What To Expect
The newly renovated and reopened American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of art offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience the finest American sculpture, decorative art, and painting in the world. In this three-hour exploration we will pour through the galleries, covering the classics, discovering newly presented masterworks, and following the narrative of American art from the 18th century to the near past.
With great fanfare, the Metropolitan Museum of Art re-opened the Charles Engelhard Court, gateway to its renowned American art collection, in May 2009. One of the most beautiful and popular spaces in the museum, this "grand light-filled pavilion" that serves as the formal entrance to the American galleries, includes two architectural treasures: the three-story façade of the Branch Bank of the United States (1822-24), originally located on Wall Street in New York City, and the loggia designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in1905 for the entrance to Laurelton Hall, his country estate in Oyster Bay, New York.
We will begin in the court where the museum's premier American sculpture collection has been reinstalled. Gleaming marble and bronze works by Hiram Powers, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Daniel Chester French, among others, sit in groupings that now "encourage aesthetic and thematic comparisons" while allowing unprecedented access to the works. Though often bypassed by the crowds on their way to the paintings, we'll linger here to discuss the importance of sculpture in early American art, the mastery of sculptural techniques, characteristics of the Neoclassical and Beaux-Arts styles, and the historic significance of the artists' chosen subjects.
Above the Charles Engelhard Court, bathed in natural light, we will spend some time in the new balcony galleries that offer breathtaking views of Central Park behind display cases filled with shimmering and colorful masterpieces of American silver, glassware and ceramics, spanning the 18th the through the early 20th centuries. Highlights include rare and exquisitely crafted silver pieces by Paul Revere, and stained glass works by Tiffany and others, comprising the most comprehensive collection of stained glass in any American museum. Mid-nineteenth-century stained-glass windows, designed for churches and homes, have also been installed on the upper balcony; in the company of our art historian we will study these objects at close range, contextualizing them within the sweep of American art and development of an American aesthetic.
Our walk will take us into the unique Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, which includes display cases filled with the museum's entire "reserve collection" of American decorative art: hundreds of pieces of furniture, and thousands of works of silver, glass and ceramics. A leisurely stroll through the Met's exemplary collection of American period rooms will provide "an unparalleled view of American domestic architecture and interior design over three centuries," beginning with a 17th century Dutch interior and culminating in the prized Frank Lloyd Wright living room from the Little House in Minnesota (1914).
Of course, we will save plenty of time for the American painting collection, in which the Museum curators have made available a staggering volume of works, widely considered the best collection of its type in the world. We will pick our way through the masterpieces, touching on a variety of topics including the role of portraiture in crafting a cultural history of the United States, the importance of still life and landscape in 19th century American art, and genre and historical paintings that offer detailed glimpses of everyday life from Colonial through Victorian times. Highlights include celebrated masterpieces by John Singleton Copley (Mrs. John Winthrop, 1773) Gilbert Stuart (George Washington, 1795) George Caleb Bingham (Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, 1845) Thomas Cole (The Oxbow, 1836) Frederic Edwin Church (Heart of the Andes, 1859) Winslow Homer (The Gulf Stream, 1899) Thomas Eakins (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull, 1871) and John Singer Sargent (Madame X, 1884). The American Wing is also home to one of the best-known works in all of American Art, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutzes's monumental 1851 painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. A true icon of American art, and the largest painting in the Metropolitan's collection, while pondering its drama and enormity, our docent might point out that its dimensions approximate those of the average studio apartment in New York City!
At the end of our time together we will have possess a deeper, more nuanced picture of American art as it evolved from the 18th to the 20th centuries; an excellent primer before moving to the modern collections at the MoMA and elsewhere in the city.
Services of a docent
Meals and drinks
Tips and gratuities
Children below 12 years old are not permitted on this tour.
All our card payments are protected by thawte to give you peace of mind.