The Corcoran Collections Find a Home at NGA

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American Masterworks from the Corcoran Exhibit

The Corcoran Gallery of Art, founded in Washington, DC,  in 1869, was the first purpose-built public art gallery in the United States. (It predated the Metropolitan Musuem of Art.)  A new building was built in 1897, though the collection did not become as large as those in many other city museums. It also charged admission, a tough sell up against the free Smithsonian art museums in Washington. Due to continuing financial crises, the Corcoran closed in 2014. What would become of its collections, predominately American painting and sculpture of the 19th and 20th centuries, with additons of some 19th and 20th century European works? The collection of some 17,000 works of art was awarded through bankruptcy proceedings to the National Gallery of Art (NGA).

Off the Range (Coming Through the Rye), bronze by Frederic Remington (1903)
(The main Smithsonian art gallery.) The building and associated university-level educations programs went to George Washington University. The Washington Post had articles about the NGA's process of evaluating the collections. Many will be selected to enhance the NGA's collections, particulaly in American art and in photography. Some contemporary items were returned to the artist! In the articles, I first heard about the Washington Color School movement of the mid-20th cetnury. At length, the NGA announced an exhibit entitled American Masterworks from the Corcoran, 1815-1940, to showcase a number of representative works that had been acquired.

I did not have the opportunity to write a TravBuddy review of the Corcoran. But, I made a point to go to see the Corcoran exhbit at the National Gallery of Art.

Off the Range, by Frederic Remington, detail. In the background is a landscape by Albert Bierstadt.

I'll focus on two American scultptures in the exhbit, areas previously not represetend in the NGA.

The Greek Slave, by Hiram Powers (Power's 1846 copy of his 1844 original) is a marble statue considered one of the great American sculptures of the 19th century. To be sure, in the 1840s, the statue was scandalous! Ostensibly, the statue, to use modern terminology, represents a European victim of human trafficking in the Ottoman Empire. Powers drew on Greek and Renaissance sculptural influences as well as the fascination with exoticism prevalant in much 19th century art. The detail is quite something to behold, with even the string of shackles carved from the single block. The sight of a shackled maiden caused many onlookers to draw parallels with American slavery while feminists of the day viewed it as representing the need to assert women's rights.

Off the Range (Coming Through the Rye), by Frederic Remington (1903), is a bronze depicting four cowboys whooping it up. It is one of the first Remington sculptures to be in the NGA. The image is probably a familiar one. Remington used it in painting and sculpture and the image of cowboys wildly firing their pistols is one that has entered popular culture. The stop-motion action is photographic in nature, no silent and contemplative figure here!

Zagnut66 says:
There was talk about the NGA taking over the Federal Trade Commission building, I'm surprised they didn't try to acquire the old Corcoran building instead. Maybe with the remodel of the east wing on the main campus they've decided not to expand.
Posted on: Mar 24, 2015
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American Masterworks from the Corc…
American Masterworks from the Cor…
Off the Range (Coming Through the …
Off the Range (Coming Through the…
Off the Range, by Frederic Remingt…
Off the Range, by Frederic Reming…
The Greek Slave, by Hiram Powers (…
The Greek Slave, by Hiram Powers …
The Greek Slave, by Hiram Power. S…
The Greek Slave, by Hiram Power. …
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