Once, Cincinnati was one of the westernmost states in the country. It’s now far East of the halfway point across the U.S., but Cincinnatians can still celebrate the Manifest Destiny era at the Taft Museum. Its exhibit, “Wild West to Gilded Age,” showcases American art from the 19th and 20th centuries. According to the Taft’s website, “scenes from the American West highlight Americans’ fascination with the wild and recently conquered frontier.”

Lynne Ambrosini, director of collections and exhibitions and curator of European art, thinks that Cincinnati has a special fascination with this specific time and place. “The exhibition really develops the theme of the nostalgia of the western frontier,” she says. “We were on the frontier as the Queen City of the West.” Many of these pieces of art include scenes from Native American culture and incorporate images of nature.

The exhibition showcases the works of many prominent American artists, including Winslow Homer, William Merritt Chase and John Singer Sargent. “There are several themes explored in the exhibition,” Ambrosini says, “including landscape, narrative, American modernism and still life.”

The still life works have an especially interesting place in this exhibit. In a January press release about the exhibition, the Taft Museum cites many of the paintings as showcasing “the influence of Europe on American artists.” This includes portraiture, but Ambrosini sees the biggest difference in the still life paintings. “They focus on everyday scenes you might see in American life,” she says. “American still life paintings typically have more homey objects.”

One example is “The Secretary’s Table,” a still life by William Michael Harnett. The painting is simple and depicts several objects, including an inkwell, a candle and a notepad and pencil. These objects, according to Ambrosini, were admired because they are functional and relatable.

“Still life was more popular in earlier European art,” she says. However, this art often depicted things like ornately arranged bowls of fruit or vases of flowers. These were beautiful, but often were not as well received in America as the paintings of more commonplace objects.

What these paintings lack in elegance of subject, they make up for it in their execution. Many of these late-19th and early-20th century painters used very fine, thin brushes, which allowed them to paint with very fine brushstrokes. “They look almost photographic,” says Ambrosini. “The quality of the artworks is stunning.”

For those who wish to see the artworks in this exhibit, they will be at the Taft Museum until May 24 before leaving for art museums in Tampa and Wichita. “Wild West to Gilded Age” is housed in the Sinton Gallery and was originally organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The Taft Museum is open Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, but admission is free every Sunday.