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Young America: A Folk-art History

June 2024
1min read

by Jean Lipman, Elizabeth V. Warren, and Robert Bishop; Hudson Hills Press in association with the Museum of American Folk Art, New York; 199 pages; $45.00.

The period defined as “young” in this folk-art history is the time between the Revolution and World War I, and the subject illustrated is how life was lived in those years. The authors, led by Jean Lipman (who was collecting folk art when many experts considered it junk), have included early photography and Indian art in the book, as well as the more expected paintings, carvings, quilts, weaving, weather vanes, toys, and trade signs.

Some of the objects shown are astonishing; there is a walking stick, for instance, with a whole railroad train, including the engine, carved along its length. And a quilt, made about 1900, is elegantly appliquéd with Indian pictographs by an unknown Sioux.

But most of the selections are paintings. Families, houses, gardens, and farms are lovingly and proudly portrayed. Suggesting the constant terror of fire are the many pictures of burning buildings and fire-fighting equipment. And the collection of epitaphs, mourning pictures, and gravestone carvings stress how familiar was the grief of losing children, in the country’s earlier years.

There is hardly a page of this sumptuous book that you won’t want to return to again and again.

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