Southern Art


Rethinking Southern Poetry

"Works of fiction--novels and poetry--can mean more to a people than all the political manifestos and reports from all the think tanks and foundations ever established by misguided philanthropy." Tom Fleming, 1982 I take this quote seriously. So should anyone interested in the Southern tradition or in a larger sense Western Civilization. Fleming implored his reader to do so, for…
Brion McClanahan
April 16, 2024

What Did Jefferson Really Look Like?

A newspaper in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1887 and in 1902 stated that Sally Hemings’ last child, slave Eston Hemings, resembled Thomas Jefferson. Just how that resemblance was established is unclear. Eston Hemings died in 1877; Thomas Jefferson, in 1826. So, the newspaper was reporting that one person that had been dead for 10/25 years resembled another that has been dead…
M. Andrew Holowchak
March 27, 2024

Melting Down Art and History

After the Civil War, former North Carolina governor Zeb Vance became a U.S. senator. His Northern colleagues enjoyed his affable nature and sense of humor, and some of them invited him to Massachusetts during a break in government business. While there, Vance attended a party, and eventually required a visit to the outhouse, where his hosts as a joke had hung a…
Jeff Minick
December 20, 2021

American Monuments

Editor's Note: Former Abbeville Institute summer school student Jon Harris and his Last Stand Studios produced this original documentary about American monuments and the ongoing American iconoclasm. It features Abbeville Institute scholars Donald Livingston, Brion McClanahan, Bill Wilson, Philip Leigh, and Kirkpatrick Sale. From the website: "Our next project, American Monument, will explore the good, true, and beautiful qualities represented…
Abbeville Institute
November 8, 2021

Meditations on a Couple of Old Postcards

I saw a pile of household goods on the side of the road a couple of days ago, as I was picking up a friend to take him to the store. It was a blighting image that I gazed on with disdain. I asked him what was that, and he said his neighbor was cleaning the house, and it was…
Cliff Page
January 6, 2021

Civilization in the Balance

I am not a great fan of President Andrew Jackson.  Yet this equestrian statue (erected in 1852, five years after its commissioning), in front of the White House, is one of the most important pieces of sculpture in the world.  You see it was created by an American sculpture Clark Mills, in his studio and bronze foundry he established in…
Cliff Page
July 20, 2020
Review Posts

The Art of the Old South

A review of The Art of the Old South: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture & the Products of Craftsmen (1560-1860) by Jessie Poesch (Harrison Press, 1989). The Art of the Old South encompasses architecture, painting, sculpture, and the products of craftsmen. We are given a tour of a great variety of private and public buildings-from the formal mansions and elegant townhouses that followed…
Jeff Wolverton
June 26, 2018

Southern Art and Design Doesn’t Matter…Unless You’re on the Left.

For as many years as I’ve been an artist, I’ve seen numerous Southerners, Christians, libertarians and other traditionalist-minded folks wring their hands over people subscribing to this or that tenant of leftist ideology, but then turn around and market their own ideas in just about the most boring manner possible. Because if there’s anything the left has done exceptionally well,…
Lewis Liberman
February 14, 2018

Monuments and Reconciliation

With the election of Rutherford B. Hayes by a one vote margin in the Electoral College, the Compromise of 1877 ended the era of Reconstruction in the minds of the people.  As Southern States were re-admitted into the Union, Federal troops stood down or returned to the North.  From about 1885 to 1924, before and after the 50th Anniversary of…
Cliff Page
December 6, 2017

Leave the Monuments Alone: An Artistic Perspective

This essay was originally printed in the comments section of the Apollo Magazine article "Dismantling America's Monuments to White Supremacy" by Kristen Teen. The removal and desecration of images of enemies of the state was an accepted part of Roman political life, a formal public dishonour named as damnatio memoriae, and the destruction of built and material culture of a…
Juliette Peers
July 19, 2017

Interpreting Southern Art

For several weeks my local art museum displayed a traveling exhibit from the Johnson Collection of art permanently located in Spartanburg, South Carolina.   The prevailing consensus among historians is that the antebellum South did not produce much in the way of art, that its literature was substandard, and that its only contribution to American history was slavery and militaristic oligarchy.  Those who read this blog understand this position to…
Brion McClanahan
April 1, 2016

Painting the Old South

As with literature, nineteenth-century American art is dominated by the North and Northern subjects. The Hudson River School, which incidentally found its greatest inspiration from the West, and most American artists of the Romantic period hailed from the Deep North. After the North won the War, the focus for the American mind shifted North and those who had carved a…
Brion McClanahan
November 7, 2014

Birds of America

The antebellum American South did not have any artists of note. This misconception has been perpetuated since the end of the War in 1865, perhaps even earlier. Sully, Trumbull, Stuart, West, and even the Peale family (though originally from Maryland) are all claimed by or hailed from the North. The Hudson River School dominated the American Romantic period, and none…
Brion McClanahan
April 26, 2014