Editor's note: The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts provided source material to Resource Library for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts directly through either this phone number or web address:


Reconfiguring the Body in American Art, 1820-2009

July 8 - November 15, 2009


Reconfiguring the Body in American Art, 1820-2009 is an exhibition that examines the critical role the human figure has played in the Nation's art for the past 189 years. Transcending chronological, stylistic, and generational boundaries the exhibition will present 150 works drawn from the National Academy's important and wide ranging collection of American art, as well as an intriguing selection of works by contemporary artists who are carrying on the figurative tradition in new and adventurous ways. Reconfiguring the Body in American Art, 1829-2009 will be on view from July 8 - November 15, 2009. (right: Alyssa Monks (b. 1977), Vapor (detail), 2008, oil on linen, 60x40 inches. courtesy of the artist and DFN Gallery)

Reconfiguring the Body in American Art, 1820-2009, is divided chronologically into three main sections each with numerous thematic galleries.

The years, 1820-1950, presents "In the Act", featuring artists' portraits, figure studies, and sketch books and includes works by Thomas Eakins (1944-1916), Robert F. Blum (1857-1903), and Clarence H. Carter. Also included in this section is "The Figure Undressed" presenting a selection of drawings, paintings and sculpture of the male and female nude by among others, Isabel Bishop, Kenyon Cox, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Harriet Whitney Frismuth, and Elihu Vedder.

"In the Round" is devoted to sculpture and explores ethnic and racial identity, labor, sport, and classical allegory and myth and features, Cecil De Blaquiere Howard, Evelyn Beatrice Longman, Berthold Nebel, and John Quincy Adams Ward.

The final grouping, "From A to Z: The Figure from the Federalist Period to the Dawn of the Cold War", contains over 40 great masterworks of American art including Frederick Stiles Agate, John White Alexander, Eastman Johnson, Henry Siddons Mowbray, and William MacGregor Paxton.

The post-1950 section emphasizes the importance of the figure in work by established American artists over the last sixty years. Thematically, "Dis-embodiment" shows how artists such as Larry Rivers, Judith Shea and Lesley Dill have broken down and reconstructed the figure in varying ways. "Self Reflection" reveals how self portraiture continues to be a creative avenue for artists such as Jane Freilicher, and Benny Andrews. "About Face" focuses on how artists have dealt with the figure's locus: the face. "Bodies in Motion, Bodies at Rest" juxtaposes sitters at rest with those inmovement and includes works by Philip Pearlstein and Susan Rothenberg.

"Next: The Figure Now" explores how the figure has reemerged over the last ten years as an important subject for a new generation of American artists. Marshall Price, the Museum's Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, commented, "The powerful work in this section illustrates the relevancy of the figure for today's artists and places it within the larger continuum of American art." Artist Kehinde Wiley's neo-baroque patterned portraits of urban black men, Jenny Dubnau's hyper-realistic portraits, and Will Ryman's sculptures of oversized personages, reveals the shift of perceptions and interpretations of the figure in contemporary American art as do the recent works of emerging artists Ion Birch, Natalie Frank, Debra Hampton, Ridley Howard, Alyssa Monks, and Shannon Plumb.

Reconfiguring the Body in American Art, 1820-2009 has been organized by Bruce Weber, Senior Curator of 19th Century Art, and Marshall Price, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Academy's Museum. (left: William M. Paxton, (1869-1941), The Waitress, 1923, oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 25 inches)

This exhibition is funded by major support from Mr. and Mrs. Henry Justin and support from the F. Donald Kenney Memorial Exhibition Fund. Programs of the National Academy are also made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.

For a list of related public programming please visit the Academy's website at www.nationalacademy.org.



(above: Jacob Lawrence, Self Portrait, 1977, gouache and tempera on off-white wove paper, 22 1/8 x 30 inches. National Academy Museum)


(above: Alpheus Cole (1876-1988), The Blank Canvas, 1937, oil on canvas, 48 7/8 x 37 3/8 inches)

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy:

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

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the National Academy Museum in Resource Library.

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2009 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.