American history through print collection

Martin Lewis’s Above the Yards, Weehawken will be part of the exhibit of the collection of Dorrance T. Kelly. — Image courtesy of the Estate of Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis’s Above the Yards, Weehawken will be part of the exhibit of the collection of Dorrance T. Kelly.
— Image courtesy of the Estate of Martin Lewis

Get a visual American history lesson beginning Aug. 31 when the Bruce Museum opens its newest exhibition, Telling American History: Realism from the Print Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly.

Highlighting the work of nine American artists who at the beginning of the 20th Century were inspired by the world around them to realistically depict everyday scenes, the museum will present more than 40 original fine art prints including lithographs and etchings that chronicle daily life — the bustle of urban streets, boisterous moments of leisure, modern modes of transportation and bucolic rural images — by leading artists who approached their subject matter through the lens of realism: George Bellows (1882-1925), Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Martin Lewis (1881-1962), Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), John Sloan (1871-1951), Benton Murdoch Spruance (1904-1967), Stow Wengenroth (1906-1978) and Grant Wood (1891-1942).

“Each print featured in the exhibition was chosen for its subject matter and artistic merit,” said Diane Myers, the exhibition’s curator and former Bruce Museum manager of School & Tour Services. “Placed together, they present windows into scenes of America’s past, creating opportunities for us to reflect on the art and history that came before us.”

The artworks present visitors with a snapshot of America from 1905 through 1967. Set amid a backdrop of events such as World War I, the Great Depression, New Deal programs and World War II, the country was experiencing changes in its cultural, geographic and demographic nature. The nation experienced a great upheaval as citizens and immigrants alike flocked to urban areas in hopes of greater economic prospects. At the same time, advances in technology and transportation were transforming rural regions.

“All of these elements shaped the work of the artists featured in this exhibition,” Ms. Myers said, “Although each chose to depict his experiences in a slightly different, but still realistic, manner.”

Drawn from different areas of the country, the artists shared a similar goal of creating artwork that was available to all. They embraced realism, using it to capture images of modern American society as it quickly changed around them and distinguishing their work from the traditional, idealized and romanticized work of European art.

“By illustrating everyday scenes, the artists featured here created connections for the average American and invited them to become part of the artistic dialog,” Ms. Myers said. “Their images not only appealed through accessible subject matter, but also appealed to the pocketbook of the everyday person.”

Telling American History: Realism from the Print Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly is the third show in the past three years that the Bruce Museum has organized from the collection of Dr. Kelly, whose holdings include European prints from the 15th through 19th centuries and American prints from the 19th and 20th centuries.

A fully illustrated catalogue of the show will be available in the Bruce Museum Store. A series of public programs will be offered to complement the show, including Monday morning lectures, hands-on printmaking workshops for adults and students, a program for families with toddlers and one for seniors suffering from memory loss, as well as school tours.

Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for students up to 22-years-old, $6 for seniors and free for members and children under five. Individual admission is free on Tuesday. The show will run from Aug. 31 through Dec. 1.

For additional information, call 203-869-0376 or visit Brucemuseum.org.

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