Exhibitions: American Identities: A New Look

From Colony to Nation

The Colonial Period

Gallery view of From Colony to Nation, American Identities

Gallery view of "From Colony to Nation," American Identities

The diverse array of objects in this gallery, ranging from Copley portraits of prominent New Englanders to an Argentine low table, once ornamented colonial interiors throughout the Americas from the late 1600s to 1776. They represent the kind of luxury items through which colonists raised and maintained their social status in their self-made societies. Small groupings within the gallery focus on the artistic traditions of the Anglo-Dutch colonists of New York; the high styles of colonial Boston; and paired comparisons of North and South American portraits and furniture based on shared European stylistic sources. Among these colonial productions, a Zuni water jar stands as a reminder of the continuity of Native American artistic traditions in North America throughout the colonial period.

Symbols of the Early Republic

Gallery view of From Colony to Nation, American Identities

Gallery view of "From Colony to Nation," American Identities

The grand and elegant objects showcased in this section of the gallery were designed to visually link the young American Republic to the illustrious democracies of classical Greece and republican Rome. Ambitious American artists of the Federal Era combined refined European styles of the moment with classical symbols, including columns and eagles, to produce paintings, furniture, architectural elements, and porcelain for fashionable, upper-class patrons. Inspired by high-minded ideals and ornamented with symbols of national identity and civic consciousness, such objects share a formality and restrained opulence considered appropriate to the time. Among the owners of the works displayed here were illustrious Brooklynites whose homes were maintained at the height of the period’s fashion.

Next: A Nation Divided: The Civil War Era

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