YUAG shows America’s birth

The “We the People” exhibition will be on view at the Yale University Art Gallery through the end of the year.
The “We the People” exhibition will be on view at the Yale University Art Gallery through the end of the year. Photo by Yale University Art Gallery.

If a picture can tell 1,000 words, then the exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery recounts a lengthy, detailed history of America’s early development.

“We the People” — the first installation of the three-part exhibition “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” — is on view at the gallery after a three year tour around the country. Before returning to Yale, the exhibition was on view in Louisville, Ky. Seattle, Wash. and Birmingham, Ala.

Drawing upon the Gallery’s renowned collection of American arts, the exhibition chronicles vignettes of American history from the arrival of the first English settlers in Jamestown. The show has more than 100 works of art — featuring a mixture of painting, sculpture, decorative art, coins, medals and works on paper — ranging from family portraits to scenes of the Civil War. Together, they allow an intimate view into the reality of American life up to the late 19th century.

“Our hope is to do more than display the masterpieces of the American collection,” said Patricia Kane, the Friends of American Arts Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Gallery. “We want to present works that span several collections, side by side, allowing the visitor to see the objects in a cultural context.”

The installation is split into three parts: “Expressions of Heritage,” “Citizenship and Democracy” and “Class, Race, and Conflict,” which showcase the different transformative powers of American art starting from colonial influences and expanding to the later incorporation of indigenous motifs.

“I thought that the exhibition was really interesting,” said Marie Smith, a visitor from Boston who had come to see the exhibition. “I think that it had some great pieces that show how America came to be and the way that patriotism affected not just the public lives of Americans but also their personal lives.”

“We the People” has been on view since July 29 and will be on view until Dec. 31. The other two installations of the three-part series, called “Defining the Nation” and “American Rising,” will be put on view later this year.

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