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Thursday, July 28, 2011

American Hall of Wonders

Charles Willson Peale: The Artist in his Museum
Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Charles Willson Peale (the father of Rembrandt Peale) created in Philadelphia in the early 19th century a cabinet of artifacts he had gathered along the years: from stuffed birds to parts of a mastodon skeleton. And the painting above is a selfportrait: the gracious aged gentleman is Charles Willson Peale himself, and he is figured lifting a heavy curtain to invite us into his cabinet of wonders.

This painting is welcoming today the visitors of The Great American Hall of Wonders, an exhibition open at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC, devoted to the 19th century American culture: art, science and invention.

I found a review of this exhibition in NY Times and too bad I am now too far away from Washington: it would have been a great joy for me to see all these paintings, and drawings, and sculptures, and documents, and objects.

Ernest Griset: The Far West — Shooting Buffalo on Line of the Kansas-Pacific Railroad
June 3, 1871
from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper
Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Albert Bierstadt: The Giant Redwood Trees of California
circa 1874
Credit: Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Andrew Joseph Russell: East and West Shaking Hands at Laying the Last Rail
This photograph captures the moment when the transcontinental railroad was completed
Credit: Union Pacific Railroad Museum, Council Bluffs, Iowa

George Catlin: Bird's Eye View of Niagara Falls
circa 1827
Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum

(American Art and Portraiture)


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