the boston interior he depicts. check out the image at the boston museum of fine arts: http://www.mfa.org/collections/search_art.asp?recview=true&id=31744

themes about center + periphery continued the day in hss125, where we investigated a tea cup + a punch bowl, all in the context of "the tea party," a genre painting by henry sargent (boston, 1823). discussion centered around the ideas of space, style, and form in sargent's work, resonating from student forays into jules prown's three-step material culture analysis. themes that this painting gave rise to: worldliness, centrality/periphery, comfort, social discourse...belonging, gentility, refinement, and identity. as hss125 is an investigation of american empires, we elucidated these themes as a way of better illuminating gordon wood's "radicalism" of the post-revolutionary decades.

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