About the film

How did artists of the twentieth century use their work to respond to their unique personal experiences and moment in history? This provocative question is explored in this engaging exploration of American art. By focusing on broad, defining themes, embodied in the work of such pivotal artists as Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol, the film looks at how art provided a means for re-imagining America, visualizing what it had become, and where it might go in a century of turbulent change.

Imagining America is organized around three main themes: nature and the ways diverse artists responded to the transformation of the landscape from pastoral to industrial; how artists as different as Thomas Eakins and Jackson Pollock demonstrated the perpetual inclination to reinvent both personal and national identity; and the ways that key artists like Stuart Davis, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat taught us to understand the media and popular culture on a deeper level. The film also provides a context of social history and parallel developments in American music and film.

Featuring the following artists:

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Thomas Hart Benton, Thomas Cole, Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Marcel Duchamp, Thomas Eakins, Keith Haring, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Dorothea Lange, Jacob Lawrence, Roy Lichtenstein, Kerry James Marshall, Georgia O'Keefe, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Diego Rivera, Cindy Sherman, John Sloan, Robert Smithson, Joseph Stella, Alfred Stieglitz, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz

Interviews with:

Alice Aycock, John Baldessari, Barry Blinderman, Wanda Corn, Rachel DeLue, Jonathan Fineberg, Neil Harris, Grace Hartigan, Barbara Haskell, Josef Helfenstein, Mike Kelley, Katherine Manthorne, Kerry James Marshall, Carlo McCormick, Elizabeth Murray, Bruce Robertson, Ed Ruscha, Lowery Stokes Sims, Buzz Spector, Robert Farris Thompson, Fred Tomaselli, Elizabeth Hutton Turner


A film by John Carilin, Jonathan Fineberg, and Hart Perry. Produced by Perry Films and MUSE Film and Television in association with Funny Garbage and Public Media, Inc. The program aired on Public Television in the United States in 2005 through South Carolina Educational Television.

Major funding for this program provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Henry Luce Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Additional funding provided by The Whitney Museum of American Art, and the NEA. © 2005 MUSE Film and Television Inc. and Public Media, Inc. This video is solely for educational purposes. All images copyright the artists or their estates.

Lesson Plans

CHF has prepared two special lesson plans based on this film for teachers of Art History, History, or English. Each plan refers to specific sections of the film for students to watch, and places the film in the broader context of works of art, other videos, and readings. These lesson plans are appropriate for high school and college courses.

Art and Environment Lesson Plan:
The Connection Between Art & Nature

Art and Technology Lesson Plan:
The Intersection of Two Great Forms

Download the film

Get the 4th Chapter

Right-click the links above and choose "Save Link As" (Mac) or "Save Target As" (PC) to download the film to your computer.

Funding for this web project was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. The Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States for national and international audiences.