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The Sara Roby Foundation Collection: unveils ‘Modern American Realism’

Morning at Cape Code painted by Edward Hopper
Morning at Cape Code painted by Edward Hopper
Courtesy by Smithsonian American Art Museum

An Exhibition of 71 paintings to include sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s (SAAM) from the museum’s permanent collection is a rare treat. Truly some of America’s most noted American masters portraying their figurative interpretation of America, but hurry because, it closes on August 17,

This collection not only depicts American life, but also defines the very diverse American character, which features various unique flavors of Modern American Realism styles.

The Sara Roby Foundation, “Modern American Realism,” collection presents works by Will Barnet, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Arthur Dove, Nancy Grossman, Edward Hopper, Wolf Kahn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jacob Lawrence, Reginald Marsh, Ben Shahn and Honoré Sharrer.

“Some of the most beloved works in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection—such as ‘Cape Cod Morning’ by Edward Hopper and ‘Night in Bologna’ by Paul Cadmus—are part of this exhibition, which is a testament to the enduring relevance of the figurative tradition in American art,” said Virginia Mecklenburg, chief curator at Smithsonian American Art Museum.

This time range encompasses broadly, what we would call modern realism, the 1910s to the 1980s, which integrates socio-political to psychological, and from satirical to surrealist.

“With this exhibition, the Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the generosity of The Sara Roby Foundation for its gift of this extraordinary collection, and for its continuing support of the museum’s programs that advance the understanding of American realist art,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sara Roby (1907-1986) selected art largely defined as realist and followed proficient artists concerned with principles of form and design, which she had been trained, first in Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and later with Reginald Marsh and Kenneth Hayes Miller at the Art Students League in New York City.

During the 1950s, Sara Roby started collecting, and she refused to be influenced by current trends. She advocated realism at a time when critics celebrated abstract expressionism and promoted “action painting” in works, which bore little resemblance to the natural world.

Roby also was unwilling to be constrained by her own collecting criteria, according to Art historian William Kloss, who coin the title of Coryrealism to explain her current foundation collection of Modern Realism.