Cincinnati Wing

Exploring the Cincinnati Wing of the Cincinnati Art Museum

Let me preface: I am not an art expert by any means. By trade I am a Realtor® who likes to escape to the (free admission) Cincinnati Art Museum every so often, for an hour or two. My favorite part of the museum is The Cincinnati Wing. Boy, does Cincinnati have a rich cultural heritage! The Cincinnati Wing can be found on the first floor, straight through the lobby. Head past the Saul Steinberg mural on your left, swing a right at the stairs, and it’s at the end of the hall on the left.

The Cincinnati Wing has been part of the Cincinnati Art Museum since 2003 and was actually the first of its kind in the country! I love it that Cincinnati is so proud of its contributions to the history of American art that it transformed an entire wing into 15 new galleries dedicated to celebrating it.

While exploring the galleries, I came across this quote from the New York Star in 1840: “Cincinnati! What is there in the atmosphere of Cincinnati that has so thouroughly awakened the sorts of sculpture and painting? It cannot be mere accident which gives birth to so many artists, all of distinguished merit, too…”

Another fun fact: The opening of the Cincinnati Wing coincided with the elimination of the museum’s general admission fee by a generous gift from the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation. And that is how I ended up popping in to explore the museum on the regular. It’s a free place to escape, learn, and soak in a little enrichment. Over the course of those visits I developed a fondness and appreciation for the Cincinnati Wing and thought I’d share a little of what it has to offer.

Henry Farny’s Painting: Renegade Apaches

This painting is my #1 reason for visiting the Cincinnati Wing of the Cincinnati Art Museum, but it doesn’t have to be yours. But if you just go, you will find your reason! You can also check out the book The Cincinnati Wing: The Story of Art in the Queen City to find more reasons to explore this incredible treasure trove of Cincy art and history.

Checking out Farny’s Renegade Apaches in the Sheakley gallery of the Cincinnati Wing.

Henry Farny’s Renegade Apaches is located about halfway through the exhibit. Like me, Henry Farny was a Cincinnatian. Another thing we have in common is a love of the American West. The sheer scale of the landscape in that part of the country is breathtaking to me, and this painting captures that immensity. The people in the painting consume the bottom, about 20% of the canvas, and the remaining 80% is of landscape. I enjoy hiking out West and I always feel small compared to the mountains and its vast frontier. In this painting, the artist uses shading to create a shadow from the sun, which offers the people in the painting a moment of rest and reprieve on their journey. They are somewhere where they can take a breath before moving on. That is a feeling I have experienced many times in my hikes out West.

Henry Farny’s focus of work was on Native Americans and their landscapes. He gave them a voice and a soul in an era when they were often reduced to two-dimensional stereotypes. Farny’s paintings were not just about capturing the aesthetics, which is what initially drew me in; he was also all about diving deep into the hearts and minds of these indigenous peoples and portrayed them as fully valued human beings. Farny’s work helped to break down stereotypes and fostered a greater sense of empathy and understanding among his global audience and played a vital role in normalizing the presence of Indigenous peoples in American society and paving the way for greater acceptance and inclusion. What a trailblazer! I am proud that Cincinnati was where this man chose to call home. His work and example make me proud to be a Cincinnatian.

Henry Farny’s name did not mean much to me at first, but I started digging into the artist’s background, I came across this quote from President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, “Farny, the nation owes you a great debt. It does not realize this now, but it will someday. You are preserving for future generations phases of American history that rapidly are passing away.”

Rookwood Pottery

First founded in 1880 by Cincinnati artist Maria Longworth Storer, Rookwood Pottery is a world-renowned ceramics studio, attracting the attention of artists and ceramicists around the globe. Not only was the studio founded and owned by a woman, but it launched the pottery movement in America.

Cincinnati Wing Cincinnati Art Museum
Rookwood Pottery on display in the Cincinnati Wing

The Rookwood gallery in the Cincinnati Wing is a treasure trove of ceramic art. It’s incredible to think that it was all produced here in Cincinnati and that Rookwood continues to be known worldwide for the art they create. As a Realtor, I love seeing homes in this area that have Rookwood tile in them. It’s not only beautiful, but knowing the richness of the history behind it makes me proud to live here.

Frank Duveneck

Frank Duveneck was born in Covington, KY in 1848 and is one of Cincinnati’s most well-known artists with an extensive collection of art in the Cincinnati Wing. One of his more famous works, The Whistling Boy, is a must-see. In it, Duveneck practices the art of what has come to be known as American Ash Can painting, which was focused on capturing figures from the street, paying attention to their attitudes and working lives.

One of the interesting things about Duveneck is how influential he was as a teacher in Cincinnati. He was known for approaching art as something that should be sociable and fun, not a serious and solitary pursuit. He developed a large following of artists and they were known for being cheerful and a bit rowdy, so it’s fun to think of this group hanging out back in the day in Over-the-Rhine and around Downtown Cincinnati.

Photograph of Duveneck painting before an audience, 1909. AEQUI journal

The Cincinnati Wing: A Treasure Trove of Art and History

There is so much more to learn and explore in the Cincinnati Wing than what I have included in this blog. Every time I go I see something different and learn something new about our city’s rich art history! Don’t forget that the Cincinnati Art Museum has free admission every day is open late on Thursday nights. It’s a great place to go for a date, a lunch break, or just to pop in and find a little quiet time to escape and feel the positive effects of being surrounded by so many beautiful things!