Some of the best-known names in American folk art—including Edward Hicks (1780–1849) and Thomas Chambers (1808–1869)—are represented in American Folk Art from the Peter J. Solomon Family Collection and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a special installation on view at the Metropolitan Museum through August 10, 2014. Among the 20 objects on display—all of which were created over several decades, from approximately 1770 to 1848—are paintings, works on paper, and furniture. On view in the Joyce B. Cowin Gallery (gallery 749) in The American Wing, the installation is drawn from the collections of the Peter J. Solomon Family—including several promised gifts—and the Metropolitan Museum.
Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, the Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, noted: “The works on loan provide a fascinating dialogue with folk art objects in the Museum’s permanent collection. Most of the artists who created these works were highly trained and multi-talented, and many moved from place to place courting local audiences. Almost all favored strong colors, a broad application of paint, patterned and carved surfaces, and skewed scale and proportion. “
A highlight of the installation is Peaceable Kingdom (1847) by Edward Hicks, a Quaker preacher who trained as a sign painter. He painted some five dozen works on the same subject, based on a messianic prophecy from the book of Isaiah (11:6): “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb….” An earlier version of the composition (ca. 1830–32), from the Metropolitan’s permanent collection, is on view in a nearby gallery.
The installation features numerous portraits. The retired New York City merchant Thomas Tucker and his wife, Sarah Tucker, who settled in Danbury, Connecticut, are depicted in a pair of canvases (both 1790) by Ralph Earl (1751–1801). Other subjects include a brother and sister, in Edward and Sarah Rutter (ca. 1805) by Joshua Johnson (ca. 1763–ca. 1824), one of the first known African American artists in the United States; brothers, in John W. and Henry L. Clark (ca. 1795–1800) by William Jennys (active 1793–1807); and twins, in Double Portrait of John Somes Dolliver and William Collins Dolliver (ca. 1848) by William W. Kennedy (1818–after 1870).
Historical events are portrayed in two works by Hicks. Penn’s Treaty (1836) commemorates the long-standing treaty between William Penn, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, and the Lenape Indians; and The Declaration of Independence (1844) is based on a print after John Trumbull’s celebrated painting of the event.
The two landscapes on view are Charles Hoffman’s highly detailed View of Henry Z. Van Reed’s Farm (1872), which serves as a visual record of Van Reed’s industry and ambitions; and Thomas Chambers’s Springfield, Massachusetts, on the Connecticut River (c. 1840–50), which contrasts a dark, industrial city of factory buildings with a white city of church spires and, across the river, a scene of cultivated fields. Chambers encapsulates in his work many of the emotions surrounding the rapid settlement of the nation.
An unknown artist decorated a fireboard (ca. 1820) with weeping willow trees. The red and green floral garland on its border was probably painted using a stencil.
Additional examples of American folk art from the Museum’s permanent collection and loans from the American Folk Art Museum can be seen in the Barbara and Martha Fleischman Gallery (gallery 757).
January 24, 2014