Founded in 1825 by the artist Samuel F. B. Morse and a group of forward-thinking individuals, the National Academy of Design has a simple yet powerful mission: to provide means for the training of artists and the promotion and exhibition of their art.
Since its founding, the Academy has upheld a rule from its first constitution: any elected National Academician (NA) must donate one of their artworks to the Academy’s collection. In 1839, the Academy decided that any individual nominated to the preceding rank of Associate National Academician (ANA) must also present a portrait of themselves for the collection, whether painted by their own hand or that of a fellow artist. Such gifts of “diploma works” and “diploma portraits” are the defining feature of the Academy’s collection and the focus of this exhibition.
Over the decades, these submissions have grown into a distinctive collection of American art that today includes nearly every major American artist.
For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design is the first exhibition to highlight this pivotal aspect of the collection—the joint presentation of an artist’s portrait with his or her diploma work. Featuring 100 paintings, For America presents not only a visual document of the Academy’s membership but a unique history of American painting from 1809 to the present as told by its makers.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Image: Robert Frederick Blum, 1988-89 Two Idlers, Oil on canvas, 29 × 40 in. National Academy of Design, New York