The Art Gallery of NSW welcomes a diplomatic visual invasion from the USA.

In the most expansive historical survey of American art ever presented in Australia, America: Painting a Nationboldly traverses a visual narrative from the pioneering spirit of the Atlantic colonies to the gritty realism of the modern-day city. From the Declaration of Independence to the mid-20 thcentury, a diverse range of works explore the evolving and varied America experience over the last 200 years. Featured artists include James Whistler, Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jackson Pollock.

Laid out chronologically, the exhibition opens with reflections of the mercantile wealth of colonial America. A portrait from 1772 by Philadelphian Charles Willson Peale depicts significant art patrons John and Elizabeth Cadwalader with their daughter Anne – a rigid reflection of wealth, ambition and lingering connection to an aristocratic British culture.

A number of more modest paintings from subsequent decades depict the life of everyday Americans. In works such as A Temperance Meetingby self-taught figurative painter Winslow Homer, a boy and girl share a drink of well water. Such simple narratives reflect a move away from status and prestige in favour of republican virtue, honest labour and community...