Shifting Boundaries: Perspectives on American Landscapes

July 13, 2024 – July 26, 2026
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Blossom Time (detail), Willard Metcalf (1858–1925), United States, 1910, oil on canvas, National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art Collection, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1915.27a-b

Freer Gallery of Art
Jefferson Drive and 12th St., SW
Washington, DC

First floor, Gallery 10

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American painters Willard Metcalf, Dwight Tryon, Winslow Homer, and Abbott Thayer created profoundly beautiful views of the New England landscapes where they lived and worked. These paintings largely depict that environment as timeless and static. Shifting Boundaries looks at these works from a new angle by engaging a multiplicity of voices and viewpoints to explore what these paintings can tell us about changes to this region both past and present. As Shifting Boundaries reveals, the views these artists created of pasturelands in Massachusetts and of seascapes in Maine were transforming even as these artists recorded them. This reshaping of landscapes has only accelerated in the century since Metcalf, Tryon, Homer, and Thayer depicted them.

Shifting Boundaries pilots a new mode of collaborative curatorial practice. NMAA Lunder Curator of American Art Diana Greenwold, curatorial assistant Mary Mulcahy, and interpretation specialists Liz Gardner and Amy Freesun partnered with Lauren Brandes (Smithsonian Gardens), Dennis Chestnut (Groundwork Anacostia River DC), Jerome Foster II (Waic Up), Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag artist), Lorette Picciano (Rural Coalition), Stephanie Toothman (National Park Service), and Melinda Whicher (Smithsonian Gardens) to develop the themes for this exhibition, select works of art, and write object labels. The group’s perspectives, drawn from their individual areas of professional expertise and their own personal experiences, allow us to see new details in these stunning works of art. The landscapes become invitations to explore a century of human impact on New England land and water, the erasure of indigenous histories, and the environmental changes that are altering this region today.