The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of American paintings is outstanding and includes many famous works. This volume, the second in a series of three, documents an impressive collection of some 285 paintings dating from the late 1830s to the first decade of the twentieth century. The second generation of the Hudson River school is superbly represented by the landscapes of Albert Bierstadt, Frederic E. Church, Jasper F. Cropsey, John F. Kensett, Sanford R. Gifford, and Worthington Whittredge. Most notable, perhaps, is the Museum's important collection of realist paintings by Eastman Johnson, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Eakins. These include such renowned works as Corn Husking at Nantucket, Snap the Whip, The Gulf Stream, and Max Schmitt in a Single Scull. James McNeill Whistler and Mary Cassatt are equally well represented by a choice group of paintings that show the beginnings of the Aesthetic movement on the one hand and impressionism on the other.
The paintings are arranged chronologically by the dates of the artists. A biography of each artist is included, along with bibliographical references. Every painting is illustrated and thoroughly discussed. There are references, an exhibition history, and provenance. Related works—preliminary drawings and studies, or copies, prints, and replicas—are also listed and often illustrated. The principal author, Natalie Spassky, has written an extensive introduction in which she discusses the prevailing historical styles and the major influences on American painting in the years represented. She also describes the various art organizations and publications that were active during this period. Included too is a discussion of the American collectors and artists who were responsible for the encouragement of American art in the Museum's formative years. Because of the wide scope of the collection, the catalogue provides, in effect, a history of American painting in the nineteenth century.
Volume I of this catalogue will consist of paintings by artists born before 1816, Volume II includes paintings by artists born between 1816 and 1845, and Volume III (already published) has paintings by artists born between 1846 and 1865. While these books will be essential resources for scholars in the field, they will also be of value to anyone interested in American art.