Arts appreciation and display, as we know it today, began to flourish in many US cities only after the Civil War. The Industrial Revolution, urban development and increasing affluence of the city communities laid open the door for communicating and educating about arts, and for the emergence of efficient artistic patronage, leading to the subsequent creation of museums and arts institutions across the U.S. All American cities have their own stories to tell and in his book, newly released by Versita, Leo J. Harris gives a superb account of such an artistic footprint in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Before the Museums Came: A Social History of the Fine Arts in the Twin Cities is an engaging portrayal of the fine arts scene of the Minnesotan twin cities spanning from the appearance of the earliest artists in 1835 to the opening of the first permanent museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1915.
Anyone who has researched the art history of these cities will have probably come across the names of Thomas Barlow Walker of Minneapolis and James J. Hill of St. Paul. Those two business titans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used their great wealth to acquire many fine paintings and other pieces of art for their private collections, which were housed in their residences and were only open to members of the public on rare occasions. These collections are generally acknowledged as the only notable expression of interest in the fine arts in the two cities at that time.
The book provides a systematic picture of other institutions and organizations that were created in support of the fine arts, as well as the early art exhibitions and events, and the collectors, dealers and artists whose efforts made all that come to fruition. The text – enriched and supplemented by reproductions of artworks, photographs of various personages, exhibition venues, studios, art galleries, catalogues, and ephemera – presents a clear understanding of the period and breaks new ground for future scholars to research.
The book has already earned acclaim from prominent historians, anthropologists and arts custodians. As John M. Lindley, the director of the Ramsey County, Minnesota Historical Society points out:
"Harris adroitly explains how art dealers, critics, architects, academics, public libraries, and artists all contributed to a vibrant community interest in the fine arts. As a social history of the fine arts, this book succeeds in documenting the Twin Cities arts community in the years prior to 1915 with depth and detail that is unavailable elsewhere. In addition, the numerous illustrations that are included in this book aid the reader in better understanding how this foundation of activity in the arts prepared the way for the organizing of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and other art museums, such as the Walker Art Museum, in these communities in the twentieth century".
About the Author:
An accomplished lawyer, Leo John Harris served in the U.S. Department of State and Foreign Service before embarking on a writing career. Harris is a founder of a publishing house dedicated to arts, history, and popular culture. Now retired, he shares his time between the passions for philately and for the arts and regional history. The latter has now resulted in a well-researched and richly illustrated publication.
The book is available to read and download: http://www.degruyter.com/viewbooktoc/product/207418
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