Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery
- September 7, 2008–January 18, 2009The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY
- February 26, 2009–May 24, 2009Seattle Art Museum, Wash.
- October 4, 2009–January 10, 2010Birmingham Museum of Art, Ala.
- July 29, 2011–July 8, 2012Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery draws upon the Gallery’s renowned collection of American paintings, decorative arts, and prints to illuminate the subtle and multivalent nature of the American experience from the time of the settlements of the late 17th century to the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. The more than 200 works on view include treasures rarely seen outside of New Haven. Among these are John Trumbull’s eight Revolutionary War scenes, including The Declaration of Independence (1786–1820), which have never before left the campus as a group; Winslow Homer’s Morning Bell (1871); and Jeremiah Dummer’s magnificent silver candlesticks (ca. 1686)—the earliest surviving pair of American sticks. The works tell the story of their times, creating a vivid portrait of a young country struggling to invent a people and a nation, and to define itself culturally, politically, and geographically.
After touring the country for two years, the exhibition returns to New Haven for a three-part presentation. The first installment, We the People (July 29–December 31, 2011), highlights paintings, decorative arts, historic prints, and photographs that create a vivid portrait of a young country as it struggled to define itself geographically, politically, socially, and artistically.
The second installment, Defining the Nation (January 31–April 8, 2012), returns to colonial times to trace the growth of great wealth that the agrarian economy and transatlantic trade with England, Western Europe, and the Caribbean produced for some Americans. As the nation continued to prosper with the development of industry in the 19th century, the American belief in the importance of education enriched a new generation of young minds, and artisans created objects that celebrated intellectual and artistic achievement.
The third installment, America Rising (May 8–July 8, 2012), looks at the physical and artistic expansion of the United States during the second half of the 19th century. The California gold rush encouraged westward migration, and the development of cross-country systems of communication, new canals, and railroads connected cities and facilitated the trade of goods and ideas. The exhibition concludes in America’s Gilded Age, a period marked by tremendous wealth, blatant political corruption, and extravagant materialism.
The free audio tour for the exhibition, available at the Gallery’s Information Desk, features commentary by Yale professors, including Jules Prown, Jon Butler, and Robert Farris Thompson; and Gallery curators.
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