Visual Allusions to the Mexican-American War Paintings from the Düsseldorf School

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Irén Annus


The Mexican-American War (1846-48) is often described as the first major war in US history inspired by the idea of Manifest Destiny. The significance of this war, however, has not been matched by a rigorous scrutiny of its representation in contemporary visual culture. This study hopes to contribute to filling this void through an iconological investigation of three American paintings made in the Düsseldorf Academy, by now canonized and perceived as ultimate visual treatments of the topic. The paper first discusses the war and the public debates surrounding it in the US, then turns to the visual scene and introduces how the war was portrayed in various art forms. Next, it touches upon the artistic milieu of the Düsseldorf Academy in preparation for the analysis of the three paintings to follow. The study argues that these images depart from the American tradition of depicting war through concrete battle scenes. Instead, they offer symbolic representations or allusions, approaching the war in terms of morality, political philosophy and its potential social and economic consequences, while also employing ambiguity to urge viewers to contemplate on the implications of the war. In the meanwhile, they seem to express little if any consideration for the impact of the war on Mexico, its culture, and people.


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Annus, I. (2020). Visual Allusions to the Mexican-American War: Paintings from the Düsseldorf School. Acta Hispanica, (II), 629–640.
Biografía del autor/a

Irén Annus, Universidad de Szeged

Irén Annus is Associate Professor at the Department of American Studies at the University of Szeged, Hungary. She is a cultural studies scholar, whose main interest lies in identity studies and 19th-century American culture. She has widely lectured and published in these fields, including seven volumes she has authored and (co)edited. She is a founding member of the Gender Studies and the Inter-America Studies research groups at her university and sits on the editorial board of two journals, Americana and TNT E-journal. She has also served as the Secretary of the Hungarian Association of American Studies for two terms.


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