Crystal Bridges and Louvre Focus on Genre Painting for Second Collaboration

Four international museums are teaming up for the second time in an effort to bring American art history to a global audience. Paris’s museé du Louvre, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, Bentonville, Arkansas’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Chicago-based Terra Foundation have announced the second installation in their four-year collaboration. This time, the team effort will focus on genre painting in 19th-century America.

The exhibition, titled “American Encounters: Genre Painting and Everyday Life,” will open at the Louvre on January 17, 2013 before traveling to Walmart heiress Alice Walton’s private museum in Arkansas in May, and then onto the High in September.

The exhibition, which aims to capture how American painters in the second half of the 19th century depicted scenes from everyday life to bolster the country’s developing identity, features three paintings: Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait‘s “The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix” (1856) from Crystal Bridges, Eastman Johnson‘s “Negro Life at the South” (c.1870) from the High, and George Caleb Bingham‘s “The Jolly Flatboatmen” (1877–78) from the Terra Foundation.

The trio of artworks will be accompanied by two paintings from the Louvre — one by Dutch artist Jan Steen and another by Englishman William Mulready — that illustrate European movements that influenced American genre painting.

The Marvel-worthy collaboration originally launched last year with an exhibition of American landscape painting featuring the work of Transcendentalist painter Thomas Cole and fellow landscape painter Asher B. Durand. (That show is currently finishing up its world tour in Atlanta, and will be on view through January 6.) The idea for the initiative was hatched back in 2007 following the High’s “Louvre Atlanta” exhibition, a collection-sharing arrangement with the Paris museum. (As it turns out, Louvre director Henri Loyrette is a big fan of American painting. Who knew?)

The predilection seems to be contagious. “The Louvre visitors are familiarizing themselves with American painting and have shown great interest since our first exhibition around Thomas Cole and landscape painting,” said Louvre paintings curator Guillaume Faroult in a statement. “For many of them, the discovery of this artist and the Hudson River School exhibited at the Louvre for the first time was a complete revelation. This second installation around American painting is now anticipated by our public.”

“The ongoing nature of the partnership not only enables us to present great American paintings alongside their European predecessors,” added Peter John Brownlee, an associate curator at the Terra Foundation for American Art. “It enables a more fluid and more sustained dialogue about American art and its influences on a global stage.”

Julia Halperin

(Image: Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, “The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix,” 1856. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.)