Global Encounters in Early America

February 20 – April 6, 2014
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery

Curated by Patricia Johnston,
Professor of Art History, Rev. J. Gerard Mears, S.J., Chair in Fine Arts

With Holy Cross Curatorial Seminar students Brigit Baines, Katherine Benjamin, Caroline Fador, Abigail Hynes-Houston, Gregory Joyce, Maddie Klett, Lily Meehan

Global Encounters in Early America explores the global visual culture circulating in early America before 1840. The exhibition asks: what did early Americans know about the rest of the world, and how did interactions with other cultures make an impact on American arts? The primary focus of the exhibition is the emergence of direct trade with China, India, and the rest of Asia after the American Revolution.

Rose Bowl
Famille Rose Hong Bowl
courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

The exhibition includes maps, atlases, engravings, and book illustrations drawn from the unparalleled collection of the American Antiquarian Society. These visual forms instructed the newly emerging American mercantile class in geographic, cultural, economic, and aesthetic knowledge.

American decorative arts from significant regional collections such as the Worcester Historical Museum, Old Sturbridge Village, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and private lenders illustrate how these materials and Asian aesthetics made an impact on many aspects of American style from fashion and home décor to architecture and garden design. Global products were common among Americans of many classes, in both seaports and rural areas, and helped shape an emerging American identity as an international commercial power.

Global Encounters is accompanied by a diverse offering of public and academic programs that explore the visual representation of early American perceptions of global geographies, cultures, arts, and economies. Please visit the Cantor Art Gallery site for details. 

The College gratefully acknowledges support for the exhibition and programs from the Terra Foundation for American Art; the Rev. J. Gerard Mears, S.J., fund for programs in Fine Arts; and an anonymous donor in memory of Judith Kaseta Menges ’88, a graduate of the College who majored in Visual Arts.

Tours of the exhibition are available for classes by request, please email