Arts: Portraits and Pioneers

We must change our habits, our prejudices, our palates, our taste in dress, furniture, equipage, architecture, etc., but we can live and be happy.

—John Adams

In this time of patriotism and peril, it may seem frivolous to report on the state of art. But since few lands have ever achieved greatness without producing a great art, Americans should realize that their prospects are none too bright. Indeed, the most dexterous of our artists have already departed for London to make their fortunes there.

Benjamin West, 37, whose Quaker father kept an inn...