Martha Coffin Derby (1783-1832): Travel, Patronage, and the Promotion of Art in the Early Republic


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture


When Martha Coffin Derby went to Italy in 1802, perhaps the first American woman to take the Grand Tour after the revolution, American painting was very much in the shadow of the English Grand Manner. Derby's international experiences, and those of a handful of Americans, would shape the progress of American art in the early national period. Traveling Americans formed collections featuring a wide range of decorative arts, casts, copies, and prints as well paintings by living American and European artists. Displayed for polite society, particularly in the domestic environments of elite homes, these constituted formative sites for art education. Upper-class women not only fashioned this domestic sphere but reached beyond it to shape American aesthetics and national taste.