Until the late 18th century, only affluent patrons could afford art. However, a new market for less expensive art was emerging in the 18th century. Untrained but skilled artists began to find a market for portraits at a fairly low cost. But these artists had to be willing to travel around as itinerant artists, painting on demand from town to town. Artists such as The Beardsley Limner, John Brewster, Jr. and Winthrop Chandler traveled around, painting family portraits at a price affordable to lower income patrons.
By the 19th century, another American trend was underway. The romanticism of Europe took hold in America. One manifestation of this was naturalism. A uniquely American art movement flourished under this influence. This school of art embraced landscapes rather than portraits. It celebrated with unbridled optimism the natural beauty of America—the Hudson River Valley, New England countryside and the West. Sometimes called luminism or the Hudson River School, this art trend developed under the lead of many important trained masters including Frederick Church, Thomas Cole, and Albert Bierstadt. The itinerant painters also embraced this new form as part of their trade. Although rarely signing their works, these artists included Edward Hicks, Joseph Hidley, Rufus Porter and Charles Hoffmann. Portraiture continued to flourish during this period as well.
How have the prices of these works fared in modern times? Mostly, they remain quite accessible. Some notable exceptions are the works of Edward Hicks and Ammi Phillips. Overall, though, the paintings you see here are quite accessible in price, yet hold their value well over time.