Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s (2006-2009)

From the 1850s to the 1950s, American art and culture metaphorically “came of age,” evolving from literal, matter-of-fact depictions of the physical realm to the abstract expression of universal, intangible ideas. Coming of Age explores the complex and extended process of maturation that took place throughout this formative century of American art.

Drawn from the Addison Gallery of American Art’s renowned collection, Coming of Age focuses on the key movements that developed during a period in which American art took its place on the international stage. Featuring seventy-one exquisite paintings, it begins with mid-nineteenth-century landscapes by such masters as Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church, and artists of the Hudson River School that embody the new nationalism of the time. In the later nineteenth-century, artists such as Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins applied the lens of an aggressive realism to their subjects, while John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler brought a new degree of experimentation and painterliness to their artwork. Turn-of-the-century works by such American Impressionists as Childe Hassam and Maurice Prendergast demonstrate how American artists adapted European Impressionism to their subjects, and are contrasted with the exuberant paint application and rich tonalities of the Ashcan School artists, including Robert Henri and John Sloan. Twentieth-century modernist masterpieces by Stuart Davis, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Marsden Hartley, among others, establish the foundations for mid-century abstract works by artists including Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, László Moholy-Nagy, and Jackson Pollock; works that firmly positioned American art at the vanguard in the international art world for decades to come. The selection offered here represents a comprehensive look at the major artistic developments that transpired during this extraordinary one hundred year period in American art history.



Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
September 9, 2006–January 7, 2007
Meadows Museum, Dallas, TX
November 30, 2007–February 24, 2008
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, UK
March 1–June 8, 2008
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
June 27–October 12, 2008
NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, FL
November 6, 2008–March 23, 2009
Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Québec City, Canada
May 21–September 7, 2009


William C. Agee is Professor of Art History at Hunter College, New York. Susan C. Faxon is Associate Director and Curator at the Addison Gallery.


This exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts, New York, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, and is made possible, in part, by The Crosby Kemper Foundation and by Frank B. Bennett and William D. Cohan, with additional support from the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation Fund for Collection-Based Exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts.