The Neo-Victorians: Contemporary Artists Revive Gilded-Age Glamour

An exhibition of contemporary art that employs Victorian aesthetics as a lens to explore modern concerns.

Press Preview: Thursday, February 8, 2018, 10–11am. View press images here.

Chet Morrison. Man and His Bird, 2005. Epson enhanced matte paper.
Courtesy of the artist.
Catherine Latson. Birch Corset, 2016. Birch veneer, tapioca wood, vintage remnants. Courtesy of the artist.

DECEMBER 12, 2017The Neo-Victorians: Contemporary Artists Revive Gilded-Age Glamour, on view at the Hudson River Museum from February 10 through May 13, 2018, explores a resurgence of interest over the last decade in ornamental lushness, with works of art that conceal pointed social commentary beneath seductive surface techniques. More than 20 contemporary artists whose work is inspired by the aesthetics of the 19th century have shaped, molded, and transformed these ideas to reflect today’s concerns, commenting on gender roles and societal tensions under the guise of the overt beauty. The Neo-Victorians will encourage audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with the Gilded Age to look at the growing group of contemporary artists imbued with a “Victorian aesthetic,” and to recognize how visual influences of the past continue to shape art in the present day. This topic is of particular interest and relevance to the mission of the Hudson River Museum as our collection includes American Art from the 19th century to today as well as Glenview, a Gilded Age home on the National Register of Historic Places, considered one of the finest Eastlake interiors open to the public.

The artists conjure a staggering array of possible approaches to the subject matter, using a wide variety of media, including large-scale installations, textiles, cut-paper sculptures, video, photography, and more. Artists include Troy Abbott, Jennifer Angus, Joan Bankemper, Nancy Blum, Ebony Bolt, Laurent Chehere, Alison Collins, Camille Eskell, Lisa A. Frank, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Dan Hillier, Marilyn Holsing, Patrick Jacobs, Pat Lasch, Catherine Latson, Zachari Logan, Davy and Kristen McGuire, Chet Morrison, Donna Sharrett, Deborah Simon, Nick Simpson, and Darren Waterston.

The exhibition, guest curated by Bartholomew F. Bland, Executive Director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York, is presented in three broad thematic groupings:

    Artist as Naturalist, exploring the ways that artists mine the natural world for inspiration;
    Artist as Purveyor of the Fantastical, referencing a Victorian obsession with bizarre subject matter, and following the “steampunk” tradition of merging science fiction and fantastic technology;
    Artist as Explorer of Domesticity, satirizing the “cult of domesticity,” the idea of feminine middle-class women at the center of the home.

Bland comments on the relevance of these themes today: “The issues of contested domesticity and the concurrent feminism that runs just under the surface of many of these highly decorated pieces are urgent ones that remain just as hotly contested as they were more than a century ago. The broad societal interest in technology has led to a counter-movement that emphasizes individual, bespoke creativity in an increasingly mass-producing, mass-consuming society. Likewise, the embrace, exploration, and appreciation of the natural world’s beauty is an eternal source of inspiration for artists.”

There is no coherent “Neo-Victorian” movement, no manifesto or single guiding principle subscribed to by each of these artists. Yet, they reject the notion of industrial mass production, instead visibly emphasizing and reveling in elaborate construction, a surfeit of detailed design, and a visceral appeal to the senses. Spiral, 2017, a “peephole” installation by Patrick Jacobs features an enchanted landscape that will be built into the gallery walls; a multimedia, cut-paper diorama by Marilyn Holsing, The Pursuit of Love, incorporates video and sound; and Catherine Latson’s Birch Corset, 2016, a triumph of expanding and contracting S-curves and fluidity, pushes the flexibility of wood to its extreme. Jennifer Angus is creating an elaborate, site-specific installation throughout the Great Hall of Glenview, consisting of preserved insects affixed in geometrical patterns, referencing the Victorian interest in specimen collecting and the intense desire to create order through formal classification. Works on paper, such as Trumpet and Passion, 2012, by Nancy Blum depict floral motifs drawn from nature but also gather inspiration from 19th-century designer William Morris. Other examples take on a fantastical effect, rooted in the work of novelist Jules Verne or reflecting the Victorian tradition of merging human portraiture with animal parts.

HRM Teaching Artist-in-Residence
Ebony Bolt, who is producing a new work for this exhibition, creates visually positive drawings and prints to combat the crippling nature of the human condition. Her intent is to highlight the importance of diversity by illustrating her subjects, including commuters on the train, using the fewest lines possible. Bolt will also be the HRM Teaching Artist-in-Residence during the run of the exhibition. Her goal throughout her residency is to explore the ways in which intersectionality influences the design process. She challenges the audience to create prints that proudly illustrate their inner being.

Probe the art, science, film and culture of the exhibition through our exciting program roster:


New Planetarium Show: The Victorian’s Guide to the Galaxy
Sundays 3:30pm from February 10 - May 13, 2018
Complementing the themes explored in Neo-Victorians, the Museum has created a new Planetarium show that explores what 19th-century scientists understood about their universe and developments in the field of astronomy at the time. It is an original production created by Marc Taylor, Manager of Planetarium and Science Programs, with videographer and animator Peter “Kal” Toth, and is narrated by award-winning science fiction narrator Kate Baker.

19th-Century Scientific Instruments
There will be a display of historical scientific instruments in Troster Gallery outside the Planetarium, on loan from Hastings-on-Hudson Historical Society and Tesseract, including telescopes, a Fresnel mirror, as well as astronomical and chemical apparatus that belonged to Henry Draper, a pioneer of astrophotography.

Sunday Scholars
Effie Gray and Victorians in Film: A Conversation with Donald Rosenfeld
Sunday, February 25, 2pm
Award-winning filmmaker Donald Rosenfeld, Director of Sovereign Films, and former President of Merchant Ivory Productions, is an expert in depicting historical periods in film. Join us for a screening of the Victorian-period masterpiece, Effie Gray (2014), the first original screenplay written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Emma Thompson. This impeccably-crafted period drama delicately and incisively probes the marital politics of the Victorian Era, and beyond. The screening will be followed by a conversation with Donald Rosenfeld and HRM Director Masha Turchinsky, with audience Q&A.

Justin Fornal: A History of Pipe Smoking
Saturday, March 3, 5-7pm
Justin Fornal, international explorer, cultural detective, and President of the Bronx Pipe Smoking Society, will speak about the history of pipes and pipe smoking including Native American caluments made from sacred pipestone, Turkish meerschaum pipes, Italian briar pipes, and Victorian-inspired taxidermy pipes. A member and Fellow-in-Residence of the Explorers Club, Fornal is an Emmy Award-winning television personality for his portrayal of Baron Ambrosia on Bronx Flavor and The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia on the Cooking Channel. Tickets: $12; $8 for Members.

Steampunk Sunday!
Sunday, March 11, 12–5pm
Dolly and Birdie of Hudson Valley Steampunk facilitate Tea Duels, a Steampunk sport of wits, technique, and finesse between two individuals. Professor Mark Donnelly will immerse visitors in the world of Bartitsu, the Victorian mixed martial art, with a documentary film and discussion followed by Sunday Scholars lecture, Bartitsu: Garroters, Kernoozers, Sherlock and Amazons, discussing the resurgence in interest in the martial art immortalized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mystery stories.

Arts in the Afternoon
Putting it Together: The Art of Making Art
Wednesday, March 14 at 1:30pm, followed by a 3pm tour
Ever wonder how an exhibition comes together? Guest Curator Bartholomew Bland, Executive Director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York ,pulls back the curtain on the mechanics of organizing and mounting The Neo-Victorians: Contemporary Artists Revive Gilded Age Glamour. Find out how an exhibition goes from just a gleam in a curator’s eye to a thousand and one insects hanging on the walls of a Gilded-Age home.

The Best of Gilbert and Sullivan
Sunday, March 18
The Ridgewood Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company presents an hour-long performance of solos, duets, and group numbers from the best of Gilbert & Sullivan featuring selections from The Pirates of Penzance, Mikado, and H.M.S. Pinafore with excerpts from each play.

A Fondness for Beetles: Victorian Diorama Workshop
Saturday, March 24
Make a miniature diorama in a surrealistic, whimsical take on Victorian décor. Daisy Tainton, artist and insect preparator at the American Museum of Natural History, will lead participants in creating a scene under glass, with a preserved beetle as the star of the show. Participants are encouraged to bring their own miniatures, natural objects, or other items for inspiration. Tickets: $20; $15 for Members; includes supplies and one rhinoceros beetle. Limited to 20 participants, ages 11 and up.

Sunday Scholars
Stéphane Houy-Towner: The History of Victorian Fashion
Sunday, April 8, 2pm
New York-based fashion consultant, lecturer, and curator Stéphane Houy-Towner will share the history of Victorian fashion. Houy-Towner has worked with some of the world’s leading cultural institutions, collaborating on innovative projects with fashion labels, filmmakers and museums. His diverse roster of clients includes The Andy Warhol Museum, Georg Jensen, Badgley Mischka, Christian Dior, and the Fur Information Council of America. A graduate of Parsons The New School for Design in New York, Houy-Towner's experience includes fourteen years as special projects researcher at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

Arts in the Afternoon
A Conversation with Artist Camille Eskell
Wednesday, April 11 at 1:30pm, followed by a 3pm tour
Guest Curator Bartholomew Bland, Executive Director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York, converses with Neo-Victorian artist, Camille Eskell, to discover how an artist’s personal family history can create meaning in her work.

A History of Tea in 12 Cups with Justin Fornal
Sunday, April 15, 3:30pm
In this lecture, Justin Fornal, international explorer and cultural detective, offers up his twelve favorite teas and the storied histories behind them. Guests will be invited to drink green matcha, learn how to grade a Darjeeling, age a Pu’er, and smoke a Lapsang Souchong within the framework of a Victorian High Tea party. A member and Fellow-in-Residence of the Explorers Club, Fornal is an Emmy Award-winning television personality for his portrayal of Baron Ambrosia on Bronx Flavor and The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia on the Cooking Channel.

Irene Pease: The Past, Present, and Future of the Night
Saturday, April 21, 1pm
Irene Pease, the Spring 2018 Scientist-in-Residence, leads a discussion on light pollution. In many American neighborhoods, the stars are washed out by artificial light. Pease will take us through the history of the problem, our current understanding of the hazards, and steps we can take toward a solution, including the need to reform our energy economy and to ease the pressure we exert on the natural world.

Sky & Earth Weekend
Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22, 12–5pm
Celebrate the beauty of our planet with activities for the whole family to enjoy! Throughout the weekend, build structures and play with recyclable materials, see demonstrations in our Hudson Riverama Environmental Gallery, and see a musical performance by Sarah Lawrence College Theater Outreach. On Saturday, participate in demonstrations that show how scientists used to make early discoveries about the stars with astronomical artifacts. Make your own handheld spectroscope or a telescope that fits in your pocket.

Garden Night: Victorian Gardens
Saturday, April 21, 5–7pm
Get your hands dirty and enjoy a program led by master gardener Gayle Jones. Learn Victorian-era gardening techniques, and then, plant two plants that were popular at the time, while enjoying a complimentary glass of wine. Tickets: $20, Members $15; materials and one beverage are included.

Neil Maher: Nature’s New Deal, The Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelt in New York’s Hudson Valley
Sunday, April 22, 3pm
Neil Maher, associate professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, will give an interactive presentation that traces FDR’s history to illustrate how his experiences in New York, both running his family’s estate and as Governor, greatly influenced many of his New Deal conservation programs. Maher will focus in particular on Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and its impact on both the natural environment and local communities of the Hudson Valley region.

This program, which is free and open to the public, is made possible through the support of the New York Council for the Humanities’ Public Scholars program.

Sunday Scholars
Dr. Margaret Stetz: “Neo-Victorian Girls”
Sunday, April 29, 2pm
Dr. Margaret Stetz, Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware, discusses memorable Victorian girls from fiction-- young Jane Eyre, Lewis Carroll's Alice, and Kate Greenaway's little girls in fancy dress, and how in recent years makers of neo-Victorian literature, film, art, and even fashion have been recreating and reshaping images of 19-century girlhood.

Arts in the Afternoon
The Aesthetic Movement and Neurasthenia: Diagnosing Victorian Taste at Glenview
Wednesday, May 9 at 1:30pm, followed by a 3pm tour
Victorian taste has been historically celebrated and reviled for its exuberant color and ornate pattern: then, as now, the art and design of the age seductively reflected the culture of that which produced it. Assistant Curator Ted Barrow leads the fourth annual lecture on Glenview, the Museum’s Gilded-Age historic home, by looking more closely at the culture, connecting the context of urban bustle, Centennial Expositions, and over-stimulation—then known as neurasthenia—that contributed to Glenview’s singular place in Yonkers.


Talk & Tour
Explore Neo-Victorians with contemporary artists and engage in a lively conversation informed by their perspective and practice

Nancy Blum
Saturday, February 10, 2pm

Donna Sharrett
Saturday, March 10, 2pm

Camille Eskell
Saturday, April 28, 2pm

Pat Lasch
Saturday, May 5, 2pm

Join our Guest Curator and Curatorial Staff on special tours of the exhibition.

Guest Curator Bartholomew F. Bland, Executive Director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York
Sunday, February 11 at 1pm

Chief Curator Laura Vookles
Sunday, March 18 at 1pm

Assistant Curator Ted Barrow
Sunday, April 15 at 1pm

Chief Curator Laura Vookles
Sunday, May 13th at 1pm

This exhibition is guest curated by Bartholomew F. Bland, Executive Director of the Lehman College Art Gallery at Lehman College/City University of New York, and organized by the Hudson River Museum.

Bartholomew F. Bland is Executive Director of Lehman College Art Gallery and former Deputy Director of the Hudson River Museum. Curatorial projects he has organized range from emerging artists to 19th- and 20th-century painting, photography, and history. At the Hudson River Museum, he contributed to exhibitions and catalogs including Strut: The Peacock and Beauty in Art; Industrial Sublime: Modernism and the Transformation of New York's Rivers, 1900-1940; Red Grooms: In the Studio; Frohawk Two Feathers: Kill Your Best Ideas; and Susan Wides: from Mannahatta to Kaaterskill. He has also curated shows for Snug Harbor Cultural Center’s Staten Island Museum; the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; the Ronchini Gallery, London; and the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida, and collaborative exhibitions such as A Field Guide to Sprawl, which traveled to Yale University.

The exhibition is supported in part by Wells Fargo and Courtyard Yonkers Westchester County.

The exhibition is featured on the HRM website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via the hashtags #HRMNeoVictorians

The Hudson River Museum is open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5pm.

Museum Admission: Adults $7; Youth 3-18 $4; Seniors 62+ and Students with ID $5. Planetarium Admission: Adults $4; Youth 3-18 $2; Seniors 62+ and Students with ID $3.

The Museum is accessible by Metro North, Yonkers or Glenview Stations, by Beeline Bus Route 1 (Warburton Avenue at Shonnard Terrace), by car, via the Saw Mill River Parkway. Make your visit a One-Day Getaway, and get a combined rail and admission discount ticket.  Click here for Metro-North Deals & Getaways information.

THE HUDSON RIVER MUSEUM ( is the largest cultural institution in Westchester County and a multidisciplinary complex that draws its identity from its site on the banks of the Hudson River, seeking to broaden the cultural horizons of all its visitors. The Museum collections focus on 19th-century through contemporary American Art; Glenview, an 1876 house on the National Register of Historic Places; Hudson Riverama, an environmental teaching gallery; a state-of-the-art, 120-seat planetarium, and a 400-seat outdoor amphitheater. It presents exhibitions, programs, teaching initiatives, research, collection, preservation, and conservation – a wide range of activities that interpret its collections, interests and communities.