NASHVILLE, TENN.- This summer, American Artists and the Legacy of the Grand Tour, 18801960 explores work created and brought home by American artists, and the continuing allure of Europe as a destination for leisure, study, and cultural refinement during these years. The exhibition opened on June 15, 2017 and will remain on view through August 26, 2017.
In a historical sense, the Grand Tour was a seventeenth- to eighteenth-century phenomenon in which young, usually male and aristocratic, members of English and Northern European families visited great cities and societies of the European continent. It was an educational trip, meant largely for cultural exposure and refinement. Art was central to this travel in a number of ways, from visiting masterpieces of painting and architecture, to commissioning portraits, buying art to bring home, and engaging an artist for the journey who would paint the sublime beauty of each destination. This exhibition explores a time from approximately 1880 to 1960 when American artists endeavored to follow in the footsteps of this tradition and trek to Europe for a variety of reasons: study and opportunities to exhibit, illustration on commission, war, and leisure. At the center of their journeys was also the goal of education, for themselves through the process of travel and study and for others through the skills, cultural enlightenment, and artwork they would bring home.
Many of the artists included in this exhibition, such as John Taylor Arms, Otto Henry Bacher, and Alonzo C. Webb, spent extended sojourns abroad and produced large bodies of work to send back to the United States. Some, like famed illustrator Joseph Pennell and the lesser-known painter Willie Betty Newman, visited Europe to establish a reputation for refinement that would carry their careers back home. While the United States was increasingly becoming more diverse towards the end of the years featured in this exhibit, a majority of Americans traced their roots to European countries. It follows that studying there was often still viewed as an important part of an artists education and a means to develop cosmopolitan tastes, looking to the precedent of many artists in generations past.
The exhibition includes etchings, engravings, lithographs, and paintings by John Taylor Arms, Otto Henry Bacher, Lionel Barrymore, George Inness, Joseph Pennell, Abbott Thayer, and others as well as paintings by Alonzo C. Webb and Willie Betty Newman loaned by the Tennessee State Museum. Their work documents the architecture, scenery, and people of Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, England, and France as the artists saw them.