American Art through 1940
July 1, 2006 – Permanent
Museum: American Art Museum
Location: 2nd Floor, East, South, and North
This exhibition links artworks to major moments in America's past in nine thematic sections in 31 galleries. The introductory area features Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's model for the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of America as a place welcoming to all immigrants whose ingenuity and creativity plays a key role throughout America's art.
- The American Colonies and The New Republic: The arts of New Spain and New England show how the cultures of colonial Britain, Spain, France, as well as American Indians and African Americans influenced the other while continuing to compete for land well into the 19th century. From independence through the Federal period, American art presented the nation as it wanted to be viewed and appreciated at home and abroad. Highlights include John Singleton Copley's Mrs. George Watson.
- Western Frontier Art: The nation's westward expansion is explored through majestic landscapes of the western territories and portraits of American Indians. Highlights include Albert Bierstadt's "Great Picture" Among the Sierra Nevada, California and three rows of George Catlin's "Indian Gallery" portraits, all displayed as they would have been when they were first presented to the public.
- Antebellum Art: Many 19th-century American artists traveled through Europe to pay their respects to the old masters and Antiquity. While there, they saw thousands of years of art that made their young country seem raw and primitive by comparison; many felt America needed a culture to match its political and economic power. This gallery features sculptures by Hiram Powers and others that represent the classical styles of art and architecture these 19th-century artists brought home with them—styles that would dominate American public life for many decades. The museum has the world's largest collection of American sculpture.
- Civil War: Prints by Winslow Homer, graphic early photographs, wood engravings, paintings, and sculptures illustrate how the Civil War tore apart the fabric of the nation (east wing).
- Impressionism: American artists in the 1880's were attracted to the light and color of painting outdoors and many studied abroad to absorb the new palette and compositions that were modernizing painting in France. On view are works by Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, William Merritt Chase, and Mary Cassatt, who were influenced by this movement.
- Gilded Age: The final quarter of the 19th century was dubbed the "Gilded Age" by author Mark Twain. On view to represent the period are signature works by John Singer Sargent, Abbott Handerson Thayer, and Henry Ossawa Tanner. Also on view are rooms devoted to the works of Albert Pinkham Ryder and Thomas Wilmer Dewing. Highlights include a gilded Steinway and Sons piano decorated by Dewing and a stained glass window by John La Farge.
- Modernism: On view are early 20th-century American paintings and sculptures to show the contrast between abstraction and realism. Highlights include a suite of Ashcan School paintings, works from the Stieglitz Circle and the Harlem Renaissance, paintings from the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project, Everett Shinn's The White Ballet, and Thomas Hart Benton's mural Achelous and Hercules.
- Southwestern Art: Artists working in eastern cities around 1900 saw the Southwest almost as a foreign country, where the age-old Spanish Catholic culture seemed like an antidote to the pressure of "progress." Painters from New York and Chicago, attracted by the clear light, ancient rhythms, and rich artistic traditions of the Pueblo communities, settled and developed artists' colonies around Santa Fe and Taos. Highlights include works from the Dallas Nine and the Taos Society.
- Shaker Furniture: Shaker architecture, furniture, and tools are revered as icons of functional design. Made by members of the Mount Lebanon Shaker community, the furnishings and everyday objects on view are outstanding achievements of timeless design and utopian vision. Shaker style was not based on an aesthetic system but rather on encompassing religious ideals of perfection, utility, and order. Since labor was viewed as a sacred duty, even the humblest object had to be made perfectly, and models of beauty were inseparable from an item’s functional perfection.
Related book: America's Art: $65 (cloth), $45 (paper)