John Frederick Kensett (American, 1816 – 1872), Mount Washington from the Valley of Conway, 1851, Oil on canvas, 40 3/8 x 60 3/8 in., Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James B. Munn (Ruth C. Hanford, Class of 1909) in the name of the Class of 1909, 1977.37.
A persistent, often fierce wind blows across the barren stone peak that is Mount Washington. Above the tree line very little grows, and yet there’s always life here, as scientists, tourists and adventurers share the 6,288-foot mountain. For more than two centuries, the Northeast’s highest summit has captured the American imagination. Mount Washington: The Crown of New England, on view at the Currier Museum of Art from October 1, 2016 through January 16, 2017, brings together for the first time many of the most important early images of the Mount Washington region and it returns Albert Bierstadt’s monumental 10-foot-wide painting, The Emerald Pool (1870), to New England for the first time since it was painted.
The exhibition includes 40 paintings and a rich selection of historic prints, vintage photographs, scientific reports and guidebooks that helped make Mount Washington an international symbol of the American wilderness and its scenic wonders. The Crown of New England is a gorgeous love letter to the Northeast’s tallest mountain, and one of the largest exhibitions presented by the Currier.
“People are fascinated by the beauty and majesty of Mount Washington, and for good reason,” said Andrew Spahr, Currier director of collections and exhibitions. “This exhibition will present major paintings by Thomas Cole and John Kensett (1816-1872) that helped alter the course of American art in the 19th century as well as prints, photographs and early guide books that made the region one of the most popular tourist attractions in America in the mid-1800s.”
The Art of Mount Washington
Images of the White Mountains began appearing in the early 1820s, but it was the paintings of Thomas Cole (1801-1848) that first attracted the larger artistic community. Cole’s View in the White Mountains (1827) pictured a snowcapped Mount Washington rising above a verdant valley, the peak silhouetted against dark clouds. The image was infused with a sense of national pride, the mountain’s rough, craggy pinnacle named after America’s first national hero, represented a strong, confident America that could weather any storm.
The tremendous artistic potential of Mount Washington was fully realized in the early 1850s. New Hampshire-born artist Benjamin Champney (1817-1907) and New York painter John Kensett spent several weeks during the summer of 1850 sketching in and around North Conway. Their summer sketches were later worked up as oils for exhibition in New York and Boston, to strong critical acclaim. Kensett’s Mount Washington from the Valley of Conway (1851), became well known through a popular engraving of the time. In turn, these works of art helped boost tourism in the region, especially among individuals seeking adventures away from the city.
During the 1840s and 1850s, the region was also the subject of some of the first landscape photographs ever taken. These images were in some cases experiments with the newly invented medium and in others served as souvenirs of visits to the scenic White Mountains, further promoting the area. Soon, the availability of accommodations near Crawford and Pinkham Notch, the Conway Valley and eventually atop the mountain, meant artists, scientists and adventurous tourists could spend more time exploring the area.
The Science of Mount Washington
Mount Washington is known internationally for being the home of the world’s worst weather. It regularly records winds that can change from a light breeze to hurricane strength within hours. One wicked 231 mph wind in April 1934 retains the world record for highest wind ever observed on land. Artists often worked together in partnership with scientists, botanists, geologists and meteorologists, who needed accurate yet evocative images that would help bring their research to life visually. Text-based descriptions were enlivened with drawings, some reproduced using the newly invented mediums chromolithography and photography. Artists, many of whom studied sciences such as geology, in turn benefitted from understanding the specific processes that shaped the White Mountain landscape, giving them a more accurate sense of the scenes they committed to paper or canvas.
About the Exhibition
The exhibition includes 146 works of art and related historical objects, presented in mostly chronological order across all three of the Museum’s special exhibition galleries. It begins with the first major paintings and prints of the region, dating back to 1827.
The exhibition concludes with a dramatic presentation of Bierstadt’s The Emerald Pool, much as it would have been displayed in late-19th century venues as it toured the United States and Europe. The painting won a medal at the International Exposition in Vienna in 1873.
A fascinating interactive space will offer visitors of all ages opportunities to explore the art and science of the region. It will include displays of real-time weather conditions atop Mount Washington, as well as incredible videos taken from the summit, thanks to our collaboration with the Mount Washington Observatory in North Conway, N.H. Visitors can view stereographs, make art, read colorful tales of the region from period guidebooks and the exhibition includes a fun family guide.
Tickets $5/person in addition to general Museum admission.
Mount Washington: The Crown of New England is supported by the Henry Melville Fuller Exhibition Fund, the Kimon S. & Anne C. Zachos Exhibition Fund, the Robert & Dorothy Goldberg Charitable Foundation, the Mt. Washington Auto Road, Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers, Pamela A. Harvey, Harold Janeway, Harvey Construction, the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation and the Susan E. Strickler Exhibition Fund.
We are proud to have New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) as media sponsors.
Mount Washington: The Crown of New England (2016) is a full-color, 112-page catalogue published by the Currier Museum of Art. The book is available exclusively from the Currier Museum of Art’s Museum Shop ($35, but $29.95 for Members).
Educator Walkthrough of Mount Washington: The Crown of New England
Wednesday, October 5, 4-5 p.m.
Local educators are invited to come learn about Mount Washington: Crown of New England with Museum educator Ann Bible. Come see how this dynamic exhibition takes on art, history and science. FREE for Currier Members! $5 for Educators.
The Many Facets of Mt. Washington: Science, History, Art and Music
Friday, October 7, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Learn about the history, literature and music of Mount Washington’s past with Art Center Faculty member Marek Bennett. Reservations required.
Focus Tour: Mount Washington: The Crown of New England
Saturday, October 8, 11:30 a.m.
Enjoy a tour of our blockbuster exhibition, Mount Washington: The Crown of New England.
Family Event: Museum Mountaineering
Saturday, October 15, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Hear Hardtacks bring history to life through graphic novels, song and storytelling. Become a botanist as you document plant life. If the weather is nice, you can experiment with pastels outside with a working artist who will help guide you and
answer questions. Programs are free with Museum general admission. $5 special exhibition charge applies for Not-Yet-Members ages 13 years and older to view Mount Washington: The Crown of New England. On this special family day, we will offer free Museum general admission from 10 a.m. to noon for New Hampshire residents.
ARTalk: Art and Science on Mount Washington
Sunday, October 16, 2 p.m.
Both artists and scientists have shared a passion for exploring New Hampshire’s iconic Mount Washington and the White Mountains. Andrew Spahr, Currier director of collections and exhibitions, will discuss how the artists of the mid-19th century promoted an early interest in NH’s White Mountains and consequently stirred the growth of tourism in the region. Inez McDermott, professor of art history at New England College, will discuss the role Mount Washington played in some of America’s earliest photographic experiments and how the new medium helped scientists, artists and the growing tourism industry. Will Broussard, education coordinator at Mount Washington Observatory, will share highlights of important collaborations between scientists and artists during the early days of White Mountains-based research and he will discuss past and current climate research at the Home of the World’s Worst Weather. Free with Museum general admission, $5 special exhibition charge for Not-Yet-Members to view Mount Washington: The Crown of New England.
Storytime in the Gallery: Mountain Dance
Monday, October 24, 11:30 a.m.
Hear a children’s librarian read Mountain Dance by Thomas Locker and then create your own landscape inspired by mountains! Recommended for ages 2 to 5, but all are welcome. Free with Museum general admission—kids 12 and younger are always free.
Creative Studio: Sunset Mountains
Saturday, November 12, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Participate in a unique art activity that explores the many colors of the sky in the mountains. Find inspiration in Mount Washington: The Crown of New England. Both adults and children are encouraged to drop by one of the Museum’s studio spaces to participate.
Art, Adventure and Music
Sunday, November 13, 2 p.m.
Ben Cosgrove is a Massachusetts-based composer, multi-instrumentalist, essayist and touring performer with a deep interest in the human relationship to landscape and place. He will perform works he wrote that were inspired by several weeks he spent in the White Mountains as an artist-in-residence. Free with Museum general admission, $5 special exhibition charge for Not-Yet-Members to view Mount Washington: The Crown of New England.
Focus Tour: Mount Washington: The Crown of New England
Saturday, November 19, 11:30 a.m.
Enjoy a special tour of Mount Washington: The Crown of New England.
Currier After Hours: Celebrate Mount Washington
Thursday, December 1, 6–9 p.m.
Celebrate and explore the White Mountains through art and conversation. Join Curator Andrew Spahr for a tour of Mount Washington: The Crown of New England. Hear a staff member from the Mount Washington Observatory present an overview of Life and work at the Mount Washington Observatory. If that weren’t enough, Bradford Bog People will be performing. The Winter Garden Café will offer a full menu and a cash bar with a specialty cocktail. Activities free with general admission. $5 special exhibition charge for Not-Yet-Members to view Mount Washington: The Crown of New England. Looking for more? Sign up for a Twilight Tour of the Zimmerman House. Reservations required for Twilight Tours: www.currier.org.
Creative Studio: Wood Ornaments
Saturday, December 10, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Free admission for N.H. residents: 10 a.m.–noon
Stop by to decorate your own wooden ornament. Get inspired by visiting Mount Washington: The Crown of New England. Adults and children are encouraged to drop by one of the Museum’s studio spaces to participate.
In Perspective: Mount Washington and Man’s Best Friend
Sunday, December 11, 2 p.m.
Listen to Tom Ryan, author of Following Atticus, talk about his experience climbing all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot peaks twice in one winter with his four-legged companion. Hear about companionship and discoveries made while on this journey. Free with Museum general admission, $5 special exhibition charge for Not-Yet-Members to view Mount Washington: The Crown of New England.
Focus Tour: Winter Wonderlands in the Currier Collection
Saturday, December 17, 11:30 a.m.
Enjoy a special tour of the Museum’s collection that focuses on majestic images of winter and weather in the Currier Collection.
Focus Tour: Mount Washington: The Crown of New England
Wednesday, December 28, 11:30 a.m.
Enjoy a special tour of our blockbuster exhibition, Mount Washington: The Crown of New England.
The Currier Museum of Art, located at 150 Ash Street, Manchester, N.H., is open every day except Tuesday. It is home to an internationally respected collection of European and American paintings, decorative arts, photographs and sculpture, including works by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and O’Keeffe. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the engaging exhibitions, the dynamic programs ranging from art-making and lectures to music, a Museum Shop, and an airy, light-filled café. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the Museum. The Currier welcomes visitors with disabilities and special needs. We are wheelchair accessible and offer FM headsets for sound amplification at most public programs. For more information, visit www.currier.org or call 603.669.6144, x108.
The Currier Art Center offers studio classes, art camps, Master classes and intensive workshops for all ages. The Museum also owns the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House, complete with the original furnishings and the owners’ fine art collection.