American Originals 

Saint Louis Art Museum exhibits its world-class collection of prints and drawings

Forest Park's Art Hill will be a construction zone for the foreseeable future, but don't let that keep you away from the Saint Louis Art Museum, where another kind of construction is happening inside. The American Galleries are all new, featuring outstanding works from the Museum's strong American collection. And this summer only, the museum will offer a complementary show, American Prints and Drawings: 1820-1913, in the Cohen Gallery upstairs.

Rarely exhibited because of their delicacy and light sensitivity, the roughly two dozen prints and drawings on display will give added historical perspective to the paintings in the American Galleries. The museum's gorgeous display of George Caleb Bingham paintings is enhanced by the artist's drawings featured in this show. Lithographs, drawings and watercolors by American greats Maurice Prendergast, John Henry Twachtman and George Catlin complement paintings by those artists in the first floor galleries. Works by Mary Cassatt and James McNeill Whistler showcase the drawing and printing prowess possessed by the two expatriate artists, who are generally better known for their paintings.

The chronology of the exhibition, 1820-1913, covers an extremely fertile period in American art. Early works in this show, by artists such as Carl Wimar and John James Audubon, reflect the national interest in frontier imagery and naturalism during the period. (Don't miss the very rare stipple engraving of Daniel Boone by James Otto Lewis.) And the year 1913 marks the opening of the Armory Show, which profoundly shaped the careers of American modernists such as Marsden Hartley and John Marin (both of whom are included in this exhibition).

Francesca Consagra -- curator of prints, drawings, and photographs -- has culled the museum's collection of over 10,000 works on paper to put this rare show together. Consider it your patriotic duty to pay it a visit.

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