Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


William H. Gerdts

Committee Members

H. Barbara Weinberg

Marlene Park

John Wilmerding

Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


In 1802, Robert R. Livingston, the United States Minister to France, conceived of the American Academy as a salon that would inspire American artists and uplift the minds of others. His brother Edward, Mayor of New York who also believed that the city's leaders were responsible for the cultural enlightenment of artists and the general public, generated financial support from the city's ruling elite. Neither the Livingstons nor the members, however, planned for the Academy's operation. The institution languished until Mayor De Witt Clinton assumed the Academy presidency in 1813. With the help of his friend John Pintard, Clinton placed the Academy on a more stable footing. For the grand re-opening exhibition in 1816, the Academy attracted loans from New York's most prominent collectors and artists, including John Trumbull whose moralistic history paintings suited the Academy's principles perfectly. Trumbull became the institution's president in 1817 and enriched and strengthened the Academy's plan for disseminating high aesthetic and moral standards and developed the institution as a distinguished organization for art patrons. This study, which chronicles the Academy's history by examining key episodes, begins with a discussion of the Academy's founding by the Livingstons and its revival under Clinton and continues with a consideration of Trumbull's presidency and John Vanderlyn's service as the Academy's envoy to Europe. Issues considered in subsequent chapters include the Academy's prized possession, Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait of Benjamin West, the five discourses the officers sponsored between 1824 and 1827, artists' relationship to the Academy and the founding of the National Academy of Design, the exhibitions, and the Academy's leaders after Trumbull's resignation.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.