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5.1: Introduction (1700 CE – 1800 CE)

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    During this period, the Salon grew in Paris to become the prestigious and official arbiter of fine European art, holding the most prominent annual shows in the Western art world. To be considered a successful artist by the early 1700s meant acceptance into the Salon. By 1725, the performances were held in the Louvre; paintings hung everywhere. The printed catalogs provide accurate records of the works of the day, and the descriptions of the paintings mark the start of the art critic. Other salons were organized and held exhibits; to be worthy of acceptance into the Salon, the artists had their work juried following the standards of fine art. They admitted that the salons generally had a limited number of female artists; however, women artists were restricted from life drawing classes and access to drawing nudes.

    When the Europeans started to colonize North America, the weather and topography were familiar, a new and unspoiled land where they could begin a different life under new religious laws and governments. Diverse religious groups installed governments according to their beliefs; strict zealots in New England practicing severely restricted concepts or those believing in aristocracy and large estates in the southern territory. Portraits, a primary style of European painting, were imported and became a dominant style in the colonies. Skilled artists moved from Europe to the new land as cities, and the colonies became economically strong with a growing affluent society. England began to impose additional taxes and new laws. Yet, the colonies had no representation in the English government, bringing the colonists to the brink of war, "no taxation without representation," and finally, the revolution. Women's activities and freedom were based on their socioeconomic background, religious practices, and the section of the country they lived. Women still had household responsibilities; however, some helped the family in trade or business yet had no property rights. And childbirth remained the most dangerous event for women.

    The early settlers relied on European art standards, posing the subject and painting clothing in portraits. Population centers like Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston became meccas for artists from Europe and those born locally, creating new styles. The Spanish inhabited the coastal areas of the west, and art was based on the Spanish Catholic Baroque; the French controlled the Louisiana and Rococo style territory, while the east coast was under the influence of England and the Dutch aesthetic principles, the strongest and most long-lasting. Art in the northern colonies was structured based on constricted religious beliefs, while the southern colonies built large plantation estates filled with elegant furnishings and paintings. Regardless of location, all the art was Eurocentric; they had little contact and were not influenced by the traditions and styles of Native American art. Slavery was active in all thirteen colonies, and the people were forced from Africa as enslaved people also brought their art. Personal art of vessels, small drums, or baskets survived from early New England enslaved people onward, as they toiled on public works or large plantations,

    As the republic grew and gained independence, local artists pushed the boundaries of art beyond just portraits. They found inspiration in the newly emerged military and patriots, such as Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin. Some artists even traveled to paint portraits of ordinary people. Artistic expression expanded beyond painting to include new furniture styles, silverwork, and architecture, with artists designing and creating unique pieces for the new country.

    The Qing period lasted from 1644 to 1912, a long prosperous span. Women were still expected to stay at home and have children. They might become one of several wives or concubines but are always a subject in the husband's family. Women had some rights and could own land, be part of their husbands' ranks, and occasionally become heads of the household. Women were generally still considered second-class citizens. Some women, especially the upper class, were educated. All women were required to learn needlework, and their abilities to weave and embroider were also applied to other artistic skills. A woman's needlework skills might help provide the family with additional income. During the Qing period, more and more women became educated and learned to read and write. Their poetry and novels were published, and women gained more power at home handling the family's finances. Female artists could make a living from their paintings and their needlework. However, women still had minimum control over their fate.

    This page titled 5.1: Introduction (1700 CE – 1800 CE) is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Deborah Gustlin & Zoe Gustlin (Open Educational Resource Initiative at Evergreen Valley College) .