American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art

Posted on June 01, 2007 by Kristin Swan

Hood Quarterly, summer 2007
Barbara J. MacAdam, Jonathan L.Cohen Curator of American Art

This summer through fall, the Hood presents the largest selection ever from its rich holdings of American art dating before 1950. These collections, which now number more than eight thousand objects, began with a gift in 1773 of a Boston-made silver bowl given by Royal Governor John Wentworth to Dartmouth's founder, Eleazar Wheelock, in honor of the College's first commencement. Thanks to the generosity of Dartmouth alumni and friends and purchases made by museum staff, these holdings have grown dramatically in the intervening years, especially since the opening of the Hood Museum of Art in 1985. Showcasing over 150 paintings, sculptures, silver pieces, and other decorative arts, the exhibition will be complemented in the fall with selections from the museum's American works on paper before 1950, including drawings, watercolors, prints, and photographs.

Whereas the College initially collected primarily American portraits to commemorate Dartmouth luminaries such as Wheelock and statesman Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, the collection broadened with the early twentieth-century growth of the College's art department and the increasing visibility of the fine arts on campus, including the opening of art galleries in Carpenter Hall in 1929, the Hopkins Center in 1962, and the Hood in 1985. Now not only larger but more varied in nature, the American collections are used by faculty from many academic departments for teaching and research, and by diverse audiences well beyond the College community and its environs.

Many of the strengths of the collection reflect the museum's associations with Dartmouth and its location in northern New England. In addition to portraits, the painting collection is strong in New England landscapes, particularly views of New Hampshire's White Mountains. It also includes important examples of nineteenth-century genre painting and early twentieth-century impressionism, social realism, and modernism. Highlights include works by Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Frederic Remington, Maria Oakey Dewing, Willard Metcalf, John Sloan (who was cousin to Dartmouth president John Sloan Dickey), Georgia O'Keeffe, Paul Sample, Maxfield Parrish, Adolph Gottlieb, and a newly acquired early work by Jackson Pollock.

Sculpture highlights include works by Harriet Hosmer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Augusta Savage, Paul Manship, and unidentified makers of folk sculpture. In the decorative arts, the Hood's collections boast an outstanding representation of colonial Massachusetts silver and smaller holdings of American pewter, glass, and textiles. The furniture holdings include a particularly fine group of Boston neoclassical furniture that formerly belonged to George Ticknor, Class of 1807, and Shaker furniture from Enfield, New Hampshire. Finally, two exceptional examples of Grueby pottery represent a high point of New England ceramics in the Arts and Crafts style.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum has produced a 256-page book on the American collections—the first in a series of publications that the Hood will issue over the next several years devoted to aspects of the museum's greatest assets, its permanent collections. Copublished with the University Press of New England, this fully illustrated book features individual entries for more than two hundred works from the American collections dating from around 1705 to 1950, many of which have never before been published. An introductory essay surveys the formation of the collection and its changing focus and function over the course of Dartmouth's long history.

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Written June 01, 2007 by Kristin Swan