Ten Masterworks from the Whitney Museum of American Art
This exhibition was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Ten Masterworks opens with a 1916 portrait of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a sculptor and patron of the arts, and namesake of the Whitney Museum. Painted by Robert Henri, who was raised in Cozad, Nebraska, she reclines on a couch, her elegant pose countered by an attentive gaze that commands our attention.

William J. Glackens, John Sloan, Maurice Prendergast, Reginald Marsh, and Thomas Hart Benton captured the vibrant dynamics of American social life. Glackens and Sloan were working for the Philadelphia Press when they were persuaded by Henri — then an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts — to abandon illustration and become artists, helping to establish a new realism based on careful observation and celebration of the daily lives of ordinary Americans. Benton’s scene, Poker Night, based on the play A Streetcar Named Desire, captures the tumultuous actions of Tennessee William’s script, its subjects seeming ready to burst from the canvas.

Meanwhile, Max Weber and Patrick Henry Bruce pushed the boundaries of abstraction in American art. After spending three years in Paris, Weber returned to New York in 1908 and profoundly influenced his fellow artists with the formal language of Paul Cézanne and European Modernism. Gerald Murphy, a glamorous socialite who himself moved to Paris in 1921, created a small but remarkable body of still life paintings that rendered common American products in a flat, legible style that recalled advertising illustrations.

Perhaps the most iconic artist in the exhibition is Georgia O’Keeffe, whose 1926 Abstraction is subtle and haunting, in its carefully modulated monochrome palette. Influenced by the formal clarity of photography and her belief in selecting and reducing forms to emphasize their essential character, her painting is at once familiar and mysterious.

Entering a new century with youthful confidence, rising prosperity, and new sophistication on the international stage, these ten artists answered the challenge of the European avant-garde with a fresh artistic vision that reflected the aspirations and struggles of a growing nation.

What's Pictured: (Above) Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986), Abstraction, 1926, oil on canvas, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, purchase 58.43. © 2012 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Ten Masterworks will be complemented by selections from Joslyn’s own notable holdings of American modernism, including Robert Henri’s portrait Consuelo in Black (1924) — a recent addition to the permanent collection — as well as John Sloan’s Sunset, West Twenty-third Street (1906) and John Steuart Curry’s Manhunt (1931). Other artists on view in Gallery 10 in the Memorial Building include George Bellows and Walt Kuhn, who helped shape the early course of modernism in America, as well as the Regionalist masters Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, who championed the rural landscape. 

What's Pictured: (Right) John Sloan (American, 1871–1951), Sunset, West Twenty-third Street (23rd Street, Roofs, Sunset), 1906, oil on canvas, Joslyn Art Museum, 25th Anniversary Purchase, 1957.15

Mobile Tour
A mobile tour is available for this exhibition from Joslyn and OnCell. Use your own mobile device — cell phone, SmartPhone, or iPod Touch — or borrow a Joslyn iPod (driver’s license required) to access the tour. For details about Joslyn’s mobile tour offerings or to access the tour in advance,click here.

Related Events

On Friday, January 25, Joslyn members will enjoy a preview of the exhibition. Click here to join Joslyn!

Joslyn Art Museum welcomes Sally Pemberton, author of Portrait of Murdock Pemberton: The New Yorker's First Art Critic, for a presentation about his life, career, and crusade for the group of artists known as "the moderns." The talk is Sunday, February 17, at 2 pm (free with admission, book signing follows). Click for more details and registration information.

Sunday, March 10; 1–4 pm
Free Family Fun Day! Join us and bring a friend.
Sponsored in part by the Joslyn Art Museum Association