Two Hundred Years of American Art on Nantucket: Pairings from the NHA and Private Collections

Two Hundred Years of American Art on Nantucket: Pairing the NHA and Private Collections features over thirty paintings from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Works were selected from the permanent collection of the NHA and paired with pieces from public and private collections on the island. Some of these paintings have not been seen by the public in decades.

The Old Mill, 1940. Anne Ramsdell Congdon; Nantucket Historical Association
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert D. Congdon
1982.111.1

The objects gathered in this exhibition tell new stories about Nantucket Island and its place in American art.  Long separated family portraits from the 1840s have been reunited.  A little-known genre painting by a major artist hangs besides a portrait of the friend and model who inspired it.  Landscapes by artists who congregated in Siasconset in the 1880s have been discovered and put on display. The achievements of the many remarkable women who painted in Nantucket are reexamined and newly celebrated.  And paintings from the art colony formed in the 1920s are reassembled here, illuminating the influences of talented teachers on their students.

Many of these works portray Nantucket with nostalgia, as an escape from the complexities of the modern world.  We invite you to take a closer look and discover surprising connections among these works, sometimes spanning centuries.  We hope this will be the first of many projects to discover and reveal stories about American artists on Nantucket.

Portrait of Children Levi Starbuck Coffin and Eunice Coffin, 1847. James Hathaway ; Nantucket Historical Association
Gift of the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association
1999.30.1

Organized chronologically and thematically, the exhibition will feature first-rate American art by beloved artists, including Wendell Macy, George Inness, Dennis Miller Bunker, Eastman Johnson, and Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin, who are among those highlighted for the nineteenth century. Twentieth-century artists will include Anne Ramsdell Congdon, Emily Hoffmeier, Richard Hayley Lever, Elizabeth Saltonstall, and Philip Hicken.

Curated by Anne Classen Knutson Ph.D. who has been a summer resident of Nantucket for thirty years. An American art scholar and independent curator, Knutson curated a major traveling show in 2017 titled World War I and American Art. Other exhibitions curated by her include Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic and Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People.

The NHA board wishes to thank an advisory committee comprised of Robert Frazier, Artistic Director of the Artists Association of Nantucket; Benjamin Simons, Director of the Academy Art Museum and former Robyn and John Davis Chief Curator at the NHA; John Sylvia of Sylvia Antiques; and Steve Langer, Chair of the Friends of the NHA Acquisitions Committee.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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