The Culture and Art of Death in 19th Century America


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About the Book

Nineteenth-century Victorian-era mourning rituals—long and elaborate public funerals, the wearing of lavishly somber mourning clothes, and families posing for portraits with deceased loved ones—are often depicted as bizarre or scary. But behind many such customs were rational or spiritual meanings.
This book offers an in-depth explanation at how death affected American society and the creative ways in which people responded to it. The author discusses such topics as mediums as performance artists and postmortem painters and photographers, and draws a connection between death and the emergence of three-dimensional media.

About the Author(s)

D. Tulla Lightfoot is an emeritus faculty member of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and lives in Aventura, Florida. She is the author of many academic articles on art and art education, has edited academic journals and has made several presentations in her field.

Bibliographic Details

D. Tulla Lightfoot
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 266
Bibliographic Info: 41 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6537-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3518-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
1. The Victorian Age 5
2. Psychic Artists, Performance Art and Death 12
The Afterlife 12
Mesmerism as Performance Art 18
Séance as Performance Art 21
Performing Medium: Performance Art 25
Houdini, Conan Doyle and Twentieth Century Investigations 32
3. Traditional Artist and Death 39
Nineteenth Century Visual Artists 39
Portraits of the Deceased 44
Spirit Painting 45
Post-Impressionists and Death 50
Theosophy, the Anthroposophy Society, Rudolph Steiner and Abstract Art 56
Clairvoyance and Abstract Art 59
4. Mourning Garb 65
Mourning Franklin, Hancock and Washington 65
Etiquette 68
Mourning Princess Charlotte 71
Marie Antoinette and Rose Bertin 73
Emerging Magazines 76
Napoleon Bonaparte and Fashion Designer Hippolyte Leroy 77
American Ladies’ Journals 79
Books on Etiquette 82
Creation of Patterns, Empress Eugénie and Charles Frederick Worth 86
Changing Fashion Styles in the Victorian Era 91
Retail Mourning Clothes 92
The Role of Widows and Charles Dana Gibson 95
5. Illustrious Widows’ Influence on Art and Design 99
Mourning Clothes 99
Queen Victoria—Fashion Trendsetter 100
Mary Todd Lincoln—Fashion Designer 105
6. Memorial Jewelry 115
7. Artists Working in Hair 134
8. Photography and Death 148
Postmortem Portraits 148
Matthew Brady and the Civil War 157
Spirit Photography 167
9. Art and the Corpse 178
Graveyard Design and Tradition 178
Early Stonecutters and Grave Markers 189
Death and the Landscape Artist: The English Garden 206
Rural or Garden Cemeteries in America 214
Monuments to Death 219
The Importance of Memorial Sculpture for Emerging Artists 232
Granite and Concrete Grave Markers 238
Funeral Arts 239
Epilogue 243
Bibliography 247
Index 257