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Subjects and Symbols in American Sculpture

Selections from the Permanent Collection

April 11–August 20, 2000

Nineteenth-century American artists regarded "ideal themes"—those inspired by mythology, history, and literature—as the most challenging and venerable in the hierarchy of genres. Such subjects provided an opportunity for sculptors to demonstrate their familiarity with allegorical, historical, and literary topics, their skill at incorporating identifying attributes into their compositions, and frequently also their expertise in rendering the nude. This exhibition of American sculpture from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries draws on historical, allegorical, and literary subjects and considers the popularity of such themes as the seasons and the times of day. Some thirty-five bronze, marble, and plaster statuettes and reliefs such as Erastus Dow Palmer's Sappho, Augustus Saint-Gaudens's Diana, and Adolph Alexander Weinman's Descending Night are drawn entirely from the Museum's extensive holdings of American art.