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Past

The wide expanse of the United States, from “California to the New York Island,” as Woody Guthrie penned in his famous anthem, carries with it an imposing history that includes stories of heroism and tragedy, prosperity and poverty, freedom and enslavement, tradition and upheaval, and war and peace.

The complex fabric of the nation is woven with millions of individual experiences that have spawned a material culture that reflects the varied backgrounds and contributions of people who have inhabited the land. From strictly utilitarian objects to luxurious objets d’art that were obtainable by only a small percentage of the populace, each item reflects upon the larger culture and values of American society.

Beginning with a look at objects from the indigenous cultures that existed before European contact, the show moves forward in time to the settlement of the land by immigrants from other nations. Portraiture provided an important record of the faces of those who could either afford such a luxury or had interesting stories to tell, ranging from one of the earliest portraits done of European settlers in the New World, A Portrait of Henry Gibbs, by Freake-Gibbs Limner, on loan from the Juliet Art Museum in Charleston, West Virginia, to multiple images of Native American subjects by artists such as George Catlin and Charles Bird King. The flora and fauna of the American lands were fascinating to both European and native-born artists, so representative works that highlight the natural history of the land will be included. The rugged and often pristine beauty of the growing nation will be showcased in numerous scenic landscapes.

As settlement of the land increased, a thriving demand for decorative items grew in proportion. Items for homes ranging from utilitarian woven goods and stoneware to luxurious furniture and finely engraved tableware were made for the growing class of consumers. Glass, pottery, quilts, furniture and metalwork will be displayed, highlighting the strong craft traditions that drew inspiration from the melting pot of cultures in the developing nation. Various means of traversing the land will be a point of emphasis, from images of early carriages, ships and locomotives to modern-day vehicles.

Efforts to forge a national identity will be presented through images of near-mythical heroes and symbols ranging from the log cabin to historical figures such as George Washington and Daniel Boone. The constant specter of conflict, whether with outside foes or those within the same society is represented through the work of artists and designers as they addressed military and political struggles from the Revolutionary period onward.

Drawn primarily from the HMA permanent collection, the show will look at the American experience through the nation’s artistic output. Well-known artists will be featured alongside anonymous designers, folk artists and craftsmen, highlighting the intense creative spirit that has permeated the American land for centuries.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

This program is made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the federal CARES Act through the West Virginia Humanities Council. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

From the 1960s forward, artists began to embrace printmaking with a wide-reaching enthusiasm that had not been seen in previous years. In the United States, opportunities to publish fine art prints blossomed as new print studios popped up around the country, including Universal Limited Art Editions in West Islip, New York, Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles, Crown Point Press in Oakland, California, and Gemini G.E.L. in New York City. Several universities established fine art presses, such as those at the University of South Florida (Graphicstudio) and the University of Wisconsin (Tandem Press), and many independent nonprofit presses were created such as Anchor Graphics in Chicago.

For artists, the chance to find new means of expression in collaboration with master printers presented an enticing opportunity to showcase their work in a new light, so many prominent painters and sculptors began to explore printmaking with a renewed vigor. For collectors, editioned works by leading artists became affordable and readily available, leading to an unprecedented art sales boom. The Huntington Museum of Art has an impressive collection of prints from the modern era that continues to grow through new acquisitions. This exhibit will showcase works ranging from prints from the 1960s by established masters such as Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson to new works by contemporary women artists such as Barbara Takenaga, Maria Tomasula, and Claudia Bernardi. A variety of printmaking processes will be on display ranging from traditional fine art mediums such as lithography and etching to the experimental techniques that were embraced during the innovative period of the latter 20th century.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Art of the Portrait

June 20 - September 20, 2020

The act of creating a likeness of yourself or another human being has been a fundamental component of the western idea of art, beginning in early civilizations and reaching full glory in the age of the Renaissance.

Portraiture served the needs of individuals and families by creating an historical record of a subject for present and future generations. It was also a powerful tool for governments and religious organizations, as images of those individuals who were deemed to be important appeared on the walls of palaces, courts and churches and were often distributed to the masses through likenesses on coins or currency or through prints, book illustrations or public sculpture.

Over the centuries, portraiture provided an important stream of revenue for painters and sculptors, though it was often seen as a subservient and tiresome undertaking that hindered creativity. The idea of an exact physical representation has historically been held up as the standard for portraitists, though that idea lost traction once photography became a cheaper and more accurate substitute, and an accompanying shift in styles began to favor artistic abstraction. Despite a turn away from an emphasis on high-style imagery, portraiture remains an important means of expression for the visual artist and it continues to fuel a debate on the ideas of identity and representation in art.

The Huntington Museum of Art has a strong collection of formal historic portraits, especially from 18th and 19th century Great Britain. Beginning in the 1950s, gifts from donors such as George Bagby established an important foundation for the collection, adding works by Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, Gilbert Stuart and other significant painters. Over the years the collection has broadened to include a much wider range of likenesses, from ancient Roman portrait busts to more abstract works by artists such as Vanessa Bell and Chuck Close. A selection from the HMA holdings will highlight a variety of portraits in several mediums.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

The use of clay to create utilitarian objects has been a feature of nearly every human civilization since the dawn of time. In many instances, pottery remains as the only record of vanished ancient cultures, a fact that serves as a testament to its amazing strength and durability. In the case of the multitude of cultures that flourished amid the Andes Mountains on the western side of South America for thousands of years, a stunning legacy of craftsmanship has been left behind in the form of the ceramics they created and used in their societies.

Evidence exists that pottery has been crafted in the region for more than four thousand years, arising from a continuum of cultures that also created sophisticated monumental religious architecture and crafted beautiful items of personal adornment such as jewelry and patterned textiles. The pottery that emerged from these societies exhibited a remarkable variety of shapes, colors and textures. Often using native terracotta clay that created a rich surface of brown color that could be decorated by stamping, engraving or painting, the artisans of the Andean region produced a massive body of work that included both utilitarian objects and funerary items.

Among the first gifts that came to the Huntington Museum of Art at the time of its opening in 1952 were collections of Peruvian ceramics from Mrs. Gertrude Vandergrift and Mrs. Irene Caldwell. In 1991, a large collection of pottery was given to the Museum by Mrs. Caldwell’s daughter and her husband, Irene and Jack Neal. These gifts will be showcased in an exhibition that highlights a variety of Andean societies and the pottery that was created there, especially the stunning work produced by the Nazca and Chimu cultures.

This exhibit is presented by Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

​In the Virginia Van Zandt Great Hall, at the entrance to the Museum, is the 12-foot tall Palette Tree. This tree, filled with more than 50 one-on-a-kind palettes, displays works by different artists while openly showcasing their individual style. While each piece is made from an artist’s palette, different mediums of art are showcased to show the unique and ever-changing creativity from regional artists.

Throughout the different gallery spaces in the Museum, the creativity continues with additional trees. Each of these trees is decorated by an area artist group. Participating groups include the West Virginia Bead Society; Tri-Area Needle Arts; the Western Weavers Guild of the West Virginia Basketmakers; and the Calligraphers Guild. Other artists participating include folk artists, woodworkers and woodturners.

Art on a Limb is Presented by The Pottery Place of Huntington & Charleston.

American Impressionism

March 7 - August 23, 2020

Perhaps no other painting style generates popular enthusiasm among modern-day museum-goers quite like impressionism. Filled with dazzling color, shimmering light and pleasant subject matter, the works are sensual delights that seem to instantly resonate with viewers.

It is difficult to imagine that the beginnings of the style in the 19th century brought with it a great deal of scorn and controversy. When Claude Monet and several associates showed their paintings in Paris in 1874, critics panned the work as unfinished and crude, and the subject matter (common landscapes and city views) was considered unacceptable for its lack of ideal or heroic qualities. Needless to say, the style caught on in a relatively short period of time, and by the time it began to be widely collected in America at the end of the 19th century, it had lost its radical edge and was embraced by native artists as an acceptable means to depict modern American life. While many American painters who had studied at the academies in Europe at first found the free-spirited qualities of the style to be objectionable, most of them soon adopted impressionist characteristics in their work and found a welcome audience in their home country.

The Huntington Museum of Art has a stellar collection of American impressionist works by many of the leading practitioners of the style, including five oil paintings by Childe Hassam, along with examples by Willard Metcalf, Frank Benson, John Twachtman, Edward Simmons, Robert Reid, and J. Alden Weir, all of whom exhibited together as part of the “Ten American Painters,” a group with impressionist leanings. Other artists of note include
Maurice Prendergast, Edward Potthast, William Glackens, Guy Wiggins, Theodore Butler, Hayley Lever, Gari Melchers, Arthur Meltzer and Paul Sawyier. A stellar landscape painting in the impressionist style by John Singer Sargent is also among HMA’s holdings. Works by these artists will be featured in this exhibition and will showcase the strong collection of American impressionist works that have been acquired since the museum opened in 1952.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787, expressing his belief that the workers who till the soil would be the unshakable foundation of the newly formed United States of America.

Serving as symbols of self-reliance and dignity, workers, particularly farm laborers, found their way onto the sketchbooks and canvases of artists, especially as the 19th century unfolded and the rise of factory production radically changed the work experience for many people. Some artists such as Gustave Courbet and Jean Francois Millet used the image of the worker to express strong political views, while others chose to present a more nostalgic sentiment that mourned the decline of the agricultural economy and a vanishing way of life. By the beginning of the 20th century a philosophy of realism was firmly entrenched, giving rise to depictions of even the most unglamorous jobs, from street sweepers to barmaids.

The selection of artworks in this exhibition from the Huntington Museum of Art collection ranges from 19th century depictions of agricultural laborers to modern-day images of coal miners and quarrymen at work. A variety of mediums will be presented, including paintings, prints, sculpture and photographs.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Please join us on January 21, 2020, at 6 p.m. for a free showing of the film “47 Ronin” in connection with this exhibit.

The tale of the 47 ronin recounts one of the most celebrated incidents in Japanese history, one that has inspired numerous works in poetry, drama, film and visual art. The story begins in 1701 with the forced suicide of Asano Naganori, prince and lord of the Ako castle and master of a band of loyal samurai. This tragic event was instigated by rival master Kira Yoshinaka, who had been offended when Asano threatened him with a sword.

With their leader gone, the warriors were forced to surrender their castle and became ronin (masterless samurai). Despite their humiliation, they collectively decided to bide their time before seeking revenge. After waiting patiently for months, the ronin gathered in Edo (present-day Tokyo) and attacked their enemy, killing Kira and placing his head upon Asano’s grave. Though the ruling government official (shogun) expressed some admiration for the loyalty of the warriors, he nevertheless ordered them to commit ritual suicide because they had exacted their revenge outside the laws of the land. The actions of the warriors became symbolic of the highest achievement of loyalty, honor and sacrifice, and further cemented popular admiration of the samurai tradition.

The story was often celebrated by artists in the form of woodblock prints. Utagawa Kunisada II (1823-1880), also known as Toyokuni IV, illustrated more than 200 books and created more than 40 series of prints
during his lengthy career. His illustrations of the 47 ronin story are derived from the popular kabuki drama and puppet theater play The Treasury of Loyal Retainers. This exhibition features 12 woodblock prints that illustrate this enduring and fascinating story.

This exhibit is presented by E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Pastels & Drawings

January 18 - March 29, 2020

This exhibit will be in the spotlight during the January Tuesday Tour on January 28, 2020, at 7 p.m. This is a Macy’s Free Tuesday event.

The act of drawing is one of the key foundational elements of the visual arts. Virtually any attempt to create a finished work of art, from paintings to sculpture, typically begins with a sketch or preliminary drawing. For this reason, art students through the ages have spent countless hours drawing from a model or sketching in a studio setting as they prepared to move forward in their profession.

Drawings have been collected as independent works of art for centuries, though they were often relegated to secondary status because they were viewed as temporary or fragile. Even so, the drawings of masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Albrecht Durer have been prized among the great masterpieces of the artist’s craft.

While drawings are typically rendered with a pencil on paper, several other materials are also commonly used such as ink, crayon, charcoal and pastel. The history of the use of pastel (powdered pigment held together by a neutral binder in a manner similar to chalk) is a fascinating one. Long considered the stuff of amateurs, it was not until the 19th century that pastel began to command the consistent attention of leading artists and collectors. Championed by many of the impressionist artists such as Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt and Claude Monet, as well as James McNeill Whistler, the medium gradually grew in acceptance in the art world.

The Huntington Museum of Art has a rich collection of drawings in its holdings and they will be showcased in this exhibition. Works by leading American artists such as John Singer Sargent, George Bellows, John Twachtman, Thomas Dewing, Thomas Hart Benton and Everett Shinn are included in the exhibition, along with examples by more contemporary artists such as Wolf Kahn, Jack Beal, G. Daniel Massad and Jane Freilicher. Drawings by European masters such as Jean Francois Millet, Georges Braque, Marie Laurencin and Pablo Picasso will also be shown.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.


The 19th century was a tumultuous time in Europe, both in terms of political events and in cultural matters. France was especially affected, as the turmoil it had experienced in the previous century continued to stir in the ensuing years through periods of warfare and toppled regimes. The call for change that rang throughout French society also had an impact on the arts, as the established hierarchy of the official Salon and the academies began to crumble, and a more democratic system evolved.

Leading the call for change were painters such as Gustave Courbet and Jean-Francois Millet, whose paintings of peasants and farm laborers brought a challenge to the rigidly prescribed academic styles that were prevalent. A new set of values began to emerge, as artists sought out the humble and familiar, especially in their choice of subjects for landscape paintings. This new aesthetic philosophy emphasized local scenery such as that found in the Forest of Fontainebleau and the small farming village of Barbizon that stood at its edge. No longer was it necessary to emphasize heroic or ideal subjects; now artists could take a train or boat into the countryside and find a wealth of inviting subject matter. This sensibility was also echoed in other aspects of French culture, such as in influential literary works by the novelist Emile Zola, whose settings were often in the villages of rural France.

Two closely related styles that were prevalent during the period were realism and naturalism. Realism focused upon the common people and their surroundings, while naturalism stressed faithful observation, especially in depicting the landscape. Each rejected the artificiality of the prevailing academic styles and paved the way for modernist movements such as impressionism, which emphasized painting directly from nature. Because France was the epicenter for artistic taste and study, the developments there quickly spread to other cultures, including America. Artists such as George Inness, Daniel Ridgway Knight and Gari Melchers gathered ideas from their French counterparts and brought them to the United States through their work.

The Beauty of the Familiar will emphasize examples of French and American painting that embrace the ideas of realism and naturalism. Many of the paintings in the exhibition were gifts of Herbert Fitzpatrick, whose efforts led to the founding of the Huntington Museum of Art in the late 1940s.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.


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