The picturesque political
Charles Caryl Coleman and Elihu Vedder in the circle of the Macchiaioli
in Republics and empires
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Two American artist-émigrés in Italy, Charles Caryl Coleman (1840–1928) and his close friend Elihu Vedder (1836–1923), warrant pairing for their symbiotic artistic visions and close interactions with the influential group of Italian artists known as the Macchiaioli, several of whom participated in the heady political events that constituted the Risorgimento. The cultural and political conversations in which American and Italian artists engaged have been somewhat overlooked in the vast corpus on nineteenth-century art. Illuminating these conversations advances the ongoing process of challenging the prevailing view of the American artist in Italy as interloper. It also clarifies the political implications of Coleman’s and Vedder’s subjects and settings, as they spurned the exalted ruins of the Roman empire and shifted their attention to the enduring domestic customs and ancient landscapes of the working classes. The Roman Campagna, for example, inspired entirely new compositional formats, and spurred their exploration of artistic techniques that had been censored at home, such as the macchia. Moreover, Coleman’s and Vedder’s interaction with the politically and artistically radical artists of the Macchiaioli sparked empathy for the ongoing revolutionary struggle in Italy for independence and unification.

Republics and empires

Italian and American art in transnational perspective, 1840–1970

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