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Perspectives: Setting the Scene in American Folk Art

September 1, 2009–August 15, 2010

The notion of “setting” is a theme that routinely emerges as educators at the museum work with visitors in the galleries. “Perspectives: Setting the Scene in American Folk Art,” the first exhibition organized by the museum’s education department, has been shaped by the countless visitors who have come through the museum’s doors over the years. Museums are sites of inquiry and interaction; as educators, we listen carefully to visitors’ comments and questions about works of art they encounter in the galleries. This exhibition reveals the richness and diversity of American folk art in the long tradition of depicting places and provides snapshots of American life in different time periods. From cozy domestic interiors and sites of work and leisure to vast country landscapes, bustling city scenes, iconic biblical or spiritual settings, and vivid dreamscapes, the works gathered here invite contemplation and set the stage for narrative. The ideas of space and setting are thematically relevant to a deeper exploration of folk art and the work of self-taught artists, a far-reaching field that pervades a broad spectrum of American culture and reflects many different spaces and communities. We invite the viewer to consider these different types of places and discover the scenes that unfold in the works of art.

Organized by the Education Department


Theodor Frick, Porpacker, Richmond, Va.
Carl W. Hambuch (?–1879)
Richmond, Virginia
Oil on canvas
41 x 42 1/8 in.
American Folk Art Museum, gift of Ralph Esmerian, 2005.8.16
Photo © 2000 John Bigelow Taylor, New York

Monday Morning
John “Jack” Savitsky (1910–1991)
Lansford, Pennsylvania
Oil on board
25 x 59 in.
American Folk Art Museum, gift of Arnold Fuchs, 1978.8.2

E. Fitts Jr. Store and Coffeehouse Trade Sign
Artist unidentified
Vicinity of Shelburne, Massachusetts
Paint on wood with wrought iron
47 x 46 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. (with ironwork)
American Folk Art Museum, gift of Margery and Harry Kahn, 1981.12.9
Photo by John Parnell

Jon Serl (1894–1993)
Lake Elsinore, California
Oil on fibrous board
60 1/4 x 60 1/4 in.
American Folk Art Museum, gift of the artist, 1983.20.2
Photo by John Parnell

Neil House with Chimney
William L. Hawkins (1895–1990)
Columbus, Ohio
Enamel and composition material on Masonite
72 x 48 in.
American Folk Art Museum, gift of Warner Communications Inc., 1988.19.1
Photo by John Parnell

Farm Vignette
Artist unidentified
United States
Paint on metal with glass
27 1/2 x 64 x 12 1/2 in.
American Folk Art Museum, gift of Dorothea and Leo Rabkin, 1992.11.1
Photo by John Parnell


“Perspectives: Setting the Scene in American Folk Art” is sponsored by The Magazine ANTIQUES, a Brant Art Media publication. Additional support is provided in part by the Leir Charitable Foundations in memory of Henry J. & Erna D. Leir, the Gerard C. Wertkin Exhibition Fund, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.