Travis Nygard has chapter in newly published book

Associate Professor of Art Travis Nygard has a chapter in the new book A Companion to American Agricultural History, edited by Douglas Hurt and released June 1.

His chapter, “Agriculture and Art,” explores how farming has been depicted in art over the past 200 years, showing that paintings, sculptures, photographs and illustrations have helped farmers understand their role in a changing world. Similarly, consumers looked at art as they bought, cooked, ate, and celebrated agricultural products.

“This was a fun essay to write, as there are so many fascinating ways that farming and food changed Americans’ lives,” Nygard says. “The fact that ears of corn are carved on the tops of columns in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., attests to the importance of farming in American history.”

He says the chapter explains that some of the most interesting paintings of farmers were made by artists who were raised in the countryside, as they had the firsthand knowledge needed to capture the nuances of rural life. Such art has nudged Americans to imagine farmers in specific ways.

Sometimes men were shown as the managers of small family-run operations, he says. Other times, women were shown as working independently or hand-in-hand with their husbands, in paintings like The Homesteader’s Wife, by Harvey Dunn (1916). Dunn’s paintings inspired Laura Ingalls Wilder to write her Little House on the Prairie books, which later became a popular TV show.

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