The Westmoreland Museum of American Art to Present Telling Tales: Stories and Legends in 19th-century American Art

Claire Ertl
Director of Marketing & Public Relations
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Charlene Bidula
Manager of Communications
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Barbara L. Jones
Chief Curator
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GREENSBURG, PA, February 10, 2016 – The Westmoreland Museum of American Art will present Telling Tales: Stories and Legends in 19th-century American Art, from Saturday, March 5 through Saturday, June 19, 2016. An opening reception will take place on Saturday, March 5 from 6:30 – 8:00pm and is open to the public.
Drawn from the New-York Historical Society’s expansive collection of narrative art, Telling Tales: Stories and Legends in 19th-century American Art illuminates the great storytelling capabilities of visual art. By integrating historical, literary and religious subject matter with the now better-known examples of landscape and scenes-of-everyday-life, this exhibition introduces modern audiences to the broad range of styles and narrative themes that appealed to 19th-century Americans.
The exhibition includes works by such well-known artists as Benjamin West, Asher B. Durand and William Sidney Mount, among others. Also included are significant works by artists who were major figures in their own time, such as Daniel Huntington, Henry Peters Gray and T. H. Matteson, but who have been virtually ignored in current American art surveys.
Telling Tales: Stories and Legends in 19th-century American Art will be shown in the Museum’s new cantilevered gallery and organized around six themes specified by the New-York Historical Society: European Inspirations and American Ambition emphasizes American artists’ early reliance on and influence of European traditions; Inventing American History focuses on artists’ interpretations of national pride, glorifying the country’s origins and its heroes; Traditions Retained and Transformed: Painting Literature and History represents early debates about the superiority of literature to painting; Everyday Life in the Yankee Way looks at simple slices of life through genre subjects; Picturing the Outsider focuses on works featuring Native Americans, African Americans and the urban poor and The Life of the Spirit introduces works of art that reflect on the spiritual elements of American life.
Telling Tales: Stories and Legends in 19th-century American Art Events & Programs
Opening Reception
Saturday, March 5 > 6:30–8pm
Please join us to enjoy light bites provided by J. Corks, music by Three Rivers String Quartet and cash bar. No RSVP required. Sponsored by Rivertowne Brewing.
Art Beat– Stories Told in Ballads and Scrolls
Saturday, March 19 > 2–3pm
Join artist and folk singer Ellen Gozion as she performs folk songs filled with powerful storytelling imagery. Discover the magic of crankies, an old storytelling art form utilizing a long illustrated scroll wound onto two spools, which Ellen uses to add an extra layer of fancy to her ballads.
SmART Chat–Stories in Art
Wednesday, April 20 > 7–8pm

Join Lauren Churilla, Curator of the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Collection at St. Vincent College, as she illuminates the stories that weave together the art in Telling Tales with the Museum’s permanent collection.
SmART Chat–Gallery Talk
Wednesday, May 18 > 7–8pm

Join The Westmoreland’s Chief Curator Barbara Jones for a gallery talk in the exhibition. Learn the important role that narrative paintings serve, not only as historical records of a society, but for capturing the shared values, social conventions and practices of an age.
Art Beat–Defining a New Democracy
Saturday, May 21 > 1–2pm

Linda Ferber, the New-York Historical Society Senior Art Historian and Museum Director Emerita, describes the evolution of her museum’s marvelous collection and how the paintings highlighted in Telling Tales helped define 19th-century American culture and taste.
Art Beat–Examining “The Outsider”
Saturday, June 11 > 1–2pm

This panel discussion moderated by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman will focus on marginalized groups that could be considered today’s “outsiders” in American society and will highlight the ways in which art and the media might either reinforce or refute these opinions.
SmART Chat–Sing the Body Electric: A discussion with Walt Whitman
Wednesday, June 15 > 7–8pm

In his writing, Walt Whitman celebrates uniqueness and individuality. For this discussion, Frank Klapak, Seton Hill Professor of Communication and Education, plays the role of Whitman to reveal the realizations of these same qualities in the narrative of American art during Whitman’s lifetime.
For more information, please visit

This exhibition has been organized by the New-York Historical Society.
The exhibition was organized and the accompanying volume published with generous support from Michael Reslan, the National Endowment for the Arts through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, the Walker and Lucille Rubin Foundation, Richard Gilder and Lois Chiles, the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, the New York Community Trust Joanne Witty and Eugene Keilin Fund, Larry K. Clark, and the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation.
The title is adapted from Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy organized by the New-York Historical Society.
Telling Tales is supported by the Hillman Exhibition Fund of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. More information is available at
About The Westmoreland Museum of American Art
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, located at 221 N. Main Street in Greensburg, PA, recently completed a major renovation and expansion with its grand reopening having taken place on October 24 and 25, 2015. The Westmoreland’s collections include works by major American artists from four centuries, including its newest collection of post-1950 artwork. As part of a multi-year business plan tied to the renovation and expansion project, the Museum launched Imagine What’s Possible: The Westmoreland Capital and Endowment Campaign. To date, over $28 million has been raised towards the $38 million campaign goal. More information is available at