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Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Sketchbook, 1922. Watercolor, graphite, and crayon on lined paper bound as a 'Record' book, 6 3/4 x 4 ¼ inches. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Miriam Schapiro Grosof, in memory of a friendship, 2013.11
Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Sketchbook, 1922. Watercolor, graphite, and crayon on lined paper bound as a 'Record' book, 6 3/4 x 4 ¼ inches. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Miriam Schapiro Grosof, in memory of a friendship, 2013.11
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What's On At The New-York Historical Society: History Up Close

Picture of Patricia Contino
Updated: 31 July 2016
The only old-fashioned thing about The New-York Historical Society is its name. ‘New-York’ was hyphenated when the oldest museum in Manhattan opened in 1804 – a practice that lasted through the mid-19th century. With Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History as its neighbors, this lively exhibition space is as worthy a visit as its adjacent mega-attractions. We take a closer look at what’s on at the New-York Historical Society now.

Summer of Hamilton

The first Secretary of the Treasury (and founder of The New York Post) is enjoying quite a run. Not since Hair, Fiddler on the Roof, or West Side Story has a Broadway musical become part of conversation beyond the Great White Way. Those without Hamilton tickets can console themselves with the Summer of Hamilton. The exhibit is throughout the museum where stickers with his, not Lin-Manuel Miranda’s, face point out Hamiltonian ephemera from the permanent collection. Among them are ‘the ten-dollar founding father without a father[‘s]’ writing desk, letters to wife Eliza and rival Aaron Burr, an original printing of The Federalist Papers he co-authored advocating passage of the US Constitution, the scandalous Reynolds Pamphlet chronicling an adulterous affair, and replicas of the pistols used in the duel with Vice President Burr. The two face off in life-size statues at opposite ends of the N-YHS entrance, and the original monument marking where he died in Weehawken, NJ (dueling was outlawed in NYC) is close by. There is also a touch-screen quiz.

John Trumbull. Alexander Hamilton, after 1804, oil on canvas (canvas: 30 1/2 x 25 1/2 in.; frame: 39 3/4 x 34 7/8 x 5 in.), New-York Historical Society, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, 1867.305
John Trumbull. Alexander Hamilton, after 1804, oil on canvas (canvas: 30 1/2 x 25 1/2 in.; frame: 39 3/4 x 34 7/8 x 5 in.), New-York Historical Society, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, 1867.305

Picasso’s Le Tricorne

Thanks to the New York Landmark Conservancy and Vivendi Universal (who acquired Universal from the Bronfmans), the N-YHS now has its first Picasso, and the largest of his paintings in the United States, at that. Exclusively decorative, Le Tricorne set the ballet’s Spanish locale with bulls and pomegranates – mythological and fertility symbols he returned to many times. There are sketches of the curtain, set and costume designs, and a video of the Paris Opera Ballet performing a reconstruction of the original Ballets Russes production. Other items place Picasso, ballet, and New York City into cultural context. Among them are American Post-Impressionist Maurice Brazil Prendergast’s sketchbook, which he worked on towards the end of his life. Prendergast’s color palette is vibrant and surprisingly similar to Picasso’s – a very different artist. The sketchbook is opened to one page, but all 152 pages are available for viewing on an electronic screen. There is also a pair of New York City Ballet ballerina Heather Watts’ pointe shoes from her final 1995 performance. Both Massine and New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine were Ballets Russes ballet masters.

Pablo Picasso, Curtain for the Ballet “Le Tricorne,” 1919. Tempera on canvas, ca. 20 x 19 feet. New-York Historical Society, Gift of New York Landmarks Conservancy, Courtesy of Vivendi Universal, 2015.22. © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York
Pablo Picasso, Curtain for the Ballet “Le Tricorne,” 1919. Tempera on canvas, ca. 20 x 19 feet. New-York Historical Society, Gift of New York Landmarks Conservancy, Courtesy of Vivendi Universal, 2015.22. | © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York

The Fourth of July, 1916

Another new N-YHS acquisition is the second in Childe Hassam’s series of ‘flag’ paintings. Donated by N-YHS’s Chairman Emeritus Richard Gilder, The Fourth of July, 1916 (The Greatest Display of the American Flag Ever Seen in New York, Climax of the Preparedness Parade in May) hangs in a special red installation on the first floor. The painting of the parade from an indeterminate Fifth Avenue address captures a city and nation on the verge of entering World War I. Hassam supported The Preparedness Movement advocating national defense readiness, which came to fruition a year later when the US entered the war.

Childe Hassam. The Fourth of July, 1916 (The Greatest Display of the American Flag Ever Seen in New York, Climax of the Preparedness Parade in May), 1916. Oil on canvas, 36 x 26 1/8 in. Photography, Glenn Castellano. Courtesy of New-York Historical Society.
Childe Hassam. The Fourth of July, 1916 (The Greatest Display of the American Flag Ever Seen in New York, Climax of the Preparedness Parade in May), 1916. Oil on canvas, 36 x 26 1/8 in. Photography, Glenn Castellano. Courtesy of New-York Historical Society.

The New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 873 3400