American Art

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One of the first painters to visit British America was John White (c. 1540 – c. 1606), who made important watercolor records of Native American life on the Eastern seaboard (now British Museum). White first visited America as the artist and map-maker for an expedition of exploration, and in the early years of the Colonial period most other artists trained in Western styles were officers in the army and navy, whose training included sketching landscapes. Eventually the English settlements grew large enough to support professional artists, mostly portrait-painters, often largely self-taught. Among the earliest was John Smybert (1688–1751), a trained artist from London who emigrated in 1728 intending to be a professor of fine art, but instead became a portrait painter and printseller in Boston. His friend Peter Pelham was a painter and printmaker. Both needed other sources of income and had shops. Meanwhile, the Spanish territories later to be American could see mostly religious art in the late Baroque style, mostly by native artists, and Native American cultures continued to produce art in their various traditions.