It recently came to our attention that Julian Fellowes, creator of the BBC hit show Downton Abbey (what did everyone think of the third season premiere?), is setting his sights on New York’s Gilded Age for his next show. The Gilded Age was a remarkable time of growth in America, taking place roughly from the 1870s through the 1890s. The railroad industry boomed, the fight for women’s rights grew stronger, and New York saw skyscrapers climb high. We’re excited about the show, not just as Downton Abbey fans, but because a number of our upcoming exhibitions deal with the Gilded Age and its aftereffects.
The Landmarks of New York features thirty photographs of significant New York buildings and spaces, some of which were built during the Gilded Age. Sadly, many of these buildings no longer exist. Margi Hofer, Curator of Decorative Arts, explains, “Perhaps one of the reasons New Yorkers are intrigued by this period is that so much of the architecture and interior decoration has gone the way of the wrecking ball. We need to fire up our imagination to conjure the world that Edith Wharton describes in her novels. While some of these ‘cottages’ survive in Newport and elsewhere, the great mansions of New Yorkers are nearly all gone.”
Opening in the fall, Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America will examine the remarkable critical and popular resurgence of portraiture in the United States during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. Many fortunes were made during the economic boom of the north and midwest, and with those fortunes came the impetus to document the appearance of those who propelled and benefited from burgeoning wealth. However, as the Gilded Age faded into the Progressive Era, the art world would be in for quite a shock. In 1913 the famous New York Armory Show would showcase works from the likes of Paul Cezanne, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Gauguin for the first time ever in America. The Armory Show at 100 will feature many of the original works from the Armory Show that caused such a scandal a century ago.