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Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America

September 27, 2013 - March 09, 2014

Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America examines the remarkable critical and popular resurgence of portraiture in the United States during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. The exhibition —presenting over sixty works of art as well as period photographs and graphic materials, all from the New-York Historical Society—will investigate the strong cultural and social legacy of the American portrait tradition, with particular emphasis upon the New York sitters so well represented in New-York Historical's rich collection. With the amassing of great fortunes founded on industrial expansion, came the impetus to document the appearance of those who propelled and benefited from burgeoning wealth, thus echoing a cultural pattern reaching back to the colonial era.

Théobald Chartran (French, 1849 –1907), James Hazen Hyde (1876-1959), 1901. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical  Society, Gift of James Hazen Hyde, 1949.1

Beauty’s Legacy will include portraits of prominent New York sitters including Emma Thursby, Samuel Verplanck Hoffman, Mary Barrett Wendell, Reverend Henry Codman Potter, and Mary Gardiner Thompsonby done by such American artists as John Singer Sargent, James Carroll Beckwith, George Peter Alexander Healy, Daniel Huntington, Eastman Johnson, and Benjamin Curtis Porter. Paintings of other New Yorkers including James Hazen Hyde, Georgina Schuyler, Samuel Ward McAllister, Cortlandt Field Bishop, Leonard and Rosalie Lewisohn, and Samuel Untermyer by Léon Bonnat, Bouguereau, Carolus-Duran, Alexandre Cabanel, Anders Zorn, and Théobald Chartran reflect the vigorous American demand for portraits by European artists.

A selection of twenty-five miniature portraits of reigning social celebrities from Peter Marié’s Beauties of The Gilded Age will also be displayed. Deepening the historical context of these works, photographs and graphic materials will document the opulent residences built for the sitters and their images in fancy dress for lavish costume balls and society weddings. In addition, advertising graphics will record the fashions and cosmetics popular among the belles of New York society.

A catalogue will accompany the exhibition which will include essays by Dr. Gallati as well as Dr. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of the Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology. It will be published by the New-York Historical Society in association with D Giles Limited, London.

Creative: Tronvig Group