fenimore-art-museum.JPGCooperstown, N.Y. - Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed, the first exhibition devoted solely to this American folk artist, opens May 26 at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York.  The exhibition includes over 40 oil paintings spanning his lifelong career from 1824 to 1856 and will be on view through December 31. "Of the many 19th century folk portrait painters, William Matthew Prior is one of the most accomplished and interesting," said Fenimore Art Museum President and CEO, Dr. Paul S. D'Ambrosio.  "The exhibition, expertly curated by Jacquelyn Oak, explores the blurry line between folk art and academic art in the early 19th century, and the intersection of folk art and the myriad reform and religious movements of the era." Prior began his artistic career in Maine in the 1820s and settled in Boston in the 1830s with an extended group of colleagues and family members. Under his leadership, this group revolutionized folk portraiture. Prior was the first folk artist to institute a price scale, offering to paint likenesses "without shade or shadow" at one-quarter the cost. This innovation made his portraits widely available to a diverse group of sitters, and allowed him to compete with more accomplished academic painters in the Boston area.  The late 1840s and 1850s were among his most productive artistic times, with some of his best-known and best-loved paintings dating from this period.  Prior was an important figure historically, as he became involved in a variety of reform movements.  He was a follower of the religious leader William Miller (Millerism or early Adventism) who was instrumental in Prior's personal development and provided access to new clients.  He painted several Millerite banners explaining the visionary's unique reading of Biblical prophecy. Prior's catalog of work thoroughly documents 19th century middle-class Americans including a large number of African-Americans.  His portraits have been studied by scholars and appreciated by art enthusiasts for the past 80 years. A fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Jacquelyn Oak and Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw accompanies the exhibition.   The Henry Luce Foundation, as the foundation sponsor, provided partial funding for the exhibition and catalog Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed.  Funding also provided by the American Folk Art Society and the Beryl P. Haas Charitable Remainder Unitrust. For more information, please visit FenimoreArtMuseum.org.

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About Fenimore Art Museum The Fenimore Art Museum, located on Otsego Lake -- James Fenimore Cooper's "Glimmerglass Lake" -- in historic Cooperstown, New York, features a wide-ranging collection of American art including: folk art; important American 18th- and 19th-century landscape, genre, and portrait paintings; an extensive collection of domestic artifacts; more than 125,000 historical photographs representing the technical developments made in photography and providing extensive visual documentation of the region's unique history; and the renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art comprising more than 800 art objectsrepresentative of a broad geographic range of North American Indian cultures, from the Northwest Coast, Eastern Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, Great Lakes, and Prairie regions. Founded in 1945, the Fenimore Art Museum is NYSHA's showcase museum. FenimoreArtMuseum.org Listed in USA Today as one of the top 10 places to see art in small cities, The Fenimore Art Museum offers spectacular art to match its spectacular setting on Otsego Lake in scenic Cooperstown, New York.   Images can be downloaded from this link:  https://www.yousendit.com/download/QlVqZXQ0eDNwM2xvZE1UQw For more information or images, please contact: Todd Kenyon, Public Relations New York State Historical Association Fenimore Art Museum/The Farmers' Museum Phone: (607) 547-1472 / E-mail: t.kenyon@nysha.org