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American Art and Architecture - 17th to 20th Century

Updated on May 25, 2017

The same elements that had a great impact on the development of art and furniture during the American art periods also had an influence on interior decoration and style of the early American home.

In the early 1600s, builders and craftsmen did everything from constructing their homes to producing the required interior furniture and equipment.

"A 1934 photograph showing details of a window and a cornice of the Felix Valleé House in Ste. Geneviève, Missouri. It was built by Samuel Phillipson, an early settler, and in 1823 it was sold to Felix Vallé. The house is now maintained as a museum"
"A 1934 photograph showing details of a window and a cornice of the Felix Valleé House in Ste. Geneviève, Missouri. It was built by Samuel Phillipson, an early settler, and in 1823 it was sold to Felix Vallé. The house is now maintained as a museum" | Source

Most designs of the colonies followed the British trends of that era and could even be regarded as English provincial prototypes because of similar degrees of coarseness which was apparent in the way the settlers crafted their art.

But new styles gradually evolved in the colonies with new designs features and forms becoming popular many years after they were introduced in England.

The styles produced before the 19th century is often referred to under a general heading, "Colonial", but in order to be more explicit, it’s good to describe the American periods of art and show the subdivisions under which they fall.

Early American Home Interior
Early American Home Interior | Source

1608 to 1790 Art Period

Early American period: 1608 to 1720 in the region of Virginia, and 1620 to 1720 in New England. This period was characterized by humble interior design and architectural styles, where locally sourced wood was the main material used with little thought of aesthetics or design. Handcrafted furniture pieces were crude and uncomplimentary copies of Jacobean, Carolean and William & Mary art period designs.

Georgian Era: the years between 1720 and 1790 showed an infusion of some refinement in the art of interior and furniture design. The people 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 and forms of structures and furniture.

1790 to 1860 Period

Post Colonial/Federal Period: 1790 to 1820 Post Colonial American period was also known as the Federal Period. This era of American history of art was greatly influenced by designs of the Adam brothers'. Meanwhile, the influence of Hepplewhite and Sheraton carried on from the Georgian art period.

Greek Revival: 1820 to 1860 showed an architectural style fashioned after the 'Temple'. There was a marked influence of English and French Empire styles in furniture design of this period.

1840s to 1880s

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 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 history sources, the people of the American Victorian period were interested in almost everything, except the fine and decorative arts.

1870s t0 1925

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 of the revival of art styles, and recognition of functionalism as a dictate of artistic style.


Modern Period: 1925 till date.

Designs and structures of buildings, interior design/décor, furniture and the industrial arts are fashioned to fulfill 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.

© 2011 artsofthetimes


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    • artsofthetimes profile image

      artsofthetimes 6 years ago

      Thank you so much Vicki for your nice comments.

      Im so glad you found it informative.


    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 6 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

      Very interesting hub. I did not know this information and you presented it in such an enjoyable manner. Thank you!