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Architectural Style Following the Revolutionary War

In the decades following the Revolutionary War Americans felt called upon to reaffirm the concepts on which their fight for freedom had been based. Thus the broadest trend in art and architecture was toward the severe neoclassical style that spoke of virtue and a fresh approach to the problem of organizing society. In the years after the Civil War the nation was also undergoing an adjustment, but this time the change was not related to political organization but to the radical changes inherent in the industrialization and rapidly expanding wealth of the young country. The response was an overwhelming growth in the arts accompanied by a split in sensibilities between those looking for an art that put a seal of cultural approval on industrial growth--usually turning to European models--and those who adhered to a more local vision.

Despite the differences between the two postwar periods, however, certain questions or problems persisted. The first might be called the problem of Europe, the second the problem of the moral implications of art, and the third the choice to be made between the universal and the specific. In the years after the War of Independence these issues were strongly interconnected. As future president John Adams wrote to his wife while visiting France, "I cannot help suspecting that the more elegance, the less virtue, in all times and countries" (quoted in Prown 208). The suspicion that the Rococo elegance of Versailles and Paris was incompatible with civic and personal virtue was based on a combination of the old Puritan strain of the American settlers and the general Enlightenment conception of the nature of man. Man, it was held, was inherently good but had been corrupted by flawed institutions. In contrast to the corruption of the absolutist monarchies of Europe the classical past was held to embody humanity's ability to create ideal societies. The improvement of humanity inherent in this view was one o...

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Architectural Style Following the Revolutionary War. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:54, December 07, 2021, from