Until the mid-1800s, portraits were generally a privilege reserved for the upper class; symbols of their wealth and social status. Today, portraits are created by cartoonists at county fairs and social media users constantly upload selfies to their online profiles. Sitting for History: Exploring Self-Identity through Portraiture delves into this shift and examines how our use of portraiture has drastically changed over the years. On view August 3, 2013 through January 12, 2014, the exhibition includes more than 60 works selected from the museums collection and explores ways that our public and private identities are created by ourselves and by others.
Sitting for History includes everything from paintings by Pierre August Renoir, Sir Henry Raeburn, and Ebba Rapp to portraits by Chuck Close, William Cumming, and Dorothy Dolph Jensen, the photography of Steven Davis and Mary Randlett, sculpture by Dan Webb, jewelry by Ken Cory and Kiff Slemmons, and glass art by Walter Lieberman.
Portraits tell us a lot about the person creating the artwork, the sitter, society, the current economy, and everything in between, said Stephanie A. Stebich, Director of Tacoma Art Museum
. This exhibition celebrates those international and Northwest artists who have led the way in portraiture.
As human beings, we are fascinated with faces. Ever since we have been able to record information, there have been portraits. Today, we are constantly being bombarded by these portraits through social media. We capture ourselves, friends, families, and even complete strangers.
In our social-media-driven environment, people are facing issues with controlling their public image, said Margaret Bullock, Curator of Collections and Special Exhibitions at Tacoma Art Museum. This exhibition challenges people to take a minute and contemplate the hows and whys of portraits both past and present to help us better understand the images that others share of themselves and how we choose to depict ourselves.
The exhibition also includes two works that are part of the gift of Western American art to Tacoma Art Museum from Erivan and Helga Haub. The works are portraits of Native Americans, one created in the early 1800s by Henry Inman titled Chief of the Foxes, and the other from the early 1900s by Catharine Critcher titled Portrait of Star Road.
Visitors will have the chance to sit at a drawing table in the gallery and sketch their own portraits or those of friends and family with the help of a mirror and frame attached to the table. Visitors are also encouraged to make digital portraits at the table using their camera phones and then upload them to Twitter or Facebook tagged with #SittingForHistory.
The exhibition looks at historical portraiture, depictions of women and children, self-portraits, the line between art and reality, non-traditional and symbolic portraits, the relationship between the artist and the sitter, and more.