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American Artists in Italy

The great pleasure of American Painters in Italy: From Copley to Sargent is that it reveals history to be both transferable and transmutable. On view in gallery 773 through June 17, the American Wing's exhibition of paintings and works on paper takes as its subject the landscape, culture, and history of an old European country, as seen through the eyes of foreigners who sought to imbue the art of their own young and idealistic nation with culture and legacy.

When I met Stephanie Herdrich, the exhibition's curator, I wanted to know what drew American painters to Italy more so than to anywhere else. The answer, it turned out, was both familiar—Italy was attractive then for the same reasons it is today—and strangely unknowable—its art is filled with wonders and expectations, elucidations and traditions, truths to withhold and to reveal.

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