Featuring nearly 100 paintings and 200 years of American history, “For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design” opens Nov. 6 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA) and runs through Jan. 30, 2022. Organized by the American Federation of Arts and the National Academy of Design the exhibition is comprised of paintings by masters such as Winslow Homer, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, John Singer Sargent, Peter Saul, Charles White, Andrew Wyeth, and many more that tell a unique history of American art through the eyes of many of the best-known American artists.
“This exhibition offers a glimpse into the ways American artists have defined themselves and their painted worlds over the past two centuries,” said OKCMOA curator Catherine Shotick. “This is the first time these works have traveled together to tell this uniquely American story, and OKC will be the final stop on the national tour. These are incredible paintings that people will recognize from art history textbooks and I cannot wait for visitors to see them.”
Since its founding in 1825, the mission of the National Academy of Design (or the Academy) has been simple yet powerful: to provide a means for the training of American artists and to promote and exhibit their art. Every artist elected as an Academician must donate one of their artworks to the Academy’s collection, otherwise known as a “diploma work.”
Beginning in 1839, Academicians were also required to donate a portrait of themselves for the collection. These “diploma portraits” were either painted by their own hand or that of a fellow artist. Such gifts of “diploma works” and “diploma portraits” are the defining feature of the Academy’s collection and the focus of “For America.” By presenting artists’ portraits together with their representative works, “For America” offers an opportunity to see how the artists viewed both themselves and their country.
The Museum will offer a free public lecture on opening day, curator-led public tours on select Fridays and Saturdays and a series of virtual seminars. Kicking off the exhibition on opening day at 11 a.m. will be “What’s in a Self-Portrait: Earlier American Case Studies” in the Noble Theater by Susan Rather, Ph.D., Meredith and Cornelia Long Chair in Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. A book signing in the Museum Store will follow the lecture.
Professor Rather will share what she learned in researching her book “The American School: Painters and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era” (Yale, 2016), winner of the Smithsonian’s 2018 Eldredge Prize for Outstanding Scholarship in American Art. This program is funded in part by the Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH).
Programming will continue with a virtual seminar series led by Dr. Richard Bell, Professor of History at the University of Maryland. Titled “Virtual Seminars: New Perspectives on American History,” sessions are $15 for members and $25 for non-members.
“In conjunction with the exhibition, we are offering a series of 90-minute live virtual seminars that explore American history and culture,” said Rosie May, director of curatorial affairs and audience engagement. “These seminars will highlight subjects ranging from ‘Hamilton’ to Juneteenth to our shared culture and language. We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Richard Bell as the facilitator of this innovative new series.”
This exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue published by the American Federation of Arts which will be on sale in the Museum Store. “For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design” is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the National Academy of Design. Support for the national tour is provided by the JFM Foundation, Monique Schoen Warshaw and Steph and Jody La Nasa.
“For America” Programming
- Members’ Preview Day | Friday, Nov. 5, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (“For America” open to Museum members only)
- “What’s in a Self-Portrait: Earlier American Case Studies” Lecture | Saturday, Nov. 6, 11 a.m.
- “Hamilton: How the Musical Remixes American History” Virtual Seminar | Monday, November 15, 7-8:30 p.m.
- Moderns Presents: A Self-Portrait Party | Friday, Nov. 12, 6-8 p.m.
- Curator-led Tour | Saturday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m.
- “Juneteenth: The Destruction of Slavery in the Civil War” Virtual Seminar | Sunday, Dec. 5, 5-6:30 p.m.
- Curator-led Tour | Friday, Dec. 10, 6:30 p.m.
- Curator-led Tour | Saturday, Dec. 11, 1 p.m.
- Curator-led Tour | Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, 6:30 p.m.
- Curator-led Tour | Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, 1 p.m.
- “Declaring American Cultural Independence” Virtual Seminar | Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, 7-8:30 p.m.