AFA Autumn 2019

Autumn 88 | w ounded in 1825 by Samuel F. B. Morse and a group of forward-thinking fellow artists, the National Academy of Design has a simple yet powerful mission: to provide means for the training of artists and to promote and exhibit their art. Since its founding, the Academy has upheld a rule from its first constitution and by-laws: every elected National Academician (NA) must donate a work to the Academy’s collection, in keeping with the conventions of the royal academies of art in France and England. In 1839, the Academy’s governing council decided that all individuals nominated to the preceding rank of Associate National Academician (ANA) must also present a portrait of themselves for the collection, whether painted by their own hand or that of a fellow artist. Such gifts of “diploma works” and “diploma portraits” are the defining feature of the Academy’s collection and the conceptual spine of the exhibition For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design , a collaboration between the American Federation of Arts and the National Academy of Design. The exhibition offers an unprecedented glimpse into the ways a group of American artists have defined themselves and their painted worlds through the past two centuries. By presenting academicians’ two diploma submissions side by side, the exhibition outlines a unique story of American art from the 1800s to the present day written by its makers—an artists’ art history, so to speak. The installation also demonstrates academicians’ painterly concerns and visual experimentation across time by pairing paintings that would otherwise be relegated to separate movements or epochs. Additionally, responses to works by current NAs as well as a distinguished roster of scholars, recorded in the accompanying catalogue alongside the paintings that inspired them, form another pairing of sorts. by Jeremiah WilliamMcCarthy FOR AMERICA Paintings from the National Academy of Design