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Paint by Number: Accounting for Taste in the 1950s

April 6, 2001 – January 27, 2002 (new closing date)

Museum: American History Museum

Location: 3rd Floor, West Wing, Documentary Photo Gallery

This exhibition highlights the paint-by-number fad initiated by Max S. Klein, owner of the Palmer Paint Co., and artist Dan Robbins and explores the cultural implications of the art fad. Millions of Americans, from housewives to TV celebrity Arthur Godfrey proclaimed their love for paint-by-number kits while elite art critics denounced them. The exhibition examines this fault line between elite and popular culture, emphasizing that everyone has a right to the culture they prefer. Highlights include an Andy Warhol paint-by-number study from the Sonnabend Gallery in New York, as well as paint-by-number pieces from the Eisenhower Presidential Library completed by Nelson Rockefeller and J. Edgar Hoover.

See March 2001 Smithsonian magazine, pp. 101-103

Free

Checklist of Paintings and Drawings on view Catalogue Paint by Number: The How-to Craze that Swept the Nation, $18.95 (paper)

Online Exhibition