Walt Whitman: Poet of the Body
October 15, 2019 – January 5, 2020
Gallery hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 3-6pm; Saturdays: 1-5pm. Other times by appointment.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892), a pioneer of free verse and self-promotion, the self-proclaimed “poet of the body,” and the most photographed poet in the 19th century, wrote and re-wrote his seminal work Leaves of Grass over almost 40 years in six editions. He simultaneously celebrates democracy, America, individuality, equality, and nature, as well as sensual pleasures. Whitman saw himself and his book as one, and both his life and the country that he loved are documented through the evolving history of Leaves of Grass, from the first edition (1855) to the Deathbed edition (1891-2).
This exhibition features the remarkable Walt Whitman Collection of Susan Jaffe Tane and boasts four copies of the rare first edition, including the Athenæum’s own which is likely the first copy purchased by a library. Other highlights include a bronze cast of the poet’s hand; numerous portraits of the poet including one by Mathew Brady; and copies of Whitman’s works inscribed to his friend and lover Peter Doyle. It is produced in partnership with the “Poet of the Body”: New York’s Walt Whitman exhibition at the Grolier Club in New York from May 15 – July 27, 2019.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth, and the Athenæum is participating with the Walt Whitman Initiative in celebrating the life and work of the “Good Gray Poet.”
Sponsors & Partners
Susan Jaffe Tane
The Grolier Club
The Herbarium at Brown University
The Distinctive Collections at the University of Rhode Island
Walt Whitman Initiative
The Northeast Document Conservation Center
Providence Unveiled: Stories from the Archives
June 3 – September 10, 2019
The Providence Athenæum has occupied its home on Benefit Street since 1838, bearing witness to the evolution of the city of Providence for nearly two centuries. Providence Unveiled: Stories from the Archives aims to uncover the stories of people and places of historic Providence through an exploration of materials housed in the Athenæum’s archives, painting a picture of the surrounding neighborhood throughout time.
The exhibit is part of the larger Year of the City: The Providence Project, an unprecedented year-long exploration of the history, life, and culture of Providence’s 25 neighborhoods through exhibitions, performances, walks, lectures, and conferences produced by more than 50 different curators.
Tuesdays & Fridays, 12:30-5pm
Other times by appointment
Ravenous: The Enduring Legacy of Poe
February 1 – May 4, 2019
During his courtship of poet Sarah Helen Whitman in 1848, Poe frequented the Athenæum, checked out at least one novel, and signed a copy of his poem “Ulalume” in a library book. While Poe’s romantic courtship of Whitman has been well documented, less attention has been given to other members of the literati who have ties to Providence, such as salonière Anne Lynch Botta, bookseller and publisher John Russell Bartlett, and writer Margaret Fuller. This exhibition will showcase Poe’s connections to these familiar faces and to Providence, and trace the extraordinary popularity and endurance of his work and persona. The exhibition is generously sponsored by Susan Jaffe Tane, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, and Christie’s.
Highlights from the Athenæum’s collection include Poe’s signature, a portrait of Sarah Helen Whitman, a print of Le Corbeau “The Raven” by Édouard Manet which was inscribed to Whitman by Stéphane Mallarmé, and numerous first editions by Poe and other memorabilia. On view alongside the Athenæum’s collection will be over thirty items on loan from the world-renowned Poe collection of Susan Jaffe Tane, including early newspaper printings and contemporary parodies of “The Raven,” as well as art work, music, and other ephemera of modern pop culture. Other loaned items include a lock of Poe’s hair (John Hay Library, Brown University), a taxidermy corvus (RISD’S Nature Lab), and a rare plaster bust (Levi Leland, private collector).
Gallery Guide (PDF)
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12-6pm
Other times by appointment