Artist colonies in Europe, the United States, and Florida

Jennifer L. Aldrich

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts, Department of Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida [St. Petersburg]

Abstract

During the nineteenth century, an artistic trend spread across Europe. As urban centers housed the majority of professional artists, individuals and groups relocated to remote, bucolic areas to form art colonies. Artist colonies are typically defined as a group of artists, generally painters, writers, and composers who worked and lived as a community for a certain period of time. Artists left their city lifestyles as a response to urbanization and industrialization. In other words, the movement encouraged reform of social, environmental, and economic conditions to prevent the decline of true artisanship. The artistic response personified an underlying utopian theme: preservation of the simple life, nostalgia, and set of values threatened by industrialization. This idyllic impulse eventually spread to America. The American art colonies were mainly located in the Northeastern states, the Southwest and Northern California. The present study seeks to analyze art colonies' transformation from rural settings to urban art communities, particularly Florida's art centers. The study finds commonality among the artist colonies of yesterday and the modern art enclaves of today. Some common themes include: desire for seclusion, camaraderie with fellow artists, and inspiration from a environment and/or nature. Chapter one offers a brief history of art colonies in Europe and the influence of landscapes on artists. Chapter two explores the development of American art colonies and their connection to landscapes and the urban influence of modern art on the artists. Chapter three investigates the history of the most significant art colonies in Florida: St. Augustine, Sarasota, Maitland, and New Smyrna Beach. This chapter also examines how artist enclaves support urban communities economically, culturally, and through diversity; specifically, through examples in small towns transformed into diverse Floridian art communities. Art has always provided a unique historical record of social, regional, environmental, and creative changes. The art colonies and communities discussed in this thesis show how the artistic impulses for creativity attract individuals to places and transform them into important art centers.