American Encounters: Genre Painting and Everyday Life provides a close look at three major genre paintings, each of which offers a unique perspective on 19th century America.
American genre painting, or scenes of everyday life, flourished during the first half of the 19th century, when the young nation sought images and narratives to define and bolster its developing identity. Portraying the lives of everyday Americans, genre painting often served as a vehicle for expressions of cultural nationalism. Four paintings in the installation will provide examples of American genre painting: Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait’s The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix (1856) from Crystal Bridges, Eastman Johnson’s Negro Life at the South (c.1870) from the High, George Henry Yewell’s Self Defense (1854) from the High, and George Caleb Bingham’s The Jolly Flatboatmen (1877–78) from the Terra Foundation. These works will be accompanied by two paintings from the Louvre: Jan Steen’s Festive Family Meal (1674) and William Mulready’s Train Up a Child (1841/1853), representative of the 17th century Dutch and mid-19th century English schools that greatly influenced genre painters in the United States.
The first installation of the collaboration between the musée du Louvre, the High Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Terra Foundation for American Art explored the birth of American landscape painting through the works of Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. American Encounters: Thomas Cole and the Birth of Landscape Painting in America premiered at the Louvre in January 2012 before traveling to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and then to the High Museum of Art, where it was on view through Jan. 6, 2013.
The partners are collaborating to produce a small catalogue for each installation. The illustrated book for American Encounters: Genre Painting and Everyday Life will feature an essay by Terra Foundation for American Art curator Peter John Brownlee that traces major themes in early-to-mid 19th century genre painting, as well as additional texts contributed by project curators: Blaise Ducos and Guillaume Faroult from the musée du Louvre, Kevin M. Murphy from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Stephanie Mayer Heydt from the High Museum of Art. It is being published by Marquand Books and distributed by the University of Washington Press.