John Rogers: American Stories

November 09, 2012
February 18, 2013

Exhibition will travel prior to installation at the New-York Historical Society
Visit the companion website here.

John Rogers: American Stories is the first full retrospective of the most popular American sculptor John Rogers (1829-1904). An astute and tireless maker and marketer of artworks from the beginning of the Civil War to the end of the Gilded Age, Rogers sold more than 80,000 narrative figural groups in plaster, reaching the American public en masse and addressing the issues that most touched their lives. His arresting and memorable subjects included scenes from the front lines and the home front of the Civil War, insightful commentaries on domestic life, and dramatic episodes from the stage and literature. 

Rogers wished to make his sculptures available and affordable to the widest possible audience. He advertised extensively, established a factory for large-scale production, and took great pains to ship the finished pieces intact to locations all over the country. Often selling for $15 apiece, Rogers’s works became commonplace in the homes of middle- and upper-class Americans in the later nineteenth century, an era when most Americans had little access to works of art, or even serviceable reproductions. More than any other artist of his era, Rogers reached Americans en masse, addressing issues that shaped their lives and that defined the American experience.

In addition to forty plasters and nineteen master bronzes that he used to create the plasters, ephemeral materials from the New-York Historical Society Library and Print Room such as mail order catalogues, advertisements and stereograph views will vividly illustrate how his works were presented and promoted to the public. The exhibition will be enriched with a selection of paintings from New-York Historical's acclaimed collection to show how Rogers carried on the American genre tradition.