Written by Arkansas Real Estate
Wall Street Journal recognizes Crystal Bridges in this week's Arts section - 19th-Century Girl Power: An exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum looks at the emergence of tomboys and ingénues after the American Civil War. We hope you take a moment to go by and see this new exhibition, and appreciate the national recognition we are seeing from the beautiful Crystal Bridges.
Full article below -
In John George Brown's oil painting "Swinging on the Gate," a young girl stands on a wooden fence, leaning forward with a playful expression. She's wearing a pink dress and boots, and behind her a wide expanse of sky and grass stretches into the distance.
The painting was finished around 1879, in the aftermath of the Civil War, but Holly Pyne Connor, a curator at the Newark Museum, sees something more modern in it: "That little girl is leaning in," said Ms. Connor, referring to the title of the best-selling feminist book. "She's bold and audacious," said Ms. Connor, who spent four years organizing the exhibition, which debuted in Newark, N.J., last fall.
"Angels and Tomboys: Girlhood in 19th-Century American Art" opens Saturday and runs through Sept. 30 at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., following appearances in Newark and at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The exhibition features about 70 works, mostly paintings from the years 1865 through 1900 (though a few antebellum pieces appear), and explores girlhood in its varied portrayals—from angelic to rough-and-tumble.
Some of the leading male artists of the time are included, such as John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer and William Merritt Chase, as are top female artists: A young girl dressed in white settles into a book in Mary Cassatt's 1877 "The Reader." An impeccably groomed child seated in a stiff chair clutches yellow and purple pansies and looks out with a serious expression in Cecilia Beaux's "Fanny Travis Cochran," from 1887.
"There's a real emphasis on childhood in general after the Civil War," said Crystal Bridges curator Kevin Murphy. "There's a feeling that these are the girls that are going to grow up and become the mothers of the next generation."
Images of home resonated with a society that had been torn apart by the war, the curators said.
Alongside portraits of domestic life, a new kind of girl took shape: the tomboy. "The tomboy emerges in American art in the 1870s, right around the same time that Louisa May Alcott writes 'Little Women,' " says Ms. Connor, who called the development a "new interpretation of adolescence."
Ms. Connor's interest in girlhood in the 19th century grew out of her research for a 2006 exhibition she organized at the Newark Museum, "Off the Pedestal: New Women in the Art of Homer, Chase and Sargent," which explored the new feminine type that developed after the Civil War. After studying the depiction of women, she turned to girls, working to gather pieces on loan from nearly 40 museums and institutions.
On the cover of the exhibition's catalog is Abbott Handerson Thayer's 1887 painting "Angel." A young girl stares out, her arms open, with a gentle, otherworldly expression. She has a porcelain complexion and white-feathered wings.
But there are more mischievous girls afoot. In one work by John George Brown, a barefoot girl in a bow tie stands next to a boy as he aims his shotgun into the distance. In a Currier and Ives lithograph after Louis Maurer, a delighted little girl makes something approximating soup in a top hat, stirring with an umbrella.
"The tomboys are kind of more interesting," Mr. Murphy says.