American Stories on Display at M.S. Rau Antiques’ Latest Exhibition

  • April 10, 2019 14:01

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Portrait of George Washington attributed to Gilbert Stuart. Circa 1815
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans
View of Niagara Falls from Prospect Point by Albert Bierstadt. Circa 1869
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans
Betalo Nude by Robert Henri. Circa 1916
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans

Nearly 100 works by over 70 artists spanning over two centuries are on display at M.S. Rau Antiques' latest exhibition of important American Art. From Sea to Shining Sea: 200 Years of American Art weaves a compelling narrative about the origins of a distinctly American artistic style, from early colonial portraiture to the stunning landscapes of the Hudson River School to the stark and uncompromising works of the Ashcan artists. Taken as a whole, the works provide a rich pictorial essay on just what it means to be American throughout the country’s relatively short history.

Through three specific time periods, the exhibition explores changes not only in the artistic traditions of the country, but also its cultural and economic evolution over the course of two centuries. Read on for a small sampling of the remarkable works on display.

Portraiture dominates early American art, particularly portraits composed in the British style. One of the most important artists of this period who exemplifies this aesthetic sensibility was Gilbert Stuart, who is well represented in the exhibition. We are pleased to have one of the most iconic examples of his portraiture on display in the show - a Portrait of George Washington that is attributed to the famed painter.

Perhaps the most recognizable American painting ever made, Stuart's Athenaeum portrait of President George Washington is among the great masterpieces of American art. Taking its name from the time it hung in the collection of the Boston Athenaeum, today Stuart's portrait is jointly owned by the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Our exhibition painting is among the many replicas of this iconic portrait created by Stuart later in his career, perfectly translating the personality and power of this great American leader onto canvas.


Perhaps the most significant cultural development in the history of the United States was the emergence of the Hudson River School of landscape painters in the mid-19th century. The movement represents the first distinctly American style of art, as artist sought to capture the majesty and grandeur of their nation on canvas. The paintings of the landscape artist Albert Bierstadt embody the group's mentality, seeking out the Sublime in his composition that capture the uniquely American aspects of the land and sea.

His View of Niagara Falls from Prospect Point is on prominent display in the exhibition. With its dramatic light and crisp rendition of details, the work brilliantly illustrates the awe-inspiring power of nature at this celebrated locale. Niagara Falls was and remains one of the most iconic symbols of American might, and Bierstadt's depiction of this natural wonder is exemplary of the strength of his output.


As the country became more and more modernized under the spread of urbanization and industrialization, so too did artists turn toward the city for their inspiration. The painters of the famed Ashcan School were among the first to choose the urban landscape and its inhabitants as the subjects of their works. The movement's leader, the great Robert Henri, is celebrated for his stark depictions of city life, particularly his portraits of its lowlier inhabitants.

Henri's remarkable Betalo Nude is a superb example of American modernism. As a nude for its time, its representation of the female form is unsurpassed; it is vital and straightforward, yet full of grace. It portrays a subtly sensual personification of womanhood, rather than the typically passive subjects seen in academic and historic nudes. Henri is credited with styling a more direct and dynamic form of the female nude in American modern art, which reaches its apogee in this work.

These paintings and many more are on display now at M.S. Rau Antiques. A must-see for locals and visitors alike, From Sea to Shining Sea brings together some of the most exceptional, museum-quality fine art that we have every assembled. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, is happening now through June 8 at M.S. Rau Antiques’ extensive French Quarter gallery.

About M.S. Rau Antiques:
M.S. Rau Antiques has spent over a century earning the trust of discerning collectors world-wide. Located in the heart of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter, our peerless showroom houses one of the world’s most extensive and stunning collections of museum-quality fine art by artists such as Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century antiques, and breathtaking jewelry, including rare colored diamonds.

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Beauty, Rarity, History: The M.S. Rau Blog

A New Orleans institution for over 100 years, M.S. Rau is among the premier fine art and antiques galleries in the world. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, our gallery overflows with incredible antiques by names including Tiffany & Co., Paul Revere and Fabergé. Our unparalleled selection of important, original paintings and sculpture spans the 16th through the 21st century, including legendary artists such as Brueghel, Monet and Rockwell, while our diverse selection of exquisite jewels, including rare colored diamonds, Kashmir sapphires and Burma rubies is without equal.

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