Press Release

Palmer Museum of Art presents
John Rogers: American Stories

University Park, Pa.–Palmer Museum of Art is pleased to announce the opening of the exhibition John Rogers: American Stories on February 22, 2011. The exhibition, organized by the New-York Historical Society and drawn from its comprehensive collection of works by the artist, will be on view through May 15.

John Rogers (1829–1904) was indisputably the most popular American sculptor of the nineteenth century and perhaps the most successful American sculptor ever. A pioneering realist who depicted themes related to the Civil War as well as charming vignettes of daily life, he sold an estimated 80,000 plasters, known as “Rogers Groups,” to middle-class Americans during his lifetime.

An astute and tireless marketer, Rogers wanted to make his sculptures affordable for a broad audience. He advertised widely, established a factory for large-scale production, and shipped his plasters across the country at a time when the average American had little access to original works of art. More than any other artist of his day, Rogers reached Americans en masse, and his new democratic art form addressed the issues that shaped their lives and defined the American experience.

History buffs will no doubt find much of interest in the exhibition, particularly in this year marking the sesquicentennial of the start of the American Civil War. Rogers’ war-related sculptures cover a wide range of subjects from the humorous to the profound. He addressed heroism at the battlefront, scenes of camp life, sensitive questions of race, and the dangers and complexities of life on the home front. Most of his works celebrated the anonymous soldier and the families behind the lines dealing with a changed world.

The exhibition features many of the sculptor’s most popular plasters as well as a number of the “master bronzes” that Rogers used in the production process. This focused investigation of Rogers’ career and commercial success reveals his understanding of the subtle questions facing a nation at war, his embrace of social issues, and the sheer delight in American life that earned him the title “the people’s sculptor.”

John Rogers: American Stories also features letters, photographs, and other contextual materials from the New-York Historical Society’s Library and Print Room and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

John Rogers: American Stories is made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation and American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius, a major initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts to acquaint Americans with the best of their cultural and artistic legacy. Generous support from the Chevron Corporation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art helped bring the exhibition to the Palmer.


William Blair, Liberal Arts Research Professor of American History and director of the Richards Civil War Era Center, will give a gallery talk titled The Politics Behind the Art on Friday, March 18, at 12:10 p.m.

Christopher Castiglia, Liberal Arts Research Professor of English, and senior scholar, Center for American Literary Studies, will give a gallery talk titled The Culture Behind the Art on Friday, March 25, at 12:10 p.m.

Kirk Savage, professor and chair, history of art and architecture, University of Pittsburgh, will present a lecture titled Putting War on the Mantel: John Rogers and the Memory of the Civil War on Tuesday, March 29, 4:30 p.m.

Joyce Robinson, curator, will give a gallery talk titled “More Nearly White”: John Rogers and Race on Friday, April 15, at 12:10 p.m.

Voice students from the School of Music will be performing American Songs from the Nineteenth Century on Wednesday, April 20, at 12:10 p.m.

All lectures and films are held in the Palmer Lipcon Auditorium and all gallery talks begin in the Christoffers Lobby. The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State is located on Curtin Road and admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4:00 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays. Reduced hours over Spring break: March 5–13, 2011, noon to 4:00 p.m. 

The Palmer Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Children’s and family programs are partially funded by the James E. Hess and Suzanne Scurfield Hess Endowment for Art Education in the Palmer Museum of Art and the Ruth Anne and Ralph Papa Endowment. All other programs are sponsored by the Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art unless otherwise noted.

Also on view at the Palmer Museum of Art this spring are Prints and Politics in Weimar Germany continuing through May 1, 2011, and African American Art from the Permanent Collection, March 1–June 5, 2011.

For more information or to request images, please contact Jennifer Feehan, coordinator of membership and public relations, at (814) 863-9182 or

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