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abstract Scholarship on early American art focuses almost exclusively ontheproductionofartandontheideasthatartistsandtheirelitepatrons intended to inculcate by placing artworks on display. This essay explores art spectatorship in the early republic and examines how middle-class audiences influenced the content of art displays created by members of the elite. Using readings of works by Washington Allston, John Lewis Krimmel, and Charles Bird King and print accounts of art exhibitions,it argues that the audiences at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts stimulated a vigorous public discourse about its exhibitions that steered the Academy’s purchasing toward historical paintings. The Academy’s acquisition of Allston’s Dead Man Restored demonstrates that spectators played a more significant role than scholars have previously recognized in the development of the fine arts in the United States.