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Self-Taught Painters In America 1800-1950: Revisiting the Tradition    Jan 11 - Apr 2, 2011

Greek Revival Interior
Greek Revival Interior, circa 1830
John Kane and His Wife
John Kane
John Kane and His Wife, circa 1928
Portrait of a Lady Holding Her Glasses
Ammi Phillips
Portrait of a Lady Holding Her Glasses, 1850
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SELF-TAUGHT PAINTERS IN AMERICA 1800-1950: Revisiting the Tradition
January 11 – April 2, 2011

Press Release
Since the work of self-taught painters began to be seriously collected in the early 20th century, the genre has been approached and defined in many different ways. Some valued the material chiefly for its historical significance, others more for its aesthetic quality. To some, folk art represented communal values, uniting a diverse nation. Others, conversely, believed the work celebrated iconoclastic individualism. Arguments raged about the extent to which self-taught artists might legitimately be influenced by preexisting artistic traditions. Were all of them, in fact, truly “self-taught”? The addition of “Outsider” artists to the field in the late 20th century further complicated matters. How, after all, do we separate the “Outsiders” from the “insiders,” and folk art from “high” art, in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world?

SELF-TAUGHT PAINTERS IN AMERICA 1800-1950: Revisiting the Tradition takes a fresh look at the shifting contexts that shaped both the work of America’s self-taught painters and our approach to that work. Featuring major loans from the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont, the exhibition traces the work of self-taught American artists from the early-nineteenth-century heyday of the “limner” (itinerant portrait painter) to the modern era. Included are over fifty paintings by Erastus Salisbury Field, Edward Hicks, Morris Hirshfield, John Kane, Grandma Moses, Ammi Phillips and others. Supplementary materials, such as Currier and Ives lithographs, show how folk painters used preexisting sources to develop original compositional approaches.

On view at the Galerie St. Etienne from January 11 to April 2, 2011, SELF-TAUGHT PAINTERS IN AMERICA 1800-1950: Revisiting the Tradition overlaps with The American Antiques Show (Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, New York City, January 20 – 23). A complementary exhibition, Grandma Moses and the “Primitive” Tradition in America, will take place at the Bennington Museum from June 11 through October 30, 2011.

SELF-TAUGHT PAINTERS IN AMERICA 1800-1950: Revisiting the Tradition is accompanied by a detailed checklist containing a scholarly essay by Galerie St. Etienne Co-Director Jane Kallir, which is available free of charge by mail, or may be viewed on our website:

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