Here’s your seasonal roundup of early American art on exhibit. Add your finds below!
In Virginia, check out the material culture of the early South, view the Chinese export porcelain that American merchants swept up, or follow the frakturs to see how German-speaking peoples celebrated rites of passages in the American colonies. At the Yale Center for British Art, skip across the pond (virtually) to see how British Victorians made and viewed sculpture. For those interested in the dialectic of art and empire in the nineteenth-century Anglo-American world, this show should be of special interest: “As Britain became the first urban and industrial modern nation in the Victorian era, it witnessed an efflorescence of sculpture on an unprecedented scale, with the development of new markets, new forms of patronage, and new sites for display. Public monuments were raised across Britain and its empire, while ambitious sculptural programs were commissioned for public institutions.” To keep with that theme, catch 600 years’ worth of British treasures, spanning 1400 to 1900, at the Portland Museum of Art.
Back in New England, check out the deCordova Museum’s contemporary reinterpretations of a classic text of American nature-writing in “Walden, Revisited”: “In the wake of the Great Recession and the growing urgency of climate change, Walden emerges again as a home-grown American handbook dedicated to self-reliance and a life lived with, not against, nature.” After major renovations, the Harvard Art Museums will reopen their doors in November, showcasing treasures like the Washington Allston chalk-on-canvas work, above. At the Met, you can see Thomas Hart Benton’s epic 10-panel mural America Today, or scroll through a century of mourning attire.
Connecting the stories of “Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints,” the Robert W. Woodruff Library in Atlanta offers a 300-year summary of popular art in northeastern Brazil. The New Orleans Museum of Art invites you “Behind Closed Doors” to see how the Spanish New World elite’s “American, European, and Asian luxury goods” became daily “signifiers of the faith, wealth, taste, and socio-racial standing of their consumers.” Over at the Smithsonian, chart the progress of Native American diplomacy, and check out special events planned to observe the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art displays two centuries’ worth of African-American art, with objects, paintings, and other masterworks from artists like Henry Ossawa Tanner, Horace Pippin, Jacob Lawrence, Martin Puryear, and Carrie Mae Weems. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, puts out its finest silver collections in an exhibit that documents the long tradition of American silversmithing. At the Library Company of Philadelphia, trace James Logan’s Atlantic networks and learn to “read Moon,” thanks to a modern spin on the nineteenth-century American primer. At the Morgan, take another look at Lincoln as writer and public speaker. Finally, peruse the course offerings for the Filson Historical Society’s Bourbon Academy here. Enjoy!