American 19-20th Century Figurative Art and Portraiture


(above: Cecilia Beaux, The Dreamer, 1894, oil on canvas, 33 x 25 inches, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)



This section of the Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) catalogue Topics in American Art is devoted to the topic "American 19-20th Figurative Art and Portraiture." Articles and essays specific to this topic published in TFAO's Resource Library are listed at the beginning of the section. Clicking on titles takes readers directly to these articles and essays. The date at the end of each title is the Resource Library publication date.

After articles and essays from Resource Library are links to valuable online resources found outside our website. Links may be to museums' articles about exhibits, plus much more topical information based on our online searches. Following online resources may be information about offline resources including museums, DVDs, and paper-printed books, journals and articles.

We recommend that readers search within the TFAO website to find detailed information for any topic. Please see our page How to research topics not listed for more information.

(above: Eastman Johnson, The Lord is My Shepherd, 1863, oil on canvas, 16.6 in (42.2 cm) x 13.1 in (33.3 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Francis P. Garvan. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*


Articles and essays from Resource Library in chronological order


(above:  Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins, Study of a Young Woman, c. 1868, oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


2010- 2016





(above: Gretchen Woodman Rogers, Woman in a Fur Hat, ca.1915, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Image and text source: Wikimedia Commons/public domain*)


From other websites


Alexander O. Levy: American Painter, Art Deco Artist, an exhibit held November 14, 2014 - March 29, 2015 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Includes essay by Scott Propeack, chief curator, Burchfield Penney Art Center. Accessed February, 2016.

Alice Neel: People Come First is a 2022 exhibit at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco / de Young Museum which says: "Alice Neel visited San Francisco first in 1967 and again in 1969, spending nearly two months in the Bay Area with her son Hartley and future daughter-in-law Ginny. Hartley was then living with Ginny, who assisted Neel with stretching canvases during her visits. Neel painted a number of portraits during these visits, including Pregnant Julie and Algis (1967), Ginny in a Striped Shirt (1969), and Ginny in Blue Shirt (1969), which are featured in the exhibition."  Accessed 6/22

American Faces: A Cultural History of Portraiture and Identity is a 2017 exhibit at the Middlebury College Museum of Art which says: "American Faces: A Cultural History of Portraiture and Identity, which opens February 17 at the Middlebury College Museum of Art, brings together ninety portraits from more than twenty collections to explore and explain why Americans have been fascinated with images of themselves for more than 300 years." Accessed 3/17

American Figurative Paintings Presented by Garth's Auctioneers & Appraisers is a 2017 exhibit at the Huntington Museum of Art which says: "This exhibit will showcase a sampling of American paintings in the collection of the Huntington Museum of Art that feature the human form." Accessed 4/17

Angels & Tomboys: Girlhood in 19th Century American Art, an exhibit held June 29 - September 30, 2013 at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Includes videos. Accessed March, 2015.

Becoming the Butterfly, Portraits of James McNeill Whistler, an exhibit held April 30 - August 4, 2013 at the University of Virginia Art Museum. Includes exhibit extended object labels. Accessed May, 2015.

Charles Banks Wilson: The Artist as Historian, an exhibit held at the Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art. Accessed April, 2015.

Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal is a 2014 exhibit at the Frick Art & Historical Center which says: "Celebrated for his sparkling canvases of women in outdoor settings, Charles Courtney Curran (1861-1942) brought the broken brushstrokes and sun-drenched palette of Impressionist painting to a distinctly American landscape, capturing the dappled sunlight, deep shadows, and scudding clouds of locations on Lake Erie and in the mountain hamlet of Cragsmoor, New York." Also see article. Accessed 2/17

Don Shelton website: Mr. Shelton wrote to TFAO: "I collect miniature portraits, especially American ones.  The overall collection is titled "Artists and Ancestors". There are over 300 American miniature portraits in the American section of the collection and they are illustrated and "published" on my website which has a home page at together with comprehensive research notes. I believe it to be one of the larger private collections of American miniatures in existence." Accessed August, 2015.

Eye on the Collection: Artful Poses, an exhibit held February 1 - March 30, 2014 at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy. Includes illustrated checklist. Accessed January, 2016.

Figuration in American Art: Selections from the Danforth Art Permanent Collection at North Hill is a 2016-18 exhibit at the Danforth Museum of Art which says: "This exhibition, composed of select works from Danforth Art's Permanent Collection, explores trends in figuration in American Art from the nineteenth century to the present day, tracing how subject and environment changed to reflect the time in which the work was created. Differing modes of representation reveal how artists chose to depict the figure across social, economic, and cultural divides, and provide a vital visual narrative." Accessed 1/17

Frank W. Benson: American Impressionist, an exhibit held September 29, 2000 to February 18, 2001 at the Peabody Essex Museum. Includes interactive website. Accessed April, 2015.

Gilded Age to Great War: Milton Bancroft and His Art was a 2016 exhibit at Indiana University of Pennsylvania Museum which says: "The exhibit relates the story of American artist Milton Herbert Bancroft and the struggles and triumphs of his career from the late 19th century through World War I -- a period of major social, cultural, and artistic change in America and Europe. It is also the story of preserving his artistic legacy for future generations." See a 26 min. Sep 14, 2016 YouTube documentary "IUP: The Milton Bancroft Art Conservation Project Documentary" about the artist and conservation of his paintings and "University Museum at IUP presents Gilded Age to Great War: Milton Bancroft and His Art" 3 min curator's tour of the exhibit. Accessed 10/16

The Golden Twenties: Portraits and Figure Paintings by Joseph Kleitsch is a 2017 exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art which says: "The Golden Twenties is the first museum exhibition to assemble Kleitsch's remarkable portraits and figure paintings. With a jewel-toned palette influenced by his native Hungary and a lighter, golden palette developed after his arrival in California, the works demonstrate the artist's exceptional ability to reveal the unique personality, demeanor, and essence of each subject." Also see the press release. Accessed 4/17

Human Connections: Figural Art from the Bruce Museum Collection, an exhibit held February 12, 2011 - June 5, 2011 at the Bruce Museum. From the Bruce Museum. Accessed May, 2014

Langdon Kihn: An American Story, an exhibit held March 22 - May 11, 2014 at the Foosaner Art Museum. Information includes curator essay by Dr. Clifford R. Bragdon, FASA, biography and images. Accessed February, 2016.

Lee Godie: Self-Portraits is a 2016 exhibit at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art which says: "A prolific self-taught artist and a fixture on the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lee Godie (1908-1994) became well-known in the Chicago arts scene in the 1960s. Self-portraits are prevalent throughout Godie's portfolio of work but most significant are those taken in automatic photo booths in Chicago bus stations." Coverage includes curator's essay. Accessed 3/17

Leonard Baskin: Imaginary Artists is a 2017 exhibit at Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College which says: "Imaginary Artists, a collection of 25 watercolor sketches, was completed in 1976 as a gift for Baskin's friend, the distinguished Philadelphia lawyer Edwin Rome, and his wife, Rita. In this series Baskin skillfully acknowledges the Western art historical canon through irreverent references to traditional compositions and famous artists." Accessed 1/20

Nicolai Fechin is a 2013 exhibit at the Frye Art Museum which says: "The exhibition Nicolai Fechin, curated by Frye Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, provides a rare opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of this important émigré painter. With fifty-five paintings and drawings from the holdings of the Frye Art Museum, museums in the United States, and private lenders in both Russia and the United States, Nicolai Fechin concentrates on the early Russian period of the artist's career, a period in which the Frye Art Museum has particular strength, and concludes with paintings from Fechin's time in Taos and California." Accessed 3/17 Also see Nicolai Fechin from Resource Library

Picturing Identity: The Allure of Portraiture is a 2012-13 exhibit at the Figge Art Museum which says: "Critical approaches to portraiture observe that portraits are by definition always of and about someone but who this person is and how he/she is perceived depends on number of factors. In addition to being a product of a sitter's sense of how they would like to be represented, the artist's perception of the sitter, and the viewer's interpretation of the finished product, portraits are informed by the social and historical values and beliefs that frame these very perceptions." Accessed 2/17

Prominent Figures of the West from The T.B. Walker Collection of Portraits by Henry H. Cross, an exhibit held November 18, 2012 - March 31, 2013 at the Gilcrease Museum. Includes images of selected works in the exhibit. Accessed August, 2015.

The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers is a 2017 exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery which says: "Artists such as Winslow Homer, Dorothea Lange, Elizabeth Catlett and Lewis Hine depict laborers throughout the changing landscape of America; from child and slave laborers to miners, railway and steel workers, to the modern gradual disappearance of the worker."  Also see press release  Accessed 12/17

Testimony: The Life and Work of David Friedman is a 2019 exhibit at the Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art which says: "The exhibition includes portraits and landscapes as well as his notable series Because They Were Jews!, a visual diary of his time in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland and his internment at the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau."  Also see biography by artist's daughter. Accessed 3/19

This Kind of Bird Flies Backward: Paintings by Joan Brown, an exhibit held October 14, 2011 - March 11, 2012 at the San Jose Museum of Art. Includes essay by Jodi Throckmorton, Associate Curator, San Jose Museum of Art, and videos. Accessed March, 2015.

Viola Frey, an exhibit held March 4 - July 26, 2015 at the di Rosa Preserve. Includes exhibit brochure. Accessed December, 2015.

William J. Glackens and Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Affinities and Distinctions is a 2018 exhibit at the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale  which says: "The exhibition demonstrates Glackens' response to Renoir's Impressionistic work from 1860 to the mid-1880s, which was avidly purchased by a wide variety of American collectors."  Accessed 2/19

The World Through My Eyes: Celebrating the Legacy of Ben Shahn is a 2019 exhibit at the University Galleries, William Paterson University which says: "In celebration of the University Galleries' 40th anniversary, this exhibition commemorates Ben Shahn (1898-1969), who was perhaps the most important social-realist artist to have emerged in the early 1930s in the United States."  Accessed 5/20

(above: Henry Inman, George Pope Morris, c. 1836, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 63.8 cm (30 x 25 1/8 in.), National Gallery of Art, Andrew W. Mellon Collection. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above:  John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), 1883, oil on canvas, 92.5 ? 43.2 inches, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


Online videos


April, 2023 screenshot via Google video search:

BBC presents Master Photographers: Andre Kertesz (1983) BBC series; part 1 9:54; part 2 10:20; part 3 7:32; part 4 3:52 Accessed May, 2015.

BBC News offers Diane Arbus exhibition opens at V&A The Victoria and Albert Museum is holding a major exhibition of the work of New York photographer Diane Arbus. Martin Barnes, curator of photography at the V&A Museum, described her contribution to the art of photography. Accessed May, 2015.

The WGBH/Boston Forum Network is an audio and video streaming web site dedicated to curating and serving live and on-demand lectures, including a number of videos on Art and Architecture. Partners include a number of museums, colleges, universities and other cultural organizations. See listings of related videos in this catalogue indexed by partner name. Old South Meeting House partnered with the WGBH Forum Network for Deaf Artist: The World of John Brewster, Jr.,(32 minutes) a lecture by Harlan Lane, psychologist, historian and distinguished professor at Northeastern University, examines this extraordinary American portrait artist and how his memberships within multiple worlds (Puritan, Federalist elite, Deaf and Art) converged to leave an enduring legacy. [September 23, 2004] Accessed May, 2015.

The San Diego Museum of Art produced a video titled Portrait of Mrs. Robert Henri, available online through ArtBabble. According to ArtBabble, "Robert Henri studied at both the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Though Thomas Eakins was no longer teaching at the Academy when Henri arrived, Eakins was immensely influential for Henri, who regarded him as the superior portrait painter in the United States and followed Eakins's bluntly realist style. Accessed June, 2015.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum's Clarice Smith Distinguished Lectures in American Art presents a one hour 15 min. video from the Clarice Smith Distinguished Lectures in American Art titled Looking at John Singer Sargent, September 15, 2010, by Erica Hirshler, Croll Senior Curator of American Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Accessed August, 2015.


(above: Ralph Earl (American, 1751-1801). Marinus Willett, ca. 1791, Oil on canvas, 91 1/4 x 56 inches. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of George Willett Van Nest, 1916 (17.87.1). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


DVD/VHS videos


Seth Eastman: Painting the Dakota showcases the unique body of work of one of the most significant American artists to the nineteenth century. This hour-long documentary takes viewers back vividly to the period and explore Eastman's complex relationship with his subjects.


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