Bowdoin College Museum of Art
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Exhibitions
"The Fountains at Night, World’s Columbian Exposition," 1893, (detail), oil on canvas by Winslow Homer. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960
June 27, 2015 - October 18, 2015
Halford Gallery
Center Gallery
Becker Gallery
Focus Gallery
Bernard and Barbro Osher Gallery

This is the first major museum survey dedicated to scenes of the night in American art from 1860 to 1960—an era not yet illuminated by electricity to the beginning of the Space Age. Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art will bring together 90 works in a range of media—including paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs—created by such leading American artists as Ansel Adams, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Lee Krasner, Georgia O’Keeffe, Albert Ryder, John Sloan, Alfred Stieglitz, and Andrew Wyeth, among others. Featuring exceptional works from the Museum’s collection as well as loans from prestigious public and private collections across the United States, the exhibition will provide visitors with an opportunity to consider transformations in American art across generations and traditional stylistic confines. Organized by Bowdoin curator Joachim Homann, Night Vision will demonstrate the popularity of the theme with American artists of diverse aesthetic convictions and investigate how they responded to the unique challenges of picturing the night. 

The works featured in Night Vision will reflect the broad range of subject matters that attracted artists to night scenes—including the reflections of moonlight on ocean waves, encounters in electrified urban streets, and firework celebrations. For some mid-nineteenth-century artists, such as Albert Bierstadt, paintings of the night offered the compelling artistic challenge of representing the natural elements of clouds, moon, and sky when shrouded in darkness, while at the same time providing rich opportunities for the symbolic use of light. Following the industrial revolution and emergence of electricity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American artists, such as Alfred Stieglitz, John Sloan, and Martin Lewis, began to consider new techniques in order to capture electrical sources of light and their effects on nighttime conditions. Across the range of works presented in Night Vision, visitors will see how reduced visual information and an altered perception in the dark tested artists’ ability to render shadow, light, and form. This lack of light ultimately resulted in less illustrative scenes and transformed the night into an arena for stylistic experimentation and the rise of abstraction in the early mid-twentieth century.

Major support is provided by Edward S. Hyman P’10 and Caroline P. Hyman P’10, Eric S. Silverman ’85, P’19 and Svetlana G. Silverman P’19, the Elizabeth B. G. Hamlin Fund, the Louisa Vaughan Conrad Fund, and the Becker Fund for the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Additional support has been provided by the Cowles Charitable Trust, the Devonwood Foundation, halley k harrisburg ‘90 and Michael Rosenfeld, the Roy A. Hunt Foundation, Thomas A. McKinley ’06 and Hannah Weil McKinley ’08, and Peter J. Grua ’76 and Mary G. O’Connell ‘76. The catalogue was published with the assistance of The Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a major catalogue, published by Delmonico Books•Prestel and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

From June 28 through August 14, 2015, Bowdoin College students will give tours of the exhibition Tuesday through Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Read the press release here.

Programming

June 27, 2015 | 5:00 p.m. | Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center

Keynote Lecture: “Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960

As the keynote speaker to open the summer exhibition, Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960, Barbara Haskell will discuss iconic paintings of the night that came to define American modernism and explore why so many canonical painters of the period were attracted to the dark. Ms. Haskell has curated many groundbreaking exhibitions dedicated to modern and contemporary art in the United States. She is a recipient of the Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History, from the Archives of American Art. Her reinterpretation and installation of the collections in the new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York are scheduled to open May 1, 2015

June 27, 2015 | 6:00 to 7:30 pm. | Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Opening reception celebrating the summer exhibition, Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960

July 2, 2015 | 11:00 a.m. | Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Music at the Museum
Bowdoin International Music Festival faculty perform a selection of nocturnes in conjunction with the exhibition, Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860–1960. RSVPs are requested. RSVP here.

July 16, 2015 | 12:00 noon | Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Gallery Conversation
Joachim Homann, curator, leads a discussion of Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960.

July 23, 2015 | 11:00 a.m. | Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Music at the Museum
Bowdoin International Music Festival faculty perform a selection of nocturnes in conjunction with the exhibition, Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860–1960. RSVPs are requested. RSVP here.

July 30, 2015 | 12:00 noon | Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Gallery Conversation
Linda Docherty, catalogue essayist and associate professor of art history emerita, Bowdoin College, leads a discussion of Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960

August 13, 2015 | 12:00 noon | Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Gallery Conversation
Jane Brox, author of Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, leads a discussion of Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860–1960.

August 20, 2015 | 12:00 noon | Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Gallery Conversation
Joachim Homann, curator, leads a discussion of  Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960.

 

"The Fountains at Night, World’s Columbian Exposition," 1893, oil on canvas by Winslow Homer. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
"Night Hauling," 1944, tempera on Masonite, by Andrew Wyeth. Bowdoin College Museum of Art. © Andrew Wyeth.

"The Night Wind," 1918, watercolor, gouache, and graphite, by Charles Burchfield. Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Cloud Study, Moonlight, ca. 1860, oil on paper by Albert Bierstadt. Bowdoin College Museum of Art