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March 8, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg to Open Blockbuster Exhibition of Early American Art with Southern Roots

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg will open a groundbreaking new exhibition of extraordinary paintings associated with the Early American South on March 23. “Painters and Paintings in the Early American South” is the first exhibition of its kind that explores the scope of this region of early American art while bringing new vitality, excitement and scholarship to the forefront. In celebration of the new exhibition, guests of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg enjoy free admission on opening day.

Carolyn Weekley, Colonial Williamsburg’s Juli Grainger Curator, has assembled these exquisite objects through years of painstaking research and collaboration to produce a stunning exhibition of portraits, landscapes, seascapes and other artworks pertinent to the Atlantic coast states from Maryland southward and the upper coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

“Nothing like this has been done before, having all these wonderful examples in one place at the same time,” Weekley said. “Most importantly, the exhibition will illustrate the myriad connections between art centers of the early South, New England, the Middle Atlantic and Europe.”

“Particularly striking about this exhibition are the truly international aspects of these magnificent materials,” said Ronald L. Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg’s vice president for collections, conservation and museums and the Carlisle H. Humelsine Chief Curator.

The exhibition of more than 80 works created in or for the South between 1735 and 1800 features 40 objects on loan from many other well-known and respected museums and a number of generous private collectors. Participating institutions include:

  • The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pa.,
  • The Charleston Museum, Charleston, S.C.,
  • The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.,
  • The Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Tex.,
  • The Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, S.C.,
  • The Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Del.,
  • The Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans, La.,
  • The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, N.C.,
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y.,
  • The Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va.,
  • The New-York Historical Society, New York, N.Y.,
  • The National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.,
  • The Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Va.,
  • The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va.,
  • The Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va., and
  • The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Md.

    Weekley also presents an opening-day illustrated lecture about the exhibition at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23 in the Hennage Auditorium.

    A second and similar exhibition featuring works dating prior to 1735 is planned for a 2015 opening in Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

    “Painters and Paintings in the Early American South” is also the title of a major new work by Weekley co-published by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Yale University Press. The first comprehensive study of the subject gathers into one volume a large body of work relating to art and artists dating from 1564 to about 1790. It includes not only portraits — the predominant genre during much of the period — but also seascapes and landscapes and pictures made by explorers and naturalists. The 448-page book includes more than 350 photographs and illustrations. The book is available for $75 at WILLIAMSBURG Booksellers in Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitor Center, 101-A Visitor Center Drive, Everything WILLIAMSBURG in Merchants Square, the Museum Store at 326 W. Francis St., online at or by calling 800-446-9240.

    The “Painters and Paintings in the Early American South” exhibition and the accompanying book is made possible by generous support from The Grainger Foundation of Lake Forest, Ill. The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation was established in 1949 by William W. Grainger, founder of W.W. Grainger Inc. The Grainger Foundation is one of Colonial Williamsburg’s most generous benefactors with several previous gifts and grants for initiatives within the museums and the Revolutionary City, including endowments for Historic Trades apprenticeships, a curatorial position and the Grainger Department of Historic Architectural Resources, as well as support for museum exhibitions and publications.

    “Painters and Paintings of the Early American South” will be on view from March 23 through Sept. 7, 2014 in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Other than opening day, admission is by Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket, Museum ticket or Good Neighbor Pass.

    Media Contact:
    Jim Bradley

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