For the Love of Beauty
Exhibition Opened July 4, 2015
Dr. Gilbert and Frima Shapiro Gallery
THE NEW ENGLAND AESTHETIC STYLE IN FINE AND DECORATIVE ARTS
“let our houses first be lined with beauty, where they
come in contact with our lives”
— Henry David Thoreau
The late 19th century saw the arts in post-Civil War America strive to find new ways of expressing a rapidly changing world. By the 1870s the Industrial Age was well under way. The United States was taking its place as a world leader in industry, technology, and commerce, and westward expansion was glorified in paintings and photographs of the great American landscape. It was a time of unprecedented artistic creativity and innovation in fine and decorative arts, architecture, music, and literature.
Many artists and designers in New England were influenced by the English Aesthetic Movement of the 1850s and 1860s which celebrated beauty, art, and high craftsman-ship above all else as a critical response to the mechanized Industrial Revolution. Artists pursued the pleasure of beauty for beauty’s sake, devoid of symbolism, narrative, politics, and morality. Many looked toward the natural world for inspiration.
Ironically, given the original intent of the Aesthetic Movement, commercial fashion for nature-inspired designs grew with the rising middle class and disposable income, leading to a great demand for beautiful and well-crafted household objects and artwork as measures of taste and high culture. Popular decorative themes included organic elements of plants and animals, female forms, and classical motifs.
The Dr. Gilbert and Frima Shapiro Gallery celebrates the fine and decorative arts of New England, particularly in the innovative and unique designs of leading regional artists and craftsmen from the turn of the last century.
About the Dr. Gilbert and Frima Shapiro Gallery
The Whaling Museum Board of Trustees established the Dr. Gilbert and Frima Shapiro Gallery as a permanent new exhibition space featuring New England Fine and Decorative Arts, including the Museum’s Pairpoint and Mount Washington Glass Collections. The Shapiro Gallery is an elegant but accessible space with historic architectural details and exhibit design highlighting the historic contributions of New England to art and design. The Shapiro Gallery is adjacent to the Wattles Family Gallery. Together these two galleries add over 1,000 square feet of gallery space for fine art, while allowing visitors to see the Museum’s original vestibule entrance, replete with historical plaques commemorating the opening of the first public gallery in 1906.
This gallery is made possible through a major gift by longtime Museum benefactors, Dr. and Mrs. Gilbert L. Shapiro. Dr. Shapiro was elected to the Museum’s Board of Trustees in 1984. During his time on the Board, he served as Chairman of the Nominating Committee from 1986-1987 and was elected Second Vice President in 1987. In 1989, he was elected First-Vice President and assumed Presidency of the Museum in 1991. His tenure saw a time of profound transformation. With his combined energy and expertise, the Board, staff and volunteers, along with generous donors, achieved a series of milestones that positioned the Museum to become the world’s leading interpreter of the global whaling story.
Sample from the For the Love of Beauty Audio Guide
Add depth and understanding to your visit. Rent the Audio Guide player at the Museum’s admission desk.
This gallery is made possible by a gift of Dr. Gilbert and Frima Shapiro.
The Museum gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Pamela Banker Associates, Inc. and Barbara Moss Design.
Last modified: July 26, 2018