Alexander Von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture (Hardcover)

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The enduring influence of naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt on American art, culture, and politics

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was one of the most influential scientists and thinkers of his age. A Prussian-born geographer, naturalist, explorer, and illustrator, he was a prolific writer whose books graced the shelves of American artists, scientists, philosophers, and politicians. Humboldt visited the United States for six weeks in 1804, engaging in a lively exchange of ideas with such figures as Thomas Jefferson and the painter Charles Willson Peale. It was perhaps the most consequential visit by a European traveler in the young nation's history, one that helped to shape an emerging American identity grounded in the natural world.

In this beautifully illustrated book, Eleanor Jones Harvey examines how Humboldt left a lasting impression on American visual arts, sciences, literature, and politics. She shows how he inspired a network of like-minded individuals who would go on to embrace the spirit of exploration, decry slavery, advocate for the welfare of Native Americans, and extol America's wilderness as a signature component of the nation's sense of self. Harvey traces how Humboldt's ideas influenced the transcendentalists and the landscape painters of the Hudson River School, and laid the foundations for the Smithsonian Institution, the Sierra Club, and the National Park Service.

Alexander von Humboldt and the United States looks at paintings, sculptures, maps, and artifacts, and features works by leading American artists such as Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, Frederic Church, and Samuel F. B. Morse.

Published in association with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

Exhibition Schedule
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
September 18, 2020-January 3, 2021

About the Author


Eleanor Jones Harvey is senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She received her PhD in the history of art from Yale University. Harvey is the author of The Civil War and American Art, The Voyage of the Icebergs: Frederic Church's Arctic Masterpiece, and The Painted Sketch: American Impressions from Nature, 1830-1880. Hans-Dieter Sues is a senior scientist and curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. He received his PhD in biology from Harvard University. Sues is the author of The Rise of Reptiles, the coauthor of Triassic Life on Land, and the editor or coeditor of several volumes on vertebrate paleontology.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780691200804
ISBN-10: 0691200807
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication Date: April 14th, 2020
Pages: 448
Language: English