EXHIBITION ON 19TH CENTURY AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN ART OPENS AT FENIMORE ART MUSEUM

Publication Date: 
September 2008
Press Release Contact: 

Cooperstown, NY -- The exhibition Of, By, and For the People: The Art of Presidential Elections which features rare folk art created specifically for presidential campaigns of the 19th-century, will be on view at the Fenimore Art Museum beginning Saturday, September 20th in the Clark Gallery.  The exhibit is guest-curated by Dr. Jeff Pressman.

Folk art from the 1820s through the early twentieth century including paintings, needlework, stoneware, redware, sculpture, and household items are featured.  The exhibition is comprised of rare objects - some have not seen the light of day for generations - that have been culled from small historical societies as well as private collections.  Pressman emphasizes, " It turns out there is very little of this material still in existence, but what is around tells a great story.  The items in this exhibition are the best of the best."

This exhibition emphasizes the fact that academic artists mainly painted portraits of the candidates while folk artists produced art related directly to the election. The election of 1840, in which the incumbent Martin Van Buren squared off against the Hero of Tippecanoe, William Henry Harrison, was perhaps the first modern campaign where candidates used imagery and publicly-displayed works of art to promote runs for election.  One of the best known campaign slogans, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too" was coined, and considerable campaign ephemera was created.

The exhibition includes uncommon artifacts such as a Van Buren poster, which was carried in a July 4, 1840 political parade in Barre, Massachusetts by townspeople from Templeton supporting William Henry Harrison.  It is the finest one-of-a-kind example of political folk art discovered for the exhibition.

“The Van Buren poster is great, but more importantly, displaying a previously undiscovered artifact from a small historical society should encourage visitors to seek out and visit smaller museums to find unknown treasures.  It’s important to encourage small historical societies to investigate what they have to see if there might be a special item among the local artifacts,” said Pressman.

"My hope is that people coming to visit will take the time to read the labels, look at the objects and have a better feeling for our history as these objects tell a great story, especially if you take the time to really study them."

The exhibition runs from September 20th through December 31st, 2008.

About the Fenimore Art Museum

One of the nation’s premier art institutions, the Fenimore Art Museum is home to an exceptionally rich collection of American folk art and American Indian art as well as important holdings in American decorative arts, photography, and twentieth-century art. Founded in 1945 in Cooperstown, New York, the museum is part of the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA), founded in 1899. The museum’s renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection, housed in the American Indian Wing, is a masterpiece collection of more than 800 art objects, representing a broad scope of North American cultures. The collections of American folk and fine art include seminal works by Grandma Moses, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, William Sidney Mount, and Benjamin West. The museum offers a range of interactive educational programming for children, families, and adults, including lectures and workshops for museum visitors and distance learning instruction for classrooms nationwide. The museum further explores and examines our cultural history by organizing and hosting nationally touring art and history exhibitions, including Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation; Treasures from Olana: The Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church; A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.; and Ralph Fasanella’s America.

The Fenimore Art Museum is located on 5798 State Hwy. 80, Lake Road, in Cooperstown. The museum’s Fenimore Café, overlooking beautiful Otsego Lake, features wonderful views and a tranquil setting amid the terraced gardens. The Museum Shop offers fine jewelry, art reproductions, and a wide selection of publications on folk art, history, and Native American art. Museum admission is $11 for adults, $9.50 for visitors age 65 and over, and $5 for children age 7 to 12; children 6 and under and NYSHA members are admitted free. Reduced price combination admission tickets that include The Farmers’ Museum and The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are also available. The museum is open from April 1 through December 31; closed January through March, except for special events and school groups. For museum hours or general information, please call 1-888-547-1450 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.

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For more information or images, please contact:
Todd Kenyon, Public Relations
New York State Historical Association
Fenimore Art Museum/The Farmers’ Museum
Phone: (607) 547-1472 / E-mail: t.kenyon@nysha.org

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