The Mint Museum Randolph hasnt hosted a special exhibit that includes paintings since 2010, a streak that ended last weekend with the opening of New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville.
The Baltimore-born artists work comes to the Mint Randolph from The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Some of the paintings in the exhibit have never been seen publicly before.
Woodville was trained in Düsseldorf, Germany, but painted depictions of daily American life prior to the Civil War scenes of war, class difference and slavery, and often incorporating new technologies of the day, like the telegraph, the railroad and the penny press.
One of the aspects of his genius, said Joy Heyrman, the exhibitions curator from The Walters, is that hes taking the age-old depictions of everyday life and making them into realistic depictions of his modern moment. When you look at these works, they may look old-fashioned, but in their time, they were intensely modern.
Though he didnt live long enough to produce a large catalog (1825-55), Woodvilles works were well-known and popular during his life, reprinted, distributed and sometimes appropriated to represent a certain factions views.
This exhibit includes the pillar of American painting, War News From Mexico, in which people gather to read the news from Mexico on the stoop of the American Hotel with a sign reading Volunteers for Mexico tacked to a post. Near this painting hangs a copy of it with a few changes: The sign reads Volunteers for the Southern Confederate Army and the painter adjusted the perspective to cut out the top of the hotel sign, eliminating the word American.
Fifteen of Woodvilles 16 known paintings comprise the exhibition, as well as prints, illustrated books and an interactive parlor with games that would have been popular during the artists life.
This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.
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