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American Weathervanes: The Art of the Winds

June 23, 2021–January 2, 2022

American Weathervanes: The Art of the Winds is the first exhibition in more than four decades to highlight the beauty, historical significance, and technical virtuosity of American vanes fashioned between the late seventeenth and early twentieth centuries.

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The exhibition includes the graceful figure of Fame blowing a trumpet and standing en pointe like a celestial ballerina, attributed to well-known manufactory E.G. Washburne & Co. in New York City, a Dove of Peace commissioned by George Washington for his home in Mount Vernon; and an eagle possibly made in the foundry of revolutionary patriot Paul Revere. In addition to weathervanes, the exhibition will also include beautifully articulated wood sculptures by Harry Leach that functioned as patterns for weathervane molds for the Cushing & White and L.W. & Sons manufactories in Waltham, MA., watercolors of historic weathervanes painted for the Index of American Design, and rare archival materials that illuminate the development of the weathervane in the United States of America.

A full-color, illustrated, 224-page publication accompanies the exhibition, published by Rizzoli International Publications in association with the American Folk Art Museum. Authored by exhibition curator Robert Shaw, the book includes contributions by Jason T. Busch and Jennifer Mass, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Cultural Heritage Science at the Bard Graduate Center. This seminal scholarly work will have a significant impact on our understanding of this early American sculptural art form, serving as the authoritative text on American weathervanes for generations to come.


A series of free, virtual programs are planned in conjunction with the exhibition. They are presented as part of the Museum’s Virtual Insights series, which provides fresh perspectives on the Museum, its exhibitions, and its collection.

Weathervanes in Context (6/29/21)

In the Studio with Brooklyn Metal Works (7/13/21)

Winds of Change | A Conversation on Art and Our Changing Climate (8/5/21)

Robert Shaw is the guest curator of American Weathervanes. Emelie Gevalt is the coordinating curator of the exhibition.


Ezra Ames and Bela Dexter; Heart and hand weathervane; Chelsea, Massachusetts, 1839. Carved white pine with original paint, 21 x 39 in. Private collection. Photograph courtesy David A. Schorsch and Eileen M. Smiles, Woodbury, CT.

W. A. Snow Iron Works; Touring Car and Driver weathervane; Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1910. Molded copper with traces of gilt. h. from bottom of wheels 18 in; l. 33 in. Collection of Susan and Jerry Lauren. Photograph by Adam Reich.

Artist unidentified; Church banner weathervane; Orono, Maine, c. 1840. Sheet iron, lead, copper, and blown glass with remnants of an early gilded surface, 61 x 74 ¼ in. Private collection. Photograph by Ellen McDermott; courtesy Olde Hope Antiques, Inc.


Major support for this exhibition is provided by Julie Lindberg, with additional support by Deborah Davenport and Stewart Stender, David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, Michael Del Castello, the Stacy C. Hollander Fund for Exhibitions, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation, and the Council for Traditional Folk Art.

"This is a book to be treasured by anyone who collects or simply admires American vernacular art and sculpture. In conjunction with the book, an exhibition will be held at the American Folk Art Museum in New York."
– Antiques and Auction News