Orlando Museum of Art

Orlando, FL

(407) 896-4231


Our Nation's Colors: A Celebration of American Painting - Selections from the Wichita Art Museum


The Orlando Museum of Art will present Our Nation's Colors: A Celebration of American Painting - Selections from the Wichita Art Museum August 22 - October 25, 1998 as a part of its Season of Excellence exhibition schedule.

This special exhibition highlights one of the finest collections of American painting in the United States. Approximately 70 paintings featured in the exhibition are drawn from the Wichita (Kansas) Art Museum's Roland R. Murdock Collection and other works collected by the Wichita Art Museum in its pioneering mission to present a visual history of the culture of the United States.

Our Nation's Colors explores the values thought to define American art -- rugged individualism, natural simplicity, democratic spirit, the modern age and the American experience. To complement America's vastness and the diversity of its people, the exhibition includes a wide cross section of art, including images of rural children by Winslow Homer, sportsmen and artists by Thomas Eakins, immigrants by Robert Henri and scenes of the modern city by Edward Hopper.

In the first half of the century, a small number of pioneering American institutions were established to collect art produced by the country's own artists. One of the earliest and most important of these is the Wichita Art Museum, which originated in a 1915 bequest from local businesswoman Louise Caldwell Murdock to the people of Wichita. Mrs. Murdock's visionary gift was a fund to purchase American art; in return, the city was to build a museum to house the collection. Elizabeth S. Navas, Murdock's protege from her interior design business, was charged with assembling this public collection. Navas established a daringly avant-garde collection that reflected the period's idea of a unique American identity.

The Orlando Museum of Art is one of only five venues in the United States that will host this exhibition's historic national tour. "The Orlando Museum of Art is proud to be able to bring this significant collection of masterworks to Florida," says Marena Grant Morrisey, executive director of the museum. The exhibition will be displayed in five thematic sections: American Old Masters, The American City, The American Continent, Independent American Visions and Epilogue.

American Old Masters

Seeking to establish an identity for their art independent of European tradition, progressive American artists of the period created works rooted in the character of the Iand and the experience of the common people. The critical taste of the new century elevated artists like Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer to the status of cultural heroes, in part because they distanced themselves from the fashionable styles of their day. Eakins and Homer portrayed subjects which were deemed to be inherently American and also offered pictorial styles in what was characterized by candor and simplicity. These qualities, attributed to the artists themselves as well as to their pictorial styles, were claimed as quintessential attributes of the American vision.

Independent American Visions

Individualism emerged as the signal element of national identity in the thought and artistic production of American art throughout the first half of the 20th century. Artists celebrated the ideal of expressive freedom - not just from foreign fashions, but from all manner of artistic doctrine. Painters such as Horace Pippin and John Kane who were then called modern "primitives" exemplified the survival of what was cast as the original American model of the self-made, intuitive stylists of simple forms and strong emotions. Many American artists assimilated the radical perceptual and formal strategies advanced by European modernism, using them to accommodate particular and personally experienced realities of contemporary life.


The 1940s witnessed the international triumph of the first revolutionary stylistic movement to come from American art - the Abstract Expressionist movement. Instead of looking to the people for inspiration, the artist focused on his own internal creative resources. For many artists the landscapes of inner being replaced nature as the artist's subject. However, as the paintings by Allan D'Arcangelo, Milton Avery and Grace Hartigan suggest, the exploration of American roots in such themes as the spiritual essence of particular places and the vitality evidenced in the raw edges of popular culture contributed significantly to the on-going invention of American art.

Originally titled Toward American Identity: Selections from the Wichita Art Museum, the exhibition is organized by the Wichita Art Museum in association with The American Federation of Arts (AFA). It is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Kansas Arts Commission. Additional funding was provided by The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. and the Estate of Louise C. Murdock. The exhibition is a project of ART ACCESS II, a program of the AFA with major support from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. Educational materials are made possible by The Brown Foundation, Inc.

Admission to the Orlando Museum of Art is $4 for adults, $2 for children (ages 4-11) and free to museum members and children three and under. The museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9 am-5 pm, Sunday 12 noon-5 pm, closed Monday. The Orlando Museum of Art is located at 2416 N. Mills Avenue, Orlando, FL 32803-1483. For more information, visitors may call (407) 896-4231, fax: (407) 896-9920 or visit the museum's web site at www.OMArt.org.

Cited by Newsweek as one of the best museums in the South, the Orlando Museum of Art's outstanding permanent collection features American art, art of the Ancient Americas and African art. The OMA is member supported and accredited by the American Association of Museums. The museum is sponsored in part by United Arts of Central Florida, Inc., the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Arts Council.


Images from top to bottom: John Steuart Curry, Kansas Cornfield, 1933, o/c, 60 3/8 x 38 1/2 inches; Winslow Homer, In the Morning, 1874, o/c, 15 3/4 x 25 inches; Edward Hopper, Sunlight on Brownstones, 1936, o/c, 30 3/8 x 40 1/8 inches.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/26/10

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2010 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.