Celebrate American Art: 10 Must-Sees in NOMA’s Collection

American art is as diverse as the nation itself. NOMA’s collection spans the country’s historical evolution and diverse ethnicities, from pre-Columbian Native American tribal art to cutting-edge contemporary works that express the freedom of unbound creativity. NOMA will be open on the Fourth of July with special hours from noon to 5 p.m.We invite you to celebrate the full breadth of the American experience year-round and particularly on this patriotic holiday. Listed here are ten must-sees spread throughout our galleries.

10. Ralston Crawford, Wharf Objects, 1947
Crawford’s painting puts the “sea” in “from sea to shining sea” with this scene from Santa Barbara, California. Documenting the industrial side of maritime life with his introspective and dynamic work, Crawford claimed that “the ocean is simply better than the mountains or desert or these other fine things that feed the soul.”

9. Asher Brown Durand, Forenoon, 1847
As one of the first American painters to paint en plein air (“directly on the spot”), Durand encouraged his art students to “go first to nature” and often lugged large, heavy canvases and paints into remote forests to capture the scenery. Durand’s naturalism and emphasis on landscapes encapsulated the ideals of the soon-to-be-known Hudson River Valley School.

Asher Brown Durand, Forenoon, 1847, Oil on canvas, Gift of Fine Arts Club of New Orleans, 16.4

8. Louis Comfort Tiffany, “Pond Lily” Table Lamp, c. 1900-1910
Made of gilt bronze and Tiffany’s own “Favrile” glass, the “Pond Lily” Table Lamp was the most popular of all Tiffany lamps. Following in the Art Noveau style of natural forms and structures, the lamp features a graceful cluster of drooping lilies growing out of a pond.

7. Plains Peoples, Beaded Panel (Blanket Strip), c. 1830
Crafted by Native Americans of the Upper Missouri River Valley out of glass beads, buffalo hide, and sinew, this design by the Mandan or Arikara people adorned a robe. Only four of these panels are known to exist, and this example at NOMA is the only one available to the public.

6. David Smith, Amusement Park, 1938
Whimsical and full of movement, Smith’s sculpture of a roller coaster evokes memories of a summery boardwalk amusement park. This welded steel piece lent a more organic and creative approach to the medium, which was previously practiced by pouring molten metal into pre-fabricated molds.

5. John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Mrs. Asher B. Wertheimer, 1898
One of the most in-demand portraitists of the Gilded Age, John Singer Sargent’s emotive talent won him portrait commissions from some of the wealthiest and most famous people of his time, including Robert Lewis Stevenson, Theodore Roosevelt, and John D. Rockefeller. Sargent painted twelve portraits of Wertheimer family members beginning in 1898, his largest commission. So immersed was he with the family, Singer joked that he was in a state of “chronic Wertheimerism.”

John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Mrs. Asher B. Wertheimer, 1898, Oil on canvas, Museum purchase in memory of William H. Henderson, 78.3

4. Claude Clark, The Javelin, 1942
Playing a pivotal role in African American art as both an artist and educator, Claude Clark developed the first curriculum for a college-level African American studies course and organized early exhibitions of African American contemporary art. The Javelin, as well as many of Clark’s works, emphasizes strength, purpose, and a sense of pride in heritage by incorporating African techniques into the art.

Claude Clark, The Javelin, 1942, Oil on canvas

3. Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, 1975
Best known for his appropriations of American pop culture, Warhol’s moody portrait of the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger uses the same bright colors as other pop art images of the time. Using printmaking as his medium, Warhol’s art had the same mass-produced and commercial look as his subjects. Though a native of England, born in 1943 in Kent and knighted in 2003, Jagger holds dual citizenship in the United States.

Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, 1975, Acrylic on canvas, Gift of Tina Freeman, 81.335

2. Gilbert Stuart, George Washington, c. 1800 & Colonial Furniture, c. 1750-1774
Early American writer John Neal wrote, “The only idea we have of Washington is Stuart’s Washington,” and this would prove to be true: Gilbert Stuart’s portrait is one of the most mass-produced and recognizable paintings of the lauded general and America’s first president—even serving as the basis for the image on the one dollar bill. The Washington portrait is part of a newly reimagined permanent exhibition at NOMA that blends fine art with furniture, glass, silver, porcelains, and china in a historical timeline of decorative arts.

Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828), George Washington, c. 1800, Oil on canvas, Gift of Francis Weis Pick in memory of her father, Mr. Samuel R. Weis, 56.15

1. Will Ryman, America, 2013
This large-scale gold-painted log cabin assembled on the second floor of the museum evokes the humble pioneer boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln. The interior features a kaleidoscopic assemblage of items representing the industries and economies that built the United States. Built as a chronicle of capitalism in America, this structure features everything from cigarettes to coal and cotton to candy—all painted a luminous shade of gold. Artist Will Ryman describes the large-scale sculpture in this video:

—Katelyn Fecteau, Editorial Intern