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Marks of Distinction: Two Hundred Years of American Drawings and Watercolors from the Hood Museum of Art

October 20 - December 31, 2005


The National Academy is pleased to present Marks of Distinction: Two Hundred Years of American Drawings and Watercolors from the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, organized in celebration of the Hood's 20th anniversary. Highlighting a stunning diversity of works spanning two centuries, many of which have never before been on public view, this exhibition of 80 drawings and watercolors features such distinguished artists as Benjamin West, Thomas Sully, Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler, John Sloan, Joseph Stella, Jackson Pollock, Agnes Martin, Eva Hesse and many leading National Academicians as well, including John James Audubon, Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, John Singer Sargent, Paul Cadmus, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and the newly elected Lee Bontecou. (right: Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926, Drawing for "Evening," 1879/80, Conte crayon on wove paper, 20.1 x 22.1 cm (7 7/8 x 8 5/8 inches). Purchased through gifts from the Lathrop Fellows; D.2003.16)

America's most famous artist-naturalist, John James Audubon, is represented by a pastel entitled American Buzzard, (actually a red tailed hawk) c. 1810-20. Likely created for The Birds of America, this work was ultimately not included in the publication.

John Sloan's Family on a Fire Escape perfectly embodies the spirit of the Ashcan School. Depicting the grittiness, spunk, and bawdiness of New York's underclass at the turn of the twentieth century, this drawing was an illustration for short story which appeared in Hearst's International in 1922. Here Sloan renders a family at leisure on their make-shift balcony and has chosen to celebrate and romanticize the simple pleasures of working class life.

Joan Mitchell's untitled sketch c. 1959 is a complex composition with a tumultuous layering of lines, and includes the artist's typical concentration of darker marks in the sheet's center. This technique gives Mitchell's work a specific depth, energizing the lines that whip and spiral out from it. Only recently has Mitchell become as widely appreciated as her abstract expressionist peers, although, unlike them, she resented critics' attempts to read her emotions through her work.

Taken as a whole, these works reveal the rich variety of approaches, media, and subjects that have attracted American artists over the course of two centuries. Highlights range from early nineteenth-century landscapes and folk portraits, to lyrical nineteenth-century watercolor marines and interiors, dynamic images of New York City in the jazz age, and purely abstract compositions by pioneering artists associated with abstract expressionism and minimalism.

Marks of Distinction is accompanied by a 282-page illustrated catalogue co-published with Hudson Hills Press. The publication provides an overview of the American collection by renowned art historian and former Dartmouth professor John Wilmerding; a history of the collection's development by Barbara MacAdam; in-depth scholarly entries on eighty of the museum's most noteworthy American drawings and watercolors by MacAdam, Mark Mitchell, Derrick Cartwright, Katherine Hart, and Barbara Thompson; as well as illustrations of about 170 additional collection highlights.


Public Programs

Opening Night Lecture with Barbara J. MacAdam, the Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art at the Hood Museum
Wednesday, October 19, 6:00 pm, Free.
Distinguished Lecture with John Wilmerding, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 30, 6:30 pm, Free.
This noted art historian and collector offers insights on Marks of Distinction from a connoisseur's point of view.
Watercolor Splash!
Saturday, November12, 1:00-3:00 pm
In a tour of Marks of Distinction, children discover masterpieces of American watercolor, and drawings by Lee Bontecou, Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, NA, and others, then create their own light-filled watercolors.
Speaking of Portraits
Saturday, December 10, 1:00-3:00 pm
An exhibition tour of portraits by artists Peggy Bacon, Paul Cadmus, NA, Jacob Lawrence, NA, and others, inspires an afternoon of drawing portraits from a model.

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