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The United States of America, relatively speaking, is still a young country. Its story continues to be written and its future reimagined with each new generation. Since its founding, however, this story has largely centered around ideas of optimism, hard work, and promise. We know this narrative as Americans—one of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—and have even gone so far as to put it into our first national proclamation: The Declaration of Independence.
That this ideology came from an era when the country was inextricably tied to the sea is no coincidence. Indeed, throughout history the sea has represented humanity’s spirit of hope and possibility, while simultaneously the potential for danger and ruin. In the context of a hard fought for and newly established nation, the sea represented both of these realities, while framing a collective vision for the people of the United States of America.
The Coast & the Sea: Marine and Maritime Art in America captures these initial moments of a country looking to define itself and provide an ethos for its people. The artworks, largely painted between 1750 and 1904, cover a wide swath of America’s adolescence, are significant in that they themselves helped create the American Dream.
This exhibition has been organized by the New-York Historical Society.