Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond has opened a new gallery titled Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art. The exhibition includes 125 pieces of art and 35 musical instruments from the early 19th century up to the present day.

The art features paintings, sculpture, and photographs where the subject is playing a guitar. Artists whose work is on display include Thomas Hart Benton, Otto Hagel, Charles White, Thomas Cantwell Healy, and many others.

The VFMA says that this is the first curated exhibition that focuses on the guitar in this way, and they have produced a 300 page catalog detailing all the pieces and the history of the guitar in American life and culture.

Works in the exhibition are divided into nine sections:

  • Aestheticizing a Motif
  • Cold Hard Cash
  • Hispanicization
  • Parlor Games
  • Personification
  • Picturing Performance
  • Political Guitars
  • The Guitar in Black Art and Culture
  • Re-Gendered Instruments.

Smaller thematically arranged spaces are also available, featuring:  

  • The Blues
  • Women in Early Country Music
  • The Visual Culture of Early Rock and Roll
  • Hawaii-ana
  • Cowboy Guitars

Storied Strings will be on display at the VFMA until March 19, 2023. There is no charge to visit the Museum.

Following its run in Richmond, the exhibit will move to Nashville for a run starting May 26 at the Frist Art Museum.

This short video highlights some of the art and music in the exhibit.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.