Wonder, Whimsy, Wild: Folk Art in AmericaWonder, Whimsy, Wild: Folk Art in America
Still Life with Basket of Fruit, Unidentified Artist, Courtesy of the Barbara L. Gordon Collection

November 7, 2015 – February 28, 2016

Wonder, Whimsy, Wild: Folk Art in America

This extraordinary exhibition highlights American folk art from New England and the Midwest made between 1800 and 1925. Among the paintings are portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and allegorical paintings, while the objects include sculptures, commercial signs, furniture, and household objects. These works were made by minimally trained or self-taught artists in rural areas and did not reflect the academic models of artistic taste in the urban centers of the East Coast. Yet, because of the large number of professional and amateur artists who created folk art in the years following the Nation's founding—and the sheer quantity of art they produced—folk art was the prevalent art form in the United States for more than a century.

While these objects were long excluded from fine art galleries, they have been taking their place in museums across the country, helping to produce a fuller picture of America’s artistic creative diversity. The artworks range from The Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity attributed to Edward Hicks and witty carved dentures created as a trade sign for a dentist to a beautifully decorated painted chest by an unknown German artist.

A form of recording family history also prevalent during this time was the use of frakturs. These illuminated manuscripts documented milestones in the lives of family members and were most common in German-speaking communities from New York to the South. One of the featured frakturs in this exhibition is the Laing Family Record Book. This book records the history of fifteen members of the Frederick County, Virginia family.

You can make your own fraktur of your family, using the Laing Family Record Book as inspiration.

After you create your fraktur, share it on social media by using the hashtags #BrooksFraktur and #AmericanFolkArt!

Still Life with Basket of Fruit
Unidentified artist1830-1850
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the Barbara L. Gordon Collection

Laing Family Record Book
attributed to the "Record Book Artist"c. 1804
ink and watercolor on wove paper
Courtesy of the Barbara L. Gordon Collection

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Resources

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

The American art theorist Linda Nochlin (1931-2017) posed this question as the title of a pioneering article in 1971. This essay was considered one of the first major works of Feminist art history, it has become a set text for those who study art internationally, and it is influential in many other fields.

Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by Linda Nochlin