April 2013 - April 2014
The American Illustrators Gallery is proud to announce its latest exhibition, The American Muse, exploring the ways in which the greatest American illustrators portrayed their ideal women, and how these images both reflected and shaped the women of America throughout the early 20th Century. The exhibition features renowned artists McClelland Barclay, Howard Chandler Christy, Harrison Fisher, Charles Dana Gibson, John Lagatta, J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, Walter Granville Smith, and others. As fashions change with the seasons, these American illustrators’ images reflected the quickly evolving styles of idyllic American women. From the leg-of-mutton sleeves on blouses, to billowing skirts and full-brimmed hats at the turn of the Century to the flappers’ short, strapless, and formless dresses adorned with long pearls of the 1920’s, Americans first embraced the new styles in images they saw in books, magazines, advertisements, and calendars. Beginning in the late 1890’s, Albert B. Wenzell (1864-1917) captures the restrained elegance of the 19th century in his portrait, Lady with Muff. Rendered in the subtleties of en grisaille (black and white) gouache, Wenzell captures her delicate features adorned in a high collared coat, hat and fur muff. Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) skillfully rendered his women in pen and ink, capturing the more informal appeal of women in the early 1900’s in Two Women Reading Newspaper. Gibson was better known for he truly portrayed the elegant inherent nature of American women in his images. His renowned Gibson Girl was depicted in a casual yet elegant style. She captivated her audience and put viewers at ease with female images, more so than previously. The Gibson Girl represented not only femininity, but an American beauty unsurpassed globally. Another influential illustrator was Harrison Fisher (1877-1934) who, like Gibson, was highly regarded for his brilliant depictions of the ideal American beauty: “girls, young with the youth of a new country, strong with the vitality of buoyant good health, fresh with clear-eyed brightness, athletic, cheerful, sympathetic, and beautiful.” Each of these qualities is highlighted in Lucky Dog, the September 6, 1914 cover of American Sunday Monthly Magazine. After World War I, American society reflected the relief and progress brought about with significant postwar international change. For the November 17, 1923 cover of Literary Digest, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) captures a young girl in a candid moment of thought in Dreams in the Antique Shop. The young woman appears innocent and naïve, wearing a short sleeve cotton dress and an apron as she wonders of the new possibilities in the future. Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952) also approaches young women’s dreams of future change in his 1940’s work, Ladies and Antebellum Architecture. Now on the brink of World War II, Christy depicts his favorite model Elise in a dream-like Southern estate.