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Unintended Consequences: The American Art-Union and the Rise of a National Landscape School
by Kimberly Orcutt

with Allan McLeod

Introduction | Scholarly Essay | Interactive Features | Project Narrative

On this page:

Interactive chart: Artworks Distributed by Subject
Interactive map feature: American Art-Union Membership, 1839–1850
Interactive map feature: American Art-Union Works Distributed, 1839–1852

See also:

Database: American Art-Union Works Distributed and Displayed

Note (stacked percent chart):
For the years 1848 through 1852, click on the parts of the column for a table of artworks distributed,
with priced offered and paid.

Click here for information on prices offered and paid.
Click here for information on how artworks were classified into genres.

American Art-Union Membership, 1839–1850

Click to view interactive map feature

Click a map marker to view the state’s membership map.
Click a listed state to view the state’s yearly membership totals.
Mouseover the pop-up to locate a selected state.
Hold down the Shift key for mouse-wheel or trackpad zoom.

For more information on membership and location data, click here.

American Art-Union Works Distributed, 1839–1852

Click to view interactive map feature

Click a map marker to view the city’s distribution information.
Click a listed artwork at right for more information.
A black line on the map will connect the location of its distribution to its current location.
Intermediate locations are not included, but many entries include links to full provenance.

For information on artworks listed in the pop-ups, click here.
Explanatory Notes

Membership Map [return to map notes]

Membership and Location Data

The data on which the map is based is drawn from lists of names and cities published in the American Art-Union Transactions (1839–49) and Bulletin (1850). Both are available on JSTOR.‍[1] In 1850, the Art-Union only published the names of its first 7,501 members out of a total of 16,310, so the map reflects less than half of the membership. The Art-Union did not publish lists of 1851 members. Instead, the timeline concludes with the sale of its property in 1852, with most known buyers residing in New York City.

The spelling of some towns has changed slightly over time, and the current spelling was used. In a few cases, names of towns have changed substantially, and they appear in parentheses. In larger cities, neighborhoods were sometimes recorded, and they have been reckoned under the city name. Occasionally a member only provided a county, state, or country, rather than a town or city; in those cases a central point was chosen for the map. Cities that were part of the state of Virginia in the antebellum years and became part of West Virginia after its founding in 1861 are listed as West Virginia.

Because the Art-Union records are incomplete, the number of members published does not exactly match official membership numbers, which can be found below in Table 1.

Table 1
American Art-Union Membership
Year Membership
1839 814
1840 686
1841 937
1842 1,120
1843 1,452
1844 2,080
1845 3,233
1846 4,457
1847 9,666
1848 16,475
1849 18,960
1850 16,310
1851 13,578
Extracted from Maybelle Mann, The American Art-Union (Otisville, NY: ALM Associates, 1977), 90.

To maximize legibility and functionality, the maps focus on the continental United States, but the Art-Union had many international members, and their numbers are listed below in Table 2.

Table 2
International Members
City (if provided) Country 1839 1840 1841 1842 1843 1844 1845 1846 1847 1848 1849 1850
Amherstburg, Ontario Canada 1
Antigua 1
Batavia Netherlands 1 1 1
Batley England 2
Bermuda 1 1 2 2
Bradford England 1 1
Briston England 1
Brockville, Ontario Canada 1 1 1 1 3 2
Buenos Aires Argentina 2
Canton China 1 1
Castle Hill England 1
Charlotte Town, Nova Scotia Canada 1
Cienfuego Cuba 1
Clayton, Ontario Canada 1
Coburg Canada 1
Cornwall Canada 1
Dalton England 1
Clarington (Darlington) Canada 1
Dublin Ireland 1
Dunnville Canada 1
Edinburgh Scotland 1 1 1
Florence Italy 1
Galt Canada 1
Glasgow Scotland 1 2 3
Grafton Canada 1
Guayana Puerto Rico 1
Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada 2
Hamilton Bermuda 3
Hamilton, Ontario Canada 1 2 10 5
Havana Cuba 1 1 5
Haiti 1
Hong Kong China 1 1
Huddersfield England 4
Jakarta Indonesia 1 1
Jamaica 1
Kingston, Ontario Canada 1 1 3
Kingston Jamaica 1
Leeds England 1
Leige Belgium 1
Lennoxville, Quebec Canada 1
Lockwood England 1
London, Ontario Canada 1
London England 1 2 1 1 2
Maracaibo Venezuela 1
Matamoras Mexico 1
Matanzas Cuba 2 3 1
Mexico City Mexico 2 1
Monterrey Mexico 7 2 1 1
Montreal, Quebec Canada 1 1 1 3 7 6 7
Munich Germany 1 3 6
Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia Canada 1
Newfoundland Canada 1
Newport, Nova Scotia Canada 1
Nova Scotia Canada 1
Oakville Canada 1 1
Oshawa, Ontario Canada 1 1
Paraguay 1 2
Paris France 1 1
Port Dalhousie Canada 3 3
Puerto Rico 1 1
Quebec Canada 1 3
Queenstown, Ontario Canada 3
Rio de Janeiro Brazil 2 1
Rome Italy 1 1 1 2
San Nicholas Cuba 1
Santa Cruz Trinidad and Tobago 1 4 4
Shepton Mallet England 2
St. Andrews, New Brunswick Canada 1 1
St. Bartholomew 1
St. Catharines, Ontario Canada 1 1 2 3
St. Croix 3
St. John, New Brunswick Canada 1 2 3 11
St. John, Newfoundland Canada 2
St. Thomas 1 2 2
St. Vincent 1
Shanhai China 1
Springfield England 1
Stamford Canada 1
Toronto, Ontario Canada 1 7 29 10
Trinidad Cuba 7
West Indies 1
Williamsburgh, Ontario Canada 1
Windsor, Nova Scotia Canada 2
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Canada 2
TOTAL 2 3 1 1 2 3 8 15 25 59 91 102

Works Distributed Map [return to map notes]

Artworks Distributed

All information (including titles) appears as it was published in the Art-Union catalogues with minor corrections. All available information is shown. Starting in 1849, the institution provided dimensions and a brief description of each work. Note that dimensions were provided as [width] x [height] (that is, width first), which is the opposite of the current convention of [height] x [width] (height first).

Distributed works on the map include paintings, works on paper, and sculpture. Not included are certain works that were distributed in multiples, such as medals and special engravings.‍[2]


Artworks Distributed by Genre Chart [return to chart notes]

Prices Offered and Paid

Price information was compiled from the American Art-Union’s Management Committee Minutes (1839–55), Executive Committee Minutes (1846–1854), Register of Works of Art (1848–51), and correspondence (1838–52). Data is often incomplete, particularly before 1848. Where prices conflict, the price with the latest date was used.

Sometimes works were purchased in groups for one overall price, so the author had to interpolate prices. Where possible, the prices are broken down in proportion to the artist’s asking price or the relative dimensions, if known. In the absence of information, the price was a simple average of total price paid divided by number of works.

The average price offered and average price paid in the genre breakdown chart was calculated from those works that had information on both the price offered and the price paid. They represent a minority of the total. The chart includes the underlying data from which the averages were calculated. The Works Distributed Map, on the other hand, includes all available price information.

Genre Classifications

Most of the nearly 3,000 works distributed are unlocated and lack images, so the genre cannot be definitely determined. The author made a judgement of the probable genre based on the title, the context of the artist’s other work, and the written description for works purchased for distribution from 1849 to 1851.

The following are not intended as definitions of each genre, but rather as guidelines that classify this particular body of works into usable categories. This is a reductive exercise by its nature and, given the limited state of knowledge of this great quantity of works, some of the genres assigned may be erroneous. However, for the purposes of gleaning useful conclusions from a large body of information, a small percentage of errors must be tolerated. The author welcomes comments and corrections.

Figure Study: a small-scale non-narrative work with one figure presented as a character or type, rather than a portrait of a specific person.

History: a work that focuses on a historic, religious, literary, mythological, or allegorical theme. Historical subjects are also classified as American or English where applicable. Note that themes of discovery and conquest are classified as American history because they would have been understood as such during the antebellum period.

Landscape: includes river and lake scenes that are defined by the land around them, as well as buildings, unless the work seems to have been an architectural study or interior view.

Genre: a narrative scene from the everyday life of the period that focuses on action between figures.

Marine: scenes defined by large bodies of water, such as the sea, the coast, bays, and the activities of ships.

Other: includes architectural studies, portraits, animal studies (in which animals are the primary actors and no human presence is implied), and portfolios for which the genres of individual works cannot be determined.

Still Life: fruit, flower, and game pieces.

Prints & Plates: the 1852 sale of the American Art-Union’s effects included woodcuts used as illustrations in the Bulletin, engravings not yet distributed to members, and plates for the engravings.

[1] See and

[2] For more information, see Mary Bartlett Cowdrey, American Academy of Fine Arts and American Art-Union: Introduction: 1816–1852 (New York: The New-York Historical Society, 1953), 285–94.