American art

There were several problems the art of sculpture faced at the dawn of the Federal Period (c. 1785). In this culturally potent age—remember that the text designates the preceding three decades as a “Golden Age”—how was it that sculpture lagged behind most other media (i.e., painting, architecture, and even the decorative arts)? In your opinion, how does the sculpture produced in this period ultimately stack up to these other forms of artistic expression?

What were the problems that sculpture confronted in these early years? What artists and/or what works endeavored to change the national perception and lowly position of sculpture? From where did these sculptors derive their inspiration? Was one format—i.e. figural, pedimental, or outdoor public sculpture—better suited to the decorative and/or propagandistic needs of the American republic?

And, finally, would you attribute the relative unsuccess of sculpture to an inherent technical deficiency (that is, a difficulty with the medium itself) or more so to perceived limitations in the medium’s potential to convey a message?