Drawn by New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the N-YHS

September 19, 2008
January 19, 2009

Although the Society harbors one of the earliest assembled public collections of drawings in the United States, the aesthetic richness and historical value of these assets are surprisingly little known. Attempting to share this vast trove with the public, the exhibition and its catalogue will feature highlights from the N-YHS collection—over 190 watercolors and drawings out of approximately 8,000 works, including rare sketchbooks and albums. The collection spans six centuries, from over 200 sixteenth-century avian watercolors and a Dutch view of New York City (1650), then know as New Amsterdam, to a complex view of the façade of St. Patrick's Cathedral captured from inside Rockefeller Center and representations of the World Trade Center before and after September 11, 2001. Among the jewels in the crown are spectacular watercolors of birds and mammals by John James Audubon for The Birds of America (1827-38) and The Quadrupeds (1845-48), portraits of Native Americans by Charles Balthazar Févret de Saint-Mémin, works by Hudson River School artists like Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand (the Society holds the largest cache of Durand drawings in the world), together with important works by key luminaries such as Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, William Glackens, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios, and John Singer Sargent. They uniquely chart the vision of America from its beginnings during European colonization through the development of the nation and its artistic, geographical, political, economic and cultural evolutions. They figure along with works by lesser lights, such as sheets b y the Baroness Hyde de Neuville that preserve the face of a bygone America, its landscape, people, and customs, watercolors by David Cusick, one of the identifiable American Indian artist, as well as works by silhouettists, folk artists, and the ten earliest portraits of young John Singer Sargent in Paris by James Carroll Beckwith. Only with the Society's distinctive and distinguished collection can this compelling narrative be drafted. The offerings reflect American's evolving self-images-initially, as a dependent colony maturing into a still-young country with a seemingly limitless frontier and ultimately as a world power with great urban center (The exhibition will travel to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York from August 14, 2009 through November 1, 2009, and the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio, from November 20, 2009 through February 7, 2010).

Creative: Tronvig Group