Peer into our past at Vassar’s “American Stories” exhibition

Ben Shahn, American, 1898-1969, Puddler’s Sunday, 1937, tempera on board, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Hackett (Frances Goodrich, class of 1912)

Modfest, Vassar College’s annual campuswide extravaganza celebrating the contemporary arts, will be getting underway this week, with a fortnight’s worth of exhibits and performances spotlighting recent works by students, alumni and faculty. All sorts of interesting events will be on offer from January 28 to February 12, from a master class in cabaret technique and a lecture on the value of music programs in prisons to a show of 20th-century Caribbean works-on-paper and a live demonstration of the art of literary translation. Many of them offer free admission. You can get the whole Modfest schedule in detail at

Kicking off the whole shebang is the opening of the latest big exhibition at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center: “American Stories 1800-1950,” a sweeping exploration of American portraits, landscapes and narrative paintings from the museum’s permanent collection. Many of them are rarely exhibited, and some come from the large private collection of Elias Lyman Magoon that formed the Founding Collection for the Art Center when Vassar bought more than 300 paintings from Magoon in 1864.

Curated by Lehman Loeb director James Mundy, “American Stories” consists of 59 works, organized in three sections: People, Places and Moments. The show includes works by William H. Beard, Milton Bellin, William Merritt Chase, John Singleton Copley, Minna Citron, Andrew Michael Dasburg, Arthur B. Davies, Arthur Dove, Charles Loring Elliott, Sanford Gifford, Charles Webster Hawthorne, Robert Henri, Stefan Hirsch, George Inness, Samuel Isham, Ernest Lawson, Tompkins Matteson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Maxfield Parrish, Ben Shahn and Benjamin West. Landscapes include works by such lesser-known Hudson River School painters as Samuel W. Griggs, Louis Remy Mignot, Aaron Draper Shattuck and Henry A. Ferguson, in addition to later Impressionists such as Ernest Lawson and Daniel Garber. Four works by C. K. Chatterton, the second professor of painting at Vassar, are also included.

(Detail) John Singleton Copley, American, 1738-1815, Portrait of a Man, 1781, oil on canvas, purchase, Pratt Fund, Friends of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Fund, and Francis Woolsey and Helen Silkman Bronson, class of 1924, Fund

“American Stories 1800-1950” will be on view from Friday, January 29 to Sunday, April 17 during regular gallery hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The official “opening” reception in the Art Center’s Atrium will follow a lecture on Friday, February 12 by Vassar alumna Anna O. Marley, curator of historical American art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Titled “Exhibiting America: Art Institutions and National Identity 1805-1913,” the talk will take place at 5:30 p.m. in Room 203 of Taylor Hall.

On Thursday, March 3 at 4 p.m., curator James Mundy will lead an informal discussion of the exhibition as he guides you around the gallery. Sunday, April 10 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. is Family Day at the Lehman Loeb. Hands-on art activities geared toward kids aged 5 to 10, making use of several different media and reflecting the themes of People, Places and Moments from the “American Stories” exhibition, will be offered throughout the afternoon, along with child-friendly interactive “mini-tours” of the galleries. The program is free and no reservations are required; participants can drop in at any time.

The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is located at the entrance to the Vassar College campus at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie. Admission is free, and all galleries are wheelchair- accessible. For additional information, call (845) 437-5632 or visit

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