Making American Taste Press Release
RETHINKING THE FORMATIVE YEARS OF AMERICAN ART, THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY PRESENTS THE EXHIBITION
MAKING AMERICAN TASTE: NARRATIVE ART FOR A NEW DEMOCRACY
Pathbreaking Exhibition Will Highlight the Superb Collection, as the Transformed Historical Society Re-Opens on November 11, 2011
NEW YORK, NY, June 24, 2011 – Offering a compelling reinterpretation of how American taste evolved, and providing a fascinating glimpse into the riches of the NewYork Historical Society’s collection of painting and sculpture, Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy will be among the highlights in the galleries when New-York Historical re-opens on November 11, 2011. Featuring 55 works from New-York Historical’s great collection, Making American Taste will cast new light on both the history of American art and the formation of American cultural ideals during a crucial period from roughly the 1830s to the late 1860s. During these years, spanning the era of Jacksonian populism through the aftermath of the Civil War, the role of the arts in a democracy was hotly debated in the United States. The exhibition will remain on view, with one brief hiatus, through August 19, 2012, after which it will travel to venues throughout the United States. Making American Taste contributes fresh thinking to the study of this contentious and productive period by looking at an unusually broad range of narrative subject matter through the lens of taste. Going beyond the well-known examples of landscape painting and rural and domestic genre scenes, the exhibition also integrates historical, literary and religious subjects into the story of American art during these years. In so doing, the exhibition reveals the visual styles, standards of decorum and repertoire of knowledge that came to represent cultural refinement to 19th-century Americans. It also expands and enhances our understanding of the varied tastes of the 19th-century New Yorkers whose gifts formed the core of New-York Historical’s collection.
“The collection of the New-York Historical Society might be best known for its magnificent Hudson River School paintings, but our holdings are in fact as rich and multifaceted as American art itself,” stated Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “In Making American Taste, we celebrate our re-opening by presenting an eye-opening new view of the collection—one that is both far-reaching and
in-depth, and that will stimulate new thinking about the history of American art.” Making American Taste is organized for the New-York Historical Society by Barbara Dayer Gallati, Guest Curator, and Linda S. Ferber, Vice President and Senior Art Historian of New-York Historical. Their selection of works includes the long-awaited return to New-York Historical, after conservation, of Louis Lang’s famed monumental
history painting of 1862, The Return of the 69th(Irish) Regiment from the Seat of War. Also on view will be paintings and sculptures by canonical artists such as Benjamin West, Asher B. Durand, William Sidney Mount and Eastman Johnson. Just as important, however, is the selection of significant works by artists who were major figures in their own time but have been virtually ignored in current American art surveys, such as Daniel Huntington, Henry Peters Gray and Thomas Harrison Matteson. The reintegration of these forgotten artists into the larger art-historical framework will challenge the canon of taste that has elevated genre painting to a privileged position at the expense of other narrative modes, including narratives of Stuart and Tudor history, scenes taken from Shakespeare and other authors and idealized and religious subjects inspired by European masters.
Making American Taste is presented in six thematic sections, in which several works from the late 18th century and several from the late 19th
century bracket the great majority, which date from the 1830s through the 1860s. The sections of the exhibition are Importing Grand Manner Taste; Translating Literary Taste into Visual Experience; Scenes of Everyday Life and Average Taste; Ambiguous Narratives -Picturing the Outsider; Taste and History Painting; and Beauty and Spiritualized Taste. A fully illustrated 323-page publication published by D Giles Ltd in association with the New-York Historical Society will accompany the exhibition. The exhibition and publication are supported by the National Endowment for the Arts through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, the Walter and Lucille Rubin Foundation, Richard Gilder and Lois Chiles, Larry K. Clark, the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation, J. Joe Ricketts, the PJ Callahan Foundation, Inc, the Diane and
Thomas Jacobsen Foundation, Irma R. Rappaport and an anonymous donor.
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. New-York Historical is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions, such as Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern
America; Slavery in New York; Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School at the New-York Historical Society; Grant and Lee in War and Peace; Lincoln and New York; The Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society; and Nueva York. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs is one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American art and other
materials documenting the history of the United States and New York.
New-York Historical Society Ruder Finn Arts & Communications Counselors
Laura Washington Aoife Carlin
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