Fact Sheet Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature and Culture”


Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature and Culture
March 20 – Aug. 16, 2020


“Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature and Culture” is the first exhibition to examine Humboldt's impact on five spheres of American cultural development: the visual arts, sciences, literature, politics and exploration, between 1804 and 1903. It centers on the fine arts as a lens through which to understand how deeply intertwined Humboldt’s ideas were with America’s emerging identity, grounded in an appreciation of nature. The exhibition includes more than 100 paintings, sculptures, maps and artifacts. Artworks by Albert Bierstadt, Karl Bodmer, George Catlin, Frederic Church, Eastman Johnson, Samuel F.B. Morse, Charles Willson Peale, John Rogers, William James Stillman and John Quincy Adams Ward, among others, will be on display. The exhibition also includes a fossilized mastodon skeleton, on loan from the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, that once was displayed in Peale’s Philadelphia museum in the early 19th century, to emphasize that natural history and natural monuments bond Humboldt with the United States. Eleanor Jones Harvey, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, organized the exhibition.


A major catalog, written by Harvey, will accompany the exhibition. It will be co-published by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Princeton University Press.


Friday, March 20, 2020, the museum will host a daylong symposium focused on Humboldt’s environmental legacy, bringing together artists, art historians and scientists to discuss Humboldtian perspectives on American identification with nature. Details will be available online at AmericanArt.si.edu/exhibitions/humboldt.

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Note to editors: Selected high-resolution images for publication only are available through the museum’s Dropbox account. Email AmericanArtPressOffice@si.edu to request the link.


About the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the flagship museum in the United States for American art and craft. It is home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. The museum’s main building, located at Eighth and G streets N.W., is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum’s Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check online for current hours and admission information. Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.

Press Images

A painting of a natural archway in rock.
Press - Humboldt

Frederic Edwin Church, The Natural Bridge, Virginia, 1852, oil on canvas, The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, Gift of Thomas Fortune Ryan