First Advisor

Gordon B. Dodds

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Oregon in art, American Art -- Oregon, Modern Art -- 20th century



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, v, 289 p.)


The state of Oregon often has been viewed as a utopia. Figures of speech borrowed from the romantic sublime, biblical pilgrimage, economic boosterism, and millenialist fatalism have been used to characterize it. The visual arts also have responded to Oregon's utopian myth. During the nineteenth century, the landscape was a primary focus for utopian art. In the twentieth century, past human achievements, recreation, agriculture, and industry have joined the environment as themes which inspire utopian imagery. The objective of this study is to demonstrate that twentieth-century art that responds to Oregon's utopian myth has given rise to an iconography which both energizes and reflects the development of that myth and which informs an important component of the state's identity. Using as a criteria that which idealizes Oregon as a place, an inventory of utopian art was compiled. It includes over 300 works of visual art, plus a number of artists for whom utopian subjects served as a consistent element. From this information, dominant themes were identified which demonstrate the existence of iconography, or visual symbolism, that expresses Oregon's utopian myth. Through the themes of natural environment, heroic images of Oregon's human past, and interaction between humans and the environment-plus numerous sub-themes-the artistic evidence demonstrates that visual imagery and symbols play an important role in how Oregonians define themselves and their history. It also suggests what form the state's utopian myth, identity' and the decisions made by its people may take in the next century.


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