Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Genius of America (ca. 1870)

Adolphe Yvon: Genius of America

In 1858, Irish-American entrepreneur Alexander Turney Stewart originally commissioned a modest-sized painting entitled The Genius of America, from French painter Adolphe Yvon. Stewart requested that Yvon execute a significantly larger version of the same painting c. 1870, for which he reportedly paid $100,000.

When the mural was completed, the 29.5 feet x 18 feet, 600-pound canvas would not fit in Stewart’s New York City mansion. It wasn't until 1876 that the painting was properly displayed when it was hung in an ornate, one and a half foot-wide gold frame in the grand ballroom of Stewart's Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York.

When the famous hotel was demolished in 1952, The Genius of America was given to the New York State Education Department by Siegel Brothers, the contractors who razed the building. In the spring of 1953, the mural was restored and installed in its current location at the rear of the stage of Chancellors Hall in the State Education Building. [New York State Education Department] [Symbolism of the painting]

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