American Renaissance

This article is about the American Renaissance in architecture and the arts. For the use of the term in literary criticism, see American Renaissance (literature). For the magazine and website, see American Renaissance (magazine).
American Renaissance painted decor: gilded stencilling on an olive green ground in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy in the Executive Office Building, 1879 (now the Vice President's Ceremonial Office)
Ennobled currency: The central vignette of the US$2 bill, Series 1896: Blashfield's Science presents Steam and Electricity to Commerce and Manufacture.

In the history of American architecture and the arts, the American Renaissance was the period from 1876 to 1917[1] characterized by renewed national self-confidence and a feeling that the United States was the heir to Greek democracy, Roman law, and Renaissance humanism. The American preoccupation with national identity (or New Nationalism) in this period was expressed by modernism and technology as well as academic classicism. It expressed its self-confidence in new technologies, such as the wire cables of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. It found its cultural outlets in both Prairie School houses and in Beaux-Arts architecture and sculpture, in the "City Beautiful" movement, and "also the creation of the American empire."[2] Americans felt that their civilization was uniquely the modern heir, and that it had come of age. Politically and economically, this era coincides with the Gilded Age and the New Imperialism.

The classical architecture of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893, was a demonstration that impressed Henry Adams, who wrote that people "would some day talk about Hunt and Richardson, La Farge and Saint-Gaudens, Burnham and McKim and Stanford White when their politicians and millionaires were quite forgotten." (The Education of Henry Adams [3]).

In the dome of the reading room at the new Library of Congress, Edwin Blashfield's murals were on the given theme, The Progress of Civilization.

The exhibition American Renaissance: 1876–1917 at the Brooklyn Museum, 1979, encouraged the revival of interest in this movement.

The dates chosen for this era coincide with the Centennial Exposition, the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the United States entry into World War I.

Notable examples

Cuyahoga County Courthouse, 1906-1912

The exterior includes sculpture by Karl Bitter, Daniel Chester French, Herbert Adams, Isidore Konti and Herman Matzen while the interior contains murals by Frank Brangwyn, Violet Oakley, Charles Yardley Turner, Max Bohm and Frederick Wilson. A stained glass window was designed and executed by Frederick Wilson and Charles Schweinfurth.[4]


  1. Wilson, Richard Guy, ‘’The American Renaissance: 1876–1917’’, The Brooklyn Museum 1979
  2. Wilson, Richard Guy, ‘’The American Renaissance: 1876–1917’’, The Brooklyn Museum 1979 p. 15


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