Friday, May 11, 2012
Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s
Between the 1850s and the 1950s, American art and culture came of age, transforming itself from the provincial to the international, from literal depiction of the particular to abstract interpretation of universal artistic ideas. Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s explores the complex and extended process of maturation that occurred throughout this formative century of American art. Major paintings and sculpture from the renowned collection of the Addison Gallery of American Art reveal the challenges faced by artists to adopt and define a new art form—an "American" convention—that was identifiably their own.
Beginning with the Hudson River School landscapes of Asher B. Durand, Albert Bierstadt, and Frederic Church, this exhibition surveys the ongoing set of conflicting artistic impulses that coexisted in the nineteenth century. Working in both the United States and abroad, artists absorbed European stylistic traditions and learned from European predecessors, yet at the same time they stressed the importance—even necessity—of asserting their own national identity.
By the late 19th century, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, and Eastman Johnson would portray the power and growth of America through native subjects while American expatriate painters John Singer Sargent and James McNeil Whistler created European-inspired paintings of European scenes.
The next generation of Ashcan School artists, Robert Henri, George Luks, and John Sloan, concentrated on the American city, which they portrayed through a painterly style based on European models.
In 1913, the Armory Show in New York exhibited the latest innovations in European and American modernism, opening Americans' eyes to the expressive power of abstraction. Arthur Dove and Georgia O'Keeffe, among others, relied on organic forms, shapes, and lines, creating a new visual language of abstraction based on color, space, and texture.
By the mid-twentieth century abstract expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock, Hans Hofmann, and Franz Kline shifted the focus of the art world from Paris to New York, establishing the ascendant place of American art in the international arena.
New York's prominence as the international artistic focus expanded in the 1950s at the hands of such painters as Ad Reinhardt, John McLaughlin, and Frank Stella.
In this determined progression of American art from 1850s to the 1950s, artists solidified through their work and articulated through their own words the theory and practice of the American artistic expression. In this exhibition, artists' words are juxtaposed with their art to craft an intimate dialogue between word and image. Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s echoes a statement by artist and teacher Robert Henri—" As I see it, there is only one reason for the development of art in America, and that is that the people of America learn the means of expressing themselves in their own time and in their own land. In this country we have no need of art as a culture; no need of art as a refined and elegant performance; no need of art for poetry's sake, or any of these things for their own sake. What we do need is art that expresses the spirit of the people of today."
Artists include Josef Albers, Alexander Archipenko, Milton Avery, William Baziotes, George Bellows, Albert Bierstadt, Ralph Blakelock, Oscar Bluemner, Patrick Henry Bruce, George de Forest Brush, Alexander Calder, William Merritt Chase, Frederic Edwin Church, Joseph Cornell, Jasper F. Cropsey, Arthur B. Davies, Stuart Davis, Maria Oakey Dewing, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Burgoyne Diller, Arthur Dove, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Eakins, Naum Gabo, Adolph Gottlieb, William M. Harnett, Marsden Hartley, Childe Hassam, Martin Johnson Heade, Robert Henri, Hans Hofmann, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, George Inness, Eastman Johnson, Franz Kline, Walt Kuhn, Gaston Lachaise, Fitz Hugh Lane, Jacob Lawrence, Louis Lozowick, George Luks, Paul Manship, John Marinand, Alfred H. Maurer, John McLaughlin, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Elie Nadelman, Georgia O'Keeffe, Irene Rice Peirera, John F. Peto, Jackson Pollock, Maurice Prendergast, Man Ray, Ad Reinhardt, Frederic Remington, Theodore Robinson, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, Morton Schamberg, Charles Sheeler, John Sloan, David Smith, Frank Stella, John Twachtman, James McNeill Whistler, Worthington Whittredge, Charmion von Wiegand, and Alexander Wyant.
Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s was organized by the American Federation of Arts, New York, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts.