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Art of the Americas

The New Orleans Museum of Art’s permanent collection includes noteworthy works by American artists from the 18th Century to the present day. John Singleton Copley, represented at NOMA by his Portrait of Colonel George Watson, was the most skilled artist practicing in the American colonies before the Revolution. Benjamin West, a trend-setter in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, forecast both the Neo-Classic and Romantic movements in his paintings. Renowned portrait artists Charles Willson Peale, Thomas Sully and Gilbert Stuart are also represented with important works. A highlight of the collection is John Singer Sargent’s elegant Portrait of Mrs. Asher Wertheimer, painted in 1898.

NOMA’s collection of 20th century American art ranges from the Impressionism of Mary Cassatt to the modernism of Georgia O’Keeffe, from the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock to the dynamic and varied work of contemporary artists.

The Southwestern United States has been the homeland of indigenous peoples for more than 10,000 years. Over the millennia, drastic changes occurred in the natural environment, producing the semi-arid desert and mountainous terrain we know today. Important innovations introduced from Mexico made life in the harsh environment easier, particularly agriculture, weaving and ceramics.

By 1000 A.D., the population had increased and migrated to ceremonial and administrative centers where ambitious agricultural and building projects were focused. Painted pottery for ceremonial as well as utilitarian use became an important and abundant aesthetic medium. These great builders and artists are now commonly referred to as the Anasazi culture.

NOMA’s collection includes many fine examples of Native American art works from the Anasazi era through contemporary Pueblo peoples who are their descendants and the Northwestern Coast peoples of British Columbia.

pre-Columbian America
“pre-Columbian” refers to the many cultures that existed in the Americas from Mexico to Peru before the Spanish conquest in 1521. Highlighting the cultures of West Mexico, the Maya region, and Central America, the Museum’s collection introduces the viewer to the splendour and diversity of pre-Columbian artistic expression.

The varied environmental zones of Mesoamerica gave rise to numerous and diverse civilizations. Underlying this diversity, however, was a shared cultural co-tradition spread through trade and inter-colonization. Included in this common tradition were an accurate astronomical calendar, various religious and political concepts, and architectural and artistic trends.

Ceramic and stone sculptures seem most frequent, but painting, fresco, textile and metallurgy were all highly refined. The various pre-Columbian cultures all created objects with ritual or funerary purpose.

Colonial Latin America
In 1492, the first documented encounter between Europe and the Americas took place with the accidental arrival of Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus on the island of Hispaniola. This event initiated nearly four centuries of colonization in the Americas by various European powers. While the conquest of the Americas decimated the region’s indigenous population, a unique culture emerged which integrated elements from Europe, the Americas, and beyond.

The Spanish Crown colonized a large part of the American continent, which is now known as Latin America. As a result of the booming local economy, the cities of Colonial Spanish America—Lima, Cuzco, Bogotá, Quito, Potosí, and Sucre—developed into major centers of artistic production and trade. Each city had its own style, though certain design elements permeated every region of Spanish America. Colonial Latin American Art is characterized by its distinctive representation of Christian imagery, as well as ornate gilding and framing in the baroque style. Colonial Latin American art was largely produced by anonymous artists who were primarily mestizos, individuals of mixed indigenous and European descent.

NOMA houses an impressive collection Colonial Latin American art, hailing mainly from the Andean region. This collection includes several hallmarks of the Colonial Latin American artistic canon, such as an armed angel painting, several large-scale “statue” paintings of the Virgin Mary, polychrome sculpture, furniture, and silverwork.

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