Power and Posterity: American Art at Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exhibition by Kimberly OrcuttPower and Posterity: American Art at Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exhibition by Kimberly Orcutt

Power and Posterity: American Art at Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exhibition

byKimberly Orcutt

Hardcover | December 12, 2017

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A milestone in American cultural history, the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia was one of the most broadly shared, heavily attended, and thoroughly documented public experiences of the nineteenth century. Power and Posterity illuminates how the art featured in the celebration informed and reflected national debates over the country’s identity and its role in the world.

The Centennial’s fine arts display, which included both a government-sanctioned selection of American works and significant contributions from sixteen other countries, spurred a transformation in the American art world. Drawing from official records, published criticism, guidebooks, poems, and satire, Kimberly Orcutt provides a nuanced, in-depth study of the exhibition. She considers the circumstances of the artworks’ creation, the ideological positions expressed through their installation, and the responses of critics, collectors, and the general public as they evolved from antebellum nationalism to a postwar cosmopolitanism in which artists and collectors took the international stage. Orcutt reveals how the fair democratized the fine arts, gave art criticism newfound reach and authority, and led art museums to proliferate across the country.

Deeply researched, thoughtfully written, and featuring a mix of more than eighty full-color and black-and-white illustrations, this thorough and insightful book will appeal to those interested in American culture and history, the art world, and world’s fairs and exhibitions in Philadelphia and beyond.

Kimberly Orcutt is Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art at the Brooklyn Museum.Kimberly Orcutt is Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art at the Brooklyn Museum.
Title:Power and Posterity: American Art at Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial ExhibitionFormat:HardcoverDimensions:296 pages, 10 × 9 × 1.07 inPublished:December 12, 2017Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271078367

ISBN - 13:9780271078366

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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations


Introduction Writing History: A National Reckoning in Fairmount Park

Part 1 Artists: Shaping the Exhibition

Chapter 1 Confrontation in Philadelphia: Artists Create a Canon of American Art

Chapter 2 The American Art Exhibition: Arguments on the Walls

Part 2 Viewers and Critics: Responses to the Exhibition

Chapter 3 Experiencing the Nation’s First Blockbuster Exhibition

Chapter 4 Critics’ Responses: American Progress and Imaginary Exhibitions

Part 3 Buyers and Sellers: Defining a New Art Market

Chapter 5 The Foreign Exhibitors and the American “Taste Test”

Chapter 6 The Collectors’ Riposte: The New York Centennial Loan Exhibition

Conclusion Rewriting History: The Awards Controversy and the Afterlives of the Centennial Exhibition

Appendix: Committees and Awards





Editorial Reviews

“Power and Posterity is the first study to investigate in depth the planning and staging of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, as well as the full range of official, popular, and private responses to this widely attended and well-publicized event. Orcutt has orchestrated these accounts into an absorbing analysis of the ongoing critical debate over nationalism versus internationalism that reflected changes in American taste and culture.”—Linda Ferber, Senior Art Historian and Museum Director Emerita, New-York Historical Society