Past Exhibitions

Per Barclay: House of Oil and Water

June 2019 - September 2019


Norwegian artist Per Barclay presents three bodies of work at the Redwood this summer: a site-specific commission, Oil Room(Redwood) (2019) in Abraham Redwood’s eighteenth-century summer house; Untitled (2018), a 7-foot glass house where pumped water sloshes gently and rhythmically around the interior walls and ceilings in Redwood's Delivery Room; and monumental photographs that document his earlier site-specific installations in the Peirce Prince Gallery. These include a library reflected with stunning clarity in a mirror of oil Rue Visconti # 14 (2010, above), a Swiss bank vault seemingly floating atop it, La Banque, Geneve, 2005, and other oily interventions.

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Spectacular Silver: Yachting's Goelet Cups

June 2019 - October 2019

This exhibition presents a multimedia sweep of one of the great chapters in sailing competition and trophy craftsmanship: the Goelet Cups and the sailboat races held in Newport from 1882 to 1897 for which they were the prize. The races were among the first American sporting contests to attract national media attention and the elaborate silver trophies, made by leading firms such as Tiffany & Co. and Whiting Manufacturing Co., are considered a high point in nineteenth-century American silver. Locating the cups within the context of the sailing events and the sporting culture of the Gilded Age, Spectacular Silver  features a range of historic materials: from yacht models and marine paintings to press clippings and scrap books, culminating in a select presentation of Goelet Cups from major private and institutional collections.

Organized by the New York Yacht Club in partnership with the Redwood Library & Athenaeum, Spectacular Silver brings the Goelet Cup races to life in the original context of Newport in celebration of the NYYC’s 175th anniversary.

Curators: Alice Dickinson and Benedict Leca

June 14 – October 6, 2019 

Van Alen Gallery


The Claggetts: Master Clockmakers in Colonial America

December 2018 - April 2019

The Claggetts of Newport: Master Clockmakers in Colonial America features 35 clocks, the largest assemblage of Claggett and Wady clocks ever brought together—many never exhibited publicly. It examines the range of the Claggetts’ clock production in terms of their technical sophistication, decorative finesse, and context of fabrication. 


Drawn from a full roster of public and private collections, the exhibition includes pieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brown University, The Preservation Society of Newport County, Old Sturbridge Village Collection, and the Rhode Island Historical Society. It features twenty clocks by William Claggett, including his masterpiece: the arch-dial, eight-day quarter-striking clock in japanned case belonging to the Redwood. Thomas Claggett is represented by eleven clocks, while James Wady—to whom only eleven clocks are ascribed—by four clocks, including one using a convex block-and-shell pendulum door, a feature that typified Newport clocks. Among other highlights is a table clock with japanned surface by William Claggett; a trio of Thomas Claggett clocks in related, uniquely regional cases, one a dwarf clock and another a musical clock by him; and two uncased eight-day time and strike movements enabling visitors to peer into the mechanics of a working clock.

The exhibition includes many clocks borrowed from private collections that feature significant provenance information. Preserved by Rhode Island families, some for 300 years, the identities of the original owners of several examples are documented and early family histories are known for others, shedding light on the value, details of construction and the circumstances governing commissions.

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Edward Ruscha Ex Libris, 2017

June 2018 - October 2018

Commissioned to commemorate the gift of author and New Yorker staff writer Calvin Tomkins’ art book collection to the Redwood, this large-scale acrylic exemplifies Ruscha’s enduring exploration of the visual and connotative potential of words and phrases 

With words functioning as both bearers of meaning and as forms —“becoming a picture… then coming back and becoming word[s] again,” as per the artist— we are left as viewers with a range of interpretive possibilities that confound traditional forms and conventional narratives.


For example, the image authorizes us to think of the play on words of Ex Libris, not only as ‘from the books of’ but also as ‘out of’(Ex) of the library— a conceptual evasion of the decorative frame that tightly encloses the words. Likewise, the color field background transgresses the tradition-laden boundaries of line engraving, the historic medium used for an ex libris.

Remember Bimbia, 2018

June 2018 - September 2018

Pascale Marthine Tayou’s site-specific installation for the Redwood, Remember Bimbia (2018) is a pile of painted paving stones that moor the American flag – American history and American futures – in the rubble of its repressed past. The artist’s call to memory, to remember Bimbia, is both a specific invocation of what was once the key slave market in Tayou’s native country of Cameroon— and with it, an acknowledgement of the role that Africans also played in the slave trade— and a larger appeal for us all to accept slavery as “part of our communal history; it is a history that belongs to us all,” as Tayou explains. The slave trade powered the economies of the new world as much as the old. And it was central to the prosperity of the “lively experiment” of Rhode Island: to Newport as a city, and to the Redwood specifically.

This institution’s founder, Abraham Redwood, owed his wealth to the triangle trade and to his sugar plantation in Antigua, where he held nearly three hundred slaves. Even as he championed the Enlightenment ideals of reading and learning, he also represented the contradictory notions of equality that defined colonial America as a slave-owning “democracy” of and for white men. This institution acknowledges the contradictions and complexities of its past, and with this temporary installation, it invites Newport residents and visitors to remember the slave market of Bimbia and the  thousands of West Africans who arrived in Newport enchained. At the same time, Remember Bimbia celebrates the contributions of people of all “colors,” evoking the revolutionary spirit of 1968 – fifty years ago this summer – through its “riotous” color and the paving stones flung in the name of liberty.


Commissioned by the Redwood Contemporary Arts Initiative, through the generosity of Cornelius C. Bond & Anne E. Blackwell and the Hartfield Foundation.


The Best Editions of Several Volumes: John J. Slocum, His Library, and the Redwood

April 2018 - October 2018

This exhibition will highlight the generous gift of the Slocum family of books from John J. Slocum's personal library. An erudite collector, Mr. Slocum, amassed a diverse library of rare and antiquarian books ranging from 16th century volumes to important 20th century first editions. His particular interests were Latin Satire, Neo-Latin and Latin love poetry, and books relating to his work abroad. As a patron of the arts, he also held personally inscribed editions of modern literature. Please join us as we share highlights from this expansive collection.


This exhibition was on view April 13 - October 14, 2018 in the Peirce Prince Gallery.

Modernity vs. Tradition: Art at the Parisian Salon 1750-1900

December 2017 - October 2018

The signal aesthetic space of modern spectacle culture, the Parisian Salon remains the indispensable precursory context that gave rise to virtually everything defining today’s art world: from superstar artists and the art market to museum exhibitions and biennales; from consumer culture to institutionalized art history. Assembled from a private collection of prints, pamphlets, press images and published criticism, and supplemented by rare volumes from the Redwood Library’s holdings, the exhibition charts the evolution of the Salon and its 200-year history, from the early presentations rooted in the civic pageantry of royal patronage, through the Enlightenment Salons of the Royal Academy and the highly contested nineteenth-century exhibitions, all the way to the culminating presentations of the Universal Exposition of 1900.  


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Redefining Newport Style: The Interwar Years, 1920-1940

June 2017 - October 2017

It is widely assumed that Newport, Rhode Island, queen of Gilded Age American resorts, abruptly ceased to be a touchstone of fashionable trends in architecture, art and lifestyle following the outbreak of World War I; on the contrary, although not to the frenzied pace of the last quarter of the 19th-century, the city maintained its status as an international byline from the late teens through the challenges of the Depression and the gathering storm clouds of the bellicose thirties. Leading architects, artists, designers and sportsmen continued to transform the appearance and aspirations of the cottage colony; coupled with the ascendant public interest in the lives of leading debutantes, Newport remained in position as a reference point in taste around the world. This chronological chapter remains a little explored segment of the community’s history and it is the aim of this exhibition and its resultant publication to address the imbalance.

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   March 2017 - June 2017

For over a decade, Boston artist Kevin Dacey has been photographing cultural spaces such as museums and libraries, creating liquidy surfaces of reflection that dissolve the boundaries between outside and in: between nature and culture, between reality and its multiple refractions.  Launching the artist’s yearlong residency at the Redwood – part of the new Redwood Contemporary Arts Initiative - this exhibition presents Dacey’s initial meditations on the ins and outs of this eighteenth-century institution. 

Dacey’s recent photographs taken at a wintery Redwood join three earlier bodies of work. Vitrine focuses on museum cases, confounding our sense of what lies within these glass houses or outside them. In NowWhen, spectral museum-goers float in sweeps of white light, suspended between the moment (Now) and its future (When). And in DateTime, brilliant large-format photographs are pierced by points of illumination that spell out cryptic streams of dates: 1917, 1929, 1973. 

As exterior and interior fold into one another in multiple ways, Dacey’s photographs blur the line between the material and the cerebral, between the realities that lie outside us and our imagination within. In this way, they press the question: What is located in the photograph and what is our external projection onto it? Which is another way of asking: where does our outside begin and our inside end? 


This exhibit is on view March 22, 2017 through June 4, 2017.

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   The Variable Line: Master Drawings from Renaissance to Contemporary

   December 2016 - March 2017

From the birth of graphic art, in the drawings of Paleolithic cave artists, line was the basic means through which to define form or suggest volumes. Likewise relied upon to communicate subtle differentiations of surface, texture, or color, a line is an abstraction, yet one whose foundational, delineative properties are capable of underpinning artistic expression in all media, whether print, painting, sculpture or video.

It is for this reason—as the basic building block of any art making—that drawing’s ubiquity has stretched unbroken to this day, even routinely entering our own lives as doodle or sketch. From the most pervasive to the most individual, drawing, like handwriting, offers us historical perspectives through the continuities inherent to the medium. It also remains the site of radical artistic adaptations or renewals, born of the technical or stylistic idiosyncrasies of artists intent on bucking tradition.


In the end, it is drawing's immutable simplicity—a line drawn across paper—that makes the drawings exhibited here among those rare objects that enable us to ride along on the creative journey of both Renaissance and contemporary artists.

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   Do Lord Remember Me: The Black Church in Rhode Island

   October 2016 - November 2016

Do Lord Remember Me: The Black Church in Rhode Island a groundbreaking exhibit on the 250 years history of its formation and function as the community’s moral compass, town hall and developer of artists, thinkers and doers. The exhibit tells the story in images and text of American firsts: the first free Black church - Newport; the first Black Episcopal Church – Providence; the first piece of sacred music by an African – Newport Gardner; The first Baptist church in America – Newport and more. It shows how African ritual merged with European ceremony to form a powerhouse of freedom, service and survival. Astonishing accounts of burial rites, music, foodways, politics and pride show how African Americans forged a unique way out of slavery and religious restrictions to form houses of worship in Providence, South County, Newport, Bristol and Woonsocket. National figures such as Ezra Stiles, Alexander Crummell, Rev. Samuel Proctor, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Moses Brown emerge as major players in promoting, preserving and protecting basic civil rights in Rhode Island. 

The exhibit is funded by The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, sponsored by Opera Providence, and mounted by Stages of Freedom.  




Ruscha: Ex Libris 

   Future Retro: Car Drawings from the Great Age of American Automobiles


The optimism of the American postwar era ushered in what is now regarded as the ‘great age’ of automotive art, a moment when American engineering know-how was matched to a resurgence of artistic talent, yielding some of the finest automotive design drawings ever produced.


If the twin fields of automobile and industrial design had already emerged in the 1930s, it was the growth of consumerism after the war years that forced an evolution towards ‘styling’ and the emergence of a second generation of car designers groomed in the studio system of the Detroit automakers. There, styling answered consumer demand for futuristic design, for performance or utility, presented through an array of themes that partook of advertizing: romance, dynamism, or the family.


Whatever stability and prestige automobile designers gained through the institutionalization of their profession, it is also the studio system that diminished the artistic merit that attached to their work. The bulk of design drawings tended to be discarded as non-art—as the functional by-product of the car design process. Yet as this exhibition makes clear, these are marvelously rendered works every bit as loaded with cultural meaning and aesthetic value as more traditional ‘high art’ drawings.


The Redwood Library gratefully acknowledges support from collectors Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, as well as the kind cooperation of the MFA, Boston.



The soaring American car market after WWII was the driving force behind the emergence of automotive art, a subspecialty that evolved from the technical drawings of automobile production to the color advertising of glossy period magazines.



Illustrations of production cars, such as the four Oldsmobile sedans at right, can be understood as highly finished presentation drawings, the result of a long process of design and refinement. Concept car drawings, such as those at center and far right, were used by designers to evoke and evaluate often fanciful themes and ideas.



Technological advances achieved during the war years combined with the postwar space age to create an emphasis on performance. Conflating flight with auto travel, the styling and engineering of high performance cars drew on developments in aviation technology, culminating in the ‘muscle car’ of the late 1960s and early 1970s.



The oldest automobile brand after Buick, Cadillac has always occupied a place at the top of the luxury market in the United States. As such, Cadillac combined style and technical innovation—like the electric starter early in the century, or the curved glass windshield, one of the defining features of automotive design after WWII.



Car design was always in step with consumer demand, just as technical drawings could bleed into advertising art. Car designers thus sold more than cars. Rather, they sold a lifestyle, and no two themes were better matched to sleek new cars than sport and romance.



Car interiors, as well as external elements, were an extension of the general styling of a car, be it sporty or utilitarian. The drawings arrayed here from left to right show the range: dashboard and fin detail drawings recall aviation (left); wild patterns and bright colors exemplify the permissive 1970s (center); interior styling and instrumentation a Corvette’s signature high performance (right).



Working in the sphere of industrial design at the service of car makers or advertisers, artists specializing in automotive drawing remained largely nameless illustrators, this despite being both highly trained and incredibly gifted. The drawings shown here are the work of Portsmouth resident Dale Gustafson, one of the top illustrators working for Pontiac and Buick during the 1950s and 1960s.



   Tiny Giants: Marine Microbes Revealed on a Grand Scale

   May 2016 - June 2016


Eighteen large scale images reveal the beauty of marine microbes on a grand scale in this photography exhibition, a collaboration between Sailors for the Sea, a leading conservation organization, and the Redwood Library. The images were created by the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the only independent basic research institution in the world that focuses on microbial oceanography.

Tiny Giants reveals the beauty of marine microbes on a grand scale, making the microscopic creatures studied at the laboratory visible to the naked eye. These dramatic photographic enlargements tell a collective story of ongoing changes in the global marine environment. The images are shown at three different scales, each taken using one of three microscopes - compound light, confocal, and scanning electron. The research undertaken by Bigelow Laboratory is supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation. 





   Newport Designs: The Art of Architecture, Landscape and Planning 

   March 2016 - April 2016

Art and architecture have always been allied fields, given that the act of planning requires the twin processes of designing and drawing. The forms of architectural designs have nonetheless changed radically as advances in technology, as well as shifts in economics and client demands, have continued to evolve over time. 

Architecture is special in that it is an art form that must be built by many hands, and is often as much an expression of its time and place as it is of the architect who gives it form. The architect’s true art thus lies in the ability to create a vision and to elaborate that vision in a way that enables others to give it the form and substance that he or she imagined for it. This is the realm of architectural drawing and representation.

This exhibition exemplifies the many ways that architects and designers use art to envision and create architecture, and also the ways in which architecture continues to inspire artists and craftsmen. The works selected here range across media and periods, from historic pieces loaned by Newport institutions to designs hot off the drawing boards (and computers) of architects working in Newport today.

This exhibition is a collaboration between The Newport Architectural Forum and The Redwod Library and Athenaeum.

The lighting in this gallery was provided by a generous gift from Cornelius C. Bond and Ann E. Blackwell, and an in-kind donation from Sandra Liotus Lighting LLC.

Tiles from the Newport Casino, 1880 (Sponsored by The Museum at the International Tennis Hall of Fame). Salvador Diez of Manyses (Valencia, Spain).




   50 Years of The Third & Elm Press

   December 2015 - February 2016

In celebration of its 50th year of operation, selected works from The Third & Elm Press are on view in the Van Alen Gallery through Sunday, February 21, 2016. The print shop, established by Alexander and Ilse Buchert Nesbitt in 1965, is located in the historic Point section of Newport, where it produces a variety of original woodcuts, cards, and limited-edition books using handset type, an 1830 Acorn hand press and a 1897 Golding platen press.


Ilse Nesbitt was born in Frankfurt/Main Germany and raised in Japan. She came to the United States 55 years ago and worked in the typography studio at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she met Alexander. Their graphic achievements, created both independently and collaboratively, have been exhibited widely here and abroad. Longtime members will remember the 1990 Redwood exhibition commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Third & Elm Press. 




   Judge Us By Our Hearts: Norman Prince and the Lafayette Escadrille

   November 2015 - February 2016

 The inaugural exhibition of the newly-constructed Peirce Prince Gallery, “Judge Us By Our Hearts”: Norman Prince and the Lafayette Escadrille: American Aviators in France During WWI opened November 7. Co-curated by two authorities on early aviation, Paul Glenshaw and Dan Patterson, the exhibition examines aviator Norman Prince's unique role as a bridge between the invention of the airplane and the development of modern air warfare. Prince, who trained at the Wright brothers’ school, was a co-founder of the Lafayette Escadrille, a group of American volunteer pilots who fought for France before the United States officially entered World War I, and who eventually became known as "the founding fathers of American combat aviation."

 With original Lafayette Escadrille artifacts, the exhibition traces Prince’s role in the formation of the unit, its exploits and achievements, and its legacy, which still binds the United States to its longest standing ally, France. Construction of the Peirce Prince Gallery and the second story office space above it were made possible by generous donations from Helen Elizabeth Peirce Prince’s children and grandchildren, who have chosen to honor her with the creation of the gallery.

Curator Paul Glenshaw’s work has been published in the Smithsonian's Air & Space magazine, Sport Aviation, Flying, and other periodicals. He is co-author and co-producer of the PBS documentary Barnstorming and the author of the play To Swing Through the Sky. He works extensively in STEM and STEAM education, and as an exhibit designer and curator. Dan Patterson, co-curator, has created more than 30 illustrated books on aviation history. A Smithsonian lecturer, in 2003 he received the first Harry B. Combs Award from the National Aviation Hall of Fame for Excellence in the Preservation of America’s Aviation History.



   Marine Paintings by John Mecray

   March 2015 - October 2015 

An exhibition of paintings and drawings from the highly acclaimed marine artist John Mecray will open March 7 in the Van Alen Gallery and will remain on view through October 18, 2015.  This exhibition is a collaboration between the Redwood Library and IYRS, School of Technology & Trades, which inherited most of the artworks from the late Reginald H. Fullerton, Jr., of Watch Hill, RI. One of the paintings was a gift from Jane I. Schaefer of Stonington, CT. 

The Library and IYRS are planning several events around the exhibition, including gallery talks by the artist.  The first event is an Opening Reception to be held Wednesday, March 11, from 5:00 - 7:00 pm. Please check the website or monthly program cards for details. 



   Portraits of Interiors

   March 2014 - February 2015


Guest curated by Paul F. Miller, Curator, The Preservation Society of Newport County


Paintings of interior rooms, in addition to being a record of worldly possessions and architecture, are a relatively new chapter in art history. In the best of these works a genre becomes evident; the rooms are conveyed unoccupied but as if the residents have only just stepped into the next room, their presence and taste is suggested through the artist’s observation of the arrangement of inanimate objects. This exhibition in the Van Alen Gallery includes interior landscapes of Newport houses by Walter Gay, David Mode Payne, and Mstislav Dobujinsky as well as contemporary artists working in and continuing the legacy of this genre. To further appreciate the settings evoked, two vignettes containing decorative arts directly from or in the spirit of works are on display.


A full-color exhibition catalog is available for purchase in the Library. $20 members/$25 non-members







   Oliver Hazard Perry: The Hero of Lake Erie

   July 2013 - January 2014


Oliver Hazard Perry: The Hero of Lake Erie was a collaborative exhibition, gathering together cultural artifacts from seven different organizations and three private collections to celebrate the legacy of one of Rhode Island’s best known military heroes. The exhibition was timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary in September 2013 of The Battle of Lake Erie, Perry’s shining moment, and the dedication of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry on July 6, 2013.


The exhibition was located in both the Van Alen Gallery and the Prince Gallery, and it was open to the public whenever the Library is open.


Participating institutions included the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library; Birmingham Museum of Art; John Hay Library, Brown University; Naval War College Museum; Newport Historical Society; Preservation Society of Newport County; Rhode Island Historical Society; and the Redwood Library and Athenæum.


Private collections: Captain Richard Bailey, Elena Cabot, Perry Lewis, Virginia Treherne-Thomas


An exhibition catalog containing the following two essays and other information is available in the library store for $5.00:

Dr. John B. Hattendorf, Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History at the United States Naval War College, Director of the Naval War College Museum

Captain Richard Bailey, Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island