A haunting woman wearing a long white dress now greets morning commuters at the Harvard Square station. A stern George Washington gazes upon people passing by Northeastern University. A tomato soup can hovers on a billboard by the Mount Auburn Hospital.
These famous works of art are scattered throughout Boston. They stand, serene, on the same billboards that usually bombard Boston passersby with an endless stream of advertisements featuring scantily clad models or Hollywood blockbusters.
The paintings are part of Art Everywhere, an initiative marketed as “the largest outdoor art show ever conceived.’’
Art Everywhere has plastered images of 58 acclaimed American works of art on billboards at subway stops, bus stations, and airports throughout the country. The initiative began yesterday and lasts through the end of August.
The images, which belong to collections at five American museums, were chosen by the public through an online vote.
Americans, it turns out, love Edward Hopper. The Hopper painting “Nighthawks’’—a lonely scene that captures a few diner patrons during the Depression—received the most votes. Other pieces include blotchy Rothko squares, sinuous Georgia O’Keeffe blooms, and the endlessly popular American Gothic.
The exhibition launched in Times Square yesterday when the illuminated screens that broadcast advertisements flashed artwork for a moment instead.
The greater Boston area now houses 202 locations displaying artwork from the sweeping campaign.
Many of the paintings littered around the city were composed by Boston portraitists and artists, such as John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
Those painters herald from an era when Boston was at the forefront of the American art world. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the city fostered the talents of a burgeoning class of American artists who produced some of the most innovative art of the time.
Onlookers can now take photos of those works and get information on each of them through the Art Everywhere app.
The project was based on a similar initiative that launched throughout the United Kingdom during July.