Explore History in Art

Looking through the eyes of American artists, we witness the beginning of America’s noble experiment and, following through the Civil War, we see it being tested and coming of age.” — Elizabeth Broun, Director, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Exploring our artworks in chronological order by era helps students to put the artworks into the context of important events and topics in American history. Each pair of artworks corresponds to specific United States History Content Standards, which you’ll find in our Curriculum Connections section. Studying both the time period and the artwork together enables us to illuminate both, expanding the context of our knowledge of that time period. Click on an Historical Era to discover the related artworks that address the era.

Colonization, Revolution, and the New Nation (1754-1820s)

Westward Expansion (1801-1861)

Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)

Industrial United States (1870-1900)

Modern America (1890-1930)

The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)

Post War United States (1945-1970s)

Contemporary United States (1968-the present)

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