The American Wing houses one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of American art in existence—more than 15,000 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts objects—all of which are accessible to the public on four floors of gallery and study areas. It also features one of the Museum's loveliest and most popular spaces, The Charles Engelhard Court, a glassed-in garden featuring large-scale American sculptures, leaded-glass windows, and other architectural elements.
During a four-year construction project—scheduled for completion in winter 2010-11—that involves many of the galleries of The American Wing, many of the best-known and most beloved works from its preeminent collection of American art will remain on view in various locations throughout the Museum. The project will reconfigure, renovate, or upgrade nearly every section of The American Wing. A major goal of the plan is to improve public access to, and visitor flow within, The American Wing's galleries.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired important examples of American art since its establishment in 1870. Today the collection is supervised by two curatorial departments: American Paintings and Sculpture, established in 1948, and American Decorative Arts, organized in 1934. (Paintings and sculpture created
by artists born after 1876, as well as decorative arts created after 1916, are in the Museum's Department of Modern Art.)
The American Wing's collection of paintings, comprehensive in scope and extraordinary in quality, illustrates almost all phases of the history of American art from the late 18th to the early 20th century. It includes masterworks by such artists as John Singleton Copley, Ralph Earl, Gilbert Stuart, George Caleb Bingham, Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, Martin Johnson Heade, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and James McNeill Whistler. Among the most celebrated paintings are Stuart's portrait of George Washington, Bingham's Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, Cole's The Oxbow, Church's Heart of the Andes, Eakins's The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull), and Sargent's Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau). The wing also is home to one of the best-known works in American art, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's monumental 1851 canvas, Washington Crossing the Delaware.
The sculpture collection is equally distinguished and is especially strong in Neoclassical and Beaux-Arts works. Artists represented include Erastus Dow Palmer, John Quincy Adams Ward, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Daniel Chester French, Frederic Remington, and Frederick William MacMonnies.
Works in the decorative arts extend in date from the late 17th to the early 20th century. Among the 25 furnished period rooms that span this period and offer an unparalleled view of American domestic architecture are the grand rococo pre-Revolutionary Van Rensselaer hall (1769), a McKim, Mead & White stair hall (1884), and a Frank Lloyd Wright living room (1915). Furniture includes masterpieces from the leading 18th-century cabinetmaking centers of Boston, Newport, and Philadelphia, as well as the works of Duncan Phyfe, Charles-Honoré
Lannuier, John Henry Belter, Alexander Roux, and the Herter Brothers in 19th-century New York City. Highlights in the silver collection include the work of Paul Revere and Tiffany & Company. The extensive glass collection incorporates blown- and pressed-glass vessels with superb works by the New England Glass Company, the Dorflinger Works, and Tiffany Studios. The collections of American stained glass, from the 17th through the early 20th century, is perhaps the most comprehensive anywhere and features the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The ceramics holdings incorporate a wide variety from Pennsylvania-German redware to Rookwood Pottery. The textiles collection includes over one hundred quilts, 18th- and early-19th-century needlework samplers, and fabrics designed by Candace Wheeler.
The American Wing also houses The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, which puts on view the Museum's entire reserve collection of American objects—about 850 paintings, 100 sculptures, 600 pieces of furniture, and 7,000 pieces in other decorative media, including silver, glass, and ceramics.
June 11, 2008