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The tradition of drawing in America long precedes the arrival of Europeans, dating back to approximately 4000 B.C. Rendered in charcoal on the walls of caves in Tennessee, Native American drawings depict serpents and hieroglyphic markings, among other iconography. The various tribes that populated regions throughout North America each had their distinctive artistic styles and traditions.
Prior to European colonization, Native Americans used animal hides as the support for their drawings. Later, they adopted parchment paper that they traded with early settlers. These drawings provide illuminating windows into the daily lives of Native Americans and illustrate events ranging from religious ceremonies to hunting expeditions and tribal battles.
John Singer Sargent, an American artist who studied under the Impressionists in Paris, has been largely credited for popularizing drawing within the United States. The medium became integral for many renowned fine artists including that of Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Edward Hopper, and Marden Hartley. Contemporary artists including Joe Bradley and Mark Grotjahn continue America’s illustrious tradition of drawing today, creating both figurative and abstract works in a variety of media.
Edward Hopper began his career illustrating the cover designs of trade magazines for an advertising company
Joe Bradley’s drawings conjure the primordial, suggesting a return to nascent stages of consciousness or human development through intentionally crude compositions with hieroglyphic qualities
Jean-Michel Basquiat, one of the most celebrated artists of the twentieth century, translated the aesthetic of graffiti into fine art, which he combined with references to both European and African visual cultures