Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy


Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy provides a new perspective on American art by approaching narrative subject matter through the lens of taste as it was defined roughly from 1825 to 1870, when debates over the role of American art addressed not just content, but the role art should take outside of the European tradition. By integrating history, literary and religious subjects with now better-known examples of rural and domestic genre, this exhibition introduces to modern audiences the broad range of styles and narrative themes which appealed to 19th-century Americans seeking cultural refinement.

The exhibition drawn from the New-York Historical Society’s collection of narrative art includes 55 works by such canonical artists as Benjamin West, Asher B. Durand, William Sidney Mount, and Eastman Johnson. Additionally, significant works will also be on exhibition by artists who were major figures in their own time (such as Daniel Huntington, Henry Peters Gray and T. H. Matteson), but who have been virtually ignored in current American art surveys. The reintegration of these “forgotten” works into the larger art-historical framework challenges the canon of taste that has elevated genre (i.e., scenes of everyday life) to a privileged position at the expense of other narrative modes (including Stuart and Tudor, Shakespearean, and idealized subjects inspired by European masters).

For more information, please e-mail travelingexhibitions@nyhistory.org

Tour Schedule

For booking information, please email travelingexhibitions@nyhistory.org

Venue Dates
Taft Museum of Art (Cincinnati, OH) September 20, 2013 – January 12, 2014
Taubman Museum of Art (Roanoke, VA) February 22 – May 19, 2014
Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville, TN) February 27 – June 7, 2015
Westmoreland Museum of American Art (Greensburg, PA) December 20, 2015 – March 13, 2016


A fully illustrated publication published by D. Giles Ltd in association with New-York Historical accompanies the exhibition.


Creative: Tronvig Group