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In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting


For over 200 years, artists have been inspired to capture the beauty, violence, poetry, and transformative power of the sea in American life. Oceans play a key role in American society no matter where we live, and still today, the sea continues to inspire painters to capture its mystery and power.

In American Waters is a new exhibition in which the marine painting is revealed to be so much more than ship portraits. Visitors will be transported across time and water on the wave of a diverse range of modern and historical artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Amy Sherald, Kay WalkingStick, Norman Rockwell, Hale Woodruff, Paul Cadmus, Thomas Hart Benton, Jacob Lawrence, Valerie Hegarty, Stuart Davis, and many more. In this exhibition, visitors will also discover the sea as an expansive way to reflect on American culture and environment, learn how coastal and maritime symbols moved inland across the United States, and question what it means to be “in American waters.”

Ship Southern Cross in Boston Harbor by Fitz Henry Lane
Fitz Henry Lane, Ship Southern Cross in Boston Harbor, 1851, Oil on canvas, 34 1/4 x 47 x 4 1/2 inches (86.995 x 119.38 x 11.43 cm) framed, Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of the estate of Stephen Wheatland, 1987, M18639. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton

In American Waters is co-created by Austen Bailly, chief curator, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Daniel Finamore, The Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History, Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. The exhibition will debut at Peabody Essex Museum on May 29, 2021 and is accompanied by a major multi-author illustrated publication published by Crystal Bridges and the University of Arkansas Press.

This exhibition is co-organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

Supported in part by:

Jeff and Sarah Teague | Citizens Bank
Sue and Charles Redfield

In American Waters is a part of the 10th Anniversary Exhibition Season at Crystal Bridges, supported in part by:

Tyson Logo

Tyson Family Foundation Logo

Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Inc

James Dyke and Helen Porter

Stout Executive Search - Your Placement. Our Passion

Del Monte Logo

Chuck and Terri Erwin

Shelby and Frederick Gans

The Bogle Family

Rick and Beverly Chapman

Pat Cooper

Valorie and Randy Lawson | Lawco Energy Group

Stella Boyle Trust, Catherine and Michael Mayton, Truestees

Kelly and Marti Sudduth

Supported in part by:

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Bob and Becky Alexander, Anonymous, Ramsay and Jaquita Ball, Avis and Bill Bailey, Juan, Marcy, and Joaquin Camacho, Gelmart International, Greg Thompson Fine Art, Jim and Susan von Gremp, Meza Harris, Hyde Family Foundation, Steve and Susan Nelson, Catherine and Stephan Roche, JT and Imelda Rose,  Jon and Kim Shirley, Barbra and George Sycip, Engel & Völkers, and Deborah Wright.