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Introduction to the Exhibition—The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists

Linda S. Ferber, museum director emerita and senior art historian, New-York Historical Society, and Barbara Dayer Gallati, curator emerita of American art, Brooklyn Museum

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the most influential art critic of the Victorian era, the Gallery presents The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists, an exhibition of more than 90 artworks created by American artists who were profoundly influenced by Ruskin’s call for a revolutionary change in the practice of art. A group of artists, architects, scientists, critics, and collectors sympathetic to Ruskin’s ideas formed the Association for the Advancement of Truth in Art, which sought reform not only in artistic practices but also in the broader political arena. Most were abolitionists deeply engaged in the fight against slavery, and coded references to the Civil War are present in a number of landscape paintings. Members of the group heeded Ruskin’s call to record the natural world faithfully; they also created works that often include a rich political subtext. Linda S. Ferber and Barbara Dayer Gallati delivered a paired lecture on April 14, 2019, at the National Gallery of Art to introduce the exhibition.