The Discerning Eye: Five Perspectives on the Addison Collection
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This object is a member of the following groups (click any group name to view all objects in that group):Exhibitions: Man Up! Visualizing Masculinity in 19th-Century America
Exhibitions: Learning to Look: The Addison at 90
Themes: MLC Portfolio: American Identity
As an adolescent, Henry Inman (1801–1846) entered an apprenticeship under painter John Wesley Jarvis. He soon surpassed his teacher inboth quality of work as well as in reputation as New York's best portrait painter. Inman was to New York what Sully was to Philadelphia and he too was referred to as "the American Lawrence." This painting, standing in strong contrast to Inman's usually elegant, "grand manner'' portraiture, is an example of one of his rare experiments with genre painting.
Inman's few genre portraits were all concerned with youth. Yet, unlike his other examples, this painting is not of idyllic rural life, but of urban poverty. In contrast to the city urchins depicted by social realists of the early twentieth century, Inman's painting does not call for social reform, nor does his newsboy elicit our sympathy. As art historian Elizabeth Johns has noted in American
Genre Paintin g, Inman's newsboy is a prototype of American self-help. Though poor and ragged, he has taken the initiative to earn a living and better himself. Urban poverty has been neatly transformed into American potential.
The boy's surroundings reinforce an optimistic view of poverty and soften his obvious deprivation. The artist has removed this industrious youth from his "dangerous" peers and seedy neighborhood and placed him in the bustling and ordered world of the upper classes. He stands in front of the 1836 Astor House Hotel, New York's first modern hotel. The letters "OK'' scrawled on the wall behind him refer to Martin van Buren's nickname, "Old Kinderhook," and the 1840 presidential campaign in which the aristocratic Van Buren was defeated by "common man" William Henry Harrison. The rosy, early morning sky coupled with the clearly legible newspaper bannerhead- "SUN"- hold promise of a bright future.
This romantic depiction of urban poverty was confirmed when the painting was used to illustrate a short story which appeared in the 1843 publication, The Gift. In the story titled, "Billy Snub, The Newsboy," a young boy's hard work and honesty not only help him overcome destitution, but also help him to reform his delinquent father.
Inman's portrait was painted during a period of exacerbated urban poverty and unrest. The implication that being down and out was a temporary state to be remedied by hard work must have been most reassuring to his elite viewers.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:[not known], Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 00/00/00 - 00/00/00
Sixteenth Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design Museum, 5/3/1841 - 7/5/1841
Henry Inman Memorial Exhibition [Works by the Late Henry Inman], Art-Union, 2/10/1846 - 3/15/1946
New England Genre, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, 5/15/1939 - 9/1/1939
Scope in Collecting [25th Anniversary Exhibition], Addison Gallery of American Art, 10/19/1956 - 12/24/1956
Early New Jersey Artists: 18th and 19th Centuries, The Newark Museum, 3/7/1957 - 5/19/1957
Artistic Highlights of American History, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/10/1958 - 3/23/1958
Art in American History, Addison Gallery of American Art, 7/22/1962 - 10/28/1962
The Newspaper in American Art, The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego/The Fine Arts Society of San Diego, 10/12/1965 - 11/7/1965
Winterfest '66 [version of Roots and Promise of American Art], Winterfest, 2/18/1966 - 2/27/1966
The Newspaper in American Art, Lakeview Center for The Arts and Sciences, 10/8/1966 - 10/30/1966
Roots and Promise of American Art, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/10/1967 - 3/13/1967
Paintings from the Addison Gallery Collection, Showcase Cinema, 3/28/1967 - 4/25/1967
Aspects of American Art History-Group Exhibition of Paintings Loaned from Coll, Fitchburg Art Museum, 10/1/1968 - 11/15/1968
The Art of Henry Inman, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 4/3/1987 - 8/2/1987
Boys and Girls, Men and Women, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/12/1990 - 6/10/1990
American Masterworks, Addison Gallery of American Art, 10/5/1990 - 12/16/1990
The American City, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/18/1991 - 3/10/1991
Faces of the Addison: Portraits from the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/23/1994 - 7/31/1994
Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/13/1996 - 7/31/1996
Framework: American Pictures and Frames, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/16/1999 - 4/4/1999
Inside and Out: Scenes of American Life from the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/26/2000 - 12/31/2000
Identity and Intention: Two Centuries of American Portraiture, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/4/2001 - 12/30/2001
Eye on the Collection: Copley to Hopper, Addison Gallery of American Art, 12/21/2004 - 6/12/2005
Eye on the Collection: West to Hopper, Addison Gallery of American Art, 6/17/2005 - 10/16/2005
Child's Play: Children from the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 10/29/2005 - 12/31/2005
An American ABC: Childhood in 19th-Century America, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, 2/1/2006 - 1/8/2007
The Discerning Eye: Five Perspectives on the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/4/2007 - 12/30/2007
Eye on the Collection: Views and Viewpoints, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/19/2008 - 3/23/2008
Inside, Outside, Upstairs, Downstairs: The Addison Anew, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/7/2010 - 3/27/2011
Eye on the Collection: Artful Poses, Addison Gallery of American Art, 2/1/2014 - 3/30/2014
[Permanent Collection 201-5], Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/12/2014 - 7/31/2014
The Sweat of their Face: Portraying American Workers, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 11/3/2017 - 9/3/2018
Man Up! Visualizing Masculinity in 19th-Century America, Addison Gallery of American Art, 12/21/2019 - 4/5/2020
Learning to Look: The Addison at 90, Addison Gallery of American Art, 5/8/2021 - 2/6/2022
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