Exhibition ‘200 Years of Painting from the National Academy of Design’ opens at Figge

Local News

Thanks to the Major Exhibitions Endowment started by individuals, families, businesses, and organizations across the Quad Cities community, the Figge Art Museum has opened a new major traveling exhibition, “For America: 200 Years of Painting from the National Academy of Design.”

Organized by the American Federation of Arts and the National Academy of Design in New York, the exhibition is making stops at museums across the United States.

Presenting nearly 100 artworks spanning more than 200 years from 1809 to 2013, “For America” features must-see masterpieces by revered American artists such as William Merritt Chase, John Singer Sargent, Cecilia Beaux, Charles White, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and many others.

The exhibition presents a unique history of American art as seen through the lens of artists. Exploring how these individuals have represented themselves and their country over time, the exhibition is a striking portrait of broadening diversity throughout the country’s history.

“This is an incredible exhibition that explores our commonalities as well as our differences,” said Michelle Hargrave, the museum’s executive director and CEO. “It’s also an exceptional opportunity for dialogue and connection about what we all have in common: our country.”

During this moment of social distancing, visiting the Figge offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sprawling across three floors and in adherence with the museum’s strict safety precautions that include capacity limits, visitors have the chance to view the exhibition without the hassle of crowds. This rare, VIP-like experience is accessible to all who walk through the museum’s doors—and has the added benefit of being extraordinarily safe.

“There’s truly no better time to visit the Figge,” said Hargrave. “We’re so fortunate to have a facility with ample space that allows our visitors to safely view these masterworks.”

The exhibition is timely because it reflects significant cultural shifts in America. Featuring many artist portraits, some side-by-side with paintings by those very artists, it distills themes of self-reflection and self-awareness.

The exhibition highlights shifts in figurative painting over the course of the last two centuries, revealing how individual artists balance subjectivity and objectivity. This framework offers viewers an intimate look into the minds of the artists while exploring a question with which human beings long have wrestled: How do we perceive ourselves and the world in which we live?

“This is an unprecedented look at the history of American painting—written by its makers. We’ve never seen anything like this before, and we’re honored to be hosting such an extraordinary exhibition at the Figge,” said Hargrave. “At a time when Americans are reflecting on all that unites us, this exhibition offers a glimpse into the lessons of the past that we can carry into the future with greater perspective.”

The exhibition is organized into five sections, each reflecting continuing shifts in society, culture, and the state of art during the 19th and 20th centuries. The works on display encourage viewers to explore the joys and hardships of American life through diverse artistic perspectives—ranging from Paul Sample’s painting of the unemployed during The Great Depression, to the expressively painted “Snake Dance” by Native American artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

The Figge has a robust program of virtual and in-person events that are open to the community. Upcoming events include coffee with the Figge’s curators, and a four-week online course dedicated to the women who worked behind the scenes to build America’s art scene, and much more. For more information about the Figge’s programming, visit www.figgeartmuseum.org.

The exhibition is sponsored by Major Exhibition Endowment donors, Estes Construction, Harris Family Charitable Gift Fund, US Bank, Alan and Julie Renken, Mark and Rita Bawden, and BITCO Insurance Companies. The exhibition is on view until May 16. Tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for children ages 4-12. Reservations are encouraged at www.figgeartmuseum.org.

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