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Our Gilded Age

William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), Alice Dieudonnée Chase Sullivan, ca. 1912, Oil on canvas, 36 x 29 inches, Private collection; courtesy of Debra Force Fine Art, Photo: Roz Akin Photography, courtesy of Debra Force Fine Art

Our Gilded Age

November 18, 2023- March 10, 2024

Like the nation’s economy, American art and literature flourished during the Gilded Age. It was an exuberant age of excess with its own secret flaws, including widespread fraud. This exhibition examines the appearances and the realities of an era that mirrors our own in many ways. The art of John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, Louis Comfort Tiffany and others adorned palatial residences designed by Stanford White and Ogden Codman Jr., architect of our own quintessential Gilded Age mansion. Drawing heavily upon the local literary history of Long Island, including William Cullen Bryant, Mark Twain (who named the Gilded Age), Walt Whitman, Edith Wharton and others, the exhibition will include paintings, fashion, decorative arts including period silver and china, photographs, manuscripts, first editions and other historic memorabilia. As Twain wrote about the get-rich-quick schemes and bullish if irrational exuberance, “To the young American, here or elsewhere, the paths to fortune are innumerable and all open; there is invitation in the air and success in all his wide horizon.”

In United States history, the Gilded Age was an era extending roughly from 1870 to 1914, from the end of the Civil War through World War I. It was a time of rapid economic growth and wealth disparity, especially in the Northern and Western United States. As American wages grew much higher than those in Europe, especially for skilled workers, and industrialization demanded an ever-increasing unskilled labor force, the period saw an influx of millions of European immigrants. Our “Upstairs, Downstairs” approach to the life of a country house will bring to life not only the storied conspicuous consumption for which the Gilded Age was infamous, but also the real lives of these many individuals who maintained the palatial estates where that lifestyle was enjoyed.

Learn more about the art, architecture and music during Our Gilded Age by downloading the accompanying Arts Timeline.
Learn more history during Our Gilded Age by downloading the accompanying History Timeline.

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This exhibition was supported in part by 

Our Gilded Age Timeline was funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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