The sophistication and elegance of fin-de-siècle Boston was expressed in this exhibition of drawings, prints, posters, and books by artists working in Boston in the decades around 1900. Some one hundred works on paper, as well as a few oil paintings and decorative objects, explored the visual dialogue between the various artistic movements of the period: Arts and Crafts, Japonisme, Symbolism, Impressionism, and Art Nouveau—united by their emphasis on strong design rather than literal description.
Colorful woodblock prints and a poster by Arthur Wesley Dow—who for a time was keeper of Japanese art at the MFA—were juxtaposed with watercolors by John La Farge, Winslow Homer, Maurice Prendergast, and John Singer Sargent. Pictorialist photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Clarence White, and George Seeley were seen side by side with figural studies by Kahlil Gibran (better known as the author of The Prophet) and stylishly costumed women in drawings by Lilian Westcott Hale. Boston was the leading center of American book publishing in the 1890s, and examples of fine book covers designed by Sarah Wyman Whitman, Ethel Reed, and others for publishers such as the Boston firm of Houghton Mifflin were on view. This exhibition provided a context for the retrospective exhibition “Art and the Camera: The Photographs of F. Holland Day”