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Printing Technology and the Role of Illustration

America's Introduction to Aesthetics


Architectural Pattern Books

Architectural Advice Books: The A.J.s

Architectural Advice Books: Other Writers

Art Instruction and Leisure Pursuit Manuals

Exposition Catalogs


Further Information

Transparent Blinds
Transparent Blinds, hand-colored lithograph, Nathaniel Whittock, The Decorative Painters’ and Glaziers’ Guide, 1832.
America's Introduction to Aesthetics

Opportunities for learning about architecture, art, and design were limited during the earliest years of the United States. Little existed in the way of formal schooling in the arts. Serious students who could afford to do so apprenticed with architects, artists, and artisans; learned through observation and travel; and read the few printed sources available. In the 1840s, authors of design publications began to seriously address this void in the art life of the nation. Critics predicted that the strides made in printing technology combined with modern ideas about design would lead to a flourishing of art and architecture in America, much as the printing press had helped spread the revival of Classical art and architecture from Italy throughout Europe during the Renaissance.

Americans were, as a whole, distrustful of art for art’s sake, the result of their culture’s strong Calvinist and anti-elitist traditions. They overcame their reticence to discuss the issue of beauty, however, when it related directly to domestic design. Americans believed that an inspiring home environment played a positive role in shaping a citizen’s character, an ingredient they saw as essential to the success of the young republic.

Frontispiece Representing Art Education
Frontispiece Representing Art Education, lithograph, Nathaniel Whittock, Oxford Drawing Book, new edition, 1842.
Beauty and the American Home