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An important work by American painter Benjamin West was recently installed in the McGlothlin American Galleries. The portrait was acquired during the June 18 meeting of the VMFA Board of Trustees and is among the most valuable acquisitions in VMFA history.

Benjamin West, also known as the “father of American painting,” was at one point the most prominent painter in the British Empire. He served as President of the Royal Academy, History Painter to the King, and Surveyor of the King’s Pictures until his death in 1820. While in London, he also mentored American artists Charles Wilson Peale, Gilbert Stuart, and John Trumball – each of whom is represented in VMFA’s American Galleries.

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The national garden movement and, in particular, artists’ interest in gardens, has deep roots in Philadelphia, beginning with William Penn’s founding of his green and pleasant town in the seventeenth century and John Bartram’s establishing his botanical garden in 1728. In the early nineteenth century, artist Charles Wilson Peale retired to the cultivation of his garden at Belfield, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society was founded (in 1827), two years later hosting its first flower show. Interest gained momentum with the Colonial Revival movement, itself an outcome of Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition, and continued into the twentieth century.1 In her popular 1901 Colonial Revival-inspired publication Old Time Gardens, Alice Morse Earle wrote of Philadelphia: “There floriculture reached by the time of the Revolution a very high point, and many exquisite gardens bore ample testimony to the ‘pride of life,’ as well as to the good taste and love of flowers of Philadelphia Friends.” 2

Horticultural obsession also permeated the Philadelphia art scene. One of the most iconic conjunctions of art and the garden is the commissioning from Maxfield Parrish and Tiffany Studios of the fabulous Dream Garden (1913–1915, installed 1916) for the Curtis Building. The work was commissioned by Edward W. Bok (1863–1930), the head of Curtis Publishing, the influential publisher of Ladies Home Journal for the company’s new headquarters in Philadelphia.

Visit to read more about American Impressionism and the Garden Movement.

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The Louvre in Paris, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, and the Terra Foundation in Chicago have announced the third installation in their four-year collaboration focusing on the history of American art. "American Encounters: Anglo-American Portraiture in an Era of Revolution," which is currently on view at the Louvre, examines how portraiture style evolved in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as American and European painters were influenced by each other.

The exhibition features five works that have never before been exhibited together -- "George Washington after the Battle of Princeton," attributed to Charles Wilson Peale; "Portrait of Hugh Percy, Second Duke of Northumberland" by Gilbert Stuart; "Lieutenant Robert Hay of Spott" by Henry Raeburn; "George Washington (The Constable-Hamilton Portrait)" by Gilbert Stuart; and "George Washington, Porthole Portrait" by Rembrandt Peale. When its presentation at the Louvre ends on April 28, 2014, the exhibition will travel to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (May 17, 2014-September 15, 2014) and to the High Museum of Art (September 28, 2014-January 18, 2015).  

Guillaume Faroult, the Louvre's Curator of Paintings, said, "The potential for new scholarship and education that comes from bringing these five portraits together is exactly the spirit of our international collaboration and shows how much all of our institutions have to gain from it, as now our visitors are familiarizing themselves with American painting and are greatly anticipating this third installation."

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First Look: Collecting for Philadelphia, which opens at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on July 13, 2013, will present a selection of works from the 8,000 individual acquisitions the institution has made since July 1, 2008. The generosity of various donors is hugely responsible for the collection that is presented to museum visitors each day. Whether it is artworks or funds to make purchases, donations have helped sustain the institution since its founding in 1876.

First Look presents a cross-section of the many works acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the past five years, most of which will be on view for the first time. The new acquisitions span centuries, continents and media. Highlights include paintings by Claude Monet (1840-1926), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1827).

 First Look: Collecting for Philadelphia will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through September 8, 2013.

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From Colony to Nation: 200 Years of American Painting is an exhaustive exhibition now on view at the New-York Historical Society in Manhattan. The show presents over 80 works dating from 1729 to 1918 from the Historical Society’s own comprehensive collection of American paintings. From early Colonial portraits to urban Impressionism, the exhibition tells the tale of America’s past through art.

Many of the works on view have not been exhibited in decades and have recently undergone conservation efforts. Highlights include John Singer Sargent’s (1856-1925) portrait Mrs. Jacob Wendell (1888), which is the first work by Sargent to join the New-York Historical Society’s collection; Charles Wilson Pearle’s (1741-1827) The Peale Family (1773-1809), which brings together several generations in the artist’s studio; and Childe Hassam’s (1859-1935) Flags on 57th Street, Winter (1918), which offers a glimpse of New York City during its early years as a budding metropolis. From Colony to Nation is arranged thematically. Topics explored include The Early Republic: Patriots, Citizens & Democratic Vistas; A Second War of American Independence: The War of 1812; The Native Scenery & American Narratives; and The Gilded Age: Identity, Nostalgia & the Modern City.

From Colony to Nation: 200 Years of American Painting will be on view at the New-York Historical Society through September 8, 2013.

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