Our Renaissance Revival, the American Renaissance


Athens, Florence, and all civil flowerings are born of virtue, tradition, and liberty.  These united states, in liberty by the virtues of tried-and-true traditions, experienced a civil flowering almost unprecedented in history.  Our great civil monuments and civic practices are, hos epi to polu, borne from our American Renaissance, circa 1876 through 1917, id est, from our Centennial until the Progressive opportunism of the First World War.


Athens credit Sven Hansche

Athens. credit: Sven Hansche


As you know, our Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, celebrated the Declaration of Independence (composed 1776), its promise of a government that would secure Life, Liberty, and Happiness, the rights granted by the Creator, “God”. 1.  Exhibited at Philadelphia’s Exposition, the fruits of economic liberty in pursuit of happiness, the inventions and riches of agriculture, industry and manufacture.  Should mention, “Happiness”, a word which seems almost out of place in the Declaration until we realize that by “happiness” Thos. Jefferson intended, arete, fulfillment, the joy of achieving excellence in virtues both practical and spiritual.


Rome credit f11photo

Rome. credit: f11 photo


You would have seen at Philadelphia the first display of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the first typewriter; for the first time you would have tasted root-beer, and you would have been among the first to see the right arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty, “Liberty Enlightening the World”, its true title.  F.A. Bartholdi (sculptor of the statue), when an officer of the French Academy, made a rule that Americans could no longer win the Academy grand prizes.  By the 1890s, American artists, as with American inventors, financiers, manufactures, had become the best in all the world, and the world was feeling the pinch of envy.


Centenial Exposition engraving

Centennial Exposition, Main Exposition Building.


The World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, memorializing Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America in history, in context, and practically, proved that the United States was the inheritor of Classive Civilization, its paradigm and leader.  In truth, by liberty, tradition, and virtue, our nation led the world into a Renaissance whose flowering is only now fading. 2.  Every few years, the United States of America demonstrated its cultural leadership in a continuing flowering of arts and invention, the expositions at Saint Louis, San (saint) Francisco, San (saint) Diego come first to mind.


Worlds Columbian Exposition Fountain of Science MacMonnies sculptor

World’s Columbian Exposition, Columbian Fountain, F. MacMonnies, sculptor.


The brilliant and beautiful Panama-California Exposition (San Diego) concluded in 1916, four years after the formation of America’s Progressive Party, a year before both the Russian, Communist Revolution and the First World War.  As you know, Progressives proclaimed that the War offered opportunity to scientifically remake American government, to achieve social equivalence, and to expand the power of the state.  And, Progressives did as they proclaimed, and the nation under God has become each day less free, more authoritarian, less beautiful, more ugly.


American Renaissance, Columbian Exposition

American Renaissance. World’s Columbian Exposition, the Basin showing D.C. French’s Republic facing D. Burnham’s Administration Building.


Within a few years of the exposition in San Diego, patronage shifted from patriotic citizens to an authoritarian government whose purpose in art was not the elevation of the soul, the betterment of the individual, but a petty propaganda that promotes a politician’s ambition or the achievement of some soon forgotten political campaign.  Since the American Progressive, Randolph Bourne (1886–1918), proclaimed, “War is the health of the state,” Progressives have been at war with Beauty, Goodness, and Truth.  From the old, Progressive Works Progress Administration through the current, Progressive One Percent for Art Program, the American Renaissance has been strangled nearly to death.


American Renaissance, Panama-Pacific Exposition

American Renaissance. Panama-Pacific Exhibition, Fountain of Energy, A. Sterling Calder, sculptor.


And yet, Athens, Florence, and our American Renaissance will not die.  Artists continue to make beautiful and ennobling pictuary and statuary, though ignored by the Progressive press, museum, and government agency.  Architects continue to design churches in the tradition, despite the Progressive ugliness spawned by Vatican II, and American houses continue to grow in tradition beautifully, because when free of Progressive imposition, when free to make personal aesthetic choices, people choose the Classive over the Progressive.


SAn Diego Fine Arts Gallery. credit FrimuFilms

San Diego Fine Arts Gallery (façade detail) on the site of the Panama-California Exposition, completed 1925. credit: Frimu Films


When next you visit a museum, notice that the Progressive “Modern” rooms are empty of people, that the Classive “Beautiful” rooms, whether of Greek Antiquity, Roman Splendor, Renaissance Magnificence, Enlightenment Refinement, or American Liberty are filled with men, women and children who look themselves into the pictures and statues until each becomes one with Beauty, Goodness, Truth.  No one looks into a Progressive painting or sculpture, because there, there is nothing … the emptiness of atoms and the void.


American Renaissance, Panama-California Exposition

Panama-California Exposition, as it survives to this day. credit: f11 photo


You might like to know: the name of the city, “Florence”, means, a flowering into bloom; the name, “Athens”, comes from Athena who gave to the city its flowering olive tree, source of Athens’ life and health.  Likely, Ponce de León was the first man of history to touch land now the United States, when during Holy Week, 1513, he arrived near what would be Saint Augustine city and named the place “Pascua Florida”, the Feast of Flowers, that is, the feast of “Easter”, the flowering of Christ’s Resurrection.


Florence credit Sina Ettmer Photography 1

Florence. credit: Sina Ettmer Photography


Renaissance, as you know, means “the rebirth of Classive Civilization”.  The Classive, a notion from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle that we have a soul which survives the body, a soul which might, as Aristotle hoped, gaze upon and contemplate the beautiful, true, and highest good, God.  The Progressive is, alike the Classive, ancient.  Though unlike the Classive, the Progressive is soulless, as Democritus (Plato’s contemporary) would say, “merely atoms and the void”, just chance and accident, material that might be manipulated into some undivine, worldly purpose.


Washington The District of Columbia credit Aevan Stock

Washington, the District of Columbia. credit: Aevan Stock


The American Renaissance was created by a people devoted to God, ambitious of the Good, a people who honored Tradition, who sought Truth in the best of what had been thought, said, done, and from the best invented the better, created works of art and architecture among the most Beautiful ever to have come from a soul through a mind to hands onto a tiny planet of a vast universe.  Yes, the arts of the American Renaissance are in their humble way, great.


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Washington Laying Down His Comand at the Feet of Columbia

American Renaissance. Washington Laying Down His Command at the Feet of Columbia, 1902, Baltimore Court House, Edwin Blashfield, painter.


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  1. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” excerpt from the “Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America”, Philidelphia, July, 1776.
  2. Renaissance Revival, Introduction, The Beautiful Home.


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