The rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the mid-eighteenth century caused a passion for art based on classical antiquity. This was not a revival of Greek or Roman principals, but a dream of the antique – a refined use of classical ornament placing a great emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines. At the same time, an interest appeared in romantic art, which eventually included all art that appealed to the emotions.
This was a period of great transition politically and culturally. The American War of Independence shifted the balance of power so that England, France, and Spain all had less influence in North America. The French Revolution paved the way for Napoleon’s attempt to a rebirth of Imperial Rome with Napoleon as Emperor. The Napoleonic Wars also gave England new power in Europe, as the leader of allied armies against the French Emperor, as well as the undisputed ruler of the sea.
This was also the period in which the leaders of the American Revolution slowly and painfully formed national unity.