18th-Century Portraits Reunited in "Celebrating America: Masterworks from Texas Collections"

Release date: 
August 14, 2002

FORT WORTH, Texas --- "Celebrating America: Masterworks from Texas Collections," a special exhibition organized by the Amon Carter Museum that brings together 59 American masterpieces from private, public and corporate collections from throughout the state of Texas, opens September 14 at the Carter and runs through November 17.

One among many of this exhibition's achievements is the reunion of the portraits of Sarah and Jabez Bowen. In the early 1770s, John Singleton Copley (1738--1815) painted the portraits of these two distinguished citizens. The couple maintained influential social, political, and educational ties to their native Rhode Island, and their portraits remained together for over 200 years, including a period of extended loan to the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. In the early 1980s, however, the two paintings were sold separately through Kennedy Galleries of New York and made their way to Texas, where they reside in private collections 600 miles apart.

It was during her research for "Celebrating America" that Jane Myers, cocurator of the exhibition, discovered that both portraits were located in the state. "We were pleasantly surprised when we learned of this fortuitous coincidence, and we are delighted to have an opportunity to reunite this distinguished couple," Myers says.

Little could the Bowens have imagined, while sitting for the renowned Boston portraitist, that their countenances would someday come to rest in a region that during their lifetimes was a Spanish colony where the Native American and Hispanic populations maintained an uneasy balance with each other. Life was scarcely more settled for the Bowens back in New England, for their prominent positions led to deep involvement in the political upheavals that would lead to the American Revolution.

When "Celebrating America" opens September 14, visitors will be able to see the Bowens together in the Carter's new galleries for the first time in nearly 20 years. Each of the other masterworks brought together for this special exhibition carries with it a similarly fascinating story, not only of the cultural history embodied in the work itself, but in many cases the record of how the work came to reside in this state.

This exhibition is organized by the Amon Carter Museum. It is made possible by a generous gift from Wells Fargo.

The Star-Telegram is the official print sponsor of the Amon Carter Museum.