"America." Hiram Powers (American, 1805–1873). Marble, 1850–54; carved after 1854. Gift of Mrs. William A. M. Burden Jr., 1966 66.243
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A Salute to the American Wing at The Met

On Independence Day, we look back at the complex and fascinating history of the American galleries at the Museum

Since its founding in 1870, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has collected major works of American art. A separate, dedicated “American Wing” of the Museum first opened in 1924 to exhibit the domestic arts of the 17th to early 19th centuries; in 1980, paintings and sculpture galleries—as well as the enclosed Charles Engelhard Court (below)—were added, joining the American Wing all together.

The Charles Engelhard Court

Monumental sculpture, stained glass, and architectural elements are installed in the soaring, light-filled sculpture court, with decorative art objects on its balconies. Among the treasures on display here is an elegant figure of Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens—one of two versions of this spirited sculpture (shown above) owned by The Met.

This sunlit court also features the stately facade of the United States Branch Bank (below), which was built between 1822–24 and was once located on Wall Street. The marble bank facade formed the front of the American Wing before it was joined to The Met with the addition of the 1980 glassed-in pavilion.

The neoclassical facade of the United States Branch Bank was moved to the Museum from lower Manhattan

An array of pressed-glass vessels on view on the balcony of the Charles Engelhard Court

After another extensive renovation in 2012, the American Wing was reconfigured with 26 expanded and refined galleries—encompassing 30,00 square feet for the display of the Museum’s superb collection of some 20,000 works of American fine and decorative art. These ever-changing holdings include mid-17th to early 20th-century American and Latin American paintings; sculpture; drawings; decorative arts; historical interiors; and architectural fragments. Twenty period rooms tell the story of American domestic architecture and furnishings from 1680 to 1915.

The Richmond Room, Richmond, Virginia, 1810. The room is outfitted with furniture by Charles-Honoré Lannuier and Duncan Phyfe, master cabinetmakers of America’s Federal period. Gift of Joe Kindig Jr., 1968 68.137

The Shaker Retiring Room, New Lebanon, New York, ca. 1830–40. The calm beauty of this bedroom illustrates the simplicity and utility of the Shaker aesthetic. Purchase, Emily Crane Chadbourne Bequest, 1972 1972.189.1–3

The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, the open-storage area and gallery space on the American Wing’s mezzanine level (below), opened in 1988. Its thousands of objects are arranged by material, form, and chronology, and can be searched in a digital database.

Visible storage in the Luce Center, a useful resource for scholars, dealers, and American art aficionados

The Met will soon expand its holdings of historical Native American art with the promised gift of the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection, which is currently on display in the American Wing in Gallery 746.

Tipi Bag. Possibly made in North Dakota or South Dakota, United States. Lakota/ Teton Sioux. Native-tanned leather, glass beads, metal cones, horsehair, and dye, ca. 1890. The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art, Promised Gift of Charles and Valerie Diker L.2018.35.21

Among the many notable paintings on view in the galleries is Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, one of the best-known works in American art. For the 2012 re-hanging of this magnificent canvas in the newly renovated American Wing, a stately gilded frame was painstakingly re-created from an 1864 photograph of the painting. The image showed the canvas displayed in a dramatic frame replete with patriotic regalia—including a crest several feet across—all crowned by a broad-winged eagle. The magnificent new frame, finished with 12,500 gold leaves, features a hand-carved eagle crest and ornamental shields—a fitting context for the drama of Washington’s crossing.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze in Gallery 760. Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 97.34

Embodying a uniquely American story in Gallery 766 is a painting by Henry O. Tanner, which is displayed alongside his bronze portrait bust by Charles Grafly. The first African American artist to attend the august Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Tanner was championed by Thomas Eakins. In 1891, the artist left America for Paris, where he showed regularly at the Salon; in 1923 he was named an honorary chevalier of France’s Order of the Legion. Four years later, Tanner became the first African American to be made a full academician of the National Academy of Design. His evocative 1923 Flight into Egypt in The Met masterfully depicts the famous Biblical scene.

Henry O. Tanner. Charles Grafly (American, 1862–1929). American. Painted plaster, 1896. Gift of J. O. Tanner, 1949 49.54

A favorite in the American Wing is Madame X by John Singer Sargent, one of The Met’s most iconic images. Sargent’s 1883–84 portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau originally showed the right strap of her gown slipping from her shoulder. After the painting caused a scandal at the 1884 Paris Salon, Sargent repainted the strap and kept the canvas for 30 years before selling it to The Met. His subject’s arresting pallor and confident stance continue to capture viewers’ attention today.

A view of Sargent’s famous painting in Gallery 771. Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1916 16.53

Whether your taste runs to hand-stitched quilts and embroidered samplers, Louis C. Tiffany stained glass, or magnificent Hudson River School paintings, you’ll find endless treasures to admire and learn about in the American Wing. And you can find products inspired by some of the artworks mentioned above (and other patriotic items) in The Met Store by shopping here. Happy July 4th!

Replies

  1. Every rare chance I get to visit the Met the American Wing and The Costume Institute-are the top of the visit. To revisit sure rarities and American beauty a chance to stop and drink in all the wonders and inspiration provides a respite

    Reply
  2. Author icon LINDA LEE DOBBS

    ALL OF THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL! IT IS SIMPLY A JOY TO LOOK AT ALL THE DISPLAYS!
    I LOVE ALL THE ANNOTATIONS THAT ACCOMPANY THE PICTURES. IT IS TRULY WONDERFUL!

    Reply
  3. This is a rare treat to see a smattering that the museum offers. It’s been ten years since we were in the city as we are from Florida. I miss the cultural aspects that N.Y. offers.

    Reply
  4. Author icon Robert Trigaux

    Though married and early career workers in New York City, our lives have taken my wife and me elsewhere over the decades. But NYC remains a spiritual and intellectual cornerstone and we delight in spending time there when we can. We live in Virginia now and spent a long weekend in Manhattan in December of last year — unaware the pandemic would soon follow.
    On EVERY occasion we are in New York, we make sure to carve out generous time for the Met! Glorious pleasures and humbling beauty abound. The American Wing is always a must.
    See you again. Soon!

    Reply
  5. I am looking forward to my next visit and indulging in these aesthetic experiences. Every May I look forward to visiting NYC and spending time in the fashion exhibit and Book shop. I discovered The CDG , REI K. Exhibit Years ago and ended up purchasing a CDG shirt that looks like a Picasso or a Braque cubist shirt. It opened my eyes to the value of carefully crafted and responsibly sourced fashion that one can admire and hold on to infinitely. Forget fast fashion. I get so much joy just looking at that shirt . It truly embodies the “in between” theme of that exhibit. Thank you Met Museum.

    Reply
  6. Author icon Arlyn Gagnon, Director, Charles E, Gagnon Museum and Sculpture Garden, Rochester, MN

    Thank you for sharing Anerican art treasures that truly record our American history and inspire American artists to continue creating new treasures of our amazing history. My late husband and I visited and worked in NYC for the last fifty years casting his realistic bronze sculpture. Every weekend we looked forward to visiting our friends at the Met for joy and inspiration. We are honored to be a part of an American art heritage. and tradition that aproves the highest goals of inspirational fine art for present and future generations.

    Reply
  7. Author icon Arlyn Gagnon, Director, Charles E, Gagnon Museum and Sculpture Garden, Rochester, MN

    The American Wing of the Met was an inspiration to my late husband during his fifty creative years as a professional American sculptor. He cast his realistic bronze sculpture in NYC and we visited pur friends at the Met every weekend during work trips. It is a great pleasure to have an opportunity to visit fine American art and to have lived with a gifted American sculptor, who followed the tradition of creating American sculpture that inspires present and future generations. Thank your for giving hope and inspiration and joy through American art.

    Reply
  8. In these times of confinement and conflict: What better way to honor our nations history, by acknowledging the significant artistic accomplishments of its people.
    This is where the MET truly excels!
    THANK YOU and happy INDEPENDENCE DAY!!

    Reply
  9. What a beautiful, beautiful, treat. Never expecting to be able to peek into all that history! Thank you so very much. God Bless America!.

    Reply
  10. Author icon Heather Hacking Chalmers

    Twice I have visited the wonderful American Wing from my home in London, England. It continues to entrance me. It is an amazing space filled with great art. My very favorite is the lovely sculpture by Daniel Chester French of ‘The Angel of Death staying the hand of the sculptor’. It is beautifully executed and very moving, and by the artist who brilliantly sculpted the figure of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. From: Heather Hacking Chalmers, London.

    Reply
  11. Author icon Fortuna Calvo-Roth

    I have been visiting the Met since my arrival to New York in 1956. When my first child was born I took her first to MOMA because of its sculpture garden and art workshops for very young children. A year later I took her to the Met for the first time. This was before the museum undertook a major renovation that shed its ancient image. When I showed her Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein, then at the top of the stairs close to the front gallery, with an imposing Italian marble table, she looked at it and pronounced her sentence: “I prefer the goat”, meaning Picasso’s sculpture in MOMA. She still prefers it but my granddaughter, whose favorite museum used to be the Guggenheim, gladly accompanies me to the Met to see the current exhibits and always stops to admire the Vélez Blanco patio, the Costume Institute and the Lehman Wing. It is always a treat to visit the American Wing’s spacious sculpture court as well as the furniture galleries. Thank you for your Magazine in these trying times. I hope to return to the Museum soon and I am sorry the Breuer is closing its doors.

    Reply
  12. Author icon Alice Broughton

    It is so wonderful to be able to see inside the amethyst and to see some of its treasures! Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Author icon Alice Broughton

    My typing was ‘off’. I wanted to say how wonderful it is to see inside the Met and also to see a few if it’s treasures!

    Reply
  14. Usually I am at the museum once a month either for one of new exhibits or simply to walk thorough a favorite section. During the last few months I have missed seeing my “old friends” in the Rodin section and the European sections. I am looking forward to the day I can spend a Friday afternoon simply roaming the galleries and then go up to the mezzanine to listen to the evenings concert and enjoy a drink.

    Reply
  15. Author icon Paul F Schneider

    When I was a young boy growing up in Manhattan and going to grammar school a few blocks from the Met, one of my adventures was to try to get lost in the Museum. Never did, though. But what the ‘game’ did do was to take me thru the many exhibits offered. Sometimes I went down stairways to the most obscure.

    Seeing this web presentation brought back all the excitement of 50 plus years ago , seeing those new things (even those exhibits that later were shown not to be ‘real’…the Etruscan statues, I believe.) But one cannot underplay the adventure of going from Egypt, then to the Fashion district, then to Medieval Europe and ending in the American past….

    Reply

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