Published: January 26, 2016
PALM BEACH, FLA. — “Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America” features 53 portraits of prominent Gilded Age Americans by the leading painters from America and Europe. On view at the Flagler Museum through April 17, the exhibition was organized by the New-York Historical Society from its collection of American art.
“Beauty’s Legacy” explores the rise of interest in portraiture in the United States during the Gilded Age. Though portraits were popular during the Colonial period, the amassing of great fortunes during the Gilded Age, and its attendant interest in documenting the wealthy, sparked a level of interest and quality in portraiture that rivaled the European tradition. A brilliant generation of American and European artists rose to meet that demand.
The subjects of the portraits — ranging from famous society beauties to powerful titans of business and industry — left lasting legacies that contributed to the cultural and economic growth of the nation. “Beauty’s Legacy” includes portraits of prominent New Yorkers, including Mary Dahlgren Astor, Samuel Verplanck Hoffman, Mary Gardiner Thompson and Mary Barrett Wendell, painted by noted American artists such as James Carroll Beckwith, George Peter Alexander Healy, Daniel Huntington, Rembrandt Peale, John Singer Sargent, Gilbert Stuart and John Quincy Adams Ward.
The exhibition also reveals the highly competitive nature of the portrait market, as American portraitists found themselves in fierce rivalry for American patronage with their European counterparts. The vigorous demand for works by European masters is evidenced by portraits of subjects, including James Hazen Hyde, Georgina Schuyler, Samuel Ward McAllister, Cortlandt Field Bishop and Samuel Untermyer by European artists such as Léon Bonnat, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Alexandre Cabanel, Théobald Chartran, Raimundo de Madrazo and Anders Zorn.
The exhibition also features a selection of 25 portraits from Peter Marié’s vast collection of miniatures, known by his contemporaries as his “Gallery of Beauty,” underscoring the intersection of beauty, celebrity and social prestige.
This exhibition has been organized by the New-York Historical Society and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog published by the New-York Historical Society in association with D Giles Limited, London.
Dr Margaret Laster, assistant curator of American Art at the New-York Historical Society, will present a tour of “Beauty’s Legacy” on Tuesday, February 16, at 12:15 pm. She will reveal the stories of the important sitters and artists represented in the exhibition, within the context of the American portrait tradition. Advance reservations are recommended.
The museum is at Cocoanut Row and Whitehall Way.
For additional information, www.flaglermuseum.us or 561-655-2833.
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