Edwin Romanzo Elmer, Magic Glasses (detail), 1891. Oil on canvas, 14 x 10 in. Collection of Shelburne Museum, museum purchase. 1960-304.6. Photography by Bruce Schwarz.

Illuminating the history of creative response to perceptions of vision, Eyesight & Insight: Lens on American Art will invite new insights into the ways American artists have negotiated issues related to eyesight from the 18th to the 21st centuries. The exhibition features a rich selection of items drawn from Shelburne Museum’s permanent collection as well as significant loans from private collectors, public institutions, and galleries. Featured artists include Tseng Kwong Chi, George Cope, Charles Willson Peale, Howardena Pindell, William Wegman, and more.

The accompanying 2020 Rizzoli publication by art historian John Wilmerding, Lens on American Art: The Depiction and Role of Eyeglasses, surveys more than 200 years of American fine and folk art. Highlighting themes ranging from 18th-century optical technologies to the social and historical connotations of eyeglasses during the 19th and 20th centuries to 21st-century design, Wilmerding’s text offers new viewpoints and perspectives from which to consider these objects and themes.

Building on Wilmerding’s research and organized by curators Katie Wood Kirchhoff and Carolyn Bauer, Eyesight & Insight will be on view May 15-Oct. 16, 2022, in the Colgate Gallery of the Museum’s Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education. Surveying more than 200 years of art and technological innovation, this project will mark the first major museum exhibition and scholarly publication to consider the myriad roles of eyeglasses and optical technologies in the history of American art.

Colgate Gallery, Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education


May 15, 2022 - Opening

Oct 16, 2022 - Closing