Hello and Happy Spring! Thank you for the wonderful feedback on our first newsletter last month.
In this second newsletter, we are presenting the painting “Colonial Wedding” by Edward Lamson Henry (1841-1919), one of America’s leading historical genre painters. This painting was acquired by Jack Warner from a New York gallery in 1980 and remained one of his favorites over the next 37 years. He loved it because it depicts not only the promise of America as a new beginning but also the metaphor of America as a “melting pot” implying the successful intermarriage of diverse cultures and ethnicities.
This great painting is as relevant to a divided America today as it was to America in the tumultuous and rapidly changing years following the Civil War. The Colonial Revival, sparked by the Centennial celebrations of 1876 and lasting through the 1930s, brought a new awareness of America’s past and helped re-create a sense of unity and national identity. Created during this period, Henry presents a nostalgic, yet historically accurate depiction of a fashionable Colonial wedding in which the newlywed couple, setting off by horseback, seem to represent America’s future.
This painting reminded Americans then, and is capable of reminding Americans today, of who we are! It reminds us that America has always represented the promise of a new beginning, the blending of new and old cultures and the fulfillment of spiritual as well as material ideas and aspirations.
To learn more about the history in this painting and related primary source documents researched by noted historian Gregory Balan, Click here.
To see a sample inquiry-based lesson plan using this painting to teach the history of the Colonial Period and the development of an American Sense of Identity, click here.
We look forward to hearing from you and hope you will share this newsletter with others interested in the understanding of American History through Art. Also, if you know someone who would enjoy receiving our newsletter, we’ve added a form on our site to join the newsletter. Click here to view.
Susan G. Warner
Chair, Warner Foundation