One of the most puzzling stories in American art is the National Gallery of Art’s near-total failure to make its American art galleries represent America. For some time I’ve expected more from the National Gallery, the museum at the foot of the U.S. Capitol, a museum that partly sits on Pennsylvania Ave. NW, with the Supreme Court and Congress on one side and the White House on the other. On my most recent visit to the NGA’s American galleries there were around 200 art works on view. None were by women. Only one was by an artist who was not white.
It’s not because work isn’t available: This morning Crystal Bridges announced it has acquired a Robert Scott Duncanson painting, Flatboat Men (1865, above). The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts purchased this smashing Edward M. Bannister last year and this lovely Duncanson in 2006. (Both the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Cincinnati Art Museum are particularly rich in Duncanson, but I can’t link to CAM listing. Here’s the museum’s collection website. Oddly enough, artists are listed by first name.)