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Telling American History: Realism from the Print Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly

August 31, 2013 - December 1, 2013


Highlighting the work of nine American artists who at the beginning of the twentieth century were inspired by the world around them to realistically depict everyday scenes, the Bruce Museum presents the new exhibition Telling American History: Realism from the Print Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly from August 31 through December 1, 2013. (right: Benton Murdoch Spruance (American, 1904-1967), Road from the Shore, 1936, Lithograph. 10 x 14 1/4 inches. Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly. Courtesy of Dolan/Maxwell)

The show features more than 40 original fine art prints including lithographs and etchings that chronicle daily life -- the bustle of urban streets, boisterous moments of leisure, modern modes of transportation, and bucolic rural images -- by leading artists who approached their subject matter through the lens of realism: George Bellows (1882-1925), Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Martin Lewis (1881-1962), Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), John Sloan (1871-1951), Benton Murdoch Spruance (1904-1967), Stow Wengenroth (1906-1978), and Grant Wood (1891-1942).

"Each print featured in the exhibition was chosen for its subject matter and artistic merit," notes Diane Myers, the exhibition's curator and former Bruce Museum Manager of School & Tour Services. "Placed together, they present windows into scenes of America's past, creating opportunities for us to reflect on the art and history that came before us."

The artworks present visitors with a snapshot of America from 1905 through 1967. Set amid a backdrop of events such as World War I, the Great Depression, New Deal programs, and World War II, the country was experiencing changes in its cultural, geographic, and demographic nature. The nation experienced a great upheaval as citizens and immigrants alike flocked to urban areas in hopes of greater economic prospects. At the same time, advances in technology and transportation were transforming rural regions.

"All of these elements shaped the work of the artists featured in this exhibition," Myers explained, "although each chose to depict his experiences in a slightly different, but still realistic, manner." (left: Martin Lewis (American, 1881-1962), Corner Shadows, 1930, Drypoint and sandpaper ground, 8 1/8 x 9 inches. Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly. ©Estate of Martin Lewis)

Drawn from different areas of the country, the artists shared a similar goal of creating artwork that was available to all. They embraced realism, using it to capture images of modern American society as it quickly changed around them and distinguishing their work from the traditional, idealized and romanticized work of European art.

"By illustrating everyday scenes, the artists featured here created connections for the average American and invited them to become part of the artistic dialog," Myers said."Their images not only appealed through accessible subject matter, but also appealed to the pocketbook of the everyday person."

Addressing the relevance of this art to 21st century viewers, Myers observes, "The prints bring the same accessibility to today's audiences as they did when they were first created."

Telling American History: Realism from the Print Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly is the third show in the past three years that the Bruce Museum has organized from the collection Dr. Kelly, whose holdings include European prints from the 15th through 19th centuries and American prints from the 19th and 20th centuries.

A fully illustrated catalogue of the show will be available in the Bruce Museum Store. A series of public programs will be offered to complement the show, including Monday morning lectures, hands-on printmaking workshops for adults and students, a program for families with toddlers and one for seniors suffering from memory loss, as well as school tours.

The exhibition is supported by the Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund and a grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council, Inc. Connecticut Humanities (CTH) is a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities that funds, creates and collaborates on hundreds of cultural programs across Connecticut each year. Connecticut Humanities brings together people of all ages and backgrounds to express, share and explore ideas in thoughtful and productive ways. From local discussion groups to major exhibitions on important historical events, CTH programs engage, enlighten and educate.


Public Programs

A series of public programs will be offered to complement the exhibition, including lectures, print workshops for adults and students, a program for families with toddlers, and school tours. These programs are supported by a grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council, Inc. Please call the museum for information about reservations and applicable fees.

Monday Lecture Series:  Telling American History through Imagery in Prints
Mondays, September 30, October 7, 14, 21, 2013, 10:00 am
A series of four lectures presented in conjunction with the exhibition.  Lectures will provide the historical and biographical context that informed the artists' work as well as the history and role of printmaking in the overall work of each artist presented in the series. Fee.
September 30
The Realists' World: American Life at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
Michael Willrich, PhD, Professor of History, Brandeis University
Dr. Willrich will provide an historical overview of America in the first quarter of the 20th century.
October 7
John Sloan and the Ashcan School
Michael Lobel, PhD, Professor of Art History, SUNY Purchase
Dr. Lobel will discuss the work of Sloan in context of the Ashcan School and the advent of urban realism in American art.
October 14
Prints for the Public: Thomas Hart Benton and Associated American Artists
Justin Wolff, PhD, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Maine
Dr. Wolff will speak on Thomas Hart Benton's prints and printmaking, in particular on his relationship with Associated American Artists, which distributed his lithographs to the public in a variety of innovative ways.
October 21
Edward Hopper in the 1920s
Gail Levin, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Art History, Graduate Center CUNY.
Dr. Levin will discuss Edward Hopper's foray into printmaking in the context of his art and life. The talk will include a discussion of paintings he made during the 1920s.
Look and See: See America through Prints
Wednesday, October 2, 12:30 - 1:15 pm
A program especially designed for children ages 3-5 years and their adult caregivers, who will explore the Museum's exhibition through hands-on experiences, stories and more. Children will explore the exhibition and then make their own prints. Fee.
Printmaking Workshops for Adults and Students
The Museum presents a series of hands-on art workshops where participants will explore the exhibition, discuss themes and printmaking techniques, and then create their own solar-plate intaglio prints.  Each workshop is a complete program. These inclusive workshops are suitable for people of all abilities. Fee.
Lifetime of Looking: Recalling American History through Prints
Thursday, October 17, 1:00 - 2:30 pm
For Senior Citizens and their Caregivers
A program especially designed for senior citizens and their caregivers who will explore the exhibition with Museum educators to provide meaningful cultural experiences and personal enrichment. A voluntary craft project and refreshments are included. 
Diane Darst Learning to Look® Family Art Appreciation Day
Sunday, November 17, 1:00 - 3:00 pm
This program is designed especially for families and children to foster appreciation and understanding of art related to current Museum exhibitions and based on the Learning to Look® curriculum developed by Diane W. Darst and Sue Ann Massey Williamson. Today's program will be presented in conjunction with the Bruce Museum exhibition Telling American History: Realism from the Print Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly.  The lessons will be led by Learning to Look Instructor beginning at 1:15 pm, repeated at 2:15 pm, and will focus on portraiture. There will be printmaking activities in the Education Workshop.  

(above: Martin Lewis (American, 1881-1962), Subway Steps, 1930, Drypoint. Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly. © Estate of Martin Lewis)

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