Morrison H. Heckscher, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing, provides commentary on a brief tour through the New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts.
Morrison H. Heckscher: The Met has been collecting American art since its founding in 1870, but it wasn't until 1924 that it opened a wing of its own devoted to American art. And now, in 2012, we are completing the evolution.
We worked with the Museum's architect of long standing, Kevin Roche, to provide spaces that would be congenial for our collections. The challenge we had for the architect was to make architecture work in the cause of art. It's hugely important that these collections are shown to their best advantage.
This final phase of the reconstruction of the American Wing includes the principal galleries for the display of our collections of American paintings of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century together with many of the sculptures. There are also galleries devoted to the decorative arts in the eighteenth century.
The suite of galleries is the culmination of nearly ten years of planning and developing and rebuilding of the American Wing. The result is a series of skylit picture galleries, which hark back in their general scale and lighting to the nineteenth century, to the European Beaux-Arts tradition of public picture galleries. You will see our signature picture, Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware.
All around that extra-large gallery with the Leutze at its center, there is a panorama of American art pictures, with particular attention paid to the Hudson River School of the mid-nineteenth-century artists. And it has been my great pleasure, over the last decade, to guide and supervise the total renovation of the American Wing. The Met has been collecting American art for over a hundred and forty years and so it's one of the oldest and richest and deepest collections of the arts of the United States in any museum.