Columbia's Wallach Art Gallery Presents First Survey of Seldom-Displayed Works by Robert S. Duncanson
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NEW YORK, August 15, 2012—Robert S. Duncanson: An Antebellum African American Artist is the first New York City survey of rarely-seen paintings by the 19th-century pioneer landscape artist. Curated by renowned Duncanson scholar, Joseph D. Ketner II, the exhibition gathers more than 20 paintings as well as drawings and contextual materials. Ranging from the 1840s to the 1870s, together these present an overview of the artist’s life, his milieu, and his development.
Robert S. Duncanson: An Antebellum African American Artist is open to the public from Wednesday, September 5 through Saturday, December 8, 2012. The Wallach Art Gallery is located on the eighth floor of Schermerhorn Hall on Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, 116th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. To learn more, please visit the Wallach Art Gallery website.
Duncanson (1821-1872) was, at the height of his career, considered “the best landscape painter in the West.” Based in Cincinnati, Ohio—then the largest and most prosperous city in the western United States—he was the principal artist among a vibrant group of mid-century Ohio River Valley landscape painters. During his self-imposed exile from the Civil War in Canada, England, Scotland, and Italy, his work resonated with international audiences. Duncanson participated in the national fascination with landscape, and used North American vistas as metaphors to express America’s cultural identity. He followed the model established by New York’s “Hudson River School” painters Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, creating pastoral and picturesque views that strove to elevate these scenes by conveying grand ideas with moral lessons.
Duncanson achieved his artistic success despite the restrictions under which he worked as an African American, or “free colored person.” While clearly within the idiom of Romanticism and American landscape painting, he was able to subtly express the distinctive viewpoint of an African American in the pre-Civil War era. “Close readings of his work in the context of the political and social circumstances that shaped his life,” curator Joseph D. Ketner II notes, “endow his paintings with complex, nuanced meaning.”
“This is a rare glimpse into history,” newly-appointed Director & Chief Curator of the Wallach, Deborah Cullen, adds. “I am so pleased to be presenting this special project as the first of my tenure at Columbia. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to closely examine these exquisite and meaningful paintings.”
Robert S. Duncanson: An Antebellum African American Artist, with Joseph D. Ketner II
Thursday, evening, September 13, from 5:30-6:30 pm, 8th Floor of Schermerhorn Hall, Stronach Center, opposite end of the hall from the Wallach Art Gallery.
Please check our website for further programming information.
Gallery viewing and reception to follow, 6:30-8:00 pm.
All events are free and open to the public.
About the Wallach Art Gallery
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery aims to contribute to Columbia’s long-standing tradition of historical, critical and creative engagement in the visual arts. Since its establishment in 1986, the gallery, modeled on a laboratory, has been a forum for exhibitions related to research by graduate students, faculty and other scholars. The programming provides a bridge between the university’s diverse interests and approaches to the arts and a broad public audience.
About Columbia University
Among the world’s leading research universities, Columbia University in the City of New York continually seeks to advance the frontiers of scholarship and foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and confronting the complex issues of our time through teaching, research, patient care and public service. The University is comprised of 16 undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, and four affiliated colleges and seminaries in Northern Manhattan, as well as a wide array of research institutes and global centers located in major cities around the world. More than 40,000 accomplished students, award-winning faculty and professional staff define the University’s underlying values and commitment to pursuing new knowledge and educating informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.
Groups are welcome to schedule hour-long, guided visits on the following dates:
Tuesdays: 10 am-4 pm: October 16, 23, 30; November 13
(NOTE: Tuesday, November 6, Election day, campus is closed)
Thursdays: 10 am-1 pm: October 18, 25, November 1, 8, 15
Groups are limited to 32 students at a time, and must be accompanied by at least 2 adults. Advance appointments are required; the gallery is not open at these times. A minimum of 2 weeks’ notice is required. Reservations are taken on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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