American Federal Period

Between 1775 and 1787, the new United States of America went through an unprecedented period of military and political turmoil, between the Revolutionary War beginning in 1775, the signing of the Declaration of Independence the next year, and the ratification of the Constitution in 1787. Delaware was the first state to sign the Constitution that year, and the effects of war and beginning a new nation could be seen through the artwork produced during the period. The fine and decorative arts of the emerging First State reflected the more sobering cultural tone of Federal America. The influential design book by British architects Robert and James Adam, Works in Architecture (1773), popularized a decorative arts aesthetic influenced by classical archaeology. This complemented the new American political system based on the democracy of classical Rome and Greece. Portraiture of this period emphasized flattering likenesses, anatomical accuracy and formal poses.