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Spanning the years 1810–1896, this exhibition examines the core concepts of the romantic movement as it unfolded in fine art of the American South. Having originated in European literature and art, romanticism found its way to America. The same ideals found in the canvases of the Hudson River School also colored the art of painters who found their inspiration and audience in the South.

In this study of thirty-two artists—including William Dickinson Washington, William Thompson Russell Smith, Gustave Henry Mosler, Thomas Addison Richards, Joseph Rusling Meeker, Robert Walter Weir, and Thomas Sully—the exhibition delineates the historical, social, and cultural forces that profoundly influenced their aesthetic sensibilities. An insightful catalogue containing illustrated biographies on the featured artists, as well as extensive bibliographic resources, accompanies Romantic Spirits.

The works in this exhibition are drawn from the Johnson Collection, founded by George Dean Johnson, Jr. and Susan (Susu) Phifer Johnson of Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Johnsons are passionate philanthropists committed to enhancing the educational environment and cultural vibrancy of their hometown, state, and region. Their collection began as an interest in paintings by Carolina artists in 2002, and has since grown to encompass more than eight hundred objects with provenances that span the centuries and chronicle the cultural evolution of the American South.


Related Programs
Telfair Academy

Director’s Circle Preview Dinner
July 23 | 6 pm | Dinner to follow at 45 Bístro

Preview paintings from 32 artists representing the lavish romantic movement as it unfolded in the South. Seating at dinner is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Cost is $95 per person. Reservations and pre-payment required by Friday, July 18. RSVP to Catherine Renner at 912.790.8844 or Presented by Delta Air Lines.

Free Weekend at Telfair Academy
August 1–3

The community is invited to enjoy three days of free admission to the Telfair Academy. Funding is provided by the City of Savannah.

Free Family Day at Telfair Academy
August 2, 1–4 pm

We invite families to enjoy a day of hands-on activities related to the Romantic Spirits exhibition. Funding is provided by the City of Savannah and Georgia Power Foundation, Inc.


Gardens, Manners and William Jay – Savannah’s Romantic Spirit
Lecture by Dr. Christopher Hendricks, Professor of History, Armstrong State University
September 4 | 6pm | Telfair Academy

With the dawn of the nineteenth century, the city of Savannah found itself on the cusp of great change as it developed from a provincial colonial capital to a thriving and nationally important port city. Accompanying this shift was an equally exciting revolution in culture as Americans joined their European cousins in revolting against the rationality of the eighteenth-century in favor of emotional responses to experience as they expressed themselves through literature, music, and the visual arts. In conjunction with the Romantic Spirits exhibition, Early American historian Christopher E. Hendricks will examine how this exciting age reshaped Savannah’s landscape, society, and architecture. Free admission, sponsored by Armstrong State University.


William Charles Anthony Frerichs (1829-1905)
Falls of Tamahaka, Cherokee County, North Carolina, after 1855
Oil on canvas, 31 x 54 inches

Andrew John Henry Way (1826-1888)
Still Life with Fruit on Silver Salver, 1880
Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 inches

Gustave Henry Mosler (1841-1920)
The Lost Cause, 1868
Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches


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