Pre-Civil War American Culture
|Digital History ID 3549|
In the late 18th century, many Americans wondered whether their country’s infant democracy could produce great works of art. The revolutionary generation drew its models of art and architecture from the world of classical antiquity, especially the Roman Republic. The new United States had few professional writers or artists. It lacked a large class of patrons to subsidize the arts. It published few magazines and housed only a single art museum. Above all, America seemed to lack the traditions out of which artists and writers could create great works.
Europeans treated American culture with contempt. They charged that America was too commercial and materialistic, too preoccupied with money and technology to produce great art and literature. “In the four quarters of the globe,” asked one English critic, “who reads an American book? or goes to an American play? or looks at an American picture or statue?”