American beauty resided far more in nature than i culture. Thus the intelligent American, if he or she got the chance to visit Europe, could find his taste transformed in a sort of pentecostal flash by a single monument of antiquity, as Jefferson's was by the sight of the Maison Carrée at Nimes, the Roman temple that created his conception of public architecture. One hour with the Medici Venus or the Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican could outweigh all one's past aesthetic experience, as the raw child of the new republic. One's own inexperience endowed the English or European work with a stupendous authority.
The late Robert Hughes' Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America is an interesting book. It's filled with arguments that are debatable - hence the fact that they're arguments - but well made. The Australian critic made the lectures the book is based on at an earlier stage of the culture wars: the first half of the nineties. The side he takes is that of culture.