Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Cooperating University

University of Louisville


Fine Arts

Degree Program

Art History, PhD

Committee Chair

Hufbauer, Benjamin

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Cumbler, John

Committee Member

Cumbler, John

Committee Member

Fulton, Christopher

Committee Member

Lai, Delin

Author's Keywords

agriculture; environmental history; Jasper Cropsey; Thomas Cole; Edward Hicks; farm


This dissertation examines American farmstead imagery of the nineteenth-century and how those images reflect the environmental history of the North. In this study, images of farms illustrate, through the landscape, the transition from subsistence farming to agribusiness that fundamentally changed American life and the land over the century. By comparing the actual ecological and economic conditions of the farm and farmer to the images depicted by artists, it is possible to see both representations of change and the persistence of the agrarian myth in spite of dramatically different realities. This study focuses on the process of change in the American landscape, beginning on the north eastern coast in the early nineteenth century and developing westward through the end of the century with Frederick Jackson Turner's closing of the western frontier. Chapter One provides a foundation for the yeoman ideal using works like Thomas Cole's The Hunter's Return (1845). Industrious, independent, hard-working, and noble, the yeoman cleared the countryside and established subsistence farms across the northeast, bringing to fruition Jackson's agrarian nation. Chapter Two demonstrates the transition from pioneer yeoman farmstead to farmer’s agribusiness as reflected in imagery from the mid-nineteenth century. From technological advancements to prospect views, images of agribusiness express very different values than the yeoman farmsteads in the wilderness. Works by Jasper Francis Cropsey and Edward Hicks are the focal points of this chapter. Chapter Three looks at the farmstead along the Union and Confederate boundary as a site of anti-slavery sentiment. Farms were simultaneously the site from which slaves wished to depart, the site that harbored them in the escape, and the site of their potential futures, while providing an escape from war for their free counterparts. Other than those depicting Southern plantations, farm imagery that deals specifically with issues of slavery is scarce. Robert Duncanson, Sanford Gifford Robinson, Worthington Whittredge, and William McKendree Snyder provide examples in this chapter. Finally, Chapter Four follows the path west, looking at representations of major agricultural centers in the West, including the Great Plains and California. This chapter is divided into two sections. The first examines monolithic narratives of a singular "Great West," and the second section looks at specific people and places of the West.