"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 illustrious history of the American art galleries at the Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has collected major works of American art since opening its doors in 1870. A dedicated, separate “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 and the enclosed Charles Engelhard Court (below) were added, joining it 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.  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 was 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

In 2012, after an extensive renovation, the American Wing was yet again reconfigured with 26 expanded and elegant 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, which 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 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

Another American Wing favorite 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, 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!

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