Step back in time at the Taft Museum of Art’s latest exhibit opening on October 3. A Splendid Century pays homage to the Taft building’s 200-year history and the artists of the time period. Exhibit curator Tamera Lenz Muente sourced 57 pieces of art from regional exhibits and private collections in the homes of Cincinnatians. Whether it’s a piece of Rookwood Pottery or a Duveneck painting, everyone owns a little bit of Cincinnati history, and now you have a chance to get a glimpse of your neighbors’ art collections. We spoke to Muente to learn more about the exhibit and what to expect during your visit.
Tell me about the inspiration behind this exhibit.
The prominent families that lived in the house—The Baums, the Longworths, the Sintons, and the Tafts—they were all influential in the visual art world in Cincinnati. They helped to support artists and they established art institutions, so the show is built around that idea.
How is the exhibit a celebration of Cincinnati history, specifically art history?
As guests move through the exhibition, they will see things like a very early landscape painting from William Sontag in the 1840s that is a scene from the Ohio River Valley. It’s uninhabited and by the time [guests] get to the end of the exhibition, they will see a view of Cincinnati by Louis Henry Meakin. There are forests in the background and you can see Clifton and smokestacks. Also, this large painting by Herman Henry Wessel that shows workers on barges underneath the suspension bridge with the sprawling skyline of Cincinnati in 1921. Visitors will see the growth of the city itself throughout the exhibition. I hope that it will give people that live in Cincinnati a sense of pride.
One hundred years is quite a span of time. Are there elements of each piece that tie everything together? Or is it more of a sampling throughout the century?
We decided to look for works in private collections around the Cincinnati area. There’s a lot of incredible art that’s rarely exhibited that exists just in people’s homes. We also looked to institutions like museums and historical societies within about a 100-mile radius of Cincinnati—works from Louisville and Indianapolis. That was a way to narrow things down. Then as I was looking at the hundreds of works of art, I started to think about the major themes I started to see running through this 100-year period. The show is split into six thematic sections that tie into the eras of the previous residents of the house: Early 19th Century: Portraits; Mid 19th Century: Landscapes; Mid-late 19th Century: People and daily life; Cincinnati artists abroad; Late 19th Century: American-inspired art; and Cincinnati artists at home (think Rookwood Pottery).
Learn more about the Taft Museum of Art and buy tickets to the exhibit by visiting the website.