Object Lessons in American Art: Selections from the Princeton University Art Museum

Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Large Red Hat. Museum purchase, Fowler McCormick, Class of 1921, Fund (left); Rande Cook, Our Home. Museum purchase, Fowler McCormick, Class of 1921, Fund. © Rande Cook (right)

Object Lessons in American Art features four centuries of works from the Princeton University Art Museum that collectively explore American history, culture, and society. Inspired by the historical concept of the object lesson—the study of a material thing to communicate an embodied idea—the exhibition brings groups of objects together to ask fundamental questions about artistic significance, materials, and how meaning changes across time and contexts. With a focus on race, gender, and the environment, these pairings demonstrate the value of juxtaposing often diverse objects to generate new understanding. Object Lessons presents Euro-American, Native American, and African American art from contemporary perspectives, illustrating how fresh investigations can inform and enrich its meaning, affording new insights into the American past and present.  

An accompanying catalogue expands upon the exhibition through focused analyses that situate these important works within current social, cultural, and artistic concerns and debates.

This exhibition is made possible by the leadership support of the Terra Foundation for American Art. The accompanying publication is made possible by the generous support of Annette Merle-Smith; and by additional support from the Barr Ferree Foundation Fund for Publications, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University.