Triggering a radical restructuring of the society on the economic, social and emotional levels, the Industrial Revolution inspired the rise of Romanticism in American art. The Industrial Revolution shattered the old order of authority and rationalism. Romanticism encompassed the dual contradictory sentiments of this period: 1) the popular faith in the idea of progress and the democratization of society and 2) the pessimism of nostalgia (Garrett, 21-22). With the dissolution of traditional spiritual values and the emergence of paradoxical scientific beliefs wrought by the turbulent social and economic changes of the Industrial Revolution, people were thrust into a state of confusion and loneliness. Therefore, while Romanticism celebrated the rise of the individual against traditional authority, it also tapped into their longing for a lost world of their youth (Garrett 22).
In this paper, the focus of the discussion is paintings. Although Europe was the dominant artistic influence during the century, the artists in America were recreating their own style of art based on the distinctive qualities of the American landscape and the democratic processes.
During the early nineteenth century, the wealthy and leisured class was the major patrons of the "Hudson River School" of artists. Luman Reed patronized the arts because he felt that the American artists were beginning to create art that was distinctively American. For the first time, American painters were confronting the unknown wilderness of America with objectivity (Gowans 213-215). With a sense of command developed by the Industrial Revolution, the new paintings reflected the capacity of the new generations to enjoy the wilderness vicariously (Gowans 212).
Asher Brown Durand's painting, titled "Kindred Spirits," represented the intense Romantic spirit of the time. Here, the poet William Cullen Bryant and painter Thomas Cole are shown to be engaging in a discussion within a...