Muscarelle Museum of Art

College of William and Mary

Williamsburg, VA



For Posterity: Selections from the National Academy of Design


As the culmination of the Williamsburg 300th Anniversary celebration, the Muscarelle Museum of Art at The College of William and Mary will exhibit forty-nine major American paintings from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries drawn from the collection at the National Academy of Design in New York City. For Posterity: Selections from the National Academy of Design will be exhibited from October 2, 1999 through January 16, 2000. Never before has such a large group of paintings by so many of America's important artists been exhibited in Williamsburg.

Images from left to right: Winslow Homer, Croquet Player, n.d.; Charles Wilbert White, Mother Courage II, 1974; William Merrit Chase, Study of a Young Girl (or) An Idle Moment (or) At Her Ease, n.d.; Lilian Westcott Hale, An Old Cherry Tree, n.d.

The National Academy of Design is one of the oldest art establishments in the United States. Organized in 1826 to provide a school for art students and a place for the display of works of art by contemporary American artists, it became the most influential art institution in nineteenth-century America. The Academy also established the membership ranks of "associate" and "academician," and ambitious artists of the day eagerly sought admission. The importance of membership in the Academy during the nineteenth and early twentieth century can be judged by the number of American artists who signed their name, followed by the coveted initials ANA or NA, on their canvases or sculptures. Membership in the Academy indicated acceptance by their peers and recognition by the public.

Upon promotion to full membership as an academician, the artist was required to submit one of his own works to the Academy. These required paintings and sculptures became known as diploma works or presentation pieces. Today they form the vast majority of the collection in the National Academy of Art. It is a unique collection, at once expressing the individual artist's choice of how he or she wanted to be remembered for the future, as well as representing the collective history of the styles, ideas, and tastes of over one hundred and seventy years of American art.

Among the notable artists represented in the exhibition are Asher Durand, Frederic Edwin Church, John Frederick Kensett, Sanford Robinson Gifford, George Inness, Winslow Homer, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, and Frank Tenney Johnson.

For Posterity: Selections from the National Academy of Design is supported by funding from The Owens Foundation and the Lucille Godfrey Quattlebaum Endowment Fund. Additional funding was provided by the Williamsburg 300th Anniversary Commission and the Williamsburg Arts Commission.

Also see articles on the National Academy Museum.

Read More in Resource Library Magazine about Muscarelle Museum of Art .

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

rev. 10/26/10

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