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Parks and Recreation

Parthenon Exhibitions

West Gallery

Shepherd women

The Parthenon invites you to This is the One and only Harry Shepherd: March 31-July 8th 2018, Parthenon West Gallery

By 1897, African-American photographer Harry Shepherd was nationally noted for his photography and his activism. His profitable studio in St Paul, Minnesota served clientele of all all races, including the Minnesota State Legislation, educator Booker T Washington, and Washington's Tuskegee Institute. In 1899 his seminal photo collage Our Unsung Heroes created a visual interpretation of African American history demanding social equality. This work attracted the attention of activist W.E. B. Dubois among others, who selected Shepherd to be an official photographer for the landmark American Negro Exhibit at the 1900 Paris International Exposition.

With its title taken from a slogan printed on his Victorian era cabinet cards, This is the Original and Only Harry Shepherd celebrates Shepherd's story and work with enlarged reproductions from the collections of the Library of Congress and the Minnesota Historical society, and video from the Minnesota Public Television documentary Harry Shepherd: Portrait of Progress.

East Gallery

jeff shelby

Twin Peeks: Marleen De Waele-De Bock and Jeff Frazier

May 19 -September 9, 2018 Parthenon Museum East Gallery

The Parthenon’s new exhibition features a set of diptychs created by painter Marleen De Waele-De Bock and photographer Jeff Frazier. The two artists were challenged to select locations in Nashville-area parks that they could interpret in their separate mediums to hang side-by-side as if they were one work. The artists chose spots in Centennial, Radnor, Beaman, McCabe, Shelby Bottoms, and Percy Warner parks. The resulting exhibit, Twin Peeks, will remain in the Parthenon’s East Gallery through September 9.

The museum will host a public reception for the artists on Friday, June 1, from 6-8 p.m.

The Cowan Collection of American Art

gifford catskills

In 1897, James M. Cowan from Aurora, Illinois, visited the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. He visited as the director of a group of girls who made up the Armour Drill Corps of Chicago. Cowan already had ties to Tennessee. At the age of thirteen, he had moved with his family to Tullahoma, Tennessee, and remained there until he was in his twenties, when he moved to Cincinnati. He subsequently made his wealth in insurance, but his true passion was collecting art. As he neared the end of his life, Cowan had about seven hundred pieces in his collection. Aware that Nashville's Parthenon was being reconstructed as a permanent structure, he decided to donate anonymously a portion of his collection to be housed there. Between 1927 and 1929, the works were shipped to Nashville, to be moved into the Parthenon upon completion of the reconstruction.

In fact, he purchased many pieces specifically with this destination in mind, eventually giving sixty-three pieces to Nashville. These works, all oils on canvas, dating 1765-1923, are housed permanently in the Parthenon and bear the name of its generous donor—the Cowan Collection.

A distinguishing characteristic of this collection is that all of the work was done by American artists. Fifty-seven artists are represented in the collection, most of which dates late 19th and early 20th centuries. Almost all of the artists represented were also members of the National Academy of Design, a prestigious artists' league of the time. Within the collection, many connections occur among the artists as among their paintings.

A common theme found in most of the paintings is Impressionism. Impressionism was a school of painting introduced by the French in the first Impressionism Exhibition held in Paris in 1874. It was an attempt using pure color to imitate light. Many of the artists in this collection studied in Paris during their careers. Within the collection can be found many secondary artist alliances including the Hudson River School, the Luminists, the Symbolists, Barbizon School influences, and Nabis influences.

The primary concentration in the collection is fifty-one landscapes, including many plein air paintings (done on location) and four seascapes which emphasize an undulating ocean and coast, a difficult and unusual subject matter. There are eight portraits in the collection, in all of which the subject of the portrait is anonymous. Generally, there is one work by each artist in the collection. Therefore, in looking you can learn something of the man who formed this collection by his choices. These reflect a man who was taken with the landscape in its more unrefined form and had a diverse and unusual interest in figure paintings.