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Horatio Greenough: An American Sculptor's Drawings

September 14 - December 12, 1999


Middlebury College Museum of Art's exhibition Horatio Greenough: An American Sculptor's Drawings, is the first retrospective exhibition ever to focus on the career of one of America's first significant home-grown artists, Horatio Greenough (1805-1852). The exhibition of 15 sculptures, 48 drawings and related materials is the culmination of a multi-year examination of over 170 drawings by Greenough which have been on loan to the Middlebury College Museum of Art from the private collection of George R. Rinhart. The drawings remained in the hands of Greenough's descendants until the 1950s. (left: Unknown, possibly John Adams Whipple, Horatio Greenough, 1852, daguerrotype, George R. Rinhart Collection)

Generally regarded as the first American sculptor to achieve international fame, Greenough was a Boston native educated at Harvard. He spent most of his professional life in Florence, Italy, where he nurtured lasting friendships with other Americans on the Grand Tour, including James Fenimore Cooper, Thomas Cole, and Samuel F. B. Morse. Although he received two key United States government commissions--the over life-size portrait of George Washington (1832-41), and a large sculpture group called The Rescue (1837-51)--Greenough is little remembered today. Contemporary aversion to his depiction of Washington as an American Zeus, and this century's discomfort with the subject of The Rescue (a confrontation between a bellicose American Indian and a pioneer family) have worked against public understanding and appreciation of his work. (right: Horatio Greenough, Study for George Washington, c. 1834, pencil and pen and ink on paper, 11 1/8 x 14 inches, 93.8.76)

Drawings by sculptors are exceedingly rare, and Greenough was unusual in his life-long passion for the medium. The drawings, which are highly diverse and span Greenough's entire career, reveal much about this gifted yet tormented artist. All but two have never before been exhibited publicly.

Included in the exhibition are some of Greenough's most important sculptures: James Fenimore Cooper ,1831, Boston Public Library; Marquis de Lafayette,1831-32, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Castor and Pollux ,1847, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as well as preliminary drawings for them. Other important works in the exhibition are Greenough's early commissioned busts of John Quincy Adams ,1828-29,The Boston Atheneum, and George Washington,1832, The Andalusia Foundation, as well as the drawing of George Washington, 1832-34, The National Archives, which Greenough submitted to Congress. In an unusual collaboration between the Middlebury College Museum of Art and the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, the exhibition will also include Greenough's sculpture of the pioneer's dog from The Rescue, The U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., which has not been exhibited since its removal from the steps of the Capitol in 1959. (left: Horatio Greenough, Lucifer, 1841-42, marble, 32 x 15 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches, loan courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library)

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, 128-page catalogue authored by Richard H. Saunders, Director, Middlebury College Museum of Art. The text establishes how the process of drawing relates to the making of sculpture and, using the artist's rich correspondence, provides insight into the relationship between patron and artist and the unpredictability of artistic achievement in pre-Civil War America. (right: catalogue cover for Horatio Greenough: An American Sculptor's Drawings)


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For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/26/10

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