The Taft's New Bicentennial Exhibit Highlights 'Splendid' Works of Art (and Realities That Weren't So) from 1820-1920

The exhibit includes rarely seen paintings and sculptures from the likes of Duncanson, Nourse and Rookwood, as well as "works of art that reveal the stories of historically underrepresented groups"

click to enlarge Lilly Martin Spencer, Self-Portrait, about 1840, oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 25 1/2 in. On loan from the Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio
Lilly Martin Spencer, Self-Portrait, about 1840, oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 25 1/2 in. On loan from the Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio


The Taft Museum of Art has been the host to some of Cincinnati's finest art collections for many years and right now it is in the middle of celebrating the building’s bicentennial. Built around 1820, this house has been home to many of Cincinnati’s most prominent citizens and holds a National Historic Landmark title.

Two hundred years is a long time and a lot of history to cover, so the museum's new exhibition is instead focusing on the first 100 years. After three years of planning, A Splendid Century: Cincinnati Art 1820-1920 opens on Oct. 3 and explores the early days of the Taft's existence. With some rarely seen paintings and sculptures from local private collections as well as from other museums in the area, you'll see works by artists such as Hiram Powers, Robert S. Duncanson, Elizabeth Nourse and creations from Rookwood Pottery.

”Nearly 60 works of art will tell the story of the city’s arts scene as the Taft’s historic house residents would have experienced it and contributed to it — creating a picture of Cincinnati visual culture during the Golden Age of art in the Queen City,” says Associate Curator Tamera Muente.

Not all has been ‘splendid,’ of course, in the last 200 years and this exhibition doesn't shy away from that, shining a light on art that represents BIPOC stories and features "more to the story" labels on display throughout. 

This new exhibit is on view with another called Built to Last: The Taft Historic House at 200 Years, which features artifacts and stories from the home’s former residents and figures that have passed through its halls. 

These two exhibitions are the precursor to the Bicentennial Infrastructure Project, which is set to begin in 2021. The Taft Museum recently received grants from The National Endowment for the Humanities and National Park Service for $750,000 and $500,000, respectively. This new budget will go to preserving and maintaining this historic landmark, helping to ensure that it sticks around for another 200 years.

A Splendid Century: Cincinnati Art 1820-1920 is on view through Jan. 24, 2021. The museum is currently open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, free for members and free admission for all on Sundays.

The Taft Museum of Art is located at 316 Pike St., Downtown. More info: taftmuseum.org.

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