Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Morning, 1950.
Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Morning, 1950. Oil on canvas, 34 1/8 x 40 1/4 inches. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation.

Modern American Realism

Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection

OCT 20, 2018 – APR 28, 2019

A selection of treasured artworks from the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Modern American Realism encompasses the range of what can broadly be called modern realism—from sociopolitical to psychological, from satirical to surrealist. Drawn from works collected by the Sara Roby Foundation, the exhibition includes 44 paintings and sculptures from the 1910s to 1980s by Will Barnet, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Arthur Dove, Edward Hopper, Wolf Kahn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jacob Lawrence, Reginald Marsh, and Honoré Sharrer, among others.Sara Roby (1907-1986) believed that the most effective way to encourage the visual arts in the United States was to acquire the works of living artists and exhibit them to the public. The Sara Roby Foundation began collecting American art in the mid-1950s, and during the next 30 years assembled a premier group of paintings and sculpture by the country’s leading figurative artists.

The resulting collection captures both the optimism and the apprehension of the years following World War II. Many of the works are poignantly human, such as Dowager in a Wheelchair (1952) by Philip Evergood, while others, by artists such as Robert Vickrey, challenge us to decipher meanings imbedded in complex, sometimes enigmatic scenes.

Sara Roby refused to be bound by current trends when she began collecting in the 1950s. She championed realism at a time when critics celebrated abstract expressionism and “action painting.” Yet, she was unwilling to be constrained by her own collecting criteria. In addition to obtaining masterpieces by Edward Hopper, Paul Cadmus, and their contemporaries, the Foundation showed cultural range by purchasing key works by Stuart Davis and Louise Nevelson, and regional breadth by collecting works by Mark Tobey and Morris Graves, both preeminent Northwest Artists.

“The Portland Art Museum is honored to partner with the Smithsonian American Art Museum to bring some of their twentieth-century treasures to Oregon,” said Brian Ferriso, The Marilyn H. and Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. Director and Chief Curator of the Portland Art Museum. “The Sara Roby Foundation Collection has exceptional examples of 20th-century American realism, many of which are rarely seen in our community, including major works by Paul Cadmus, Edward Hopper and Nancy Grossman. Our audience will also appreciate seeing regional favorites such as Jacob Lawrence and Morris Graves.”

Artists included

Modern American Realism is presented on the Museum’s second floor adjacent to the American Galleries, offering opportunities for visitors not only to appreciate important American artists such as Hopper whose work is rarely seen in this city, but also to attain a deeper appreciation of the creative heritage their work drew upon and carried forward.

Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) with generous support from the Sara Roby Foundation, Gevurtz Menashe, and the European and American Art Council. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports SAAM’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.

Nov
24
Sat
Public Tour: Modern American Realism
Nov 24 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Modern American Realism

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection.

Dec
1
Sat
Public Tour: Modern American Realism
Dec 1 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Modern American Realism

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection.

Dec
6
Thu
Baby Morning: Modern American Realism
Dec 6 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Baby Morning: Modern American Realism

We welcome babies and their caregivers beginning at 10 a.m. The first tour begins at roughly 10:30 a.m., or when we have a large enough group ready to go. The second tour begins at 11 a.m. Baby Morning’s home base remains open until noon with toys, games, and books, providing a welcoming, accommodating space free of worries. Caregivers are also welcome to leave belongings here while on the tour. Carriers are recommended while in the galleries, but not required.

 Session 1  Session 2
Dec
9
Sun
Public Tour: Modern American Realism
Dec 9 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Modern American Realism

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection.

Dec
23
Sun
Public Tour: Modern American Realism
Dec 23 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Modern American Realism

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection.

Jan
6
Sun
Public Tour: Modern American Realism
Jan 6 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Modern American Realism

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection.

Jan
17
Thu
Public Tour: Modern American Realism
Jan 17 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Public Tour: Modern American Realism

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection.

Jan
27
Sun
Public Tour: Modern American Realism
Jan 27 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Modern American Realism

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection.