Model Citizens

On View Now
September 10, 2017 to January 28, 2018

Model Citizens


Art and Identity in the United States, 1770-1830

Image:
Narcissa Stone (United States, 1801–1877), Sampler, 1820, Silk and linen, 21 1/16 x 15 7/8 inches, Museum purchase, 1973.9

Model Citizens: Art and Identity in the United States, 1770-1830 presents works from the PMA's permanent collection by the most celebrated artists of the early United States alongside portrait miniatures, samples, and silhouettes.

This wide range of visual culture provides a glimpse into how late 18th and early 19th-century Americans elected to represent themselves in private and public spheres as husbands, wives, children, and citizens. Arranged in three sections, the exhibition uses the life cycle as an organizing principle to introduce viewers to the many modes of self-representation popular in the era, from finely painted portraits by Gilbert Stuart and Thomas Badger to modestly-scaled cut silhouettes and mourning embroideries. The first section showcases paintings of children alongside embroidered samplers produced by the young women of the Stone family at Portland's Miss Martins' School. This portion provides a glimpse of how families understood lineage as well as how painters helped visualize changing ideas about the nature of childhood. The samplers show how young, upper-class women expressed their creativity and accomplishment. The second section features works that portray grown men and women, often commemorating major life events such as marriage. In addition to paired portraits and individual works by renown painters such as Stuart and John Singleton Copley, this section will also feature silhouettes and miniatures—small-scale, modestly priced works that allowed sitters to circulate likenesses among family and friends. The final section presents examples of men and women at the end of life such as the PMA's newly acquired portrait of Judge Stephen Jones, who was in his eighties when he sat for Gilbert Stuart. This section will also include mourning embroideries to underscore how early Americans used painting and needle work to commemorate loved ones after death. 

Generously supported by Shannon C. Gordon with additional support from Friends of the Collection.

Image: Susan Merrill (United States, 1791–1868) Memorial to Mrs. Lydia Emery (1717–1800), 1811, Watercolor on silk, 15 1/8 x 18 9/16 inches. Gift of Helen Harrington Boyd in memory of Susan Merrill Adams Boyd, 1968.4

 

 

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