Ten years in preparation, this authoritative overview documents one of the world’s premier collections of American painting by artists born before 1876, remarkable for its scope, depth, and quality. Nearly 700 paintings by 340 artists are presented in these two volumes, with 160 of the paintings reproduced in full-colour on full pages. Among the artists represented are such world-renowned painters as Thomas Eakins, Albert Pinkham Ryder, John Singer Sargent, Maurice Prendergast, George Caleb Bingham, Fitz Hugh Lane, George Inness, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Winslow Homer, Willliam Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, William Glackens, John Sloan, Frederic Remington, George Bellows, and Mary Cassatt, to name some of the leading figures. Included are the artists’ biographies and interpretive entries, detailed provenance and exhibition history, as well as technical information and critical analysis.
The book offers remarkable concentrations of works in such important categories as Colonial portraiture, Hudson River School landscape, mid-nineteenth-century narrative painting, American impressionism, Gilded Age figure painting, and early modern realism. Of special interest is a two-part critical history, which describes the two-fold origin of Brooklyn’s American painting collection: first, the progressive acquisitions program of the Brooklyn Institute (the Museum’s predecessor institution) under the immediate inspiration of Walt Whitman, who stressed the importance of collecting works of living American artists of the mid-nineteenth century, and, second the Brooklyn Museum’s forward-thinking acquisition of contemporary American art throughout the twentieth century. Both of these discussions are considered in the context of shifting attitudes toward American art, and the role of museums in fostering that art over the course of the twentieth century.