Folk art, or vernacular art (specific to a group or place), developed in Colonial America out of necessity when individual households produced most of the utilitarian objects required for daily life. Using traditional tools and techniques, many of these makers created pieces in which aesthetics came to play a substantial role, through form, ornamentation, or both. In some groups, notably the Shakers, function was emphasized, with pure form evoking an aesthetic and spiritual response. Religious beliefs have informed American folk art, such as the saints and other figures (Santos) carved and painted by Catholic settlers in the Southwest as early as 1700. Although the majority of folk art is now anonymous, the oeuvre of numerous individual artists can be determined by their distinctive styles or marks. Folk art is often considered within the field of ‘material culture’, with an emphasis on the object’s context rather than its creator. Most American folk art falls within three categories: painting and cut paper, textiles and fibre, and three-dimensional work such as furniture, carvings, metalwork, ceramics, and outdoor installations....
Edward J. Nygren
(b Burton in Kendall or Lorton, Cumbria, 1760; d Brooklyn, NY, Aug 12, 1820).
American painter of English birth. In England he was apprenticed to a tailor and then worked in the textile trade. A business failure prompted him to leave London for New York in 1795. By early 1798 he was settled in Baltimore, MD, where he lived for the next 20 years. Having unsuccessfully attempted to establish a dyeing operation, he took up painting as a livelihood. Basically self-taught, Guy specialized in American views, especially cityscapes, although he occasionally painted English landscapes and treated more exotic places, undoubtedly using prints as sources of inspiration. The Tontine Coffee House of New York (New York, NY Hist. Soc.), one of his first major paintings, was probably executed in the early 1800s, although it has frequently been dated 1797. Guy is especially known for his panoramas of Baltimore (Large View of Baltimore from Chapel Hill, 1803; New York, Brooklyn Mus.) and for his meticulous renderings of various sites in and around his adopted city. He executed numerous views of country estates, some of which decorated painted chairs and tables made by the Finlay Brothers (Baltimore, MD, Mus. A.). Many of his paintings are preserved in the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore. With their crisply drawn forms, strolling couples and atmospheric clarity his compositions have a charming naive quality, reflective of Guy’s limited training but innate artistic ability; they also project an idyllic view of the young republic, its cultural development and natural potential....
(b London, 1744; d Philadelphia, PA, 1821).
English calico printer, active in America. He was the son of a draper, and trained as a calico printer at Talwin and Foster, a textile printworks at Bromley Hall (Middx). He was assisted by Benjamin Franklin to emigrate, and in 1774 sailed to Philadelphia, where he opened a calico factory in the Kensington area. He printed material for dresses, handkerchiefs and furnishing fabrics, notably bedspreads with medallions depicting urns (e.g. Philadelphia, PA, Mus. A. and Winterthur, DE, Du Pont Winterthur Mus.). When Hewson retired in ...