The Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America

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Revisiting America: The Prints of Currier & Ives

October 27, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

About this event

Revisiting America: The Prints of Currier & Ives is an exhibition of 65 lithographs by the legendary New York firm, now on view at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Site curator Amy Kurtz Lansing will offer a virtual tour of the exhibition, organized by the Joslyn Art Museum from a collection of over 600 Currier & Ives prints donated by Conagra Brands.

Currier & Ives was a powerhouse of nineteenth-century publishing and had an immeasurable influence on American visual culture. Founded in New York in 1834 by Nathaniel Currier, the company expanded to include a new partner, James Merritt Ives, after 1857. Currier & Ives, through a stable of talented artists that included Frances Palmer, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, and Louis Maurer, produced millions of affordably priced copies of over seven thousand original lithographs, living up to its self-appointed title as “the Grand Central Depot for Cheap and Popular Prints.” The firm took advantage of New York City’s booming arts culture in the latter half of the nineteenth century, but its output was not seen as fine art by critics, nor was it intended as such. Its prints were first and foremost commodities, and the choice of subjects was often determined by popularity and sales figures. Currier & Ives perpetuated Victorian ideals in its depictions of family, history, politics, and urban and suburban life—concepts that persist today partly as a result of the wide distribution of their images. Yet these prints also serve as important records of a nation in the midst of an extraordinary transformation from a rural and agricultural landscape to an industrialized and urbanized global power.

The sheer reach of Currier & Ives prints, sold in their New York City store, or by mail order, pushcart vendors, and far-flung agents, put their pictures in view of countless Americans. The visually-based culture we live in today, with images circulating on the internet and social media, has its origins in the mass communications created by Currier & Ives. The firm closed in 1907, but the re-discovery of its prints by collectors and the public in the 1920s enshrined them as representations of American life encountered by subsequent generations in the format of holiday cards, calendars, dishware, and even whiskey labels. By taking us back to the period of the prints’ creation, this exhibition illuminates Currier & Ives’s America as well as our own America in the present day.

Amy Kurtz Lansing is Curator at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT. A specialist in nineteenth and twentieth-century art, she has organized or co-organized an array of exhibitions on American paintings, sculpture, and photography, including Social & Solitary: Reflections on Art, Isolation, and Renewal; Fresh Fields: American Impressionist Landscapes; “Nothing More American:” Immigration, Sanctuary, Community; The Great Americans: Portraits by Jac Lahav; Art and the New England Farm; The Artist in the Connecticut Landscape; Modern Figures: Mary Knollenberg Sculptures; Harry Holtzman and American Abstraction; Call of the Coast: Art Colonies of New England; The Way We Work: David Macaulay’s Human Body; and Historical Fictions: Edward Lamson Henry’s Paintings of Past and Present. She has worked with contemporary artists such as Patrick Dougherty on exhibitions and site-specific commissions, and led interpretation for the Museum’s Robert F. Schumann Artists’ Trail. She graduated from Smith College and received an M.Phil in the History of Art From Yale University. Prior to her arrival at the Florence Griswold Museum, she worked in the Department of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale University Art Gallery.

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October 27, 2021
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm