In the founding years of the American nation, mental images of great events and leaders were in large part the product of artists, since the age of radio, TV, photography and the internet had not yet dawned.
Chuck Tampio, an art teacher and longtime student of art history, feels the emergence of what he calls “the American Character” was revealed primarily through paintings.
At 3:30 p.m. next Thursday (July 3), Tampio will discuss his thesis in an Arizona Senior Academy talk entitled “What’s Eating Gilbert Stuart?” Stuart was the premier painter of portraits of George Washington. The work and experiences of other notable artist like Wilson Peale will also be discussed.
This richly illustrated talk shows how artists shaped images in the way they used expression, posture and settings in their portraits to emphasize qualities like fortitude, resolve, compassion and plainness.
Stuart, best known of these artists, has been the subject of recent research because evidence from his art and his life suggest that he was bipolar and manic. Stuart left America to study in London with the artist Benjamin West. He returned to America specifically to cash in on the George Washington craze.
Peale was another great portraitist who also hoped to create the legacy image of Washington. These artists believed that whatever constituted the American character or identity could be best revealed through portraiture.
Tampio’s art background reaches far back from his current role as an active docent at the University of Arizona and Tucson City art museums. At Syracuse University he took multiple art history courses from a renowned art scholar. Later, he studied art and taught at the University of Parma in Italy. Parma was founded in the 10th Century and was a Mecca of European art. This year Tampio was in Italy again, learning about and teaching art.
Submitted by Brack Brown, Academy Village Volunteer