Revisiting America: The Prints of Currier & Ives will explore how the largest printmaking company in nineteenth-century America visualized the nation’s social, political, and industrial fabric. The company is best known today for its lush, hand-colored lithographs that nostalgically depicted an idyllic republic of pioneer homesteads, sporting camps, and bucolic pastimes; however, these sentimental images comprised only one aspect of Currier & Ives’ production. The company’s inexpensive and popular prints were a ubiquitous presence for decades, and just as frequently touched on pressing social and political issues. Addressing economic development, western expansion, the Civil War, and controversies of racial and class politics, Currier & Ives portrayed scenes of urbanization, nation building, naval battles, catastrophic disasters, and current events that were far from idyllic.
Divided into five themes—Country Life, Hunting, Politics and History, Sport, and Urbanization—this exhibition reveals the surprising modernity of the firm’s prints. The works on view offer a complex and conflicted vision of America that embraced the possibilities of an emerging urban and industrial society while nostalgically celebrating the social stability of a rural ideal.
Colgate Gallery, Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education