District of Columbia Art History

with an emphasis on representational art



This section of the Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) catalogue Topics in American Art is devoted to the topic "District of Columbia Art History." Articles and essays specific to this topic published in TFAO's Resource Library are listed at the beginning of the section. Clicking on titles takes readers directly to the articles and essays. The date at the end of each title is the date of publication in Resource Library.

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After articles and essays specific to this state published in TFAO's Resource Library are links to online resources found outside the TFAO website. Online resources are gathered from TFAO catalogues. Following online resources is information about offline resources including museums, DVDs, and paper-printed books, journals and articles. Our goal is to present complete knowledge relating to this section of Topics in American Art.

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Resource Library essays listed by author name in alphabetical order, followed by articles:

Arts Club of Washington

As of April, 2015 Resource Library contains 26 pages including the District's name.


Museums and other non-profit sources of Resource Library articles and essays:

Arts Club of Washington

Corcoran Gallery of Art

Foundry Gallery

Freer Gallery of Art

George Washington University Dimock Gallery

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

National Gallery of Art

National Museum of American Art

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Phillips Collection

Trust for Museum Exhibitions

United States Capitol Art Collection


(above: Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photo © 2014 John Hazeltine)


Other online information:

A Brief History of the Washington Society of Landscape Painters from The Washington Society of Landscape Painters. Accessed August, 2015.

District of Columbia (sampling of artists and works connected to state) from askArt. Accessed August, 2015.

United States Capitol Campus Art - from from Architect of the Capitol. Accessed August, 2015.

U.S. Senate Art - from U.S. Senate. U.S. Senate Art - from U.S. Senate. Accessed August, 2015.

Washington Landscape Club from AskArt.com. Accessed August, 2015.

Works of Art in the United States Capitol Building, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1913, from Google Books, including biographies of the artists. This entire book can be read online. Accessed August, 2015.

Mural Artists Help Beautify Washington, DC. video from Voice of America. Accessed May, 2015.


TFAO's Distinguished Artists catalogue provides online access to biographical information for artists associated with the District of Columbia. Also, Search Resource Library for online articles and essays concerning both individual artists associated with the District of Columbia's history and the history of art centers and museums in the District of Columbia. Resource Library articles and essays devoted to individual artists and institutions are not listed on this page.


Books, listed by year of publication, with most recently published book listed first:

Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C., By Kathryn Allamong Jacob, Edwin Harlan Remsberg. Photographs by Edwin Harlan Remsberg. Contributor Edwin Harlan Remsberg. Published by John Hopkins University Press, 1998. ISBN 0801858615, 9780801858611. 192 pages. Google Books says: "Although the monuments of Washington, D.C., honor more than two centuries of history and heroes, five years of that history produced more of the city's public commemorative sculpture than all the others combined. The heroes of the Civil War command Washington's choicest vantage points and most visible parks, lending their names to the city's most familiar circles and squares -- Scott, Farragut, Logan, Sheridan, Dupont, and others. In Testament to Union, Kathryn Allamong Jacob tells the stories behind the many District of Columbia statues that honor participants in the Civil War, predominantly Union, and testify to their sacrifice and valor. In her introduction, Jacob puts these monuments in historical context, describing the often bitter battles over control of historical memory, the postwar monument business (a lone soldier-in-granite model could cost a community as little as $1,000), and the rise of the "city beautiful" movement that transformed Washington. She then offers individual descriptions of forty-one sculptures, providing a lively and informative guide to some of Washington's most beautiful and moving works of art. Organized geographically for easy use on walking or driving tours, the entries begin by listing the subject or title of the memorial along with its sculptor, medium, date, and location. Jacob describes its various elements and symbols, and she notes who commissioned the sculpture, who paid for it (or failed to pay in several cases), and who approved its design and placement. She also includes anecdotes and controversies that bring the monuments and their colorful history more fully to life. Admiral David Farragut's statue, for example, is cast from the propeller of his ship the U.S.S. Hartford, from whose rigging he shouted, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" during the battle of Mobile Bay. At the dedication of Lincoln Park's Emancipation Monument in 1876, the largest assembly of African-American to date, speaker Frederick Douglass shocked white listeners with thinly veiled criticism of the martyred Lincoln. Edwin Remsberg's photographs of the monuments capture striking images of war and sacrifice -- the straining horses and terrified men of the cavalry grouping at the Grant Monument; the vivid tomb effigy of young John Meigs, depicting him as he was found dead in a field; the Pension Building frieze with its hundreds of finely detailed terra cotta soldiers and sailors marching and rowing across the face of the building. Along with swashbuckling generals atop pedestals bristling with cannon, unexpected subjects appear. A statue of John Ericsson, the Swedish-American who designed the Monitor and perfected the screw propeller for the Union Navy, is hidden in a circle of shrubbery beside the Potomac. A bas-relief of twelve nuns dedicated to the memory of various religious orders who nursed the wounded during the Civil War sits beside noisy Rhode Island Avenue. In addition to the enormous white temple to Lincoln on the Mall, four smaller statues of that president can be found in the city where he was assassinated. Washington's Civil War sculptures bear silent witness to the struggle to preserve the Union. They are the fruit of conscious efforts to shape the nation's memory of that struggle. For tourists and long-time residents, and for anyone interested in the Civil War or public art, Testament to Union is a wonderful guide to these tangible connections to the nation's past and an era when public monuments packed powerful messages." (right: front cover of Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.,. image courtesy of Google Books)

The Capitol Image: Painters in Washington, 1800-1915, by Andrew S. Cosentino and Henry S. Glassie. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983

"Washington on the Potomac" essay by Linda Crocker Simmons, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 1982.

Sculpture and the Federal Triangle: National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., October 26, 1979 -January 6, 1980, By George Gurney, National Collection of Fine Arts (U.S., National Collection of Fine Arts (U.S.). Published by Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979. 42 pages. Google Books says: "A walking tour of the Federal Triangle, Washington, D.C."

Washington, D.C. Artists Born before 1900: A Biographical Dictionary Washington, D.C.: Privately printed, 1976

Works of Art in Washington, By Leila Mechlin, Washington Society of the Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., Washington Society of the Fine Arts, Published by The Washington Society of the Fine Arts, 1914, Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Jan 17, 2007, 11 pages


Ph.D. dissertation:

"Washington's First Art Academy: The Corcoran School of Art, 1875-1925," by Allan Thomas Marsh, University of Maryland, 1983



Florence S. Berryman, "Artists of Washington" Records of the Columbia Historical Society 50 (1952): 215-33

Josephine Cobb, "The Washington Art Association: An Exhibition Record, 1856-1860," Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington D.C. 63-65 (1966)

Leila Mechlin, "Art Life in Washington," Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington D.C. 24 (1922): 164-91

Gladys Milligan, "The Society of Washington Artists," Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington D.C. 60-62 (1963): 282-88

Marietta Minnegerode, "Art in Washington," Corcoran Art Journal 1 (December, 1892, January-May 1893)

Elizabeth Ellison Newport, "A Group of Washington Artists," Art Interchange 37 (December, 1896): 140-42

"Art and Artists in Washington" National Republican, December 5, 1870

"Art in the District of Columbia" American Journal of Education 19 (1870): 725-73


TFAO extends appreciation to Brett Busang for suggesting information for this page.

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