The American Muse

The American Muse presents an homage to American women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and to the illustrators who accurately portrayed their unique and quintessential American beauty and character. Women of this era in America had greater opportunities in sports, higher education, roles in business, social movements, and politics than those of previous generations in the United States and abroad.

The exhibition features renowned artists, McClelland Barclay, Howard Chandler Christy, Harrison Fisher, Charles Dana Gibson, and others. They each created icons of the American women of their day, and in so doing created a lasting archetype. The public usually gave these lovely images a nickname tied to their respective illustrator, such as The Christy Girl, The Fisher Girl, The Gibson Girl, etc. The nickname became a perpetual part of that particular illustrator's oeuvre and artistic realm.

The illustrator’s works were published in single artist books with titles such as College Girls (1896), The Social Ladder (1897), American Beauties (1904), The Gibson Book (1907), Bachelor Belles (1908), and Liberty Belles (1911), which proved to be popular and coveted publications. In magazines of the day, such as Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Life, Red Cross, Success, The Saturday Evening Post, Truth, and Harper's, the artworks both shaped and reflected American society and its notions of what an attractive American woman should look and act like. In the process, the illustrators captured her style, poise, fashion sense, and inherent beauty, and unknowingly created a collection of natural American Muses.