Illustrations and Literary Themes in American Art: Works from the Collection | Montclair Art Museum
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Illustrations and Literary Themes in American Art: Works from the Collection

Start Date: 
Jul 01, 2015
End Date: 
Oct 18, 2015

This permanent collection exhibition juxtaposes American illustration work from the 19th and early 20th centuries with contemporary art based on literary themes in MAM's Shelby Gallery.


Winslow Homer’s striking wood engravings of the 1860s and 1870s for Harper’s Monthly represent an important phase of his early career when he was employed as a freelance illustrator and artist reporter. This period coincided with the flourishing of mass market illustrated magazines in America, due to new printing techniques, cheaper paper production, and railways that facilitated distribution. Homer’s Civil War engraving, A Bivouac Fire on the Potomac (1861) is compared and contrasted with leading contemporary artist Kara Walker’s print, Alabama Loyalists Greeting the Federal Gun Boats, 2005, which subversively addresses the legacy of slavery in America.


Renowned early 20th-century illustrator Harvey Dunn, a resident of Leonia, New Jersey, is represented by a painting that served as the cover for the 1921 edition of Charles Dickens’s classic A Tale of Two Cities. The rich literary tradition of Emily Dickinson’s poetry is exemplified in prints by Will Barnet and Lesley Dill, inspired by the poet’s use of stark imagery, emotional restraint, and unflinching observation. Their work as well as that of Amanda Ross-Ho and William Pope.L reflects the ways in which contemporary artists have greatly extended the traditions of illustration and literary themes in American art today.  


The exhibition is organized by Gail Stavitsky, chief curator, and Kimberly Siino, curatorial assistant.

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