The first survey of American still life in three decades, this exhibition offers 130 oil paintings, watercolors, and works in other media representing the finest accomplishments in the genre. Featuring masterpieces by John James Audubon, the Peale family, William Michael Harnett, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and others, this exhibition explores American still life from its beginnings in the late 1700s to the Pop Art era of the 1960s.
Taking a fresh approach to the subject to reveal the genre’s astonishing variety, the exhibition presents four distinct eras of American still life, each defined by a unique culture of seeing objects: describing, indulging, discerning, and animating. Within these sections, visitors are encouraged to explore still life as a reflection of American identity and culture through time.
Still life is generally an art of intimacy, intended for display in homes and other private settings. From the perfect serenity of tabletop compositions created by Raphaelle Peale (1774–1825), to the trompe l’oeil illusions of William Michael Harnett (1848–1892), to the explosive floral abstractions of Arthur B. Carles (1882–1952), still lifes provoke the senses and reward close looking. The exhibition employs theatrical displays and interactive technologies to encourage substantive, personal encounters with the works.
The genre has a special connection to our region: Philadelphia artists first defined American still-life practice and remained at its forefront well into the twentieth century. This exhibition is the first to explore this distinctive aspect of American still-life painting.
The exhibition is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Peter R. & Cynthia K. Kellogg Foundation, and The Annenberg Foundation Fund for Major Exhibitions. Additional support is provided by Leigh P. and John S. Middleton, Mr. and Mrs. William C. Buck, the Estate of Phyllis T. Ballinger, Frank J. Hevrdejs, Bonnie and Peter McCausland, Russell C. Ball III, Sondra and Martin Landes, Jr., Washburn and Susan Oberwager, Sarah Miller Coulson, Leslie Miller and Richard Worley, an anonymous donor, other generous individuals, and by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Related educational programming and resources are supported by The Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The publication is supported by the Davenport Family Foundation, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, and The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Mark D. Mitchell, formerly Associate Curator of American Art and Manager, Center for American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art; now The Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut
Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor