A Question of Value: The Problem of Natural, National, and Native Origins in the Currency Paintings of John Haberle.
Abstract: Since the publication of Alfred Frankenstein's After the Hunt, scholars have interpreted the trompe l'oeil currency paintings of John Haberle in relation to the arrest of William Harnett on counterfeiting charges. In the literature, Haberle's paintings are often tangentially referenced to period issues of forgery, consumerism, and lowbrow illusionistic tricks. Yet close observation of th... read moreese paintings reveals a complex web of visual relationships that touch on larger issues of the value of representation in nineteenth-century society. This study explores how money functioned in tandem with the evolving theory of Social Darwinism, a tool through which many parallel discourses were threaded, interpreted, and measured in a discourse on national identity and bimetallism in the 1880s. I consider three case studies on how banknotes functioned as carriers of historicized national imagery by exploring topics of the circulation of landscape engravings through Can You Break a Five?, the influence of assimilation politics on the symbol of the American Indian Queen in U.S.A., and the impact of Charles Darwin's natural selection theory on models of time and progress in the 1880s in The Changes of Time. This project counters the tangential interpretations of Haberle's paintings by closely examining his banknote compositions, placing the works within a historical context relating to a period emphasis on the role of origins and natural selection in nationalism.
Thesis (M.A.)--Tufts University, 2015.
Submitted to the Dept. of Art and Art History.
Advisor: Eric Rosenberg.
Committee: Daniel Abramson, and Emily Gephart.
Keywords: Art history, American history, and Economic history.read less