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The relationship between printmaking and architecture is rooted in 17th- and 18th-century European taste for “portraits” of buildings and landmarks. Prior to the 18th century, architecture was rarely more than the background for other subject matter.
Created to feed a new traveler's market, prints were an inexpensive record of the landmarks and architecture in a foreign city. Architectural images flourished particularly well in the Netherlands and Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries. In Venice, artists captured the architecture of the city using etching and engraving methods, selling the picturesque prints to tourists.
A growing interest in architecture and urban scenes developed in the 19th and 20th centuries as a response to rapid industrialization in Europe and the United States. As lithography was a new technology that appeared at the turn of the 18th century, artists often chose this method to capture the effects of industry.
Though their focus was on how people survived in urban America at the turn of the 20th century, artists of the Ash-Can school also captured the architecture of industrial and squalid New York City
A distinctly American group of artists known as “Precisionists” emerged in the early 20th century. Artists such as Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth created prints, photographs, and paintings heavily influenced by the machine age, urban architecture, and skyscrapers
Following the Great Depression in the 1930s, fascination with industry and urban expansion declined, and artistic attention returned to the figure, which replaced architecture as inspiration