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Eve Aschheim at the New-York Historical Society Drawn By New York opening reception

Eve Aschheim at the New-York Historical Society Drawn By New York opening reception
 with her works Water VII and Strange Water, 1999-2000  

First Major Exhibition
of the New-York Historical Society’s
 Extraordinary Collection of Watercolors and Drawings

September 19, 2008 - January 7, 2009


Charts the Evolution of America through Art

Drawn by New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society on View September 19, 2008 - January 7, 2009

  The New-York Historical Society’s collection of watercolors and drawings was the first established in any public institution in the United States and remains one of the most distinguished. Yet this extraordinary trove of some 8,500 original works on paper has never been the subject of a comprehensive exhibition.


Now 190 of these remarkable works, many brought to light for the first time, will be shown in Drawn By New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society, on view from September 19, 2008, through January 7, 2009.  The exhibition will provide an overview of the depth and range of the Historical Society’s important holdings, while allowing visitors a unique insight into America’s evolving image from the 16th century until now.


“Many rewarding trails can be followed through this treasury,” said Dr. Linda S. Ferber, Executive Vice President and Museum Director. “One such path might trace the twists and turns of American history through images of New York City itself, from a view of New Amsterdam in 1650, to Edward Burckhardt’s urban panorama of the mid-1840s detailing the city’s rapid expansion, to Chesley Bonestell’s nightmare vision of a 1950s Manhattan under nuclear attack.”


“Drawn by New York offers a rare opportunity to rediscover America through the kaleidoscopic lens of this extraordinary collection,” notes Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, curator of drawings at N-YHS and of the exhibition. “Since many of the outstanding watercolors and drawings were executed before the advent of photography, they not only document lost buildings, customs, and landscapes but also preserve images of significant events and individuals who played vital roles in the history of the nation and the city.”


Drawn by New York includes works by celebrated artists such as John James Audubon, Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, Asher B. Durand, William Glackens, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios, and John Singer Sargent. These are seen in the company of fascinating works by lesser-known figures such as the Baroness Hyde de Neuville, whose elegant sheets preserve the people and landscapes of early 19th century America, and David Cusick, one of the first known American Indian artists. The exhibition spans six centuries, from rare mid-16th-century watercolors of North American birds―precursors of the work of Audubon―to representations of the World Trade Center before and after September 11, 2001.


Among the important artistic and historical themes highlighted in the exhibition are the changing role of draftsmanship in America (beginning with the utilitarian work of topographical draftsmen and the sketches of travelers) and the influence of New York City as an early center for artists and for the publishers who often reproduced their works. The formation of the Historical Society’s collection over two centuries also opens a window onto patronage and collecting in New York and the United States.


Exhibition highlights include:  

         Astounding visual records from early voyages of discovery

         Ravishing portraits of Native Americans, such as Saint-Mémin’s life-size images of Plains Indian delegates to Washington after the Louisiana Purchase

         Views of now-vanished sites, such as New York’s Federal Hall (the nation’s first capitol) and the Federal Banquet Pavilion (erected to celebrate the ratification of the Constitution)

         Picturesque views of the sublime American landscape, including the watercolors for William Guy Wall’s seminal Hudson River Portfolio (1820-25)

         Representations of events that shook the nation, including Civil War drawings by embedded “special artists” for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and scenes of public mourning for Abraham Lincoln

         Images that evoke America’s growing wealth and power, such as Edward Burckhardt’s 240-inch, eight-part panorama of New York City (1842-45) and Charles Dana Gibson’s satirical pictures of Gilded Age society

         Celebrations of the American people, from portraits of political leaders, inventors and artists to images of immigrants, street vendors and laborers


Drawn by New York is accompanied by the first catalogue of the New-York Historical Society’s collection of watercolors and drawings. The 450-page, fully illustrated book, published by the New-York Historical Society in association with D Giles Limited, features an interpretive essay by exhibition curator Roberta Olson and extensive entries for each work in the exhibition.


Following its presentation at the New-York Historical Society, exhibition will travel to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York (August 14 through November 1, 2009) and to the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio (November 20, 2009 through January 17, 2010).


The exhibition and the publication of  the catalogue and its research were generously funded by The Getty Foundation; Leonard L. and Ellen Milberg; Barbara and Richard Debs; The Samuel Kress Foundation; Eli Wilner & Company, Inc.; Pam and Scott Schafler; Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund; Alexander Acevedo; and Graham Arader.




Established in 1804, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) comprises New York’s oldest museum and a nationally renowned research library. N-YHS collects, preserves, and interprets American history and art; its mission is to make these collections accessible to the broadest public and increase understanding of American history through exhibitions, public programs, and research that reveal the dynamism of history and its impact on the world today. N-YHS holdings cover over four centuries of American history and comprise one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York City and State.


N-YHS Museum The Society's museum contains some 60,000 items that include: paintings, sculpture, furniture, clothing, toys, tools, textiles, ceramics, glass, and assorted artifacts ranging from George Washington’s camp bed to items from Ground Zero after the September 11 World Trade Center attacks. Other important Museum holdings include landscapes of the Hudson River School by Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and others; genre paintings and portraiture by Gilbert Stuart, Benjamin West, Charles Willson Peale and William Sidney Mount; one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany lamps; and John James Audubon’s preparatory watercolors for The Birds of America.


N-YHS Library The Society’s library is a principal source of primary materials for the study of New York history, and one of the foremost American history research institutions in the world. The library collections total 4 million items, including manuscripts; books and pamphlets; prints and photographs; maps; atlases; newspaper titles; sheet music; and more. Among these are items from the Colonial, Revolutionary War, and Civil War periods, including letters, diaries, battle reports, and sketches documenting the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant’s handwritten terms of surrender for Robert E. Lee, and much more.






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