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Transporting Visions follows pictures as they traveled through and over the swamps, forests, towns, oceans, and rivers of British America and the United States between 1760 and 1860. Taking seriously the complications involved in moving pictures through the physical world – the sheer bulk and weight of canvases, the delays inherent in long-distance reception, the perpetual threat to the stability and mnemonic capacity of images, the uneasy mingling of artworks with other kinds of things in transit – Jennifer L. Roberts forges a model for a material history of visual communication in early America. Focusing on paintings and prints by John Singleton Copley, John James Audubon, and Asher B. Durand – which were designed with mobility in mind – Roberts shows how an analysis of such imagery opens new perspectives on the most fundamental problems of early American commodity circulation, geographic expansion, and social cohesion.
Introduction: Long-Distance Pictures
1. Dilemmas of Delivery in Copley’s Atlantic
2. Audubon’s Burden: Materiality and Transmission in The Birds of America
3. Gathering Moss: Asher B. Durand and the Deceleration of Landscape
Epilogue: Material Visual Culture
List of Illustrations
Jennifer L. Roberts is Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. She teaches American art from the colonial period to the present, with particular focus on issues of landscape, expedition, material culture theory, and the history of science. Her book Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History was published in 2004 by Yale University Press.
"Seamlessly written, well illustrated, and a model for scholarly inquiry in other periods of art history."
"A rich text [...] fascinating analysis."
– Austin Porter Panorama
"The reader can only marvel at the depth and range of Roberts' research as well as the critical insights that result from her innovative approach. Transporting Visions will inspire others to rethink familiar and not-so-familiar histories."
– Alan Wallach, College of William and Mary
"Daring and brilliant. Sets objects in motion in entirely original ways, and uses this choreography of objects in context to demonstrate how movement through space as well as time alters the lives of people and the significance of things, places, and their connective tissues."
– Sally M. Promey, Yale University