Briefly: The American Collection

Joslyn's American collection includes Colonial-era portraits by James Peale and Mather Brown; Hudson River School landscapes by Thomas Cole and Homer Dodge Martin; and important post-Civil War paintings by Eastman Johnson, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins and William Merritt Chase, Mary Cassatt and Childe Hassam. Notable examples of early American furniture, as well as sculpture and decorative arts from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries complement our installations.

Below are highlights selected from Joslyn's American collection.
American
Artist Unknown (American, 19th Century),
The Greenhow Children , ca. 1818,
oil on canvas, 60 1/2 x 73 3/4 in.
Gift of Miss Emily Keller, 1942.112

The Greenhow Children represents a marked departure from earlier American portraiture, seen in the comfortable setting and informal poses of the subjects.

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George Ault (American, 1891-1948),
August Night At Russell's Corners
, 1940,

oil on canvas, 18 x 24 in.; 45.72 x 60.96 cm
Museum purchase, 1955.189

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George Bellows (American, 1882-1925),
Jewel Coast, California , 1917,
oil on wood, 20 x 24 in.; 50.8 x 60.96 cm
Museum purchase, 1959.164

In Jewel Coast the brilliant blues and greens of the sky and swirling water accentuate the sculptural presence of the massive yellow rock that dominates the foreground. The result is a muscular, impressionistic, view of the landscape, well suited to Bellow's talents.

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Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975),
The Hailstorm , 1940,
tempera on canvas mounted on panel, 33 x 40, 83.82 x 101.6 cm
Gift of the James A. Douglas Memorial Foundation (1971), 1952.11

An artist fully in touch with contemporary art and aesthetic theory, Benton’s anti-intellectual, nationalistic bravado held special appeal in Depression-era America. The Hailstorm, with its rural theme, vibrant colors, tilted perspective, lanky figures, and undulating landscape, is quintessential Benton; with its hallmark mule and rolling countryside, it represents archetypal Missouri.

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Albert Bierstadt (American, born Germany, 1830–1902),
Storm on the Matterhorn , 1886,
oil on canvas, 53¾ x 82½, 136.5 x 212.1 cm
Gift of Mrs. Ben Gallagher, 1966.620

Bierstadt accompanied several government-sponsored expeditions to the American West, and his resulting panoramas strongly influenced the post-Civil War generation’s perception of the region. Based on sketches he made during one of his trips abroad, Storm on the Matterhorn amply demonstrates the artist’s love of the sublime as well as the technical skill and imaginative power that so greatly appealed to the viewers of his day.

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Thomas Birch (American, 1779–1851),
St. Eustatia , n.d.,
oil on canvas, 20 x 30 in.; 50.8 x 76.2 cm
Museum purchase, 1964.618

The painting St. Eustatia is of an island near Puerto Rico in the Netherlands Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. During the Napoleonic Wars, these were British territories, but they were returned to the Dutch in 1816 after the wars. Birch may have relied on prints for his conception of the scene.

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George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879),
Watching the Cargo by Night , 1854,
oil on canvas, 24 x 29 in.; 60.96 x 73.66 cm
Gift of Foxley & Co, 1997.33

Bingham, a largely self-taught artist, lived most of his life in Missouri. His pictures almost always carry political messages. This painting is from a period in which Bingham experimented with night scenes, beautifully playing the effects of firelight and moonlight against the central figure and the night sky.

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Emil Bisttram (American, born Hungary, 1895–1976),
Taos , 1933,
watercolor, 17 x 23 in.; 43.18 x 58.42 cm
Gift of George Barker, 1963.626

Bisttram first visited Taos in 1930 and later settled there, enthralled by the quality of light and natural beauty of New Mexico. Although his style varied from realist to abstract, he considered himself a modernist and experimented with abstract forms and brighter colors.

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Ralph Albert Blakelock (American, 1847–1919),
A Mountain Stream , 1872–80,
oil on canvas, 12 x 10 in.; 30.48 x 25.4 cm
Gift of Mrs. Harold Gifford, 1961.241

Like other late-nineteenth-century landscape painters, Blakelock rejected the Hudson River School’s objective approach in favor of a subjective one, preferring nature’s mystery over its topographical features. Blakelock was also a great technical innovator, applying paint with palette knives and pumice stones and inventing his own varnishes.

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John George Brown (American, 1831-1913),
The Card Trick , ca. 1880s,
oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in.; 76.2 x 102.24 cm
Gift of the estate of Mrs. Sarah Joslyn, 1944.14

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attributed to Mather Brown (American, 1761–1831),
John Smart, English Miniature Painter , ca. 1784,
oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in.; 60.96 x 50.8 cm
Museum Purchase, 1937.34

This work is a result of Mather Brown's instruction from the Royal Academy in London: loosely painted and vigorous, it differs dramatically from the more detailed and flatter images being produced in America at the same time.

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Mary Cassatt (American, 1844–1926),
Lydia Reading the Morning Paper (No. 1) (Woman Reading) (Femme lisant) (Portrait of Lydia Cassatt, the Artist's Sister) , 1878–79,
oil on canvas, 32 x 23 1/2 inches
Museum purchase, Joslyn Endowment Fund, 1942.38

Mary Cassatt settled permanently in Paris in 1874, where she became the most universally recognized female painter associated with Impressionism.  Cassatt took an active interest in and explored their new approaches to color theory, brushwork, and figure-ground relationships.

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William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916),
Sunlight and Shadow , 1884,
oil on canvas, 65¼ x 77¾, 165.74 x 194.3 cm
Gift of the Friends of Art, 1932.4

Chase personified the late-nineteenth-century international artist. Although he early on practiced the Munich style of painting, Sunlight and Shadow marked a transition in Chase’s career. The bold brushwork and anecdotal subject are hallmarks of the Munich School, but the plein-air colors, subtle light contrasts, and flat shapes are indebted to Impressionism.

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Thomas Cole (American born England, 1801–1848),
Stony Gap, Kaaterskill Clove , 1826–27,
oil on panel, 17 7/8 x 25 3/8 in.; 45.4 x 64.45 cm
Mr. and Mrs. Edwin S. Miller Bequest Fund, 1951.661

Hoping to encourage a distinctive American aesthetic, Cole endorsed the formation of the National Academy of Design and, after his first visit to the Catskills in 1825, became the nominal leader of America’s first Anglo-European art movement: the Hudson River School.

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John Steuart Curry (American, 1879-1946),
Manhunt , 1931,
oil on canvas, 30 x 40 1/4 in.; 76.2 x 102.24 cm
Museum purchase, 1979.142

Curry, best known for his dramatic paintings of Kansas and Wisconsin farm life, belongs to the tradition of American Scene painters. These artists felt American artists should depict American subject matter. Manhunt, painted early in Curry's career, portrays a form of lynching prevalent in the South after Reconstruction.

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Elliott Daingerfield (American, 1859–1932),
The Watering Trough , ca. 1890,
oil on canvas, 24 ½ x 34 ½ in.; 62.23 x 87.63 cm
Gift of Mrs. C.N. Dietz, 1934.25

Throughout his career, Daingerfield painted moody, introspective works reflecting a late-nineteenth-century interest in mysticism and personal spiritualism. The Watering Trough consists of alternating layers of dry colors covered by thin coats of varnish. The picture's style and its French peasant subject matter suggest a date around 1890, before Daingerfield began to paint overtly religious themes.

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Manierre Dawson (American, 1887-1969),
Equation , 1914,
oil on cardboard, 36 x 27 5/8 in.; 91.44 x 70.17 cm
Museum purchase with funds provided by the Joslyn Women's Association and gift of Ephraim Marks, 1988.4

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Frank Duveneck (American, 1848–1919),
Portrait of an Old Actor , n.d.,
oil on canvas, 22 ¾ x 18 in.; 57.79 x 45.72 cm
Museum Purchase, 1938.20

Duveneck’s particular brand of unflinching realism was hugely influential on his followers, who included John Twachtman and William Merritt Chase, as well as later generations of American artists. This portrait was most likely completed during one of Duveneck’s stays in Paris in the 1880s and 1890s.

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Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916),
Professor John Laurie Wallace , 1885,
oil on canvas, 50¼ x 32½ , 127.64 x 82.5 cm
Gift of the James A. Douglas Memorial Foundation (1971), 1941.24

Today regarded as one of America’s greatest painters, in his time Eakins was frequently at the center of artistic controversy. His work was consistently deplored for its excessive realism. Favoring the strong light-and-dark contrasts perfected by seventeenth-century Spanish masters, Eakins set his subjects in dim interiors, employing dark pigments and rapid, sweeping brushstrokes to capture their mood.

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Erastus Salisbury Field (American, 1805–1900),
Portrait of Mrs. Andrew (Hulda) Judson , 1830s,
oil on canvas, 34 ¾ x 29 in.; 88.27 x 73.66 cm
Gift of Mrs. Rollin B. Judson, 1972.40

Field was an itinerant portraitist from Massachusetts who studied painting briefly under Samuel F. B. Morse in New York. The characteristically flat patterns reminiscent of folk art and the hand-stenciled frame are typical of Field’s portraits from the 1830s. This portrait is from a trio painted of the Judson family in the mid 1830s, all of which are now in Joslyn’s collection.

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William M. Harnett (American, born Ireland, 1848–1892),
Le Figaro , 1880,
oil on canvas, 6 7/8 x 5 7/8 in.; 17.46 x 14.92 cm
Museum Purchase, 1961.89

Harnett was the greatest practitioner of American trompe l’oeil (fool-the-eye) painting during the nineteenth century. These paintings are not merely still lifes, but portraits. Here, the French newspaper and pipe tobacco, discarded as if in mid-smoke, indicate a male of international and intellectual pursuits.

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Frederick Childe Hassam (American, 1859–1935),
April Showers, Champs Elysees, Paris , 1888,
oil on canvas, 12½ x 16¾, 31.75 x 42.55 cm
Museum purchase, 1946.30

The civic renaissance initiated in the 1870s turned the city’s outdoor cafés and avenues into fashionable meeting places for Paris’ bourgeoisie, and Hassam’s April Showers illustrates the phenomenon: a well-dressed woman observes the bustle of pedestrians and carriages on Paris’ most famous boulevard. The unrestrained patches of muted color faithfully capture the effects of a gray, rainy day in the city, a favored theme of Hassam’s throughout his life.

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Robert Henri (American, 1865-1929),
Portrait of Fi , 1907,
oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 20 1/8 in.; 61.6 x 51.12 cm
Museum purchase, Irving W. Benolken Memorial Fund, 1957.14

Champion of the masses and struggling artists, Henri, “the great white knight of American art,” forged a group of painters into The Eight, influential pioneers of realism who clamored for reform not only in art but in the entire structure of the antiquated American academy system. In his own art Henri particularly enjoyed painting children, their range and character taken from the breadth of his travels. Rapidly executed and capturing the spontaneity of youth, these small portraits account for a large part of his oeuvre.

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Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910),
Trooper Meditating Beside a Grave , ca. 1865,
oil on canvas, 16 x 8 inches, 40.64 x 20.32 cm
Gift of Dr. Harold Gifford and Ann Gifford Forbes, 1960.298

Homer worked as an illustrator, providing visual reportage of the Civil War to American magazines. Unlike others who translated their sketches of the war into large-scale, epic paintings, Homer opted to portray the more personal consequences of battle. Here, a Union soldier contemplates the grave of a fallen comrade, the memorials of others scattered in the background.

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Daniel Huntington (American, 1816-1906),
Roman Ruins in Southern Italy , 1848,
oil on canvas, 43 ½ x 63 ¼ in.; 110.5 x 160.66 cm
Gift of J.L. Brandeis and Sons Co., 1952.97

Huntington mostly concentrated on portraiture, historical scenes, and allegories rather than landscape, making Joslyn’s landscape somewhat of an exception. The work was most likely begun during the artist’s stay in Rome between 1842 and 1845, where numerous artists gathered to study works of classical antiquity and practice their draftsmanship.

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Henry Inman (American, 1801-1846),
Onpatonga (Big Elk) , ca. 1832-33,
oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in.
Museum purchase from the Edward R. Trabold and Lulu H. Trabold Fund with additional funds from the Durham Center for Western Studies Art Endowment Fund, 2011.12

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Henry Inman (American, 1801–1846),
Portrait of William Drummond Stewart , 1844,
oil on canvas, 30 x 25 inches, 76.2 x 63.5 cm
Museum purchase, 1963.617

Henry Inman, an accomplished American portraitist, was engaged by Stewart to paint this likeness, considered by many to be one of Inman’s finest. The ruddy complexion suggests Stewart’s love of outdoor life, while his erect posture, Roman nose, and the rich fur collar imply his aristocracy and wealth

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George Inness (American, 1825–1894),
Approaching Storm , 1864,
oil on canvas, 10 x 14 in.; 25.4 x 35.56 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John F. Merriam, 1972.59

Like many artists — both American and European — in the second half of the nineteenth century, Inness became increasingly concerned with light, atmosphere, and mood at the expense of solid form. This stylistic trend has been labeled “tonalism.” Here, trees and grass dissolve into a dense haze; yet this work is less atmospheric than many of the artist’s later paintings.

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Chauncey Bradley Ives (American, 1810–1894),
Shepherd Boy and Kid , 1859,
marble, 56 x 24 x 19 in.; 142.24 x 60.96 x 48.26 cm
Gift of the Joslyn Art Museum Association in honor of its Fiftieth Anniversary, 2001.16

Shepherd Boy and Kid,
Ives' last great antebellum sculpture, exemplifies his characteristic amalgamation of Neoclassicism and nineteenth-century Naturalism. The figure’s pose is inspired by classical sculpture and his flute and the kid are an allusion to the Greek god Pan, while the skilful representation of various textures—curly sheep wool against smooth skin—speaks of the artist’s close observation of nature.

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Eastman Johnson (American, 1824–1906),
Child with a Rabbit , 1879,
oil on panel, 14 x 11 ¾ in.; 35.56 x 29.85 cm
Museum Purchase, 1946.32

Eastman Johnson specialized in intimate scenes of everyday life, paintings that, as the horrors of the Civil War dominated the national agenda, satisfied America’s nostalgia for a simpler time. In the 1870s Johnson painted several portraits of his daughter, Ethel, with her favorite pet. These paintings are considered some of the most sophisticated Johnson produced.

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Charles Bird King (American, 1785–1862),
Portrait of Shaumonekusse (L’Ietan), an Oto Half-Chief , n.d.,
oil on canvas, 29½ x 24½ inches, 74.93 x 62.23 cm
Gift of M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1978.267

An accomplished professional portraitist, King is best known today for his depictions of Native American dignitaries who came to Washington to confer with government officials. Shaumonekusse was a member of a distinguished delegation of Kansas, Missouri, Omaha, Oto, and Pawnee men who traveled to Washington in 1821.

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Walt Kuhn (American, 1877-1949),
Woman With a Black Necklace , 1928,
oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in.; 76.2 x 63.5 cm.
Gift of Mr. Charles Simon, 1979.139

In Woman with Black Necklace, the brilliant reds, greens, and blacks of her form against the deep blue background have a surprising weight and solidity, despite the lack of modeling. Even the black beads of her necklace look more like dense lumps of coal than bits of costume jewelry. Appropriately, Kuhn gives his portrait of this strangely gaudy woman, who is probably a gypsy, a magnetic, powerful physical presence.

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Paul Manship (American, 1885–1966),
Indian Hunter and Pronghorn Antelope , 1917,
plaster painted in bronze, Indian: 57½ high,127 cm; antelope: 62 high, 157.48 cm
Gift of the artist, 1956.391.1-2

One of the outstanding American sculptors of the early 20th century, Manship’s work bridged the traditional and the modern. Its characteristic polish and streamlined stylization is often associated with the development of Art Deco, a dominant style in 1920s American architecture and design. In Indian Hunter and Pronghorn Antelope, embodying the full flavor of Manship’s refined works, the sleek, silhouetted pair emphasizes the power and grace of flowing line.

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Homer Dodge Martin (American, 1836–1897),
On the Upper Hudson , mid 1860s,
oil on canvas, 27 x 40 ¼ in.; 68.58 x 102.24 cm
Mr. and Mrs. Edwin S. Miller Bequest Fund, 1953.82

On the Upper Hudson belongs to the second wave of Hudson River painting. While it displays traditional topographical accuracy, high vantage point, and detailed foreground, the thin washes of paint and loose brushstrokes used to communicate the haze settled over the lake, as well as the less detailed background, announce a new interest in atmosphere and natural light.

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Thomas Moran (American, born England, 1837–1926),
The Pearl of Venice , 1899,
oil on canvas, 25 1/8 x 45 1/8 in.; 63.82 x 114.62 cm
Gift of Mary McArthur Holland, Betty McArthur Heller, and Mickey McArthur, 1982.6

Moran portrayed Venice on many occasions, second only in number to his paintings of the Grand Canyon.luminous color and rich atmosphere lend a romantic allure to the Catholic basilica Santa Maria della Salute, the “Pearl of Venice” that rises on the shores of the Grand Canal. 


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Wright Morris (American, 1910-1998),
Gano Grain Elevator, Western Kansas , 1940,
gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.; 24.13 x 19.03 cm
Museum purchase, 1997.4.1

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William Sidney Mount (American, 1807–1868),
The Blackberry Girls , 1840,
oil on panel, 15 7/8 x 13 7/8 in.; 40.32 x 35.24 cm
Museum Purchase with Funds Provided by Susan Storz Butler, 2001.1

The Blackberry Girls demonstrates Mount’s interest in seventeenth-century Dutch genre painting and direct observation of nature — confirmed here by the exquisite foreground detail and the sophisticated tonal range of the background — while the idealized depiction of rural peasantry reveals the young nation’s optimistic agrarian ideology.

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Dale Nichols (American, 1904-1995),
Road to Adventure , 1940,
oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in.; 76.2 x 101.6
Museum purchase, 1942.80

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James Peale (American, 1749–1831),
Portrait of Katherine Francis , 1807,
oil on canvas, 31 x 25 ½ in.; 78.74 x 64.77 cm
Museum Purchase, 1982.2

This depiction of Katherine Francis evidences James’ early work as a miniaturist: the delicate lace bodice is rendered with breathtaking delicacy and detail. The high coloring, backlighting, and attention to particulars are all features of Neoclassicism, then the dominant European artistic trend.

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Severin Roesen (American, born Germany, ca.1815–ca.1872),
Fruit Still Life with Compote of Strawberries , n.d.,
oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in.; 40.64 x 50.8 cm;
Museum purchase with funds from the Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Foundation, 2002.10

Upon his arrival in New York around 1848, Roesen quickly adopted characteristically “American” style elements: classical balance, intense realism, and simplicity of form and composition. These he fused into brilliantly colored and brightly illuminated still lifes in which the painted objects appear almost aggressively physical and present.

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John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925),
Portrait of Mrs. A. Lawrence Rotch , 1903,
oil on canvas,
Lent anonymously, L-1987.5

John Singer Sargent was considered the leading portrait painter of his generation. After securing a commission, he would often review a client’s wardrobe to pick suitable attire.

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John Sloan (American, 1871–1951),
Sunset, West Twenty-third Street (23rd Street, Roofs, Sunset) , 1906,
oil on canvas, 24 3/8 x 36¼, 61.91 x 92.1 cm
25th Anniversary Purchase, 1957.15

Sloan considered himself a member of the urban working class and found views of life in lower Manhattan's markets or back alleys to be interesting and relevant for a mass audience. In keeping with the spirit of the times, his urban vision is characterized by frank observation, humor, and compassion. A study of an undistinguished cityscape, Sunset, West Twenty-third Street displays Sloan's ability to transform an ordinary setting into an image of beauty and tranquillity.

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Edwin Lord Weeks (American, , 1849–1903),
Entrance to a Mosque, Delhi , n.d.,
oil on canvas, 9 x 13 in.; 48.26 x 33.02 cm
Gift of Mrs. C.N. Dietz, 1934.78

As a student, Weeks traveled throughout North Africa in search of subject matter, settling in Tangiers for two years. By 1882 he had made his first visit to India and shortly thereafter began exhibiting scenes of that country at the annual Salons. Despite making Paris his home, Weeks was considered the leading American Orientalist and contributed articles and illustrations of his travels to such American magazines as Harper’s.

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Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849–1903),
Indian Barbers, Saharanpore , ca. 1895,
oil on canvas, 56 ¼ x 75 in.; 142.88 x 190.5 cm
Gift of the Friends of Art Collection, 1932.22

In Indian Barbers, set in a city in northwest India, the amusing scene fits the Victorian taste for incidents of everyday life. Weeks’ composition delineates the simple facts while conveying the scene’s exoticism, which is heightened by the dazzling light.

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Grant Wood (American, 1891–1942),
Stone City, Iowa , 1930,
oil on wood panel, 30¼ x 40, 76.84 x 101.6 cm
Gift of the Art Institute of Omaha, 1930.35

Of the leading American Regionalist painters of the 1930s, Wood was regarded as the quiet philosopher-artist. His reassuring, representational paintings embodied enduring American myths about the perfection of rural life. Stone City, Iowa, his first major landscape, epitomizes Wood's commentary about change that was often threaded through his traditional subjects. A boomtown gone bust, Stone City seems to have gone back to a purer purpose of grazing animals and growing crops.

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