Citizenship by design: Art and identity in the Early Republic
This dissertation offers a study of the ways in which some artists active in the United States between 1790 and 1850 theorized that their work could participate in the process of creating and shaping the nation's citizens. Through the detailed analysis of four artists—Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820), Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), Thomas Cole (1801-1848), and Horatio Greenough (1805-1852)—this project explores a process of citizenship by design theorized by these artists, a process which grew out of their belief that the physical environment could directly shape the character of its inhabitants. Buildings, landscapes, paintings, and sculptures were, for these artists, the means by which the moral and social precepts of democracy could be communicated most effectively to the public. Building on a long tradition of European aesthetic theory, these artists believed that through the process of perception such material objects could influence the mind and character of viewers. In short, I argue that by creating paintings, sculptures, landscapes and buildings, these artists believed that they were also crafting citizens.
0377: Art history
0390: Landscape architecture