Past Exhibitions


This is a US government bonds poster with a man carrying an American flag
Over the Top: American Posters from World War I
Over the Top: American Posters from World War I features 44 war bond posters, focusing on the four Liberty Loan campaigns, the War Savings Stamp program, the Victory Loan and support for the Red Cross. These persuasive images, with bold graphics and concise commands, encouraged citizens to support the troops, contribute to the Red Cross and buy bonds to finance America's participation in the war. The posters, selected from the collection of Thomas and Edward Pulling, are a fascinating window into the American experience in the early twentieth century. Joann Moser, senior curator for graphic arts, is the exhibition curator.
October 25, 2007February 3, 2008
This is an embroidered wool quilt with red color tones and four circles.
Going West! Quilts and Community
Going West! Quilts and Community reveals the essential role that quilts and the making of quilts played in the lives of women on the frontier. The exhibition features 50 quilts from the first quarter of the nineteenth century to the 1930s—on loan from historical societies and museums in Nebraska—that were brought on the journey as cherished memories or made once women established homes on the prairie. Going West! includes a wide variety of quilts, from the familiar log cabin and lone star patterns to variations of the fan and wagon wheel to crazy quilts, doll and children’s quilts and community signature works. Each quilt reveals the extraordinary creativity of the individuals who made them and help to tell the stories of Americans who forged west and of the country's pioneering spirit.
October 4, 2007January 21, 2008
Media - 2002.46 - SAAM-2002.46_1 - 61332
Celebrating the Lucelia Artist Award, 2001 – 2006
The Lucelia Artist Award, established in 2001, has been an important new initiative at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The award annually recognizes an exceptional American artist younger than 50. The recipient is selected by a distinguished panel of jurors who nominate artists whose work they consider emblematic of this period in contemporary art.
September 20, 2007June 21, 2008
Kindred spirits
Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape
Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape brings together 57 of the most beautiful and famous American landscape paintings of the nineteenth century, including Durand’s iconic work Kindred Spirits (1849). It is the first monographic exhibition devoted to the artist’s career in more than 35 years. New research and new approaches to the study of art history prompted this fresh look at Durand’s contribution to American art. Linda S. Ferber, vice president and director of the museum division of the New-York Historical Society, organized the exhibition; Eleanor Harvey, the museum's chief curator, is the coordinating curator in Washington.
September 13, 2007January 6, 2008
Media - 1988.64 - SAAM-1988.64_1 - 10526
Earl Cunningham’s America
"Earl Cunningham's America" examines the paintings of Earl Cunningham (1893–1977), one of the premier folk artists of the 20th century. This retrospective presents the artist as a folk modernist who used the flat space and brilliant color typical of Matisse and Van Gogh to create sophisticated compositions with complex meanings about the nature of American life.
August 9, 2007November 3, 2007
Media - 2001.79.28 - SAAM-2001.79.28_1 - 53686
The Prints of Sean Scully
"The Prints of Sean Scully" presents for the first time at the museum a selection of 57 works from a master set of prints that was acquired in 2001. Scully chose the Smithsonian American Art Museum as the only museum in the Unites States to receive a complete master set. The artist's prints range from large-scale, monumental compositions reminiscent of the paintings to smaller, more intimate expressions of the artist's ideas. Although certain themes recur in both his paintings and prints, Scully considers them independent and complementary. Joann Moser, senior curator for graphic arts, selected the prints and illustrated books featured in the exhibition.
May 17, 2007October 7, 2007
Oil on canvas of a mirrored imaged with three semi circles and two red vertical lines in the middle.
Variations on America: Masterworks from American Art Forum Collections
"Variations on America: Masterworks from American Art Forum Collections" celebrates the vision and passion of private collectors who are formally affiliated with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibition presents 72 major artworks, several of which are rarely on public display, from 26 distinguished private collections by some of America's most talented and cherished artists, including John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keeffe. Chief curator Eleanor Harvey and deputy chief curator George Gurney are the curators of the exhibition.
April 12, 2007July 28, 2007
A perspective drawing of a city and the landscape in the background.
Saul Steinberg: Illuminations
Saul Steinberg (1914–1999) was famous worldwide for giving graphic definition to the postwar age through a dozen books of drawings and hundreds of incisive illustrations for the New Yorker and other periodicals. His work is intensely personal, humorous and sharply observant of 20th-century life. Joel Smith, curator of photographs at the Princeton University Art Museum, selected the approximately 120 works on paper and board, paintings, sculpture and other objects featured in the exhibition.
April 5, 2007June 23, 2007
hand sculpted and blown glass arranged on a table.
From the Ground Up: Renwick Craft Invitational 2007
The 2007 "Renwick Craft Invitational," a biennial exhibition series at the Renwick Gallery established in 2000 to honor the creativity and talent of craft artists working today, will feature glass artist Paula Bartron, paper artist Jocelyn Châteauvert, glass artist Beth Lipman and ceramicist Beth Cavener Stichter. The artists were chosen by Susanne Frantz, independent curator and former curator of 20th-century glass at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York; Lloyd Herman, independent curator and founding director of the Renwick Gallery; and Jane Milosch, curator at the Renwick Gallery. Milosch is the exhibition curator.
March 9, 2007July 21, 2007
Media - 1999.97.21 - SAAM-1999.97.21_1 - 55836
Eadweard Muybridge: The Central American Journey
Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904), a preeminent landscape photographer who is best known for his stop-action photographs of humans and animals in motion, traveled to South America in 1875 for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. While in Panama and Guatemala, he photographed contemporary life as well as scenic ruins and the extensive plantations for the emerging coffee industry. The exhibition will feature more than 60 photographs from Muybridge's Central American trips. Many of these photographs from the museum's permanent collection will be presented for this first time.
February 2, 2007April 28, 2007


Media - 2002.58.35 - SAAM-2002.58.35_1 - 55027
Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination
Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination is a landmark exhibition that expands the critical and public appreciation of Cornell as a modern American master. This major retrospective, the first in more than 25 years, presents new insights into Cornell's career, illuminating the richness of the themes he explored across all media. The exhibition features 177 of Cornell's finest box constructions, collages, dossiers, films and graphic designs, as well as an array of source materials from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Joseph Cornell Study Center.
November 17, 2006February 19, 2007
Media - 1929.6.56 - SAAM-1929.6.56_1 - 52026
An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection
The exhibition is the first time this remarkable collection has been on display in Washington, D.C. Marie and Hugh Halff, who live in San Antonio, acquired these masterpieces during the past 20 years. In addition to reflecting the Halff's keen eye for the finest artworks from this period, the collection also is noteworthy for illustrating the consistency of their vision. The paintings in the collection are linked through a shared sensibility about American cultural aspirations at the turn of the century.
November 3, 2006February 4, 2007
Media - 2003.55 - SAAM-2003.55_3 - 62431
Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor
Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor is a comprehensive retrospective that positions Duckworth within the modernist movement and provides an overdue assessment of her contributions to the contemporary art world. The traveling exhibition will feature approximately 80 ceramic works including wall reliefs, freestanding sculpture and sculptural vessels.
August 31, 2006January 15, 2007
American ABC: Childhood in 19th-Century America
"American ABC" demonstrates how portrayals of the nation's youngest citizens took on an important symbolic role in the United States’ long journey toward maturity and provides a window into the everyday life of the period—the world of families, children's pastimes and the routines of the schoolhouse. Claire Perry, curator of American art at the Cantor Arts Center, is the curator. The exhibition's presentation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum also will include artworks from its permanent collection. Paintings by George Catlin and several sculptures, including works by Thomas Crawford, Harriet Hosmer and William Henry Rinehart among others, will be included at this venue only. Programs and activities for children will take place in a re-creation of a 19th-century schoolroom that is based on depictions by Winslow Homer.
June 30, 2006September 16, 2006
Media - 1991.94.1 - SAAM-1991.94.1_1 - 11231
William Wegman-Funney/Strange
William Wegman (b. 1943) is beloved by the public and held in critical esteem by the international art world for his smart, gently subversive humor that parodies all things familiar. ""William Wegman—Funney/Strange"" is the first in-depth look at the artist in 15 years and examines his work in all media from the 1960s to the present. The exhibition will feature approximately 200 photographs, works on paper, paintings, conceptual work, videos, writings and rare archival materials. Several surprising new bodies of work will be seen in relation to classics, such as the photographs of his weimaraners. Trevor Fairbrother, independent curator and scholar, is the guest curator.
June 30, 2006September 23, 2006
Media - 1971.126 - SAAM-1971.126_1 - 55624
William H. Johnson’s World on Paper
The Smithsonian American Art Museum holds the largest and most complete collection of work by the African American modernist William H. Johnson (1901–1970) and has done much in the past 30 years to preserve his art and establish his reputation. "William H. Johnson's World on Paper" thoroughly examines, for the first time, the artist's involvement with printmaking. Now, these never-before-exhibited prints by the artist reveal him to be as powerful with graphic media as with oils and tempera. Johnson's distinctive work uses bold compositions and bright colors, and his woodcuts are strongly influenced by German Expressionist art. Joann Moser, the museum's senior curator for graphic arts, selected the more than 40 prints from the permanent collection. An expanded version of the exhibition traveled to three venues in 2007.
June 30, 2006January 7, 2007
A painting of a white church in the woods
Passing Time: The Art of William Christenberry
William Christenberry (b. 1936) looks for the spirit of Southern culture in the landscape and architecture of rural Alabama. Drawing upon his formal training, family traditions and a lasting relationship with his native home in Hale County, Christenberry has spent the last 50 years creating a remarkable body of work that is an exploration of all aspects of life and experience. This installation—not a retrospective, but a survey of past and present work, some seen here for the first time—includes more than 60 of Christenberry's photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures and building constructions. Though his work is inspired by the American South, Christenberry's overall themes are universal, touching on family, culture, nature and the spiritual. His artworks are poetic assessments of a sense of place, landscape, aging, memory and the passing of time. Christenberry, who teaches at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, selected the works included; the exhibition complements the adjoining installation of folk art, also selected by Christenberry, from the museum's permanent collection.
June 30, 2006July 7, 2007
An image of the Patent Office Building from 1846
Temple of Invention: History of a National Landmark
This exhibition honors the completion of the building's glorious renovation and marks the 170th anniversary of President Andrew Jackson signing legislation that authorized the building's construction. Begun in 1836 and completed in 1868, it was the third public building constructed by the new nation in its capital city. This landmark was praised by Walt Whitman as the "noblest of Washington buildings" and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States.
June 30, 2006January 21, 2008
An image of a woman and a man with a house behind them. The man is holding a rake.
Grant Wood’s Studio: Birthplace of American Gothic”
"Grant Wood's Studio: Birthplace of 'American Gothic'" presents his decorative art and design work within the larger context of his paintings, drawings and prints for the first time. 'American Gothic'—one of the most recognizable American paintings—is featured in the exhibition through June 11. The Art Institute of Chicago, which owns 'American Gothic,' rarely lends the painting, so this is an exceptional chance to see the painting in the nation's capital.
March 10, 2006July 15, 2006


Media - 1985.66.12 - SAAM-1985.66.12_2 - 136319
George Catlin’s Indian Gallery
George Catlin's Indian Gallery is hung in the Grand Salon on the second floor of the Renwick Gallery in a way that recalls the Indian Gallery as Catlin displayed it during his tours in Europe. This installation features several hundred portraits, landscapes and scenes of American Indian life. Catlin, a lawyer turned painter, visited fifty tribes living west of the Mississippi River from present day North Dakota to Oklahoma from 1830 to 1836 to record the ""manners and customs"" of Native Americans. These paintings—drawn from the nearly complete surviving set of Catlin's first Indian Gallery painted in the 1830s—are considered an authentic record of early Plains Indian culture and one of the most important collections at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
November 24, 2005April 25, 2009
This is an image of a silver cocktail shaker
Modernism in American Silver: 20th-Century Design
"Modernism in American Silver: 20th-Century Design" highlights more than 200 outstanding works, from art moderne to contemporary, by the foremost designers of production silver. Widely recognized figures such as Eliel Saarinen, Erik Magnussen, Robert Venturi, Michael Graves, Elsa Peretti and Richard Meier are among the featured designers. The exhibition's primary aim is to chart the stylistic design history of modern American production-line silver from 1925 to 2000, and to reintroduce to the public the many designers working in the industry. ""Modernism in American Silver"" will provide a rich understanding of not only American silver design, but also its relationship to various movements and styles. Many of the works included in the exhibition are from the Dallas Museum of Art's Jewel Stern American Silver Collection which includes over 400 examples of modernist silver.
September 15, 2005January 22, 2006
High Fiber
High Fiber illustrates the diversity of contemporary art created with fiber and presents many of the important milestones of the American fiber art movement, from the mid 20th century when artists began to explore fibers fully as an expressive medium to the present. The exhibition includes a variety of objects—quilts, baskets, tapestry, and sculpture among others—by artists such as Anni Albers, Lia Cook, Ed Rossbach, Jon Eric Riis, and Claire Ziesler. "High Fiber" is the fifth exhibition in a series that surveys the Smithsonian American Art Museum's craft collection by specific medium or craft category.
March 11, 2005July 9, 2005


Media - 1992.115 - SAAM-1992.115_1 - 11618
Right at Home: American Studio Furniture
From elegant and streamlined to bright and bold, the designs in "Right at Home: American Studio Furniture" highlight the originality, craftsmanship and personalities of studio furniture artists. Drawn from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's permanent collection, this exhibition includes both functional works and purely sculptural pieces, with most created from 1990 to the present. The hallmarks of studio furniture include one-of-a-kind pieces for the home created in small-scale shops. These custom-designed pieces range in conception and style from the graceful furniture of Sam Maloof to the vivid, garishly colorful works of Richard Ford. Other artists included in this exhibition are Wendell Castle, John Cederquist, Stephen Courtney, Jacob Cress, Alphonse Mattia, Kim Schmahmann and Rosanne Somerson. "Right at Home" is the fourth exhibition in a series that surveys the craft collection of the museum by specific medium or craft category.
April 2, 2004January 23, 2005
Media - 1929.6.112 - SAAM-1929.6.112_2 - 134259
Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Several hundred of the museum's greatest treasures by artists such as John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer and Childe Hassam are on view in the Grand Salon at its Renwick Gallery while renovations continue at the museum’s historic main building. This striking new selection of more than 185 works are hung salon-style, one-atop-another and side-by-side to re-create the elegant setting of a 19th-century collector's picture gallery. Drawn primarily from the museum's large collection of 19th-century painting, the works were selected from four strengths in the museum's permanent collection: Colonial and Federal artworks, American impressionism, Gilded Age treasures and art of the Western frontier including the Taos School. This installation includes a suite of three stunning views of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon by Thomas Moran, two on long-term loan from the U. S. Department of the Interior, which inspired Congress to establish Yellowstone as the nation's first national park.
February 27, 2004October 22, 2005


This is a white necklace that is curved in the shape of a snake.
The Jewelry of Robert Ebendorf: A Retrospective of Forty Years
This retrospective gathers 40 years of jewelry and sculpture by Robert Ebendorf, a major American artist in metal. Surveying 95 pieces, this exhibition chronicles significant shifts in jewelry during the last half of the 20th century. Ebendorf uses found materials—crab claws, sea glass, plastic, paper—and recycles industrially produced objects—keys, buttons, beer bottle caps, washers, wire mesh, tubing—to create dynamic, sometimes highly eccentric jewelry. His work counters cultural preconceptions about jewelry as the stuff of costly gemstones and precious metals, and leads to a new definition of this form.
September 25, 2003January 19, 2004
This is a brooch that looks like an orange and yellow octopus.
Jewels & Gems
The individualistic and groundbreaking jewelry designs in "Jewels & Gems" highlight the spirit, wit and ingenuity of American studio jewelry artists. Conceptions range from the beautiful and exquisitely crafted to the anti-jewelry aesthetic embodied by intentional roughness or the use of ordinary materials. "Jewels & Gems" features 131 one-of-a-kind objects from the 1960s to the present. This exhibition is the third in a series that surveys the Smithsonian American Art Museum's craft collection by medium. It follows the success of "Glass! Glorious Glass!" and "USA Clay."
September 25, 2003February 8, 2004
Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) is famous for his innovative architecture; less well known are his designs for decorative windows. “Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright,” looks at 48 stained glass windows by this icon of American architecture. This definitive presentation also includes two architectural models and 13 original plates from two of Wright’s portfolios. Wright’s “light screens,” as he called them, were specific to the structures for which they were designed. Of the windows featured, many are being shown to the public for the first time and nearly half are drawn from private collections throughout North America. Other loans were made possible by several restoration projects at major Wright buildings requiring the temporary removal of the delicate glass panes.
March 14, 2003July 19, 2003


Media - 1985.66.149 - SAAM-1985.66.149_2 - 133404
George Catlin and His Indian Gallery
George Catlin and His Indian Gallery celebrates a crown jewel in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's collection—the nearly complete surviving set of Catlin's first Indian Gallery painted in the 1830s. It is the most comprehensive display of Catlin’s work in more than a century and includes artifacts Catlin collected while in Plains Indian country. This exhibition is more than just the story of a single artist; it speaks to the encounter of two cultures in North America. Deputy Chief Curator George Gurney organized the exhibition.
September 5, 2002January 20, 2003