Based on the permanent collection, this exhibition of art in the Atlantic World considers empire-building across Europe, North America, and their colonies, and how it shaped interconnected global networks from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Artists celebrated leaders and victories and depicted scenes of exploration and colonization. The exhibition also traces the rise of the Enlightenment beginning with the Renaissance. Paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts illuminate how Western and Euro-American cultures developed economically, artistically, and intellectually. The desire for material goods by a growing middle class intensified the need for labor, which resulted in the enslavement of Africans and others. The art also shaped ideas and justifications for continued colonization and expansion into new territories, including Manifest Destiny in the United States. This adversely affected Indigenous communities. These works also reveal the development of the Museum's collection, beginning over 200 years ago with the 1813 bequest of James Bowdoin III, and continuing to major acquisitions today.
The exhibition was made possible with the support of the Riley P. Brewster ’77 Fund for the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.