The revolutionary war inspired many changes in the arts the colonials created. Their new nation called seemed the culmination of centuries of wisdom to create a new form of government. The new country was a hybrid of democratic republic, an experiment based off the old Greek and Roman governance and combined with the new philosophies of the day. This set the mood for a revival of the old arts of the Greeks to help shape the face of this new republic.
One of the first influences was in the architecture. Thomas Jefferson during a period as ambassador in France had seen the amazing architecture of the Renaissance. In 1768, he drew upon this experience to design the Monticello House. His home was his experimentation in architecture, where he refined his skills as an architect and helped introduce Neo Classical designs to the colonies.
In 1785, he designed the Virginia State Capital Building, a beautiful structure, also heavily influenced in Roman designs. The design of the structure was based on Corinthian temple, the Maison Carree. It’s appearance is supposed to inspire a sense of order and gravitas in those who look upon it.
Paintings were also influenced by resolution of the war. The victory of the Revolutionary War inspired great patriotic feelings for the new fledging nation. Paintings were now heavily laced with imagery that inspired heroism and selfless sacrifice.
John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, (1778) is an example of this. A work based on attempt to save a fellow shipmate from a shark attack makes the shipmates appear courageous and valiant in their attempt to fight off the shark and save their comrade.
The Battle of La Hogue (1778) is another example, where the artist Benjamin West aids heroism and courage to the Admiral in the painting during the battle. This kind of artwork serves to not only stir patriotic emotion, but also demonstrate a sense of duty and sacrifice in the audience.
The Revolution might have been the culmination of both the revival of old studies of government and philosophy as well as a shift in the political environment of the Europe but the war itself spur on new changes in Art and culture. From a new sense of nationalism to a more heroic view of action in battle, the neo classical movement was defined by the feelings and emotions of a country attempting to portray its new views on government and a retrieval of the Roman ideals of heroism and honor. In the poetic and reinvented visual history of men and events, they hoped to inspire those acts and emotions to real people of their time.
“Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826).” Thomas Jefferson: Biography of American Architect. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART AND DESIGN. Web. 1 July 2015. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/architecture/thomas-jefferson.htm.
“Copley’s Watson & the Shark.” Copley’s Watson & the Shark. National Gallery of Art. Web. 1 July 2015. http://www.nga.gov/feature/watson/story1.shtm.
“The Battle of La Hogue.” The Battle of La Hogue. National Gallery of Art. Web. 1 July 2015. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.45885.html.