Colonial Art and New Nation
In the early 18th century, most American colonists lacked the wealth and the leisure time to cultivate the fine arts. There were no American institutions where artists could receive formal training. Skilled artists in the colonies were mainly immigrants who brought with them the most current European art styles. A growing demand for portrait painting attracted artists from abroad.
When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, artists wanted to create a distinctive environment for the principles of liberty. Inspiration was found in the ideals of the ancient Classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. Cabinetmakers and silversmiths produced decorative arts in the Neoclassical style. Their work is characterized by order, symmetry and simplicity. This style in painting is exemplified by idealized anatomy, symmetrical compositions and pure colors.