Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.
— “America,” Walt Whitman, 1888
America, it is to thee,
Thou boasted land of liberty,—
It is to thee I raise my song,
Thou land of blood, and crime, and wrong.
— “America” (excerpt), James Monroe Whitfield, 1853
Walt Whitman, a White man, and James Monroe Whitfield, a Black man, renowned poets born only two years apart in the northeastern United States, experienced 19th-century America quite differently. Their poems about their country share a title and compositional similarities, but they diverge starkly in the perspectives they offer on the promise and reality of the American experiment, revealing a fundamental truth: There is no such thing as the American experience. America, as Whitman famously wrote, contains multitudes.
An era of discovery and innovation that witnessed the rapid and seemingly boundless expansion of America’s footprint and ambition, the 19th century was also a time of conflict and upheaval, brutality and inequality. Comprising paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and sculptures drawn from the Addison’s acclaimed collection of 19th-century American art, this exhibition offers critical insight into this transformative and contradictory century.
Regarding America presents perennial favorites by artists including Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Harriet Hosmer, George Inness, Eastman Johnson, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, Maurice Prendergast, and James McNeill Whistler alongside lesser-known works by under-recognized and unidentified artists.
This exhibition is generously supported by the Sidney R. Knafel Fund.
Related Exhibition Materials
Promise and Reality of the American Experiment Explored This April in Exhibitions of Contemporary and 19th-Century Art
See the works included in the exhibition
Virtual Tour by Dongcheng Han