July 21 through September 30, 2023

Portraiture in America began as a record of wealthy landowners, their wives, and children. Sometimes the favorite steed, cow, or hunting dog precluded the images of family. As the 19th Century wore on towards a new millennium, again, the wealthy, this time, male industrialists, were portrayed in order to adorn the company boardroom. Simultaneously and from the birth of the American government, Presidents and important politicians began having their portraits made as a record of power and sovereignty. As the 19th century came to a close, more and more people were beginning to have their portraits recorded by the developing technology of the camera; farmers & wives, soldiers, and occasionally women doing important social work. Still difficult and fidgety, children were being recorded more by both the hand rendered artist and the camera operator.

In the 20th Century, the persona of a subject became an important ingredient to the mythologizing of Americans particularly politicians, actors, and fictional characters represented in advertising. Now in the 21st Century, portraiture more likely conveys a person’s brand or image, but, the common person with no intentions of being famous can now be recorded more easily than ever before and post their likenesses on Instagram or Facebook as a digital portrait. For artists today, identity, persona, & power may be subsequent to capturing the soul or lyrical qualities of the sitter— the poetry of the person or capturing the essence of their spirit being foremost in intention.

Director/Curator Brian Byrn, has assembled nearly 80 examples of American portraiture from the MMAA permanent collection representing nationally noted artists from history and joined them with examples of 12 living artists from across the Michiana region and beyond. Themes of identity, persona, & power are just some of the interesting qualities that make this exhibit a rich experience for the viewer.

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