Gallery 764: In the Artist’s Studio

This week the Metropolitan Museum opened the renovated American Wing, which features twenty-six galleries on the second floor. Using coved ceilings, skylights, and architectural detailing, the museum has created a contemporary interpretation of nineteenth-century Beaux-Arts galleries.The Met’s collection boasts amazing holdings by pre-modern American painters, including John Singleton Copley (Daniel Crommelin Verplanck), Gilbert Stuart (George Washington), Thomas Cole (The Oxbow), Frederic Edwin Church, (The Heart of the Andes), Winslow Homer (Prisoners from the Front), Thomas Eakins (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull), and John Singer Sargent (Madame X). 

But my favorite is Gallery 764, which features paintings of artists at work. The gallery is a reminder that art practice evolves–artists haven’t always worked the way we work today. Here are some images and their stories (via the museum’s website).

Matthew Pratt (1734�1805), The American School, 1765, oil on canvas,
36 x 50 1/4 inches.
“The picture depicts a scene in the London studio of Benjamin West, who
is generally agreed to be the figure standing at the left. Based on
comparisons to self-portraits, Pratt is the man at the easel, an
accomplished portrait painter. The identities of the other artists
represented in the picture remain uncertain, but they are younger and
they draw rather than paint. The composition explores the academic
tradition as carried out among Americans in late-eighteenth century
Samuel F. B. Morse (American, Charlestown, Massachusetts 1791�1872 New York City), Susan Walker Morse (The Muse), 1836-37, oil on canvas, 73 3/4 x 57 5/8 inches.
“The full-length portrait of Susan Walker Morse (1819�1885), the eldest
daughter of the artist, was painted during the crucial years of the
invention of Morse’s telegraph (ca. 1835�37). The painting shows the
girl at about the age of seventeen, sitting with a sketchbook in her lap
and pencil in hand with her eyes raised in contemplation. Although
traditionally described as a Muse, the figure is more likely a
personification of the art of drawing or design. Morse drew on the full
extent of his European training, taking from the works of Rubens and
Veronese in what was to be an ambitious farewell to his career as an
artist. Stymied by a lack of financial success, he abandoned painting
for science and inventing. This painting was first exhibited at the
National Academy of Design in 1837, where it won enthusiastic praise.
Susan married Edward Lind in 1839 and moved to his sugar plantation in
Puerto Rico, returning often to New York to spend extended periods with
her father, who had been left a widower when Susan was just six. She
gradually grew less and less happy with her husband and plantation life.
Lind died in 1882; in 1885, Susan set out to return to New York
permanently but tragically was lost at sea.”

Kenyon Cox (American, Warren, Ohio 1856-1919 New York City), Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1887, replica 1908, oil on canvas, 33 1/2 x 47 1/8 inches. Sorry, no story about this one.


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