Louisa Matthíasdóttir, Self-Portrait in Overalls, ca. 1985, Oil on canvas, 68 × 38 in. National Academy of Design, New York. © Estate of Louisa Matthíasdóttir. Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York and American Federation of Arts.
For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design’s one hundred extraordinary paintings present not only a visual document of the Academy’s membership but a unique history of American painting from 1809 to the present. From its founding in 1825 to the present, the NAD has required all Academicians to donate a representative work to the Academy’s collection, and, from 1839 to 1994, the Academy also required Associates to present a portrait of themselves, whether painted by their own hand or that of a fellow artist.
The diverse selection of artists whose work is showcased here in five sections that explores the origins of the Academy and the concomitant rise of the Hudson River School and American genre painting, the impact of contemporary European art and art education on the development of American painting, the Academy’s nascent role in the early twentieth century as the purveyor of artistic tradition in the United States, how realism in its various incarnations remained a viable alternative to American abstraction, and paintings from living National Academy members whose work addresses contemporary concerns while harkening back to America’s storied past.