November 28, 2007

What's On at the New-York Historical Society

The New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804 with the mission of preserving and presenting the rich and dynamic history of New York City and its influence on the shaping of America and the world. Located in a landmark building on Central Park West, the Society overcame severe financial difficulties in the 1990's to be brought back to life as an invigorated and vital part of the New York cultural scene. This successful recuperation was very much in evidence the other evening at a preview party for the Society's two newest exhibitions.

To celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of the Marquis Gilbert du Motier Lafayette, the N-YHS is presenting "French Founding Father: Lafayette's Return to Washington's America". A staunch ally of George Washington's in the quest to gain independence from Britain with the American Revolution, Lafayette returned to America 50 years later for a triumphant tour of the fledgling country. Arriving in New York City in 1824 and traveling by every conceivable means of transport, the Marquis de Lafayette covered over 6,000 miles in 392 days and succeeded in visiting all of the 24 states that existed at the time. He brought a strong message of patriotism and pride in the new land and was welcomed as a hero by all citizens. This exhibition honors his tireless dedication to the American ideals of democracy and and freedom and brings his historic tour to life with documents, artifacts and hands-on exhibits. A fitting tribute to a true champion of the original United States of America and Franco-American relations.

Also on view at the New-York Historical Society is "Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush With Leisure, 1895-1925". The "Ashcan School" or "The Eight" refers to an artistic movement active during the early 1900's and known for its scenes of social realism, particularly among the lower classes. This exhibition focus' on the artists' depictions of leisure and recreation as pursued by working and middle class Americans, and presents more than 70 paintings from the Society's own collection and borrowed from some prominent collections and institutions around the country. Although not entirely typical of the sombre, gritty scenes for which the movement is most famous, the selection of paintings represents works by all the major contributors and is a wonderful snapshot of New Yorkers at play.

Divided into galleries including "Dining Out", "Parks and Public Spaces" and "Sports", well-known images by John Sloan ("McSorley's Bar", 1912), George Bellows ("Dempsey and Furpo", 1924), and William Glackens ("Central Park, Winter", 1905), display the very best examples of this New York based group of realist painters and their acolytes.

The latest statistics put New York City's population in the neighborhood of 8.25 Million inhabitants. Anyone who lives in this great Metropolis has an obligation to see how it all began. Take some time to visit the oldest museum in New York watch history unfold!

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