Morristown museum showcases Thomas Nast exhibit

Thomas Nast was a political cartoonist who lived in New Jersey for many years.

Thomas Nast was a political cartoonist who lived in New Jersey for many years.

This spring in the exhibit “Thomas Nast: Unknown Works and American Icons” Macculloch Hall Historical Museum (MHHM) showcases an important collection of rarely exhibited, virtually unknown works by the man whose art defined many of America’s most popular icons: Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, the Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant.

Previously unpublished oil paintings and watercolors, rarely seen pencil sketches, pen and ink drawings, and original architectural elements from the artist’s home are among the objects presented in the exhibition.

In addition to these and several never-before-exhibited pieces, some of Thomas Nast’s best-known characters are also on view.

Nast worked with a variety of mediums as well as producing images not just of political life, but social as well. Pencil sketches of Thomas Nast’s family from his early years as well as paintings he created toward the end of his life around 1900 are also on display.

He even enjoyed putting his own image down on paper as can be seen by the variety of self-portraits exhibited. MHHM holds the largest collection of original works by Thomas Nast, which has expanded through donations and acquisition since its last major exhibit of Nast material.

On Sunday, May 31, the public is invited to join Ken and Nancy Miller for “Nast the Homebody” a program to peek into the home of Thomas Nast.

Political cartoonist and Morristown resident from 1872 – 1902, Thomas Nast loved his home of 30 years and also to fill it with beautiful objects of the Victorian era. A large collection of photographs that are part of the collection at MHHM show what the house looked like when Nast purchased it, how he changed it and moments from the family life that occurred there.

Ken and Nancy Miller, current owners/caretakers of the house, will talk about Nast’s home and life there using pictures from his time and today, the changes that have occurred to the house since it was sold by Sarah Nast in 1908 and the challenges of restoring and caring for an old house that is a National Historic Landmark. Nancy and her husband, Ken Miller, have lived in the Thomas Nast home for 22 years.

After a career in nursing Nancy started Miller’s Antiques & Collectibles which has a space at the Summit Antiques Center. She has also served as a volunteer for a variety of organizations and is a former President and Trustee of MHHM. Ken Miller served as a Naval Flight Officer, and then pursued a career in finance before retiring.

Ken is currently focused on volunteerism, is a Gubernatorial appointee to the Board of the New Jersey Historic Trust and serves as chair of Morristown New Jersey’s Historic Preservation Commission. Ken is also actively working on the restoration of his National Historic Landmark residence.

The presentation is part of a series of programs related to the current exhibits on display at the museum. Speakers will give presentations on the last Sunday of the month, through June, at 4:30pm in the main gallery.

Tickets go on sale at 1pm on the day of the program and visitors can visit the museum prior to the program and view the current exhibits, open until 4:30pm, or take a tour of the period rooms, last tour ticket sold at 3pm. Speaker tickets will remain on sale until 4:30pm.

The Museum’s collection of seven “Currier & Ives” prints that are on display throughout the second floor of the museum and the second floor “The Civil War Through the Eyes of Thomas Nast” exhibit will remain on view until 4:30 pm.

The main gallery “Thomas Nast: Unknown Works and American Icons” exhibit will close 3:30 – 4 pm in preparation for the program. Tickets to hear speakers are Adults $8; Seniors & Students $6; Children 6 – 12 $4. Members and children under 5 are admitted free. The museum is located at 45 Macculloch Avenue in Morristown.

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