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Gibson Girl and more at American Muse exhibit
By Susan Emerson Nutter

NEWPORT, R.I. — The lovely women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were often the focus of that era’s illustrators; artists who eloquently captured the fashion, style and beauty these women embodied.

In recognition of their work, The National Museum of American Illustrators has put together an exhibit, The American Muse that highlights the work of these artists. Included are works by such names as Charles Dana Gibson, Harris Fisher, as well as Philip Boileau, McClelland Barclay and Albert Beck Wenzell to name just a few.

Who hasn’t heard of The Gibson Girl or The Fisher Girl; names given by the public to describe the images these artists created? Capturing their impression of what constitutes “The American Woman,” not only did these artists shape societies impression of what it meant to be beautiful, their work also perpetuated the increasing personal independence women of this era were achieving.

The museum stated, “Compared to women of previous eras, these women relished more freedoms, enjoyed greater opportunities in sports and education, and were the vanguard of a time when woman effected change through social and political movements on an unprecedented scale in Western culture.

The images on view in The American Muse show women baring their shoulders, wearing swimsuits of that era, and walking side by side with male counterparts; all independent, liberating actions when compared to what was considered appropriate behavior by women of previous decades.

The American Muse is on display at Vernon Court in Newport. The National Museum of American Illustrators is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Sept. 1.

For information, contact the NMAI at (401) 851-8949 or visit their website at

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