VIVID VIEW: The Art and Science of Paint Analysis
March 31 to October 31
The original structure and alterations to Wilton were extensively investigated and catalogued by the noted preservation firm Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects. Architectural paint analysis, using optical microscopy techniques, has played an important role in understanding how the interior has evolved since its construction c. 1753. This analysis has also revealed the original decorations in each room, and how the rooms were repainted over time. Remarkably, the original paints survive in every room, as do the paints and decorative finishes applied by each successive owner.
Under different magnifications and illuminations, layers of paints and varnishes tell a story about the intended color, texture, and gloss of each layer as well as how long a layer was exposed before being painted over. Using microscopes, minute dispersions of pigments from each individual layer makes it possible to identify the composition, color, relative expense, and stability of the paints applied over time. The same process can be used to identify historic textile and wallpaper fibers.
These paint cross-sections, pigments, and fibers are not only archaeological tools, they are also colorful and captivating abstract images. This dual nature is strikingly illustrated with examples from paint analysis investigations conducted at Wilton, and at other Virginia historic sites, including Mount Vernon, Monticello, Stratford Hall, Montpelier, Eppington as well as selected privately owned historic houses in Virginia.
VIVID VIEW is made possible in part through the generous support of James D. and Pamela J. Penny
and 2012-2013 Paint Detectives Campaign.
Miniatures from the Collection
Open November 11 to February 26, 2017
A look at the seldom seen portrait miniatures, hollow-cuts, and silhouettes in the Wilton House Museum Collection.
April 15 to October 30
You & i are…Earth explores the ceramic medium as a record of human experience embodied in the objects of our lives, from those we discard to what we cherish, revere, and protect. Themes of race, culture, and social justice explored by internationally recognized contemporary artist Michelle Erickson’s 21st-century narratives provide a provocative lens within the intimate context of an 18th-century family and household to reflect on our present historical moment.
Collecting Neoclassical Maryland and Virginia 1790 – 1820
October 10, 2015 to February 21, 2016
This exhibition explores furniture made in Virginia and Maryland from 1790-1820. Sharing the borders of the nation’s new capital, and home to the thriving cities of Richmond and Baltimore, the furniture produced in these two states expressed Neoclassical taste with a Southern accent. This exhibition comprises 12 objects on loan from the private collecting of Michael Phillips whose passion for the topic is expressed not only in his collection but also in his willingness to share it with the public.
After the American Revolution the young republic sought to define their national character. They turned to ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration in the creation of civic buildings, agrarian villas, dress, and the fine and decorative arts. Classical forms, ornament, and proportions were adapted to contemporary life. Sometimes classical forms were recreated, such as the Grecian couch. Most often, items such as card tables and sideboards were decorated with classical ornaments. This Neoclassical taste of straight lines and flat, often painted, ornamentation was particularly well-suited to Southern tastes, where a preference for what was called the neat and plain style was long in favor.
Thank you to the collaborative support of The Decorative Arts Trust and to the exhibition’s lender Michael Phillips.
Anywhere But Now
November 7, 2014 to January 15, 2015
Anywhere But Now- an installation of contemporary art in the late 18th-century domestic structure of Wilton House Museum- unquestionably disrupts the illusion of stepping back in time. The artworks included in the exhibition variously draw attention to the mutability of remembrance. They show that recollections and representations of the past can be reverent, sentimental, critical, and humorous. They suggest that contemporary perceptions of the past also are inextricably associated with forgetting, sometimes willful and other times unintended. Such loss can be soothing, suspicious, or enraging. It can also be generative.
This exhibition is curated by graduate students in the Department of Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Randolph Family Reunion
November 2, 2013 to February 3, 2014
This exhibition reunites three centuries of Randolphs through their stories, contributions, and personal affects. What their stories and actions provide are copious accounts of information on how the Randolphs and their heirs refused to be bystanders in a land that, from its infancy, grew to become a leading nation that regularly called upon its best and brightest for support and leadership.
Opening Reception November 1st, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
“Admiring the Feathered Race:” John James Audubon’s Birds of America
April 20, 2013 to August 4, 2013
John James Audubon arrived in early-19th century Philadelphia with a desire to travel the country and depict its birds accurately, in both size and likeness. In the early 1820’s, after marriage, the birth of his children, and a series of failed ventures, Audubon began to pursue his dream. With the help of his self-designed technique of creating models, he revolutionized the tradition of bird illustration and brought life and vitality to his drawings. Audubon’s Birds of America (1827-1838) consists of 435 life-sized engravings, and established his legacy as an ornithologist, scientist, artist, and environmentalist.
Opening Reception: Friday, April 19th, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Designed to Perfection: Mark Catesby’s Natural History
October 25, 2012 to February 3, 2013
Wilton commemorates the 300th anniversary of Catesby’s arrival in Virginia in 1712 with an exhibition featuring nearly fifty etchings from this seminal work along with prints by other notable naturalists of England and North America, including one from Audubon’s legendary Birds of America. Surveying Catesby’s influence both as a scientific and artistic endeavor, this exhibit also shines light on how the publication of his work, featuring a 1754 edition, reflected on questions of wealth and status.