Coming of Age. American Art, 1850s to 1950s at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection / Venice








Peggy Guggenheim Collection / Palazzo Venier dei Leoni

COMING OF AGE. AMERICAN ART, 1850s TO 1950s
Exhibition > October 12, 2008







Through October 12, 2008, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection presents Coming of Age. American Art, 1850s to 1950s.

The exhibition is installed in the recently renovated temporary exhibition galleries and chronicles the transformation that occurred in a century of American art from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, from a literal depiction of nature to an abstract interpretation of universal ideas.



Edward Hopper
Manhattan Bridge Loop, 1928
Oil on canvas
35 x 60 in.
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; gift of Stephen C. Clark, Esq. [1932.17]
Courtesy American Federation of Arts.



Drawing exclusively from the renowned collection of the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA (USA), Curators William C. Agee, professor of art history at Hunter College, CUNY, New York, and Susan C. Faxon, associate director and curator of the Addison Gallery of American Art, have selected approximately seventy paintings and sculptures to reveal the complex and contradictory impulses that led American artists to adopt and redefine a new idiom for art, an “American” expression that was identifiably their own. The exhibition takes place at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection following its presentation at the Meadows Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. Coming of Age is organized by the American Federation of Arts, New York, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, where it opened in September 2006, and is made possible, in part, by the Crosby Kemper Foundation and by Frank B. Bennett and William D. Cohan, with additional support from the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation Fund for Collection-Based Exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts. The exhibition has the Patronage of the Embassy of the United States of America in Italy and of the Consulate General of the United States of America in Milan.

The majestic landscapes of the Hudson River School artists of the 1850s, personifying the optimistic patriotism of the mid-century, marked the beginning of a distinctly American language. The Hudson River School artists found their inspiration in the American wilderness, depicting both the majesty and tranquillity of nature and suggesting, idealistically, the ability to portray the divine hand of God at work in nature. These artists chose to depict the American landscape as a virgin territory, full of promise, often carefully expunging any evidence of human settlement that was already impacting the countryside. Gradually, American artists began to merge stylistic European influences with subjects specifically American. Inspired by French painters and their depictions of the lush Barbizon countryside, American landscape painters like George Inness turned from the conventions of Romantic landscape to portrayals of nature’s moods, reveling in its unpredictability, and opting to portray dramatic scenes of nature with looser brushstrokes and a darker palette.



Asher Brown Durand
Study of a Wood Interior, ca. 1855
Oil on canvas mounted on panel
16 3/4 x 24 in.
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; gift of Mrs. Frederic F. Durand [1932.1]
Courtesy American Federation of Arts.



George Inness
The Coming Storm, ca. 1879
Oil on canvas
27 1/4 x 41 3/4 in.
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; gift of anonymous donor [1928.25]
Courtesy American Federation of Arts.



In the late nineteenth century, American realism, which celebrated the power of the American land and mind, coexisted with works uniting Impressionist and Post-Impressionist influences and an American sensibility for the specific. By the turn of the century, an even more complex set of artistic impulses arose: at one side were expatriate painters like John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, adept players in the international art scene who created European-inspired paintings of the Old World; and on the other were Ash Can School painters like Robert Henri, George Luks, and John Sloan, who focused on the gritty streets and structures of American cities with painterly techniques that referenced European traditions.

In the early 1900s, the prominence of American modernism grew so as to proclaim New York, and no longer Paris, the center of the artistic avant-garde. Proponents of American modernism such as Stuart Davis, Man Ray, and Patrick Henry Bruce defined abstraction in their use of bold, geometric shapes and colors to create an American vision deriving from European Cubism. On the other hand, Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe and others in Stieglitz’s circle were using reductive shapes and lines to create a modernism that held allegiance to organic forms. Artists such as Charles Sheeler and Edward Hopper, however, preferred representing scenes inspired by American city life, preserving in their works a link with modernism.



John Sloan
Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair, 1912
Oil on canvas
26 1/8 x 32 1/8 in.
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy,
Andover, Massachusetts; museum purchase [1938.67]
Courtesy American Federation of Arts.


Childe Hassam
Early Morning on the Avenue in May 1917, 1917
Oil on canvas
30 1/16 x 36 1/16 in.
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; bequest of Candace C. Stimson [1944.20]
Courtesy American Federation of Arts.


Patrick Henry Bruce
Peinture/Nature morte, ca. 1924
Oil and graphite on canvas
28 3/4 x 36 1/4 in.
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; gift of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Lane [1958.38)]
Courtesy American Federation of Arts.



In the 1930s, German-trained artists Josef Albers and Hans Hofmann emigrated to the United States where they became instrumental in the introduction of a new set of ideas about color, form, perception, and design, once again transforming the American art scene. Their teachings set the stage for the emergence of a new, non-objective abstraction of the 1940s in the work of Abstract Expressionists such as Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and David Smith. The highly emotive abstract works of these artists forged a new notion of American art, breaking the hold of old traditions and carrying America to the center of the international art scene.

In the 1950s, the prominence of New York as the focus of international art expanded at the hands of painters such as John McLaughlin, Ad Reinhardt and Frank Stella. These artists translated the modernism of the New York School into a refinement of color, shape, and line, assuring American art’s vanguard position for decades to come. These works conclude the exhibition.


Coming of Age. American Art, 1850s to 1950s is organized by the American Federation of Arts, New York, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. This exhibition is made possible, in part, by The Crosby Kemper Foundation and by Frank B. Bennett and William D. Cohan, with additional support from the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation Fund for Collection-Based Exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts. Curator: William Agee, Professor of Art History at Hunter College, New York, and Susan Faxon, Associate Director and Curator at the Addison Gallery.


    Text © Peggy Guggenheim Collection
    Images © All rights reserved





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~ by Stampfli & Turci on August 13, 2008.

One Response to “Coming of Age. American Art, 1850s to 1950s at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection / Venice”

  1. […] Coming of Age. American Art, 1850s to 1950s at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection / Venice […]

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