Fri, Jun 11, 2021 — Sat, Sep 11, 2021

American artists have always found beauty in the people, landscapes, and distinctive cultures that surround them. The forty paintings included in this exhibit, made between 1850 and 1940, offer unique views of the world and the subjects that inspired their makers.

Through these works, it is possible to see the evolution of the United States from a young republic to a modern nation with global ambitions in the twentieth century. Their subjects range from the iconic, such as majestic views of the natural world created by artists associated with the so-called Hudson River School in the mid-1800s, to the unexpected, as seen in the ticket stubs, newspapers, and peanuts meticulously rendered in realistic detail by trompe l’oeil painters at the turn of the twentieth century.

These works will invite visitors to explore seemingly simple scenes of American life and uncover artists’ complex questions about American culture and identity.


*A second version of the exhibition, American Spectacle: Selections from the Nancy and Sean Cotton Collection of American Art, features a selection of eleven paintings by ten artists.


Both versions of this exhibition are part of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ statewide exhibition program and can be viewed at venues across Michigan.


This exhibition is organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts and made possible by the Nancy and Sean Cotton Collection. This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of the Art Bridges Initiative. Generous support is provided by the Richard and Jane Manoogian Foundation.

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Image: Election Day 1844, 1913, Edward Lamson Henry, American; Oil on canvas. Nancy and Sean Cotton Collection.