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Currents of Change: Art and Life along the Mississippi River, 1850-1861

 

Works of art and other objects from the Muscatine Art Center's permanent collection will be on loan to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts from June 27 through September 26, 2004, as part of their special exhibition commemorating the Grand Excursion of 1854.

In June of 1854, to celebrate completion of the first railroad to reach the Mississippi River, the owners of the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad invited hundreds of shareholders, bondholders, and other notables to travel by rail to Rock Island, Illinois, and from there by steamboat to St. Anthony Falls in fledgling Minnesota Territory, all at the railroad's expense. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has organized an exhibition which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Grand Excursion as well as the writing of the Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, two events that focused national attention on the upper Mississippi River. (right: John Mix Stanley, Portrait of Captain LeGrand Morehouse, oil on canvas, 1838,  Gift of Mrs. Ralph Reuling and Mrs. A.R. Tipton,  Collection Muscatine Art Center)

Currents of Change: Art and Life along the Mississippi River, 1850-1861 will open June 27, 2004 in Minneapolis and will showcase arts along the Mississippi River through approximately 150 objects, among them paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles and sculpture. Objects on loan from the Art Center's permanent collection include a pair of Pittsburgh glass sweetmeat jars of c.1845, a gift of the Friends of the Muscatine Art Center. The sweetmeat jars originally belonged to Captain Daniel Dawley of LeClaire, Iowa, who worked for many years as a clerk and later a captain of Mississippi River boats and was part owner of the steamboat "Golden Era." Dawley's portrait by John Caspar Wild is currently on view at the Muscatine Art Center in a special show curated by Art Center registrar, Virginia Cooper, and is also featured in a catalog essay on Wild by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, for the St. Louis Historical Society. (left: maker unknown, Sweetmeat Jar and  Lid, blown glass, c.1840, Gift of the Friends of the Muscatine Art Center, Collection Muscatine Art Center)

Other works from the Art Center's permanent collection featured in Currents of Change are four Currier and Ives prints which depict, Hiawatha's Wooing, Hiawatha's Wedding, Hiawatha's Departure and the Death of Minnehaha from the Song of Hiawatha by Longfellow, which were all gifts of Mrs. John (Beatrice) Klein; an 1858 oil on canvas painting of Dubuque by Simeon Fleish; and an 1838 portrait of Captain Le Grand Morehouse by John Mix Stanley. Morehouse was one of seven steamboat captains on the Grand Excursion and the grandfather of the original donors of the painting to the Muscatine Art Center, the late Mrs. Ralph Reuling and the late Mrs. A.R. Tipton, both of Muscatine. The exhibition features a pitcher presented to Captain Morehouse in 1854, now in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. A similar presentation pitcher, this one given to Captain D.B. Morehouse, Le Grand's brother and another of the seven captains participating in the Grand Excursion, is on view at the Muscatine Art Center, on loan from Mrs. V.H. (Pat) Willis.

The Muscatine Art Center's 1855 painting entitled "Davenport and Rock Island City" is also featured on the dust jacket of a newly released book entitled Grand Excursion -- Antebellum America Discovers the Upper Mississippi by historian Steven J. Keillor and published by the Afton Historical Society Press. (right: Louis Maurer, Hiawatha's Wedding, lithographer: Currier & Ives,  hand colored lithograph, 1858,  Gift of Mrs. John L. Klein,  Collection Muscatine Art Center)

According to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts wesbite, "As well as illustrating the objects in the exhibition and related works, the Currents of Change catalogue will include three thematic essays. Institute Curator Christopher Monkhouse, who has lectured and published extensively on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's impact on domestic interiors, will examine the forging of America's identity through Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha (1855) and Evangeline (1847), both of which are set in the Mississippi River valley. Institute Assistant Curator Jason Busch, who has studied and published on the decorative arts and culture of the lower Mississippi, will use furnishings and portraits by artists such as Thomas Sully and Alexander Roux to compare domestic spaces and to trace patterns of patronage and decoration along the river. Janet Whitmore, a freelance art historian, will address the Mississippi River landscape, people, and architecture in paintings by artists such as George Caleb Bingham and Henry Lewis."

 

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