Press release: Saint Louis Art Museum to unveil reinstalled American art galleries

By | October 3, 2016

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ST. LOUIS, Oct. 3, 2016—The Saint Louis Art Museum reopens its American art galleries this fall after the re-installation of more than 150 works of art, one-fifth of which have not been on view in more than a decade.

Although some galleries have re-opened on a rolling schedule, visitors will have the opportunity to see the entire re-installation starting Saturday, Oct. 22.

(To download web-ready images, scroll down and click on thumbnails in the image gallery.)

Brent Benjamin

Brent Benjamin

“Our visitors know that our galleries continually evolve through rotations and the introduction of loans and acquisitions,” said Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. “But it is rare for visitors to witness such an extensive re-imagining of how we present a core area of the collection. I am confident they will find this fresh perspective to be as discerning and visually stunning as I do.”

Visitors will find old favorites—like George Caleb Bingham’s Jolly Flatboatmen in Port and Paul Cornoyer’s The Plaza After the Rain—as well as seldom-exhibited works, including Album Quilt and the 19th-century folk art painting Woman with Butterfly Tie.

Melissa Wolfe, curator of American art, hopes the reinstallation better connects works in the collection by revealing relationships between art of different styles, media, and time periods. Though loosely organized chronologically, the works are installed in the following thematic galleries to highlight artistic developments and the important role of art in the American experience.

  • Imagining a New Nation: Gallery 338 looks at the earliest years of American independence, when artists were merging a British artistic tradition with new styles and motifs that they believed would best represent American ideals. Highlights include Rembrandt Peale’s George Washington and a desk and bookcase attributed to the Boston furniture carver John Welch.
  • Everyday Americans: After the election of President Andrew Jackson, genre paintings—or, scenes of everyday people going about their everyday activities—became enormously popular. Bingham, one of Missouri’s most respected artists, established himself as one of the country’s preeminent painters by capturing this spirit in works on view in Gallery 337, like Raftsmen Playing Cards and the Election Series.
  • Painting, Sculpture, and the “New World”: Landscape dominated 19th-century American painting, and Gallery 336 celebrates that tradition. Artists like Thomas Cole and Alfred Thompson Bricher were drawn to the American wilderness. Harriet Hosmer, George Inness, and other American artists traveled abroad to produce “Old World” scenes that reinforced the belief that the “New World” of the United States was poised to come into its own golden age. Highlights include Frederic Remington’s The Bronco Buster and Edmonia Lewis’ Portrait of a Woman.
  • Dialogues in American Sculpture: The bronze and marble sculptures in Gallery 327 give a small selection of the variety of sculpture in America. Several of the artists included worked in St. Louis, bringing knowledge gained at other art centers to the city. Highlights include Gaston Lachaise’s Standing Woman and Carl Milles’s Dancing Maenad.
  • American Still Life: A mainstay of American art for more than 200 years, still-life paintings continue to engage us. Though disarmingly simple, they have the ability to disrupt our distracted multi-tasking by inviting us to pause and reflect. In Gallery 329, visitors can seek contemplation in the presence of works by John Johnston, Martin Johnson Heade and Marsden Hartley.
  • The Gilded Age: The years between 1870 and 1920 were marked by the creation of vast fortunes, rampant political corruption, oppressive working conditions, and financial panics. During this period, conveying one’s social position became less clear, and taste—or the ability to discern the fine from the common—became a mode to set the wealthy apart. Highlights of Gallery 335 include Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Gateway, Tangier and Winslow Homer’s The Country School.
  • The Modern World: Gallery 334 examines the first decades of the 20th century, when American artists saw a world in profound flux. Increased industrial production resulted in unprecedented urban growth, and new wealth established the museums and academies that supported the burgeoning art world. Yet, many artists found the support stifling and they rebelled with radical styles and subject matter. Highlights include Georgia O’Keeffe’s Dark Abstraction and photographer Russell Lee’s Negro Sharecropper Girl, Texas.
  • The American Scene: Gallery 333 looks back to the 1930s and 40s, when American artists saw their work’s potential to initiate powerful change and give voice to their subjects. This engagement continued as the country emerged from the Great Depression and entered the buildup to World War II. Highlights include John Rogers Cox’s Cloud Trails and Philip Guston’s Martial Memory.

In October and November, the museum invites visitors to a series of programs titled Politics, Propaganda, and the Power of Art. Designed to complement the American art re-installation—as well as the exhibitions Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan, which opens Oct. 16, and Impressions of War—the program series delve into the world of persuasion and political messaging as told through the visual arts.

CONTACT: Matthew Hathaway, 314.655.5493, matthew.hathaway@slam.org