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The Gilded Cage: Views of American Women, 1873 - 1921

July 13 - August 27, 2002


Drawn from the Corcoran's world renowned collection of American art, The Gilded Cage: Views of American Women, 1873 - 1921 gives a glimpse into the refined interiors of turn-of-the-century America and the women who inhabited them. The Gilded Age represented the period of America' s rapid growth as an industrial, economic, and military power. Yet artists during this period depicted women as unaffected by and protected from the quickening pace of modern life. On view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art from July 13 through August 27, 2002, The Gilded Cage features masterpieces by John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Edmund Tarbell and Childe Hassam. (left: Mary Cassatt, Young Girl at a Window, c. 1883, oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery of Art )

"All of the works in this exhibition depict women embodying spirituality and serenity, seemingly oblivious to the commercialism and materialism around them," notes Sarah Cash, Bechhoefer Curator of American Art at the Corcoran. "These images reveal Gilded Age artists' desire to maintain traditional depictions rather than to create new roles for women."

Featuring more than 35 paintings, works on paper and sculpture from the Corcoran's permanent collection, The Gilded Cage begins with Eastman Johnson's 1873 masterwork The Toilet and ends with Daniel Garber's South Room, Green Street (1921). Gilded Age artists favored showing women in insular environments, engaging in traditional solitary pursuits -- reading, sitting, sewing. For instance, Childe Hassam's New York Window (1912) and Thomas Wilmer Dewing's Lady with a Mask (1907) depict women in a state of languorous reverie. Paintings illustrating maternity, such as Frederick Frieseke's Peace (1917) reflect the high values Gilded Age society placed on children and their mothers. (right: John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Henry White, 1883, oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery of Art)

Mary Cassatt's Young Girl at a Window presents a contemplative woman in a domestic setting, seemingly unaffected by the world around her. Similarly, John Singer Sargent's portrait of Mrs. Henry White shows a woman dressed in luxurious clothes, surrounded by ornate furniture, insulated from the realities of modern life.



The Corcoran's collection of American Impressionist paintings, sculptures and works on paper consists chiefly of landscapes and intimate scenes of women in domestic settings. The Corcoran acquired several American Impressionist paintings from its first Biennial exhibition in 1907. The Biennial started as a way to awaken public interest in contemporary American art and to offer artists the opportunity to exhibit their work in one of the major museums in the country. The Corcoran's permanent collection now includes several hundred American Impressionist works.

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Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

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