Art: The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

views updated

Art: The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Sources

Early Academies. Inspired by the prestigious Royal Academy in Great Britain, American artists and patrons looked to the creation of art institutions as a way to promote artistic development in the United States. The Society of Fine Arts in New York (later renamed the American Academy of the Fine Arts) was the first major American art academy, established in 1802 under the auspices of Robert and Edward Livingston. Early American academies quickly fell prey to internal divisions and factionalism, stemming largely from tensions between patrons and artists. Wealthy patrons were necessary to establish and maintain the academies, but artists resented and resisted control by laymen whom they considered insensitive to their interests. Yet artists and art academies were unable to free art from reliance on private patronage despite republican prescriptions to the contrary.

The Pennsylvania Academy. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia achieved an unusual degree of success and stability. Founded in 1805, it offered instruction to artists and sought to raise public awareness and interest through public art exhibitions. As one of its founders, Charles Willson Peale, explained, its goal was to promote the cultivation of the Fine Arts in the U.S.A. by introducing correct and elegant copies from the first masters in Sculpture and Painting by occasionally conferring moderate but honorable premiums, and otherwise assisting the studies and exciting the efforts of the Artists, gradually to unfold, enlighten, and invigorate the talents of our countrymen.

The Society of Artists. With the exception of Peale, most of the founders of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts were not artists but wealthy patrons of art such as Joseph Hopkinson and Horace Binney. Though not immune to the tensions that beset other academies, the Pennsylvania Academy was more sensitive to the interests of artists than its counterparts and so avoided many of the conflicts that divided and weakened other art academies. In 1810 a group of artists, resenting patron domination of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, formed their own organization, the Society of Artists. Yet instead of allowing this development to immobilize its operations, the Pennsylvania Academy made greater efforts to address the needs of artists. The Academy thus neutralized the Society, which had effectively dissolved by 1815.

Sources

Neil Harris, The Artist in American Society: The Formative Years, 17901860 (New York: Braziller, 1966);

Lillian B. Miller, Patrons and Patriotism: The Encouragement of the Fine Arts in the United States, 17901860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966);

J. Meredith Neil, Toward a National Taste: Americas Quest for Aesthetic Independence (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1975).

About this article

Art: The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article