Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825-1861

Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825-1861

by Catherine Hoover Voorsanger
     
 

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In 1825 the Erie Canal, connecting the Atlantic with the American heartland via the Great Lakes, was completed, and in 1861 the Civil War, disrupting American unity, began. This volume examines the exhilarating period between these two far-reaching events. The Erie Canal turned the port of New York into the gateway to the United States, ushering in a time of

Overview

In 1825 the Erie Canal, connecting the Atlantic with the American heartland via the Great Lakes, was completed, and in 1861 the Civil War, disrupting American unity, began. This volume examines the exhilarating period between these two far-reaching events. The Erie Canal turned the port of New York into the gateway to the United States, ushering in a time of enormous growth and change for the city of New York. Still very much a work in progress, New York became both an international economic and cultural center: it was transformed into what contemporary observers variously termed the Empire City, the Great Emporium, and the Empress City of the West.

The cultural component of this transformation was as significant as its economic aspect. Highly skilled artists and craftsmen working in New York, both native born and immigrant, grew in number, and institutions devoted to the arts emerged and flourished. With Broadway at its heart, the Great Emporium developed into the nation's major manufacturing and retailing center, the depot for luxury goods made in and around the city and imported from Europe.

The complex story of the proliferation of the arts in New York and the evolution of an increasingly discerning audience for those arts during the antebellum period is the focus of this book, which accompanies a major exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In essays that will interest scholars as well as a more general audience, specialists from the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, and the University of California at Berkeley bring new research and insights to bear on a broad range of subjects. Their texts offer both historical and cultural contexts and explore the city's development as a nexus for the marketing and display of art, as well as private collecting; landscape painting viewed against the background of tourism; new departures in sculpture, architecture, and printmaking; the birth of photography; New York as a fashion center; shopping for home decorations; changing styles in furniture; and the evolution of the ceramics, glass, and silver industries. This volume is lavishly illustrated in color and black and white, providing reproductions of the more than three hundred works in the exhibition as well as comparative material. A checklist of works in the exhibition, a bibliography, and an index are included. [This book was originally published in 2000 and has gone out of print. This edition is a print-on-demand version of the original book.]

Editorial Reviews

ForeWord Magazine
In 1827, an author of "Letters Descriptive of New York, Written to a Literary Gentleman in Dublin" published in the New-York Mirror and Ladies' Literary Gazette posed the question, "What did it mean to be the Empire City, 'the greatest commercial emporium of the world?'" This magnificent and lavishly illustrated volume answers that question in terms of urbanity and the arts in rich historic detail.

In his fascinating opening essay, "Inventing the Metropolis: Civilization and Urbanity in Antebellum New York," Dell Upton explains that the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 guaranteed New York City's future as the preeminent, "geographical and financial center of a web of national and international commerce." The reader learns how the interwoven forces of urban planning and development, and an economic boom led to the marketing of culturally exclusive "high" art, as well as the huckstering of art as bourgeois entertainment for the masses during this pre-Civil War period.

Subsequent essays by an array of distinguished scholars, all beautifully illustrated and documented with extensive notes and appendices, explore how private collections and public exhibitions blossomed during this period, while exciting new developments in New York landscape painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, fashion, home decor, furniture, ceramics, glass and metal ware burst into the expanding marketplace. Such revelations about this historic period help to explain the contemporary perception of New York as the arts capital of the world.

This exquisite catalogue appears concurrently with a massive exhibition this fall by the same title at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.Should one be so moved to attend the exhibit, this book will provide a brilliant record of the experience. For those who don't reach New York this fall, the cultural wealth of the exhibit and then some can be held in hand.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300199543
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
06/25/2013
Pages:
652
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 12.00(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Thayer Tolles is curator, The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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