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CHARLES CARY RUMSEY: SUCCESS IN THE GATSBY ERA

DATE: Friday Sep. 09, 2016 - Sunday Jun. 25, 2017

TIME: 5:30 pm

LOCATION: Burchfield Penney Art Center

1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, New York, 14222, Downtown

At the pinnacle of his career, Charles Cary Rumsey died tragically in an automobile accident in 1922. Had he lived longer, his name might very well be among those best remembered for classical figure and animal sculptures transitioning into a modernist aesthetic. From his early showing at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 to securing mammoth public commissions with the architectural firm that built the New York Public Library and Manhattan Bridge, Rumsey was sought after as a sculptor whose work expressed the ideals of early 20th-century America. In addition to his art, Rumsey was also a consummate equestrian, representing the United States in the burgeoning sport of polo. Understanding his place in the cultural history of Western New York, New York City, and beyond is made possible by the resources at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, comprised of the largest collection of his sculptures and studies, as well as artifacts and archival materials that provide insights into his career. This exhibition illustrates different aspects of Charles Cary Rumsey’s life as an artist, World War I soldier, athlete, and descendant of two of the most influential families in Buffalo during the gilded age. Intriguing evidence uncovered by literary researcher Michael E. Workman, Ph.D. suggests numerous parallels between Rumsey and the fictional character, Jay Gatsby, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, published in 1925. Fitzgerald had been a boyhood friend during the few years his family lived in Buffalo, and the two reconnected as adults, after Rumsey had moved to Long Island.

At the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the exhibition examines Rumsey’s trajectory in life with a selection of his sculpture, archival objects, vintage photographs, his World War I military coat and helmet, and sculptor’s calipers inscribed with his name. Artifacts include items donated in recent years that have not been shown in public before. Together they provide a more detailed picture of Charles Cary Rumsey and the people he knew and loved, while opening up the avenue of inquiry into whether he might secretly be reflected in one of the most famous fictional characters in American literature. He was a socially connected, wealthy man who earned national respect for his art, military service, and athletic abilities—yet he yearned for more—to make his mark in the art world on a grand scale. Nancy Weekly, Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator, is organizing the exhibition with assistance from Archivist Heather Gring.

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