Art: Definitely American

Until a Russian-born tenor named Maxim Karolik came along, the first half of the 19th Century was rated a mediocre period in U.S. art. American painting at that time showed little of the imagination and enterprise that marked the nation's westward expansion; most artists contented themselves with rusty, romantic sunsets and tight, bright genre scenes. The dreamy landscapes of the Hudson River School and Albert Bierstadt's Wagnerian-mood pictures of the Rocky Mountains were considered the best of the lot.

Ten years ago, Karolik and his wife, a Boston millionheiress, decided that the 1815-65 period had been too long underrated. They began...

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