American Art and Architecture - 17th to 20th Century
During the 17th century, fine art and architecture were not things of interest to the early colonial settlers. Just trying to settle down to life in the United States, they encountered a great number of challenges and difficulties while setting up their new communities. There was so much happening that interest in the visual arts was nowhere near being important.
Between 1608 and 1790, art and architectural styles had humble features. Structures were built with locally sourced wood, the main building material, and little thought was given to aesthetics or design. Furniture was handcrafted and crude, uncomplimentary copies of Jacobean, Carolean and William & Mary art period designs.
The early 1720s there was an obvious refinement in art and architecture, including interior design, and furniture design. Artisans began to pay more attention to detail, and the copies of Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite forms became a bit more accurate and pleasing. During this period, there was a gradual introduction of Georgian architectural designs with a bit more attention paid to details of forms and structures.
By the mid-17th century, there emerged a group of colonial American painting styles developed by artisan artists in the metropolitan areas of Boston and New York. Their art was based on portrait art and figurative compositions that showed a mix of different styles from Europe. This became a basic to the development of American painting, the beginning of American art.
Early American Art
The few artworks created was mostly confined to a few still-life paintings of landscapes and portraiture and the only opportunities for the few artists were found in painting for the wealthy and prominent colonial class.
The art and architecture of these first settlers are described as American Colonial Art. Some of the prominent painters of the time are Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), one of the best portrait artists of the 18th century and Benjamin West (1738-1820), the first American artist to achieve international fame.
Others are Ralph Earl (1751-1801) an 18th-century portraitist, and the portrait/history painter John Trumbull (1756-1843).
Early American Architecture
Architectural styles of early colonial America was the Federal Style (Neoclassic architecture), Georgian, and Greek revival designs. By the mid-1800, building designs became dominated by skyscraper architecture with the first skyscraper designed and engineered by the Chicago School.
Some of the famous architects of the period include Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), one of the best Early American architects of the late 18th century and the third President of the United States, Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844), one of the best known American architects of the late 18th to early 19th century and a leading advocate of the Federal Style of Neoclassical architecture, and William Thornton (1759-1828), significant for his experimentation with classicism, attained early fame for his neoclassical design of the United States Capitol Building in Washington DC.
American Art and Architecture - 19th and 20th Century
American Victorian: 1840s to 1880s industrial movements suppressed the interest in the decorative arts with eclecticism dominating architectural styles, furniture designs and decorative objects. There was the Gothic and Romanesque influence in architectural features and Belter, Eastlake and Louis XV influence in furniture.
This art period is a good example of how the cultural awareness of a people is reflected in their appreciation of art. According to art historical sources, the people of the American Victorian period were interested in almost everything, except the fine and decorative arts.
Eclectic Period: 1870 to 1925 was an era in American art history which was an extension of the Victorian Period. There was an architectural influence of the famous French National School of Fine Arts, with residential and furniture designs influenced by Colonial, Italian, French, Spanish and English designs.
The end of this era witnessed the beginnings of the struggle against, and resistance to the revival of art styles, and recognition of functionalism as a dictate of artistic style.
Modern Period: From 1925: Today, designs and structures of buildings, interior design/décor, furniture and the industrial arts are fashioned to fulfil modern day requirements and lifestyle. However, as the years progress into the 21st century, there lay vast potentials of new creative art materials dominating the decorative arts scene, determining today’s style directions.
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