The Figge Art Museum presents “American Artists' Self-Portraits Then & Now" -- February 25.

Thursday, February 25, 5 p.m.

Presented by the Figge Art Museum

The fascinating role of portraiture throughout art history will be the subject of a virtual Figge Art Museum presentation on February 25, with American Artists' Self-Portraits Then & Now serving as a companion event – one hosted by recently retired Chief Curator Emerita Brandon Brame Fortune of the National Portrait Gallery – to the Figge's eagerly awaited exhibition For America: 200 Years of Painting from the National Academy of Design.

Presenting nearly 100 artworks spanning over 200 years from 1809 to 2013, For America features must-see masterpieces by revered American artists such as William Merritt Chase, John Singer Sargent, Cecilia Beaux, Charles White, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and many others. The exhibition presents a unique history of American art as seen through the lens of artists. Exploring how these individuals have represented themselves and their country over time, the exhibition is a striking portrait of broadening diversity throughout the country’s history. “This is an incredible exhibition that explores our commonalities as well as our differences,” said Michelle Hargrave, the museum’s executive director and CEO. “It’s also an exceptional opportunity for dialogue and connection about what we all have in common: our country.”

The exhibition highlights shifts in figurative painting over the course of the last two centuries, revealing how individual artists balance subjectivity and objectivity. This framework offers viewers an intimate look into the minds of the artists while exploring a question that human beings have long wrestled with: How do we perceive ourselves and the world in which we live?

“This is an unprecedented look at the history of American painting – written by its makers,” said Hargrave. “We’ve never seen anything like this before, and we’re honored to be hosting such an extraordinary exhibition at the Figge. At a time when Americans are reflecting on all that unites us, this exhibition offers a glimpse into the lessons of the past that we can carry into the future with greater perspective.”

For America is organized into five sections, each reflecting continuing shifts in society, culture, and the state of art during the 19th- and 20th-centuries. The works on display encourage viewers to explore the joys and hardships of American life through diverse artistic perspectives – ranging from Paul Sample’s painting of the unemployed during The Great Depression, to the expressively painted Snake Dance by Native American artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. And at its heart, For America urges viewers to see and appreciate the world through the eyes of others – in true American spirit – particularly as diversity has increased among the National Academy’s body of artist and architect Academicians. Expressing the message that despite our differences, we’re all Americans, the exhibition is an effective display of unity that proves the healing power of art.

Brandon Brame Fortune's virtual presentation of American Artists' Self-Portraits Then & Now is free, but advance registration is required, and participants will receive an e-mail with a Zoom link two hours before the program begins at 5 p.m. on February 25. For America: 200 Years of Painting from the National Academy of Design will be on display through May 16, and more information on the exhibit and its companion event is available by calling (563)326-7804 and visiting FiggeArtMuseum.org.

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