Drawing Machines: The Mechanics of Art in the Early Republic


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art and Architecture


Situated at the juncture of artisanal and industrial processes, mechanical drawing offers a unique opportunity to examine the impact of mechanization on the visual arts in early America. Through analysis of mechanical drawing practices across a diverse array of artistic disciplines, this dissertation traces the machine’s gradual transformation of the means and subject matter of manual representation, while also exploring the continued relevance of traditional forms of artisanal knowledge within the period’s emergent technological literacy. Interrogating patterns of technical instruction, material facture, and representational convention, the project provides a history of America’s early industrial age from within the specific conditions of artistic practice. Ultimately, the dissertation overturns conventional oppositions between man and machine to understand how the manual and the mechanical were practiced as simultaneous, even complementary, ways of both making and knowing in the early Republic.