Celebrate the history of Fourth of July with over two centuries of all-American art.
Summertime is upon us, and no festivities epitomizes the season better than that of Independence Day on the Fourth of July.
Since the early 20th century, artists have been inspired by the heat and spirit of this patriotic holiday. Vintage posters from the 1800-1900s were heavily stylized in red, white and blue colors and featured symbols like Uncle Sam and the American eagle.
Left: Uncle Sam’s Birthday, 1918 (colour litho), American School / Private Collection Right: ‘Fourth of July Greetings’ Postcard (colour litho), American School / Private Collection
Nowadays, paintings and photographs celebrating the Fourth of July have evolved around the new symbols of this much-loved day: barbecues, parades, picnics, baseball and, above all, fireworks!
Left: 2013 Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks looking north from Chelsea Piers in Manhattan / Ira Block / National Geographic Creative Right:July 4th Fireworks (b/w photo) / Underwood Archives/UIG
In contrast to all these changes, the traditional significance of family and friends remains a constant subject in Fourth of July artwork. From Maurice Prendergast‘s 1900s watercolor of frolicking in Central Park, to Frank Wright‘s 1998 gathering by the Mall, art has been used to capture the coming together of individuals – and the nation – in the true spirit of the holiday.
July 4th marks the anniversary of the United States adopting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, emancipating the country from the United Kingdom as a result of the American Revolutionary War.
This significant event has inspired artists for centuries after, with artists like John Trumbull (1756-1843) re-imagining the day in his 1817 painting.
Left: Declaration of Independence of the 13 United States of America of 1776, 1823 (copper engraving) by American School / Private Collection Right: Signing the Declaration of Independence, 4th July 1776, c.1817, John Trumbull (1756-1843); US Capitol Collection, Washington D.C., USA