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On Exhibit

February 2024
2min read


“It would be far better for American art students and painters to study their own country and portray its life and types. … They must strike out of themselves and only by doing this will we create a great and distinctly American art,” said Thomas Eakins in 1914. By the time he died two years later, at 72, he had sold fewer than 30 works, but in the ensuing decades his unswerving realism and depth of expression have established him as one of the nation’s greatest painters, instrumental in creating that “distinctly American art.” His pleasure in memorializing the American commonplace is obvious in Thomas Eakins, an exhibition of more than 150 of his works—including oils of rowers, wrestlers, and musicians, as well as watercolors, drawings, sculptures, and photographs (Eakins was one of the first painters to recognize the artistic possibilities of the medium)—at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (212-535-7710; www.metmuseum.org ) through September 15. Included are two of his most controversial paintings, The Agnew Clinic (1889), an unflinching scene of a woman undergoing a mastectomy, and The Gross Clinic (1875), a depiction of bone surgery rejected by the judging committee for Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition (several of the judges claimed to be repulsed, although they may have been merely envious of Eakins’s mastery). A catalogue edited by Darrell Sewell (Yale University Press in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 445 pages, $65) accompanies the exhibit.

To commemorate its 150th anniversary, the American Society of Civil Engineers has constructed Me, Myself and Infrastructure: Private Lives and Public Works in America, on view at the New-York Historical Society ( www.nyhistory.org ; 212-873-3400) through September 15 and at the National Building Museum in Washington ( www.nbm.org ; 202-272-2448) from October 4 to February 2. By reproducing everyday settings, the exhibit examines how civil engineering defines every aspect of life today: A mock coffee shop shows how engineers have made water readily available, while a re-created living room reveals the massive infrastructure required to support our modern conveniences. A companion exhibit, I on Infrastructure, at the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library ( www.nypl.org/research/sibl/index.html ; 212-592-7000) until December 14, concentrates on the aesthetics and cultural contexts of our infrastructure. Twelve installations, including a Brooklyn-Queens Expressway sign and images of the George Washington Bridge, each focus on a particular aspect of civil engineering. For more information, visit www.asce.org /150/infrastructure.

America’s only museum of Spanish Colonial art, set on a hilltop overlooking Santa Fe, opened this summer. Its roots go back nearly 80 years, to when artists started coming to live in the old Spanish town. There they admired centuries-old pieces of furniture, religious sculptures, and paintings that had long since fallen into neglect, largely dismissed by Gilded Age America. Santa Fe’s painters and writers were also charmed by , the contemporary Spanish-influenced and indigenous art they saw around them. In 1925, to preserve artifacts both old and new, they founded the parent of today’s museum, the Spanish Colonial Arts Society. Newly housed in a low-slung building originally designed in 1930 as a residence, the museum holds 3,000 objects—textiles, jewelry, paintings, furniture, and pottery—spanning five centuries and four continents. “In 2002 it is very trendy to be Latino in America,” says Carmella Padilla, one of the curators. Trendy is one way to look at it; another is timeless.

The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art is open seven days a week. For more information, call 505-982-2226 or visit www.spanishcolonial.org .

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