POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Celebrating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s famed voyage up the Hudson in 1609, the exhibition Drawn by New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society will be on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center from August 14 through November 1, 2009.
The exhibition spans six centuries, from rare mid-sixteenth-century watercolors of European birds—precursors of the work of Audubon—to representations of the World Trade Center before and after September 11, 2001. In addition to the exhibition, related events will include a Garden Party (August 16); lecture by exhibition curator Roberta J. M. Olson, Curator of Drawings, New-York Historical Society (September 11), and concert by Hudson River storyteller and legend, Pete Seeger (October 10). All are free and open to the public.
Exhibition highlights include:
- Astounding visual records from early voyages of discovery
- Renderings of Native Americans
- Views of now-vanished sites, such as New York’s Federal Hall (the nation’s first capitol)
- Picturesque views of the sublime American landscape
- Representations of events that shook the nation, including the American Civil War and September 11, 2001
- Images that evoke America’s growing wealth and power, such as Charles Dana Gibson’s satirical pictures of Gilded Age society
- Celebrations of the American people, from portraits of explorers, artists, and inventors to images of immigrants, street vendors, and workers
Organized by the New-York Historical Society, Drawn by New York will provide an overview of the depth and range of the Historical Society’s important holdings, while allowing visitors a unique insight into America’s evolving image. The Art Center’s exhibition is a selection of 81 works from the larger, groundbreaking exhibition held at the New-York Historical Society in the fall 2008. These range from one of the first-known views of New York City (c. 1650) to Donna Levinstone’s depictions of the World Trade Center (Eternal Rest, 2002), as well as works by John James Audubon, Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, Thomas Cole, Jasper Cropsey, Asher B. Durand, William Glackens, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios, and John Singer Sargent.
“Drawn by New York offers a rare opportunity to rediscover America through the kaleidoscopic lens of this extraordinary collection,” notes Dr. Roberta J. M. Olson, curator of drawings at the New-York Historical Society and of the exhibition. “Since many of the outstanding watercolors and drawings were executed before the advent of photography, they not only document lost buildings, customs, and landscapes but also preserve images of significant events and individuals who played vital roles in the history of the nation and the city.”
The New-York Historical Society’s collection of watercolors and drawings was the first established in any public institution in the United States and includes a special concentration of works that reflect New York’s scenery, settlements, citizens, and collecting patterns (including its early sixteenth-century watercolors). Yet until now, this extraordinary trove of some 8,500 original works of art has never been the subject of a traveling exhibition.
About the Exhibition
From one of the first-known views of New York City, dating around 1650, to an early bird’s-eye-view of Niagara Falls as well as early sketchbooks establishing the itinerary of the grand tour of North America, Drawn by New York celebrates the artists and vistas that entranced them.
Patricia Phagan, the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Center, noted that one focal point of the exhibition is the development of landscape art and plein air sketching, especially in the regions bordering the Hudson River, with works by Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and Jasper Cropsey. Following this theme, she noted that the exhibition also features a beautiful watercolor by William Guy Wall of the Palisades along the Hudson River. A preparatory study for the seminal series of aquatints entitled The Hudson River Portfolio of 1820–25, these prints demonstrated an early interest in the art of landscape in America and were the namesake of the Hudson River School.
In addition to works by more celebrated artists, such as Audubon, Bierstadt, Catlin, Glackens, Tiffany, and Sargent, there are fascinating works by lesser-known figures such as the Baroness Hyde de Neuville, whose elegant sheets preserve the people and landscapes of early nineteenth-century America. Among these are drawings of inventor Robert Fulton (1798) by noted Kingston, NY artist John Vanderlyn, as well as a 1796 view of Poughkeepsie by Alexander Robertson.
Among the other important artistic and historical themes highlighted in the exhibition are the changing role of draftsmanship in America (beginning with the utilitarian work of topographical draftsmen and the sketches of travelers) and the influence of New York City as an early center for artists and for the publishers who often reproduced their works.
The formation of the Historical Society’s collection over two centuries also opens a window onto patronage and collecting in New York and the United States. Its collection of drawings dates from 1816 with the gift of two portraits of historical importance. Through the years, the collection, a national treasure, continued to develop according to the Society’s mission of acquiring works for their historical evidence. As can be seen in the numerous portraits and landscapes on view, the museum’s holdings are especially rich in works from the late eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, although these portrayals of significant people and events continue to contemporary times.
Drawn by New York is accompanied by the first catalogue of the New-York Historical Society’s collection of watercolors and drawings, recently awarded the highest honor by the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC). Emily Bellew Neff, Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and chair of the AAMC Permanent Collection Jury noted, “It is a huge challenge to take on such a wide-ranging collection and distill it, and then create a balance between those works celebrated for their iconographical content versus those of sheer artistry. This catalogue succeeds in showcasing the breadth and complexity of the New-York Historical Society’s collection.”
The 450-page, fully illustrated book, published by the New-York Historical Society in association with D Giles Limited, features an interpretive essay by the exhibition curator Roberta Olson and extensive entries for each work in the exhibition at Vassar and at the larger venue in New York City. An illustrated brochure with checklist will also accompany the presentation of the exhibition at the Lehman Loeb Art Center.
Following its presentation at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, the exhibition will travel to the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio (November 20, 2009 through January 17, 2010).
The exhibition at the New-York Historical Society and the publication of the catalogue and its research were generously supported by The Getty Foundation, Leonard L. and Ellen Milberg, Barbara and Richard Debs, Pam and Scott Schafler, Eli Wilner & Company, Inc., The Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, Alexander Acevedo, and Graham Arader.
All programs are free and open to the public.
Sunday, August 16, 1–5pm
Enjoy the elegance and refinement of turn-of-the-century New York society while sipping tea in The Hildegarde Krause Baker, class of 1911, Sculpture Garden. Join in the spirit of the event by wearing your favorite summer garden party attire. Attend a guided tour of the exhibition with Patricia Phagan, the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings at 2:00 p.m. Families are encouraged to come to this event where children can make their own summer garden party hats and paper silhouettes inspired by works within the exhibition. Art Center.
Friday, September 11, 5:30pm
Lecture and reception
“Stops on the Grand Tour of America: Places and Faces in Drawn by New York,” by Dr. Roberta J. M. Olson, Curator of Drawings, New-York Historical Society, followed by a reception at 6:30 p.m. Dr. Olson organized the exhibition Drawn by New York and researched and wrote its catalogue. Taylor Hall 203 (lecture) and Art Center (reception).
Saturday, October 10, 2–3pm
Pete Seeger Concert
Pete Seeger, the legendary folk-singer and Hudson River champion, will sing a selection of inspiring songs complementing the exhibition Drawn by New York.
Seeger, a regular on 1940 radio music shows, played and sang with The Weavers in the 1950s, the song “Goodnight, Irene” being their most popular hit. A prolific songwriter, he wrote or co-wrote some of the most memorable songs associated with the 1960s, including “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “If I Had a Hammer.” Seeger continues to inspire generations of Americans with his songs and messages of social awareness and responsibility. In 1969, he founded Clearwater, an environmental and educational organization that built a replica of one of the types of ships that sailed the Hudson River in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Through programs and classes aboard ship, Clearwater and Seeger have become leaders in the environmental movement to restore the Hudson to “clear water once more.”
The concert is co-produced by the Art Center and Campus Activities and will be held outside on the Chapel Lawn (between the Art Center and Main Building). The rain location is the Chapel.
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. The Lehman Loeb Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise almost 18,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th- century painters. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free. The art center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00 pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. The Art Center is wheelchair accessible. For more information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.