New York Painting Begins: Eighteenth-Century Portraits

Sep 15 2009 - Mar 25 2010

The New-York Historical Society holds one of the nation’s premiere collections of 18th-century American portraits. During this formative century a small group of native-born painters and European émigrés created images that represent a broad swath of elite colonial New York society— landowners and tradesmen, and later Revolutionaries and Loyalists—while reflecting the area’s Dutch roots and its strong ties with England.

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) The Peale Family, 1773-1809 Oil on canvas New-York Historical Society, 1867.298

In the past these paintings were valued for their insights into the lives of the sitters, and they include distinguished New Yorkers who played leading roles in its history. However, the focus in this exhibition is placed on the paintings themselves and their own histories as domestic objects, often passed through generations of family members. These works raise many questions, and given the sparse documentation from the period, not all of them can be definitively answered: why were these paintings made, and who were the artists who made them? How did they learn their craft?

Dutch New York Between East and West: The World of Margrieta van Varick (Bard Graduate Center)

Sep 18 2009 - Jan 24 2010

Timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's sail into the New York bay, The World of Margrieta van Varick explores the life and times of a fascinating woman, her family and possessions. Born in the Netherlands, Margrieta spent the better part of her life at the extremes of the Dutch colonial world: in Malacca (now Malaysia) and Flatbush (now Brooklyn). Arriving in Flatbush with her minister husband Rudolphus in 1686, she set up a textile shop, bringing with her an astonishing array of Asian and European goods. We know about the wealth of objects thanks to an inventory, taken after her death in 1696—and recently rediscovered in the archives of the New-York Historical Society library—documenting her personal belongings and shop goods.

Bedcover or wall hanging (palampore), ca. 1720-1740. Cotton, linen, paint. New- York Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, 1938.1

Special Collections >


The New-York Historical Society Museum collection numbers over 60,000 objects, including works of art and artifacts spanning four centuries. Among its holdings are particularly rich and diverse collections that illuminate the historical and cultural life of New York City and the nation.


Highlights >


The New-York Historical Society Museum and Library houses a treasure trove of materials relating to the founding of our country, the history of art in America, and the history of New York and its people. The Museum houses more than 60,000 works and artifacts, including fine art, decorative art, historical artifacts, and ephemera. Fine art holdings include renowned Hudson River School landscapes; masterpieces of colonial and later portraiture; John James Audubon’s watercolors for The Birds of America; an encyclopedic collection of sculpture; and much more.

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Creative: Tronvig Group