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The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists

April 14 – July 21, 2019
West Building, Ground Floor - East Outer Tier Galleries

Thomas Charles Farrer, Mount Tom, 1865, oil on canvas, John Wilmerding Collection, Promised Gift

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

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 more than 90 paintings, watercolors, and drawings created by American artists who were profoundly influenced by Ruskin’s call for a revolutionary change in the practice of art. The exhibition includes a number of recently discovered works never before exhibited publicly. Ruskin’s rejection of traditional academic art and his plea for works that reflected a deep reverence for both the spiritual and scientific qualities of the natural world found a sympathetic audience in America among a group of like-minded artists, architects, scientists, critics, and collectors. New research, included in the exhibition catalog, reveals that the members of the Association for the Advancement of Truth in Art sought reform not only in the practice of art, but also in the broader political arena—most were abolitionists deeply engaged in the fight against slavery. Coded references to the Civil War are present in a number of exquisitely detailed landscape paintings that do not appear—at first glance—to carry symbolic meaning. Members of the group followed Ruskin’s dictum to record the natural world with strict fidelity, but they also created works that often include a rich political subtext.

The exhibition is curated by Linda S. Ferber, museum director emerita and senior art historian at the New-York Historical Society, with Nancy K. Anderson, curator and head of the department of American and British paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

Organization: The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art. Major support provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Additional funding is provided by The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

Passes: Admission is always free and passes are not required

Attendance: 66,415

Catalog: The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists. By Linda S. Ferber and Nancy Anderson. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art; New haven and London: Yale University Press, 2019.

Ruskin, John
British, 1819 - 1900
Farrer, Thomas Charles
British, 1839 - 1891

Introduction to the Exhibition—The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists
April 14 at 12:00
East Building Auditorium

American Pre-Raphaelitism through the Lens and on the Canvas
June 16 at 2:00
East Building Auditorium

Poulenc Trio
May 5 at 3:30
West Building, West Garden Court

Poulenc Trio
Audio, Released: May 19, 2020, (48:45 minutes)
American Pre-Raphaelitism through the Lens and on the Canvas
Audio, Released: September 24, 2019, (52:26 minutes)
Introduction to the Exhibition—The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists
Video, Released: June 18, 2019, (48:22 minutes)
The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists Promo
Video, Released: April 14, 2019, (00:15 minutes)
Press Event: The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists
Audio, Released: April 9, 2019, (21:30 minutes)