17 May 2012

Weekly Perusables: Graven Images

If you are as in love with folk art and old cemeteries as some of us around here are, you’ll be a fan of this book too. First published in 1966, Graven Images “played a critical role in the rise in interest in gravestone studies in the 1960s.” Who knew there was such a thing? Regardless, it is a fascinating history of Puritans, who shunned artistic expression except when it was on their tombstones. Ludwig also explains the evolution of certain recurring gravestone symbols in depth, such as winged skulls, peacocks, hooped snakes, and surprisingly, breasts. He makes an interesting argument that “in spite of the fact that rural stonecarving was in many ways a truly ‘primitive’ form of expression it did have moments of glorious attainment and revealed for the first time an American propensity for pure line and abstraction which have become a fundamental part of modern aesthetics.” Puritan ideas have permeated many aspects of American culture, so it’s not a stretch to see that they could have influenced the direction of modern art too.

Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and Its Symbols, 1650-1815
Allan I. Ludwig
NB1856 .N4 L8 1999 stacks

Quote and photo source: University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

(blog entry by Jessica Sowls) 

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