For Art’s Sake

Joseph Brant (Gilbert Stuart, 1785)

Here’s a roundup of early American art on special exhibit throughout the autumn. Please share your links and thoughts on using early American art in the classroom in the comments, below. Enjoy!

Here and there: At the Saint Louis Art Museum, follow Charles Ferdinand Wimar’s 1858 Encounters along the Missouri River, and at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, check out A Measure of the Earth: The Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets. Just a few days left to catch the Denver Art Museum’s showcase of nineteenth-century Navajo textiles, but there’s plenty of time to look beyond the landscapes of the Hudson River School painters, with the Albany Institute of History & Art’s reappraisal of their work. Drawing curatorial inspiration from the city’s historic trade routes, Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum wraps up a three-year show on Fish, Silk, Tea, Bamboo: Cultivating an Image of China, with artworks exploring “four essential motifs” that eighteenth-century Westerners used to understand the country. On view at South Carolina’s Charleston Museum, founded in 1773: diverse holdings in Civil War artifacts, textiles, and a short history of indigo production in the lowcountry. For a glimpse of American lives at (nineteenth) century’s end, visit John Singer Sargent’s watercolors at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Go West: See the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s survey of the region in bronze sculpture, 1850-1925, featuring  artists’ “three-dimensional interpretations of western life, whether those interpretations are based on historical fact, mythologized fiction, or, most often, something in between.” (Related: Reread Emerson’s Boston Hymn, 1863, before you go).  Elsewhere at the Met, learn why Nelson A. Rockefeller invested in collecting American art. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art looks at the post-Civil War construction of American girlhood with Angels & Tomboys, and throws a spotlight on a sampling of documents and artifacts related to George Washington. Hunting for the “Sharknado” of the eighteenth century? Then try the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s special show on history paintings by two famed frenemies, American Adversaries: West and Copley in a Transatlantic World. Attention, sports fans: At Richmond’s Virginia Museum of the Fine Arts, get a glimpse of British sporting prints in Catching Sight. For a broader look at pre-1945 American art and sculpture, stroll through the Corcoran Gallery’s new installation, American Journeys—Visions of Place. If you’re more of an armchair traveler, leaf through the Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s digitized library of rare, illustrated books.

Change over time: Check out early American musical and chiming clocks at North Grafton’s Willard House, then head to Boston for the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture. New York Fashion Week may be over, but couture reigns supreme at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where scholars review trends in children’s fashion from the American Revolution to the present day. On a comparative note, seek out the Art Institute of Chicago’s display of Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, and the Museum of American Folk Art’s take on Folk Couture, debuting in early 2014. And, through November 2014, the Heard Museum serves up new food history with Chocolate, Chili and Cochineal: Changing Taste Around the World.  

Want more art? Check out the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art and the College Art Association for related resources.


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