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Elizabeth Vanek


Elizabeth Vanek


I often hear from non-history majors how hard history is because of all the memorization of facts and dates. I usually respond by stating that historians do not always memorize dates but, more significantly, understand time periods. While not as arcane as memorizing facts, remembering the major themes of a particular era can be difficult. I use art history as visual flash cards to embody a time period. My favorite example of historical flash cards is this painting by Norman Rockwell tilted The Problem We All Live With. It demonstrates the visual nature of history. When I think about the Civil Rights era this image comes to mind. Rockwell creates a story in one frame of a little girl going to school despite the hatred she encounters. The image embodies the emotions and triumphs of the Civil Rights era. As a visual learner, art history allows me to use fine art as a calling card for a time period. Certain pieces of art can demonstrate the time they were created in. For example, impressionists demonstrated struggles with modernity. Pop Artists showed America as a place of growing commercialism. The neoclassical architecture of Washington D.C. shows the egalitarian values of the enlightenment. Dorothea Lange’s photo Migrant Mother shows the desperation of the Dust Bowl. Art is a product of the values and feelings of the time. The Rockwell painting is a tableau of his time. The intricate themes of a particular era are made assessable though art.


Vanek, Elizabeth


Norman Rockwell, The Problem We All Live With, 1964, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 





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Vanek, Elizabeth, Elizabeth Vanek, Civil War Era NC, accessed February 25, 2024,