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Expanded Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection at The Art Institute of Chicago

 

For the first time, the greater portion of The Art Institute of Chicago's world-renowned collection of American art -- painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, 1700-1950 -- can be seen together in one splendid, enlightening presentation. On April 16, 2005, the new Expanded Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection opens in the museum's Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building, creating one of the world's most important centers for American art. Drawn from the Art Institute Department of American Art's comprehensive collection of works dating from the colonial period to the mid-20th century, the new permanent installation is offered in a series of 23 contiguous galleries located on the first and second floors of the Rice Building.

A total of 700 artworks of tremendous range and variety -- from American landscape painting and Impressionism to early colonial silver and Neoclassical sculpture to Modernist painting and works on paper -- are on view, now enriched by an historic long-term loan from the Terra Foundation for American Art of 50 of its finest paintings, as well as a stellar selection of drawings and prints chosen from the 350 on loan to the Art Institute. The juxtaposition of the two collections results in an in-depth presentation of the work of such beloved artists as George Bellows, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, and John Singer Sargent as well as Modernist giants like Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, and Grant Wood.

The opening of the galleries continues the reinstallation of the collection begun by Field-McCormick Curator of American Art Judith Barter in 1997 on the first floor of the Rice Building. With recent departmental reorganizations putting the majority of American painting and sculpture before 1950 in her department, and with that collection now occupying contiguous galleries on two floors of the Rice Building, Ms. Barter's vision of a rich, continuous, comprehensive survey of major masterworks by a constellation of our country's greatest artists can finally be realized.

Judith Barter said, "There has never been a more exciting time for American art in Chicago. Many wonderful pictures and objects are coming together to please and delight our visitors and to tell the full story of American art and culture. The pictures from the Terra Foundation Collection are perfect complements to our own. In picking the 50 paintings, we followed the curatorial standards and sensibilities that have made the Art Institute's collection among the best in the world: aesthetic quality, condition, historical meaning, and relationship to the rest of our permanent collection." She continued, "In the years ahead, monographic exhibitions of the work of Winslow Homer, Charles Sheeler, Edward Hopper, and others will provide further scholarly study and depth to our permanent collection and to the celebration of American art in this, the quintessential American city."

Elizabeth Glassman, Terra Foundation for American Art president and chief executive officer, stated, "We are pleased to help offer such a comprehensive presentation of American art in Chicago. The Foundation's mission to bring American art to audiences around the globe begins with this world-class exhibition here in our hometown. Our collaboration with the Art Institute is the start of the Foundation's efforts to make Chicago a vital center for the presentation and study of American art while fostering the understanding and enjoyment of American art worldwide."

The new installation is presented chronologically. A survey of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts to 1920 is shown in galleries 161­173, except for special rotating exhibitions in Gallery 163 -- the current one entitled An American Conversation: Works on Paper from Two Collections. On the second floor, in galleries 262­273, viewers will find Modernist trends in American painting and sculpture from the late-19th to the mid-20th centuries. Finally, there is a display of the Art Institute's 20th-century American decorative arts in galleries 157­158, just to the east of the Rice Building entrance.

 

Galleries 161­173 (Lower Level)

One of the great strengths of a side-by-side showing of the Art Institute and the Terra Foundation's collections is a combined emphasis on American landscape painting of the 19th and early-20th centuries. Works by the nation's first generation of landscape painters -- the Hudson River School -- fill galleries 170­71. Some New England landscapes are replete with nostalgia for the vanishing wilderness and Native American peoples. Others capture a sense of the sublime, instilling in viewers feelings of awe and transcendence. Frederick Church's exotic subjects, painted at mid-century, reflect his interest in landscape and travel. Later canvases by John LaFarge and George Inness include more symbolic, abstract content. The Art Institute's collection of Inness's work is one of the largest and most complete in the world, surveying the artist's career from his descriptive landscapes of the 1840s to his mystical paintings of the 1890s.

From the 1830s to the 1870s, many American painters favored indigenous themes, and pictures by George Caleb Bingham, William Sidney Mount, William Ranney, and Thomas Waterman Wood explore such topics with charm and humor. Their uniquely native subjects on view in galleries 171, 172, and 173 explore American everyday life in genre and still-life compositions.

The museum's representation of Winslow Homer's oeuvre is particularly strong. Works in gallery 171 capture the variety of paintings that he executed over a 30-year period, from Civil War­era canvasses reflecting the new leisure and wealth of the budding Gilded Age to later, monumental seascapes. Homer's brand of realism is also visible in the portraits of Thomas Eakins, who depicted his subjects with a psychological intensity that surpasses mere physical description.

Throughout the lower Rice galleries, paintings and sculptures appear alongside decorative arts to offer a broad understanding of how these objects relate to one another-and to American history. For example, 18th-century portraits by John Singleton Copley are exhibited in galleries 166­167, which contain Rococo furniture and silver. Small-scale pictures by James McNeill Whistler hang in the Aesthetic-period gallery (175); and still-life and trompe l'oeil paintings by John Francis, William Michael Harnett, John F. Peto, and others are located in Gallery 173 which houses decorative arts that reflect the various historical revivals of the mid-Victorian era.

A highlight of the Terra Foundation loan is Samuel F. B. Morse's monumental painting The Gallery of the Louvre (1831­33), which hangs in an alcove gallery of its own just off the entrance to the Rice Building. Best known as the inventor of the telegraph and a pioneer in the then-new medium of photography, Morse (1791­1872) was, among his many accomplishments, a highly respected artist as well as a longtime professor of painting and sculpture at New York University. The Gallery of the Louvre depicts one of that great French museum's grand galleries, the Salon Carré, which had much impressed Morse when he first saw it in 1830 -- so much so that he determined to return and paint a view of it, reproducing the works of art hung there. Knowing that most Americans could not travel to Paris to see the Louvre and the great works of Western civilization it held, Morse thought to bring the museum to them. When he made his return, though, instead of painting the gallery as it appeared, Morse produced a sort of fantasy Salon Carré, "installing" the gallery with his own special arrangement of artworks actually found throughout the Louvre, masterpieces that he thought were the most important ones for Americans to know. About 40 (identifiable) famous paintings can be found in this single painting.

 

Gallery 163 - An American Conversation: Works on Paper from Two Collections

Gallery 163 currently presents a selection of American works on paper from the Art Institute and the Terra Foundation in the exhibition An American Conversation: Works on Paper from Two Collections, curated by Art Institute Print and Drawing Curator Martha Tedeschi. This juxtaposition of similar genres from the two different collections is intended to suggest how they complement and inform each other, offering a kind of conversation on aspects of American art.

Among the themes that emerge from this dialogue are: the use of drawing and printmaking by artists such as James McNeill Whistler and Maurice Prendergast to create works of a particularly spontaneous or intimate character; the revival of artistic interest in pastel by such 19th-century painters as Mary Cassatt and William Merritt Chase, and among the progressive artists of the Alfred Stieglitz circle, including Arthur Dove and Georgia O'Keeffe; the important role that study in Europe, particularly in Paris, played in the careers of American artists in both the 19th and 20th centuries; the importance of Alfred Stieglitz in advancing a Modernist aesthetic in American art in the early decades of the 20th century through his support of the careers of O'Keeffe and Dove, as well as John Marin, and Charles Demuth, among others; and the dominant role played by color and light in works by American artists of the 19th and 20th century and, conversely, the impact made by the absence of color in the stark black-and-white prints made by artists working under the federal arts programs of the 1930s.

 

Galleries 262­273 (Upper Level)

The American art survey continues on the top floor, left side, in Gallery 273, and proceeds clockwise to 262. This first room contains exceptional landscapes, portraits, and city scenes by expatriates Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler, who spent extensive time in France or England during their working careers. Painted in the late Gilded Age, their works form a prelude to early-20th-century Modernism. Paintings by William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, and John Twachtman, among others, show how the tenets of French Impressionism were applied to American subjects. Contemporary urban subjects later inspired a loose-knit group of painters centered in New York and Philadelphia who were sometimes referred to as the "Ashcan School" because of their often gritty realism. In their works, on display in Gallery 272, George Bellows, William Glackens, Robert Henri, and John Sloan explored working-class life and the world of public entertainments.

In Gallery 271, a range of early Modernist pictures shows the influence of American artists traveling in Europe -- and particularly to Paris -- before, during, and just after World War I. There, many were exposed to the new ideas of Fauvism, Cubism, Dada, and other avant-garde movements. Returning home, they often joined such approaches to color, content, and design to search for uniquely American themes. Influenced by modern developments from advertising and automation to skyscrapers and jazz, their vision of contemporary life was startling and fresh.

The careers of many early Modernists were promoted by the photographer, dealer, and impresario mentioned above, Alfred Stieglitz, who ran art galleries in New York City from 1905 to 1946. His stable of artists included Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, John Storrs, and his (Stieglitz's) wife, Georgia O'Keeffe, who eventually moved to New Mexico in her pursuit of American visions drawn from the western landscape. Through her friendship with Daniel Catton Rich, then-director of the Art Institute, a major portion of Stieglitz's collection of Modernist art in various mediums came to the museum after his death. O'Keeffe added to that gift works from her own holdings, and many of these works are displayed in galleries 271 and 265.

Other artists, whose works can be seen in Gallery 263, also looked away from the East coast for specifically native, regional inspiration. John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood, for example, chose Midwestern subjects in their often nostalgic depictions of a disappearing rural way of life. African American artists portrayed subjects related to their own experiences, histories, and ceremonies-scenes of the harvest, of jazz and blues clubs, and of weddings and funerals, to mention a few. In Mexico, as in the United States, nationalism served as an inspiration for artists. In his Zapata, for instance, Jose Clemente Orozco rendered the hero of the Mexican Revolution with slashing Expressionist brushwork, while Diego Rivera's depictions of working women constitute a formal statement of human dignity. In Gallery 264, a loggia adjoining 263, there is a showing of small-scale Modernist sculptures by, among others, Raymond Barthe, Donal Hord, Gaston Lachaise, and Marion Perkins.

American artists pursued many directions in the 1940s and 50s. Edward Hopper expressed the quietude and separateness of the human condition in his urban scenes, which he orchestrated through realistic, highly structured compositions such as those found in Gallery 262. Stuart Davis, who adopted a loosely Cubist approach in his early canvases, later embraced the pure, colorful, energy of abstraction, linking his vision to the then­emerging New York School of Abstract Expressionist painters, whose work is featured in the Art Institute's galleries of Contemporary Art.

 

More about American art at The Art Institute of Chicago

At The Art Institute of Chicago, American art is to be found largely in the collection of the Department of American Art, with its approximately 3,500 works. But, large numbers of works by American artists are under the auspices of four other museum departments and in their galleries: Contemporary Art, Prints and Drawings, Photography, and Textiles. The opening of the new Expanded Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection serves as a reminder that, with five out of a total of 10 curatorial departments involved, the Art Institute's commitment to the art of this country is strong and deep. And, this is not counting artwork created by pre-Columbian inhabitants of North America in the Department of African and Amerindian Art, or the work of great U.S. architects and designers represented in the enormous collection of the Department of Architecture.

 

Department of American Art

In addition to the paintings and works on paper (the latter, from the Department of Prints and Drawings, shown in a special rotating exhibition in Gallery 163 ) in the new expanded galleries, the American Art department's splendid collection of sculpture and decorative arts from colonial times to the early 20th century can be seen in the galleries on the first floor of the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building. Included are 18th- and 19th-century sculpture, silver, glass, ceramics, furniture, and porcelain. Rare early colonial, fine neoclassical, choice art nouveau, and powerful arts-and-crafts decorative arts are displayed alongside period paintings and sculpture, as well as selected objects-such as quilts, coverlets, and samplers-from the Department of Textiles. Taken as a whole they provide a widely encompassing view of American fine and decorative arts over more than two centuries.

The airy, naturally lit Roger McCormick Memorial Sculpture Court (Gallery 161) features a sizable portion of the Art Institute's important collection of large American marble statuary. The popular gallery of art of the American West -- many pieces from which were featured in Field-McCormick Curator of American Art Judith Barter's acclaimed 2003 exhibition Window on the West: Chicago and the Art of the New Frontier 1890­1940 -- now boasts, in addition to work by Frederic Remington (paintings and sculptures), and Hermon Atkins MacNeil (sculptures), a new acquisition of eight portrait paintings by Elbridge Ayer Burbank of Moqui Indians from the American Southwest. There is also a delightful folk art gallery, which features sailing-ship figureheads, Shaker furniture, pottery and glass, quilts and coverlets, and painted furniture. A choice selection of 20th-century decorative arts and paintings 1900-50 is on view in galleries 158 and 159 just to the east of the entrance to the Rice Building, including the work of Norman Bel Geddes, Charles and Ray Eames, Paul Frankel, Paul Manship, Eva Zeisel, and other giants of American 20th-century design.

 

Department of Contemporary Art

The Art Institute of Chicago's collection of Modern art is considered one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world -- representing a tradition of presenting the new that goes back to the 1913 Armory Show and before. The Art Institute also boasts a rich and varied contemporary art collection (art since 1945) of nearly 1,000 works, a large percentage of which is American, stewarded by the Department of Contemporary Art. A singular benefit this particular contemporary collection enjoys is a home in an encyclopedic museum-that is, an institution that houses an overall collection spanning 5,000 years and cultures across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas -- making possible a profound, enlightening dialogue among the museum's broad and deep art-historical legacies. The collection encompasses almost every significant art movement from the mid-20th century to the present, as manifested in painting, sculpture, installation, and filmic works of art.

In addition to works by almost all of the Abstract Expressionists, the Contemporary department's most notable American holdings include works by Carl Andre, Richard Artschwager, Matthew Barney, Lee Bontecou, Vija Celmins, Joseph Cornell, John Currin, Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Gober, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, Robert Irwin, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Glenn Ligon, Brice Marden, Kerry James Marshall, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Claes Oldenburg, Ed Paschke, Marion Perkins, Martin Puryear, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Rosenquist, Robert Ryman, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, David Smith, Kiki Smith, Robert Smithson, Frank Stella, Bill Viola, and Andy Warhol.

 

Department of Prints and Drawings

As can be seen in Gallery 163's special exhibition of American prints and drawings -- An American Conversation: Works on Paper from Two Collections -- the collecting of American art has also been a priority for the Prints and Drawings department since its founding. The collection's greatest strengths are in the work of American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Drawings and prints by James McNeill Whistler and Maurice Prendergast are of particular interest. The recent gift of the Mansfield-Whittemore-Crown Collection of Whistler lithographs-internationally recognized as the definitive collection of the artist's subtle work in this medium-has made the Art Institute a center for Whistler's work on paper, adding to the collection of the artist's drawings, watercolors, pastels, and etchings. Pastels by such 19th-century painters as Mary Cassatt are significant, as are Cassatt's drawings and prints. The museum has a good selection of drawings by John Singer Sargent to match its notable Sargent paintings, and a selection of prints by Winslow Homer-particularly wood engravings. Watercolors by Sargent and Maurice Prendergast are also notable, as is the Art Institute's internationally respected collection of Homer's works in this medium.

There is a wide range of major drawings and prints by American artists of the 20th century, including stellar drawings by Ashcan School artists such as John Sloan, and, especially, George Bellows (three major large sheets by Bellows, and a fine collection of his lithographs). Thanks to the Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O'Keeffe bequest, there are extensive holdings of watercolors and prints by Charles Demuth and John Marin, early works by Arthur Dove -- including the rare pastel Nature Symbolized No. 2 -- and a drawing and a pastel by Georgia O'Keeffe. There is also an excellent group of American Modernist and American scene prints featuring powerful works by Louis Lozowick, and a comprehensive survey of WPA prints from artists working in the 1930s. Another, unexpected, treat is American etching-revival work, including pieces by artists associated with the Chicago Society of Etchers.

From later in the 20th century, Prints and Drawings houses major examples of drawings by Arshile Gorky, as well as by Abstract Expressionist painters Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman, as well as holdings in depth of prints by Robert Rauschenberg, and drawings and prints by Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. Significantly, the collection includes the complete editions and related archives of artists who worked at the foremost American printmaking workshop, Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), between the founding of the workshop in 1957 and 1980. In addition to Rauschenberg and Johns, the ULAE collection, totaling more than 4,200 sheets, includes works by Lee Bontecou, Jim Dine, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Larry Rivers, James Rosenquist, and Cy Twombly.

 

Department of Photography

The photography collection at the Art Institute was established in 1949 with Georgia O'Keeffe's gift of a major portion of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection (nearly 300 objects), including iconic photographs by Stieglitz, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, and Clarence White. The Julien Levy Collection, acquired by the Art Institute throughout the 1970s (more than 250 photographs), substantially increased the collection's strength in Modernist photography with works by Americans Berenice Abbott, Imogen Cunningham, George Platt Lynes, Man Ray, Lee Miller, and Charles Sheeler. This strong foundation of modern masters has grown through additional acquisitions into one of the universally acknowledged outstanding museum collections of American photography, from daguerreotype to digital. Highlights include: a rare and powerful daguerreotype portrait of Frederick Douglass (c. 1852) by the little-known photographer Samuel Miller; Timothy O'Sullivan's photographs of the Civil War; Carleton Watkins's surveys of the American West in the 1860s and 70s; more than 200 photographs by Walker Evans; nearly 250 Edward Weston photographs; substantial holdings of such later-20th-century masters as Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, and Lee Friedlander; the Irving Penn archive, numbering nearly 600 objects, from contact sheets to platinum prints; and career collections representing such key Chicago photographers as Harry Callahan, Kenneth Josephson, Ray K. Metzker, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, and Aaron Siskind.

Contemporary highlights of the Photography collection represent the wide and ever-expanding directions of photography through the work of such distinct artists as Dawoud Bey, Chuck Close, Terry Evans, Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, Joel Meyerowitz, Abelardo Morell, Richard Prince, Joel Sternfeld, Bob Thall, Carrie Mae Weems, and Jay Wolke.

 

Department of Textiles

The collection of the Department of Textiles comprises approximately 14,000 textiles, as well as 66,000 sample swatches, ranging from A.D. 100 to the present. The current holdings of American textiles number nearly 2,400 objects dating from the early 18th century through the present. Principally comprised of samplers and other examples of needlework as well as 19th- and 20th-century printed textiles. Strengths in the collection of American textiles include woven coverlets and quilted bedcovers. In recent years the quilt collection has increased significantly through both gifts and purchases to total now nearly 200 objects. Also of note are significant holdings of woven and printed textiles by noted Chicago textile artists and designers. Examples of carpets, hooked rugs, lace, and accessories are also part of the collection.


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