Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


H. Barbara Weinberg

Committee Members

Marlene Park

Sally Webster

Kenneth Ames

Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


This dissertation examines the studios of American painters and sculptors working in the cosmopolitan era of the late nineteenth century. Between the Philadelphia Centennial and World War I, most makers of fine art worked in studios furnished with old furniture, personal mementos, historic relics and superbly-crafted objets d'art, all rich in evocative associations. In these spaces artists made art, taught art, sold art, entertained friends and patrons, and kept house. These studios were often opened to the public, they were featured in newspaper and journal articles, and they appeared in paintings and novels, making them quasi-public places. Born out of the era's impulse towards aestheticist endeavors, the studios were a deliberate attempt to create beauty for its own sake; thus they are termed aestheticizing studios in this dissertation. The dissertation has a dual thesis: that aestheticizing studios enabled artists to create their public personae and to create their art.

The dissertation is composed of six chapters, and an introduction and conclusion. The introduction surveys prior scholarship and discusses methodology. A chronological and stylistic survey of the phenomenon of aestheticizing studios is presented. Two chapters detail the contents of studios and the activities that took place in them. A fourth chapter analyzes texts and images that portrayed aestheticizing studios, as well as the messages and motivations embedded in them. Together, the studios themselves and the diverse media in which they were portrayed forged multifaceted public personae for American artists; these separate facets are examined individually in a fifth chapter. The sixth chapter demonstrate the direct catalytic influence of aestheticizing studios on their inhabitants by presenting "close readings" of studios and works of art created in them. The conclusion places the patterns observed in studios within a larger cultural framework. While the dissertation discusses the artwork, writings, and lives of several hundred American artists and authors, the work of William Merritt Chase, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Francis Davis Millet and Frederic Edwin Church receive particular emphasis.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.