European fine art and American fine art have a history of influencing one another. In the early 18th Century, when the art market in America had yet to grow wings, many American painters matriculated to Europe, where their works could fetch more money in the continent’s relatively well-established art market. Similarly, during WWII, many European artists fled to New York and influenced the burgeoning art scene that began in the city in the 1940s.
Although European and American fine art have influenced one another over the centuries, they have several important differences that interest art historians and serious art collectors. European art galleries and American art galleries are well aware of these differences, and ensure that their clients understand them before they move ahead and make a purchase.
Historically, European fine art is concerned with channeling the historicity of European art into new works, whereas American fine art is primarily concerned with rendering subject matter as it appears to the artist. A good example of these different painterly approaches can be seen in portraits of American artist John Singleton Copley and European artist Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Artistic Subject Matter
In European art galleries, the art collector often discovers paintings whose subject matter is primarily native to European art, such as fine Victorian portraits of pet dogs and early modern period portraits of aristocratic equestrians seated on their graceful horses.
At roughly the same time these portraits were painted, American painters were committing to canvas landscapes that commemorated the sylvan state of much of America’s scenery at the time. Depending on the artistic subject matter that collectors wish to acquire — and from which period they wish to acquire it — they may invest primarily in European art or American art.
Age of Art Works
European art galleries that carry classical paintings often feature much older works than paintings found in American galleries — even those with classical works of their own. For example, when Giotto was painting in Florence in the mid 1300s as a leader of the Italian Renaissance, he had no counterpart on the other side of the Atlantic, as Columbus had yet to discover America.
Value of Art Works
For most art collectors, the most desirable works are those that exhibit the subject matter in which they are interested, and whose monetary value is as secure as possible. The canons of American and European art both have plenty of works that meet these criteria. However, European art boasts more artists whose works posterity has made valuable for all time.
For example, works in European art galleries by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael — and even later artists such as Tintoretto, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Paul Cézanne — hold such prestigious positions in the global art world that their pieces consistently remain highly valuable. Of course, works from these luminaries can and do fluctuate in value, but their importance to the history of art virtually guarantees that their creations remain highly valuable.