Metropolitan Museum of Art
The American Wing
Opened to the public in 1924, the American Wing was the first permanent installation in an American art museum of American colonial and early Federal decorative arts and architecture. The American Wing houses one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of American art in existence - more than 15,000 works in all media all of which are accessible to the public on four floors of gallery and study areas.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired important examples of American art since its establishment in 1870. Today the collection is supervised by two curatorial departments: American Paintings and Sculpture, established in 1948, and American Decorative Arts, organized in 1934. (Paintings and sculpture created by artists born after 1876, as well as decorative arts created after 1916, are in the Museum´s Department of Modern Art.)
The American Wing´s collection of paintings, comprehensive in scope and extraordinary in quality, illustrates almost all phases of the history of American art from the late 18th to the early 20th century. It includes masterworks by such artists as
- John Singleton Copley
- Ralph Earl
- Gilbert Stuart
- George Caleb Bingham
- Thomas Cole
- Frederic Edwin Church
- Martin Johnson Heade
- Winslow Homer
- Thomas Eakins
- John Singer Sargent
- Mary Cassatt
- James McNeill Whistler
Among the most celebrated paintings are:
- Stuart's portrait of George Washington
- Bingham's Fur Traders Descending the Missouri
- Cole's The Oxbow
- Church's Heart of the Andes
- Eakins's The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull)
- Sargent's Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)
- Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's monumental 1851 canvas Washington Crossing the Delaware
The sculpture collection is equally distinguished and is especially strong in Neoclassical and Beaux-Arts works. Artists represented include:
- Erastus Dow Palmer
- John Quincy Adams Ward
- Augustus Saint-Gaudens
- Daniel Chester French
- Frederic Remington
- Frederick William MacMonnies
Works in the decorative arts extend in date from the late 17th to the early 20th century. Among the twenty-five furnished period rooms that span this period and offer an unparalleled view of American domestic architecture:
- The grand rococo pre-Revolutionary Van Rensselaer hall (1769)
- McKim, Mead & White stair hall (1884)
- Frank Lloyd Wright living room (1915)
Furniture includes masterpieces from the leading 18th-century cabinetmaking centers of Boston, Newport, and Philadelphia, as well as the works of:
- Duncan Phyfe
- Charles Honoré Lannuier
- John Henry Belter
- Alexander Roux
- The Herter Brothers in 19th-century New York City
Highlights of other collections include:
- Silver collection with the works of Paul Revere and Tiffany & Company.
- The extensive glass collection incorporating blown- and pressed- glass vessels with superb works by the New England Glass Company, the Dorflinger Works, and Tiffany Studios.
- American stained glass from the 17th through the early 20th century, which is perhaps the most comprehensive
- anywhere and features the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
- Ceramics holdings which incorporate a wide variety from Pennsylvania German redware to Rookwood Pottery.
- The textiles collection includes over one hundred quilts, 18th- and early 19th-century needlework samplers, and fabrics designed by Candace Wheeler
The American Wing also houses The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, which puts on view the Museum´s entire reserve collection of American objects - about 850 paintings, 100 sculptures, 600 pieces of furniture, and 7,000 pieces in other decorative media, including silver, glass, and ceramics.
The Charles Engelhard Court
One of the Museum's loveliest and most popular spaces, the Charles Engelhard Court is a glassed-in garden featuring large-scale American sculptures, leaded-glass windows, and other architectural elements. Click image to enlarge.
Metropolitan Museum Guidebook to its Holdings in American Art
A Walk Through The American Wing was published last month. It's a new, lavishly illustrated guidebook written by 12 noted curators from The Metropolitan Museum of Art and provides in-depth information on masterworks of American painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts all from the Museum's world renowned collection. This publication is made possible by the William Cullen Bryant Fellows.
"At a time of immense interest in our nation's art, we are very happy to provide the public with A Walk Through The American Wing, a handy and informal guide to the Museum's unparalleled American holdings. In addition to basic information about some of the greatest works produced by America's artists, the book includes fascinating curatorial commentary reflecting the latest scholarship," commented Morrison H. Heckscher, Chairman of The American Wing.
The 208-page book, which is intended for use by visitors while touring The American Wing at the Metropolitan, can also be enjoyed by anyone interested in American art. Specially designed maps used as endpapers guide readers through the wing's four levels. New color photographs accompany some 60 entries, which discuss highlights from the Museum's preeminent collection, dating from the late 1600s to the early 1900s. The essays provide an introduction to broad topics, specific art historical periods, individual painters, and various media. The material is arranged in four thematic chapters on The Charles Engelhard Court, where American architectural elements, stained glass windows, and monumental sculpture are housed; decorative arts, including furnishings in 15 period rooms that span some 230 years of American domestic architecture and furnishings; paintings and sculpture; and The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, a visible storage facility for over 12,000 works of fine and decorative art.
Morrison H. Heckscher, Chairman of The American Wing, and H. Barbara Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, coordinated the project and also wrote some of the essays. Other contributors were: from the Department of American Decorative Arts, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen (Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator), Peter M. Kenny (Curator), Amelia Peck, Frances Gruber Safford, and the late Catherine Hoover Voorsanger (Associate Curators); and, from the Department of American Paintings and Sculpture, Carrie Rebora Barratt (Curator), Kevin J. Avery and Thayer Tolles (Associate Curators), Stephanie Herdrich (Research Associate), and Dana Pilson (Research Assistant).
Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, A Walk Through The American Wing is available in the Museum's Book Shops for $19.95.