American Artists Abroad in the 19th Century

The Salon gallery takes its name from traditional displays (originating in the Renaissance period) of paintings tightly packed onto the walls and sculpture filling the central space, as depicted in Enrico Meneghelli’s The Picture Gallery in the Old Museum (1879). From the first American painting acquired by the MFA in 1870, Washington Allston’s Elijah in the Desert (1818), to marbles carved by Americans working in Italy, the Salon gallery reflects the impact of travel and study in Europe for a range of 19th-century American artists. Among them are: in Italy, Thomas Cole, George Inness, William Wetmore Story, and Harriet Hosmer; in France, William Morris Hunt, an influential teacher and tastemaker who introduced the Barbizon school of French painting to the United States; in Germany, Albert Bierstadt, who honed landscape techniques later applied to scenes of the American West; and, in the British Isles, Robert S. Duncanson, who executed an atmospheric coastal view of the northern landscape in Dog’s Head of Scotland (1870). Set against these scenes of the so-called “old world,” the Salon gallery also features a selection of paintings of Niagara Falls, long perceived and frequently depicted as a symbol of the natural grandeur of North America. Several generations of American artists painted there, including Samuel Finley Breese Morse, John Frederick Kensett, Jasper Francis Cropsey, and George Inness, providing a nationalist counterpoint to the landscapes each of them made abroad.

  • Penny and Jeff Vinik Gallery (Gallery 233)