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The Story of Art | The Nature of Art: “America” Personified

In conjunction with the upcoming The Nature of Art exhibition, this Story of Art segment will examine ways in which U.S. and European artists gave physical form to the so-called “new world.” Despite human habitation spanning over 20,000 years, European settlers imposed their own visions and imaginings onto the landscape through their artistic representations. Senior Curator of Collection & Exhibitions Dr. Stanton Thomas will explore an array of imaginative depictions of the natural terrain, unraveling their intricate meanings and cultural nuances.

Particular emphasis will be placed on representations of “America” that employ the female body as allegory, symbolizing an ambitious, visionary ideal of democracy based on European models. During the 19th century, the pure and goddess-like image of “America” functioned as a striking metaphor for what Anglo-European settlers perceived as a boundless, Eden-like expanse of open country waiting to be “civilized.”

This talk will explore how images of “America” have changed over time to reflect shifting political agendas, changing ideas about the landscape, perceptions about natural resources, and evolving social ideals.

The Story of Art | The Nature of Art
“America” Personified
Dr. Stanton Thomas
Thursday, September 14
6:00 pm–7:00 pm
Marly Room
$10 MFA Members; $20 Not-yet Members


Image of Dr. Stanton Thomas Senior Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the MFA Senior Curator of Collections & Exhibitions Dr. Stanton Thomas received his Ph.D. in Northern Renaissance art from Case Western University and holds an MA from the University of Missouri, Columbia.  His recent projects at the MFA include A Feast for the Eyes: European Masterpieces from the Grasset Collection (2019) and Drawn to Beauty: The Art and Atelier of Jean Schlumberger (2018-2019), Pieced & Patterned: American Quilts, c. 1800-1930 (2021-2022), Bernini and the Roman Baroque: Masterpieces from Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia (2022), and True Nature: Rodin and the Age of Impressionism (2022-2023).


The Story of Art series focuses on the story of human history, one that is continually being retold as we discover new things and look afresh at the familiar. Join MFA curators on a journey to learn more about our collection, contextualized with other objects from around the world, as we take a grand tour through the story of art.


Image: J.J. Kändler, German, 1706-1775 for Meissen Porcelain Works, Allegorical Figurine of America, c. 1750, Hard past porcelain, Private Collection

Presented by Raymond James

Event Details

September 14, 2023

6–7 pm

Event Categories

Museum of Fine Arts – Marly Room

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