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In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting highlights American art's historical and cultural traditions associated with the sea, deepening our understanding of it as a symbol of American ambition, opportunity, and invention. The histories of American art have long privileged ways of imagining American culture that only tell a partial story and that overlook narratives of national and individual experience past and present. This ambitious volume reveals the sea as an expansive way to reflect on American culture and environment and to question what it means to be “in American waters.”

For more than 200 years, American painters have been inspired to capture the beauty, violence, poetry, and transformative power of the sea in American life. Their images of the sea have also expressed ambitions beyond America’s borders in aesthetically and conceptually distinctive ways. The eight essays included here offer a more inclusive way of thinking about American marine painting by reconsidering national symbols and narratives, origin stories, coastlines, horizons, and ports, and broadening the conversation to embrace perspectives on the Middle Passage, immigration, and Indigenous presence. Lavishly illustrated with more than 120 images, In American Waters features fascinating historical paintings alongside works by major modern and contemporary artists.

In American Waters served as the catalog of a 2021-2022 exhibition co-organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. It includes works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Amy Sherald, Kay WalkingStick, Norman Rockwell, Hale Woodruff, Paul Cadmus, Thomas Hart Benton, Jacob Lawrence, Valerie Hegarty, Stuart Davis, and many others, along with essays from scholars, critics, and the curators.

Hardcover, 240 pages, 2021.

11 x 9.5 x 1.2 in.