This fall will find an especially large and rich display of new additions to the American art galleries. First among them is a landmark acquisition for the museum: Raphaelle Peale’s Still Life with Strawberries and Ostrich Egg Cup, painted in Philadelphia in the great age of Enlightenment, 1814. The painting is an armchair adventurer’s virtual tour of the world as the artist and his family saw it from their place in the cultural and scientific center of America, which Philadelphia was at this time. The still life brings together a silver mounted ostrich egg from Africa, a Chinese export porcelain cream pitcher, an Asian celadon bowl, and strawberries hybridized on the Peale family’s experimental farm.
SAM’s new Peale still life will join other American art masterworks, from John Singleton Copley’s great portrait of Silvester Gardiner, from 1772, to some of the finest impressionist paintings created on either side of the Atlantic at the end of the nineteenth century. Highlights include one of the earliest masterpieces of American landscape painting, Thomas Cole’s The Falls of the Kaaterskill, 1826; Winslow Homer’s haunting marine subject, Lost on the Grand Banks, of 1885, a view of impending disaster off the coast of Newfoundland; James McNeill Whistler’s elegant tonal study, Arrangement in Black No. 2—Portrait of Mrs. Louis Huth, done in 1872-73, shortly after the artist painted his famous mother, whose decorative portrait inspired this one; and Childe Hassam’s glorious The Room of Flowers, of 1894, the artist’s magnificent tribute to poet and gardener Celia Thaxter, his view of her blossom-filled parlor in which color appears to have exploded on the canvas. Three galleries will be devoted to masterworks—some familiar to regular visitors but many of them new on view.