“New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville” to remain on view through November 3

An exhibition with richly-painted depictions of daily life created during the transformative years prior to the American Civil War will open at Mint Museum Randolph June 29, accompanied by special community events.

The exhibition, New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville, will premiere locally at a First Look Friday at 6:30 p.m. on June 28, which is free to Mint members and $15 for non-members and features gallery tours, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, and more. On Saturday June 29, the community is invited to a FREE Community Wellness Day, sponsored by Novant Health with additional support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Wellness-themed activities including dancing, lawn games, children’s hand-washing demonstrations, and healthy picnicking will take place from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on the lawn in front of Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road, and museum admission is free to both Mint locations for the day.

During a tragically short career, the Baltimore-born and European-trained Richard Caton Woodville (1825–55) engaged with issues that dominated American society, including war, intergenerational communication, and new technologies such as the telegraph and penny press. Woodville was born of a prominent Baltimore family and trained in Düsseldorf, Germany. He conducted much of his professional career in Germany, France, and Great Britain. This is the first monographic Woodville exhibition since 1967. It premiered at The Walters Art Museum, which organized the exhibition, earlier this year.

The exhibition includes 15 of Woodville’s 16 known paintings, several of which have never been on view, as well as prints, illustrated books, and other related works of art to place his career in historical context. Woodville left behind no written archives; however, his work was highly acclaimed and widely disseminated through premium prints sent to thousands of subscribers to the American Art-Union, a national art membership organization. His beautifully painted, highly detailed canvases examining popular subjects played an important role in the extraordinary increase in visual imagery available to a broad American audience during his lifetime.

“This is the first special exhibition of paintings at Mint Museum Randolph since 2010,” said Jonathan Stuhlman, the museum’s Curator of American Art. “It is an honor to be able to share these iconic paintings with our visitors and for the Mint to have been chosen as the only venue in the country for this engaging show after the organizing institution.”

The scenes Woodville depicts are subtle yet revealing of human foibles, rendered on a small scale but addressing the larger events unfolding outside the scenes of daily life, including the politics of manifest destiny, the power shift from the Revolutionary to the Jacksonian generation, and the issues of slavery, war, and class difference. Although prevalent at this time, Woodville avoids the stereotyping and caricature of African American figures who are often observers to the central narratives. The installation also features a unique interactive “parlor” area, in which visitors can participate in activities popular during Woodville’s era, including making shadow puppets, playing with puzzle cubes and other handheld games, and looking at stereoscopic views.

The exhibition was organized by The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, with generous grant support from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

A 144-page publication, comprising five essays, a catalogue of the paintings, and an illustrated checklist of works on paper as well as engravings and lithographs after paintings by Woodville, accompanies the exhibition. Published by the Walters Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, the soft-cover book retails for $24.95.