Edited by Susan P. Schoelwer. Published in association with Princeton University Press, 2000. 278 p., 82 color plates, 95 halftones, index. Soft cover.
From the dust jacket:
Proud lions, patriotic eagles, and solemn bulls--not to mention prancing horses, majestic oak trees, and festive table settings--graced the roadsides of early America. Painted onto wooden signboards and hung above the heads of passers-by, these colorful images communicated critical information, enabling local residents and travelers to find their way to commercial enterprises and civic gatherings. As they evolved from the eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth century, these signs documented the radical shift from a pre-modern agricultural society to the entrepreneurial, market-driven, and increasingly urban economy of the early Republic.
Handsomely illustrated with over eighty color plates, this catalogue--published in conjunction with a major traveling exhibit--features works from The Connecticut Historical Society, which houses the nation's preeminent collection of early American painted tavern signs. Eight essays, written by prominent scholars of American art and cultural history, explore the medium and discuss why these signs are much more than picturesque relics of bygone times. Indeed, this volume reconnects sign paintings to the broad continuum of artistic genres and practices within which they were produced, displayed, and viewed.
An accessible text, illustrated generously throughout, includes an introduction that encourages the reader to engage with sign paintings from a variety of artistic and cultural perspectives--including those of vernacular art, commercial art, and visual and material culture. Other essays examine specific aspects of sign paintings: the creative processes of the individual makers, the distinctive techniques and materials used, the development of the profession, the iconography and sources, and the consquences of outdoor installation on aesthetic and cultural meanings. The volume also features a detailed catalogue of the sign paintings in the collection and brief biographies of those sign painters that have been documented in Connecticut.
Both building on and recasting the rich legacy of "folk art," Lions & Eagles & Bulls provides a wealth of new information about these highly significant and well-loved objects to scholars, collectors, and art-lovers alike.