Figuratively Speaking: The Human Form in American Art 1770-1950
The human figure has always served as an important focus for American artists. This exhibition chronicles the changing character of American figurative art from the founding of the United States through the years following the Second World War. Broadly defined, this type of art encompasses portraiture, historical scenes, imaginary images, and subjects from everyday life (more commonly known as genre scenes). Figuratively Speaking examines the stylistic diversity of American artists' interpretations of the human form through the lens of works drawn exclusively from the Corcoran's renowned permanent collection.
The figure paintings featured here may be less familiar to visitors than the Gallery's more frequently displayed landscapes. However, the canvases in this exhibition belong to a category of imagery no less important in the grand narrative of American art. As a counterpoint to the paintings, many of the Corcoran's figurative sculptures are displayed here for the first time in several years. Taken together, this diverse group of works-from engaging political scenes of the antebellum era to tranquil views of genteel Gilded Age women to animated twentieth-century abstractions-reveals the profoundly important role that depictions of the human form have played in expressing the nation's evolving concerns and ideals.
This exhibition was organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and supported by The President’s Exhibition Fund. It was curated by Sarah Cash, Bechhoefer Curator of American Art, and Emily Shapiro, Assistant Curator of American Art.