Friday, April 27, 2012

Philly Museum Acquires Major Works by Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, and Cassatt

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has acquired three important French Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley, and a pastel by Mary Cassatt, the Pennsylvania native and American expatriate who became famously associated with Paris during the late 19th century. All of the works are gifts from Chara C. and the late John Haas, longtime supporters of the Museum. They include Path on the Island of Saint Martin, Vétheuil (1881) by Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926); Apple Tree in the Meadow, Éragny (1893) by Camille Pissaro (French, 1830-1903); Mooring Lines, the Effect of Snow at Saint Cloud (1879) by Alfred Sisley (French, 1839-1899); and Madame Bérard’s Baby in a Striped Armchair (1880-81) by Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926).

Apple Tree in the Meadow, Éragny (1893) captures the fields and gardens around Camille Pissarro’s (French, 1830-1903) home in Éragny, a small village about 90 miles northwest of Paris. This focused study joins four other views of the Pissarro home in the Museum’s collection from earlier years. A view of the meadow adjacent to Pissarro’s house (the brick building visible on the left), it is marked by the strongly-patterned brush and palette knife work common in the artist’s paintings of the 1890s and clearly demonstrates the influence that the work of the Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat (French, 1859-1891) had on Pissarro’s work during this period.

Alfred Sisley, an Impressionist landscape painter well represented in the Museum’s collection, painted Mooring Lines, the Effect of Snow at Saint Cloud (1879) while living to the west of Paris. Of particular note is Sisley’s dramatic treatment of the winter view in which the snowy river bank is animated by the mooring lines that secure an unseen barge to the bank of the river. Sisley was widely admired for his skillful renderings of winter scenes. Here the sky and the fugitive effects of light and weather are depicted here in nuanced tones of white and blue.

Mary Cassatt achieved remarkable success as a woman working in a field almost entirely dominated by men. Several of her sensitive portraits depicting family scenes and her nieces and nephews are in the collection at the Museum, including Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt (1884) and A Woman and a Girl Driving (1881). Madame Bérard’s Baby in a Striped Armchair, a portrait of 9-month-old Lucie seated on a vibrant blue striped chair, demonstrates the artist’s mastery of the pastel medium by the early 1880s. The brilliant use of red and blue in the background offsets the child, who is dressed in a formal white gown. Cassatt’s assured and sensitive handling of her young subject is particularly apparent in the modeling of Lucie’s moving hands.

Monet’s Path on the Island of Saint Martin, Vétheuil (1881)is a colorful view of the fields near the village of Vétheuil on the north bank of the Seine, where Monet moved with his family in 1879. During the summer of 1881, Monet painted lush views of the town from the island of Saint Martin as his pictorial style evolved from the blunt, broad strokes of the 1870s to the delicate, rhythmic brushwork of Path on the Island of Saint Martin. This is the first work from Monet’s Vétheuil period to come into the Museum’s collection, and its presence will enable visitors to understand the development of the artist’s work during this important time in his career.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Van Gogh and the Golden Age of Dutch Landscape

Vincent van Gogh. The Swamp, 1881. Purchased 1968. Collection National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © NGC.

National Gallery of Canada 18 May 2012 - 03 Sep 2012

This installation showcases a major work of the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, the celebrated drawing The Swamp by Vincent van Gogh produced during the artist’s Dutch period. It bridges Van Gogh’s profound appreciation of landscape with the Dutch tradition of landscape drawing and painting which emerged in the 17th century as a new and prevailing pictorial genre. Van Gogh’s early depiction of a landscape with a swamp drawn from nature in the province of North Brabant in 1881 is shown alongside representations of the Dutch landscape by artists such as Jan Lievens and Jan van Goyen working in the Netherlands during the 17th century, a period known as the Dutch Golden Age.

More on Van Gogh Up Close

Exhibition Explores Van Gogh's Deep Immersion Into Nature

“I…am always obliged to go and gaze at a blade of grass, a pine-tree branch, an ear of wheat, to calm myself,” Vincent van Gogh wrote in a letter to his sister, Wilhemina, in July of 1889. An artist of exceptional intensity, not only in his use of color and exuberant application of paint but also in his personal life, van Gogh was powerfully and passionately drawn to nature. From 1886, when van Gogh left Antwerp for Paris, to 1890 when he ended his own life in Auvers, van Gogh’s feverish artistic experimentation and zeal for the natural world propelled him to radically refashion his still lifes and landscapes. With an ardent desire to engage the viewer with the strength of the emotions he experienced before nature, van Gogh radically altered and at times even abandoned traditional pictorial strategies in order to create still lifes and landscapes the likes of which had never before been seen.

Van Gogh Up Close, a major exhibition organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Canada, presents a group of the artist’s most daring and innovative works that broke with the past and dramatically altered the course of modern painting. Made between 1886 and 1890 in Paris, Arles, Saint-Rémy, and Auvers, the works in the exhibition concentrate on an important and previously overlooked aspect of van Gogh’s work: “close-ups” that bring familiar subjects such as landscape elements, still lifes, and flowers into the extreme foreground of the composition or focus on them in ways that are entirely unexpected and without precedent. These landscapes and still lifes have not previously been seen together or identified before as critical to our understanding of van Gogh’s artistic achievement.

Van Gogh Up Close, includes major loans from museums and private collections in Europe, North America, and Japan, and will be seen in the United States only in Philadelphia (February 1-May 6, 2012) before traveling to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

The exhibition will feature over 70 works, including 46 paintings by van Gogh and more than 30 comparative works such as Japanese woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige and Hayashi Roshü; European prints and drawings by Jean Corot, Camille Pissarro, and Jacob Ruisdael; and photographs by Frederick Evans, August Kotzsch, and others. Van Gogh was an avid collector of Japanese and European prints and drawings by artists whose aesthetic devices served as sources of inspiration for him. While van Gogh was loudly dismissive of photography, the medium offers intriguing parallels with his work and it is possible that van Gogh would have been fascinated by contemporary landscape photographs.

“Van Gogh Up Close explores an important facet of van Gogh’s work that underscores his importance as a path-finding modern artist,” comments Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “In seeking to share the intensity of his emotional response to the world around him as directly as possible, van Gogh took the traditional methods making pictures and changed the rules.”

After unsuccessfully pursuing careers as an art dealer, teacher, and pastor, Vincent van Gogh (1853 –1890), prompted by his brother Theo, began to study art in 1880. In the Netherlands in 1885, he completed his first major works using a palette of browns, greens, grays, and blacks. A year later, his work underwent a striking shift when, arriving in Paris, he was confronted for the first time by the Impressionist paintings of Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and by the new pointillist works of Seurat and others. These progressive artists inspired him to lighten his palette and modernize his brushstroke. At roughly the same time, van Gogh began to collect Japanese woodblock prints, fascinated by their vibrant color, high horizon lines, tilting perspectives, and truncated or unusually cropped edges. These influences encouraged van Gogh to experiment with a radical treatment of field and space, flattening and compressing the picture plane in his paintings in order to create a sense of shifting perspective and tension.

Still Life with Pears (1888, Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister, Dresden)
Sunflowers (1887, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Working initially in the apartment he shared with Theo in Montmartre, van Gogh painted a series of still lifes of flowers and fruit such as Still Life with Pears (1888, Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister, Dresden) and Sunflowers (1887, Metropolitan Museum of Art). In these works, objects are often seen from above yet are placed very close to the picture plane in a tightly cropped space which provides no clues to their context or setting. Pieces of fruit appear to tip forward and threaten to roll out of the picture. Van Gogh’s landscapes such as Undergrowth (1887, Centraal Museum, Utrecht) stress the abundance of grasses and flowers by cropping out the horizon.

Field with Flowers Near Arles (1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

By the spring of 1888, troubled by intense personal anxieties, van Gogh sought refuge from city life and moved to Arles in the south of France. There he hoped to emulate Japanese artists, working in close communion with nature and studying “a single blade of grass” in order to better comprehend nature as a whole. Landscapes such as Field with Flowers Near Arles (1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) reflect a Japanese influence in their high horizon lines and bold colors. Here van Gogh began to adopt a more structured, deliberate treatment of his subjects.

The open compositions that van Gogh created in Arles gave way to a series of landscapes painted in Saint-Rémy, where van Gogh had committed himself to an asylum late in 1888 after his break with Gauguin, and continued in Auvers outside Paris, where van Gogh ultimately took his life in 1890. In these densely packed compositions, the artist evoked the immediacy and closeness of his surroundings as he continued to develop an intimate, close up focus. The exhibition culminates in an audacious series of still lifes which were painted outdoors and take as their subject an extremely close view of a clump of iris, an upward gaze through a tangle of almond branches, or the vibrant patterning of a Death’s-head moth. In these works van Gogh closes in on his subject, dramatically reducing the depth of field and maximizing the expressive impact of his brushwork and color.

“Studying Van Gogh’s close-ups is essential to understanding the artist’s development, as they demonstrate a visual strategy that has been touched upon in scholarship but has not been systematically separated and addressed,” notes Jennifer Thompson, the Philadelphia Museum’s Gloria and Jack Drosdick Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture before 1900 and the Rodin Museum. “By exploring this astonishing dimension of the artist’s achievements, we will establish a greater understanding of the scope of his work.”


Van Gogh Up Close will be accompanied by a catalogue available in English and French editions, published by the National Gallery of Canada. Featuring approximately 200 full color illustrations, the catalogue will include six essay contributions. The introductory discussion by van Gogh expert Cornelia Homburg defines what is meant by “close-up” and explores the definition in relation to van Gogh’s admiration for Japanese art. Joseph J. Rishel, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Gisela and Dennis Alter Curator of European Painting before 1900 and Senior Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection and the Rodin Museum examines Van Gogh’s interest in early Dutch and German art and the ways in which it influenced his later work with regard to subject matter, composition, and perspective. Jennifer Thompson looks at the Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painting being done in Paris in the 1880s and how experiments with optical space and surface patterning provide a context for van Gogh’s close-ups. Other essays address van Gogh’s correspondence, the influence of 19th century photography, and van Gogh’s approach to mark-making. The catalogue will include an exhibition checklist, and an illustrated chronology. Color reproductions of all the close-ups made by van Gogh will be an integral part of the catalogue, enabling works not included in the exhibition to be a full part of the exploration of this phenomenal aspect of van Gogh’s career. (320 pages, 220 illus., ISBN: 978 0 300 18129 6, Price: $60.00, Publication Date: January 2012) Tickets

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rare Early 19th Century Portrait of an African-American by Charles Willson Peale

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has acquired the painting Yarrow Mamout, 1819, an exceptionally rare portrait of an African-American by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), one of the most renowned American artists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Depicting an aged man who had been born in Guinea in western Africa, taken into slavery in the American colonies and later manumitted, or freed by his owner, it is one of the very earliest known works to depict a freed slave in the United States and the earliest known painting of a Muslim in America. Upon its completion, Yarrow Mamout was exhibited at Peale’s Museum, in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where it could be seen alongside other works by the artist and his son Rembrandt that represented George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Lewis and Clark, David Rittenhouse, and many other accomplished individuals. Measuring 24 x 20 inches, this new acquisition has today been placed on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, just off the Great Stair Hall in the first gallery toward the American Wing. It has been purchased from the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent.

“The name Charles Willson Peale is closely associated with Philadelphia’s prominence as the leading artistic center in late 18th- and early 19th-century America,” said Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Although Peale’s work is well represented in our collection, his portrait of Yarrow Mamout is distinctive by virtue of the fact that it is one of the earliest and certainly one of the most sympathetic portraits of an African-American to be found in the history of American art. Peale was especially drawn to this remarkable man, not only because of his advanced age (he was reputed to be 140 years old) but also because of his remarkable personal history: a freed slave who had achieved prosperity and was well known to the citizens of Washington, D.C., where the artist painted this portrait. It is an exceptional painting that tells an equally exceptional story.”

Peale’s Museum, which is widely acknowledged by historians to have been the first museum in the United States, occupied the upper floors and tower of Independence Hall from 1802 until 1827. In 1854, when its collections were dispersed, the portrait of Yarrow Mamout was misidentified and auctioned as “Washington’s servant” to Charles S. Ogden, who donated the picture to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1892. The painting entered the collection of the Philadelphia History Museum in 1999 when it received by transfer much of the HSP’s collection of art and artifacts. Peale was nearly 80 years old when he went to Washington, D.C., to lobby for federal funding for his museum and to paint “portraits of distinguished public characters” such as Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay for his portrait gallery. Along with his dedication to healthy habits, Peale had a keen and abiding interest in longevity, and while in Washington he heard of a former slave said to be nearly 140 years old. Peale went out of his way to find and paint Yarrow Mamout at the home that Mamout owned in Georgetown. Modern research shows that Mamout, a Muslim from Guinea and literate in Arabic, was taken into bondage in the colonies about 1752 and freed after 45 years in slavery. He was not as old as Peale believed him to be, but his sprightly condition at such an advanced age (probably about 83) was remarkable for this period. His name, perhaps more correctly given in West Africa as Mahmoud Yaro, is one of many variant spellings of the name of the prophet Mohammed. His knit cap, serving to keep him warm during Peale’s mid-winter portrait session, may also represent headgear from the region of Africa from which he came. Peale’s diary describes Yarrow Mamout as a cheerful man notable for his “industry, frugality, and sobriety,” and observes: “He professes to be a Mahometan, and is often seen and heard in the streets singing praises to God-- and, conversing with him, he said man is no good unless his religion comes from his heart.”

The Philadelphia Museum of Art owns the most comprehensive collection of works by Charles Willson Peale and his legendary family of artists, including his brother James, his sons Raphaelle, Rembrandt, and Titian, and his numerous grandchildren. “This painting adds a new dimension to our collection of Peale’s work at the end of his life, when he enjoyed a spectacular artistic renaissance,” said Kathleen A. Foster, the Robert L. McNeil Jr. Senior Curator of American Art. “Peale brought a lifetime of skillful and compassionate observation to bear on his representation of Yarrow Mamout, who returns his gaze warmly, with an expression of wisdom, patience, and a twinkle of solidarity in his eyes. We find it wonderful that Peale so esteemed Yarrow and added his portrait to the gallery of distinguished individuals in his museum.”

Paintings of African-American subjects by American artists are rare before 1820. The three finest and best-known in oil are Copley’s vivacious Head of a Negro (Detroit Institute of Arts) painted in England in 1777-78, perhaps as a study for Watson and the Shark; the portrait of the 1790s said to depict George Washington’s enslaved cook, Hercules, and attributed to Gilbert Stuart (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid); and Peale’s charismatic image of Yarrow Mamout. The only earlier portrait known to survive of a freed slave in America is that of the distinguished Reverend Absalom Jones, painted on paper eight years before the portrait of Yarrow Mamout, by Peale’s son Raphaelle (Delaware Art Museum).

The Education Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which draws some 80,000 school students to the Museum each year, in particular from the Philadelphia Public Schools, is preparing a teaching poster dedicated to the portrait of Yarrow Mamout that will be distributed to classrooms throughout the region. Marla Shoemaker, the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Senior Curator of Education, stated: “This beautiful portrait reminds students and all of us of the many diverse people who helped to build our nation. Yarrow Mamout’s dignity and warmth, as portrayed by an artist who clearly admired him, will captivate and inspire students of all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.”

In order to purchase this unique painting in Peale’s oeuvre, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is deaccessioning nine works from its collection of American art. Five paintings will be sold in New York on November 30 through auction at Christies, whose Chairman, Marc Porter, helped advise the Philadelphia History Museum on the sale of the Peale portrait. The remaining works, including two chairs and two Charles Willson Peale portraits, will be sold at a later date. The deaccessioned works include:

Portrait of a Lady, ca. 1915, William Merritt Chase
Mrs. John Bayard (Margaret Hodge), 1780, Charles Willson Peale
MARY STEVENSON CASSATT (1844-1926) “Sketch of Head of a Girl in a Hat with a Black Rosette,” oil on canvas laid down on board 9¾ x 12¾ in. Painted circa 1910. Estimate: $70,000-$100,000
GEORGE INNESS (1825-1894) “Italy,” oil on canvas 14½ x 20½ in. Painted circa 1872-74. Estimate: $70,000-$100,000
GEORGE INNESS (1825-1894) “Hastings (Evening Landscape),” oil on canvas 15 x 23½ in. Painted circa 1868. Estimate: $50,000-$70,000
SEVERIN ROESEN (1815-1872) “Still Life with Fruit,” oil on canvas 30 x 25 in. Painted circa 1850-70. Estimate: $60,000-$80,000

The Portrait Collection of the Peale Museum at Independence Hall
In 1782, Charles Willson Peale added a 66 foot-long gallery to his home at Third and Pine Streets in Philadelphia. It was the first sky-lit gallery in America, and by 1784 Peale was on his way to launching a formal portrait collection of prominent contemporary American military and civilian leaders. Over time he expanded the collection to include scientists, explorers, artists, and other American and European men of accomplishment. In 1786 Peale joined this collection with his newly conceived museum of natural history, and founded Peale’s Philadelphia Museum, which moved to Philosophical Hall in 1794 before expanding into Independence Hallin 1802. Portraits in the collection were painted almost entirely by Charles and his son Rembrandt. While most were bust portraits presented in gilded frames with oval inserts surrounding the image, there was also a selection of full-length portraits that included his 1779 portrait of Washington at Princeton and his 1795 double portrait of his sons, Raphaelle and Titian, now known as the Staircase Group (Philadelphia Museum of Art). Other famous individuals whose portraits were in the extensive collection by the time Yarrow Mamout’s portrait was added included Martha Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Anthony Wayne (McNeil Collection; promised gift to Philadelphia Museum of Art), Thomas Wharton (Philadelphia Museum of Art), John Paul Jones (Independence National Historic Park), inventors David Rittenhouse (INHP) and Robert Fulton (INHP), naturalist William Bartram (INHP), philosopher and scientist Joseph Priestly, architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe (INHP), portraitist Gilbert Stuart, explorers Lewis and Clark, French sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts), painter Angelica Kauffman, and the priest and advocate of racial equality Henri Gregoire.

About the Peale collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Museum’s collection now includes over 150 objects by America’s first artistic dynasty, including important recent gifts and promised gifts from Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Representing all aspects of the Peale family’s work, the Museum’s holdings include many portraits, from ambitious life-size images in oil to small jewel-like miniatures, drawings, engravings, and cut-paper silhouettes. Landscapes and works demonstrating the family’s engagement with various aspects of natural science accompany a rich selection of still life pictures by the genre’s first American masters, Raphaelle and James Peale. According to Carol Soltis, Project Associate Curator in American Art and author of the forthcoming publication on the collection, The Art of the Peales: Adaptations and Innovations, this is “a collection that showcases both the individual excellence and the communal interests of the Peales as they sought to respond to and shape the evolving tastes and interests of their American audience.”

Friday, April 20, 2012

PAUL CADMUS Twelve Etchings


Twelve Etchings.

Portfolio with complete text and 12 pencil signed etchings, 1979. 460x365 mm; 18 1/8x14 3/8 inches (sheets), full margins, loose as issued.

One of 35 numbered copies, of a total edition of 50. Numbered "14/35 II" in pencil, on the justification page. Each print signed, titled and numbered "9/35 II" in pencil, lower margin. Printed by Richard Waller. Published by The Print Cabinet. Original black linen portfolio. Very good, well-inked and clearly printed impressions.

Includes The Fleet's In!, 1934; Stewarts, 1934; YMCA Locker Room, 1934; Mother and Child, 1934; Coney Island, 1935; Horseplay, 1935; Shore Leave, 1935; Polo Spill, 1938; Two Boys on a Beach, No. 1, 1938; Youth with a Kite, 1941; Arabesque, 1947; and The Bath, 1953. Davenport 34-42, 46, 47 and 48.
Estimate $30,000-50,000

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Walker Evans Photographs

American photographer Walker Evans (1903–1975), with his direct and unsentimental images of life on small-town streets, in New York subways, and on sharecroppers’ porches, inspired generations of photographers and helped shape contemporary art. The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University presents a broad survey of Evans’ 50-year career, drawn entirely from the collection of Elizabeth and Robert J. Fisher, MBA ’80. The exhibition, entitled “Walker Evans,” opens Feb. 1 and continues through April 8, 2012.

This exhibition encompasses not only Evans’ brilliant documentation of the Great Depression and his work with James Agee on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the landmark study of three tenant farm families in Alabama published in 1941, but also his little-known experimental photographs from 1928 to 1930; the subway series (1938–41) later published in the monograph Many Are Called; photo-essays for Fortune magazine (1945–65); and rare Polaroid SX-70 prints from his final years. The exhibition includes more than 125 vintage prints as well as an extensive selection of Evans’ original books and magazines. The progenitor of the documentary tradition in American photography, Evans had the extraordinary ability to see the present as if it were already the past, and to translate that knowledge and historically inflected vision into an enduring art.

Walker Evans, Alabama Tenant Farmer, 1936. Gelatin silver print. Lent by Elizabeth and Robert J. Fisher, MBA ’80. © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Walker Evans, Main Street, Saratoga Springs,
New York, 1931. Gelatin silver print. Lent by Elizabeth and Robert J. Fisher, MBA ’80.
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Walker Evans, Broadway, 1930. Gelatin silver print.
Lent by Elizabeth and Robert J. Fisher, MBA ’80.
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Walker Evans, Main Street Block, Selma, Alabama, 1936
Gelatin silver print
Lent by Elizabeth and Robert J. Fisher, MBA ’80.
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lyonel Feininger

Lyonel Feininger, In a Village Near Paris (Street in Paris, Pink Sky), 1909. Oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 32 in. (101 x 81.3 cm) University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City; gift of Owen and Leone Elliott 1968.15 © Lyonel Feininger Family, LLC./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

From the University of Iowa Museum of Art:

Cartoon-like characters appear to be hurrying down a village street at dusk in late autumn. Implausible colors and a variety of perspectives define the composition. Lyonel Feininger’s fantastical representation of urban street life seems to capture a moment in time much as a photograph does—it is an embodiment of the distinctive characteristics of modern life.

The distorted figures seen in the painting recall Feininger’s 1906–1907 Chicago Tribune comic series The Kin-der-Kids and Wee Willie Winkie’s World. Like his comic characters, the figures in the painting are strangely elongated with small heads on large bodies or squat and rotund, with very little detail on their faces.

Feininger’s multi-vantage point composition and Fauvist color scheme encourages a sensation of ambiguity. Buildings seem tilted and irregular, almost as if they are on the verge of toppling. The scale is reordered—some of the human figures appear more substantial than the buildings—and the color, of the sky in particular, is brash and unnatural. Yet, in spite of the confusing scene, In a Village Near Paris emerges as a vibrant, harmonious, and almost cheerful painting that reflects an advancing modern world.

Lyonel Feininger has long been recognized as a major figure of the Bauhaus, renowned for his romantic, crystalline depictions of architecture and the Baltic Sea. Yet the range and diversity of his achievement are less well known. Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World, the artist’s first retrospective in the United States in forty-five years, is the first ever to incorporate the full breadth of his art by integrating his well-known oils with his political caricatures and pioneering Chicago Sunday Tribune comic strips; his figurative German Expressionist compositions; his architectural photographs of Bauhaus and New York subjects; his miniature hand-carved, painted wooden figures and buildings, known as City at the Edge of the World; and his ethereal late paintings of New York City.

Curated by Barbara Haskell with the assistance of Sasha Nicholas, the exhibition debuted at the Whitney Museum of American Art from June 30 to October 16, 2011, and subsequently traveled to The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, January 16 –May 13, 2012.

Born and raised in New York City, Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956) moved at the age of sixteen to Germany to study music. Instead, he became a caricaturist and eventually a leading member of the German Expressionist groups Die Brücke and Die Blaue Reiter and, later, the Bauhaus. In the late 1930s, when the Nazi campaign against modern art necessitated his return to New York after an absence of fifty years, his marriage of abstraction and recognizable imagery made him a beloved artist in the United States.

Having spent fifty years of his life in Germany, Feininger is most often considered a German artist. This exhibition and its accompanying catalogue illuminate his dual national loyalties and their reverberations in his art. As Haskell notes in her catalogue essay: “(Feininger’s) complex and contradictory allegiances—to American ingenuity and lack of pretension on the one hand, and to German respect for tradition and learning on the other—rendered him an outsider in both countries. Always yearning for one world while living in the other, he never stopped longing for the ‘lost happiness’ of his childhood.”

Before he began to paint in 1907, at the age of thirty-six, Feininger had built a career as one of Germany's most successful caricaturists. When he turned to painting, he fused the whimsical figuration of his comic strips and illustrations with the high-keyed color of German Expressionist painting. Just at the moment that Feininger's oils began to earn him widespread recognition, World War I broke out. He spent the war in Germany as an enemy alien, never having relinquished his American citizenship.

In 1919, Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, appointed Feininger as the school's first professor and commissioned him to design the cover of the Bauhaus manifesto. Feininger's expressionist woodcut, depicting a tripartite cathedral surrounded by shooting stars, symbolized the school's idealistic unification of fine art, architecture, and crafts.

Feininger remained at the Bauhaus until it was closed by the Nazis in 1933, revered as a teacher and head of the school's graphics workshop. The monumental compositions of architectural and seascape subjects that he produced at the Bauhaus gained him national renown, culminating in his receipt in 1931 of Germany's highest honor for an artist: a large-scale retrospective at Berlin's National Gallery.

When the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, the situation became unbearable for Feininger and his wife, who was Jewish. They moved to America in 1937, just months before his work was featured in the Nazi's infamous Degenerate Art exhibition.

Readjusting to the changed landscape of New York was difficult after such a long absence; not until 1939 did Feininger begin painting again. In America, as in Germany, he employed geometric forms to invest the modern world with a secular spirituality. Art, for him, was a "path to the intangibly Divine,” a way of expressing what he called the “glory there is in Creation." At the same time, Feininger continued in his last years to call upon the playful figurative vocabulary of his early illustrations and comics to evoke the harmony and innocence of childhood.

Feininger's 1944 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, which traveled for two years to major American cities, established him as a major artist in his native country during his final years.

Lyonel Feininger is considered one of the pioneers of modern comic art. His short-lived Chicago Tribune comic strips, The Kin-der-Kids and Wee Willie Winkie’s World, “achieved a breathtaking formal grace unsurpassed in the history of the medium,” as Art Spiegelman noted.

From Huffington Post:

Lyonel Feininger, Carnival in Arcueil, 1911. Oil on canvas, 41 3/10 × 37 8/10 in (104.8 × 95.9 cm). Art Institute of Chicago; Joseph Winterbotham Collection 1990.119, © Lyonel Feininger Family, LLC./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Photograph © The Art Institute of Chicago

..Paintings such as "Carnival in Acrueil," 1914, acquired early on by the Art Institute of Chicago, represent a distinct advancement in Feininger's already proficient caricature technique while showcasing his abilities as a colorist. Centered on an elongated trumpet player, the painting captures a snapshot of a carnival or procession in a small town. The vibrant yellows overshadow the striking linearity of the sky and newly heightened tensions. The tone remains severe in this picture when compared to "Green Bridge," 1909 and others placed in physical conjunction with it.

...As the war began, Feininger embarked on a series of cityscapes focusing on a fairyland of aberrations; worn-down figures in transit, some with facial distortions and others caked in makeup. Feininger's early compositions have an almost stifling effect that leaves the viewer continuously guessing about the circumstances surrounding his actors. Time and motive play a crucial role in an Oatesian fashion almost as if to whisper "where are you going...where have you been?" The pictures function as Pop antecedents, an outgrowth of the comic practice nuanced to a point of differentiation not mere appropriation. Reaching both backwards and forwards, each picture tells a story, a sort of repressed Kentridgesque chronicle in which the tensions and stresses of the current political reality resonate but are simultaneously masked by each figure's anonymity.

In "The Green Bridge II," 1916, Feininger creates a denser, sharper version of his 1909 picture "Green Bridge." Rigid angles and the muted pastel tones vary as analytic cubism begins to play a more prominent role in his work. Still fixated on figuration, this painting remains one of the more pictorially unified of the group. By the end of World War I, Feininger's work had become increasingly abstract with an emphasis on pure color and the "crystalline" structures over genre. Images such as "Bridge V,"1919, a dashing landscape or conflagration of cold grey, yellow, and green, evidence this stylistic alteration in which the artist re-collages a landscape in a Cézannesque fashion yet fills the canvas factoring in negative space as a waste of time and precious canvas. The palette and piercing vectors jutting in every direction collapse into central vortex, dark and impenetrable.

In the late 1920s onto the early 1930s, the Bauhaus' lingering influence in conjunction with his affinity for the Baltic village of Deep altered the compositional structure of Feininger's paintings which appeared to extend off the picture plane. The presence of fog and glimmers of light that drift on and off the canvas play an allegorical role recording the Nazi ascension. The cooler palette of these sparser works captures lonely cityscapes and projections of the sea. The absence of human agents reflects what can only be described as Feininger's longing for stability which he allegedly found, at least in part, when summering in Deep.

What becomes so clear from the exhibition is Feininger's innate ability to assimilate stylistic variations and reassemble them in pictorial form as well as the distinctly German element that pervades his early work on through the First World War. The coarse, sometimes muted colorations of the later, more abstract paintings reveal an increasingly confidence and independence of vision but also express a level of sensitivity and a certain indescribable pain in landscapes void of human actors...

Lyonel Feininger, "The Kin-der-Kids," from The Chicago Sunday Tribune, April 29, 1906, Commercial lithograph, 23 3/8 x 17 13/16 in. (59.4 x 45.3 cm), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of the artist 260.1944.1 © 2011 Lyonel Feininger Family, LLC./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photograph © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

Lyonel Feininger, The White Man, 1907, Oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 20 5/8 in. (68.3 x 52.3 cm), Collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, © 2011 Lyonel Feininger Family, LLC./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Thomas Hart Benton and American Waterways

Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975), Shallow Creek, 1938, Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on board, 36 x 25 inches. Collection of James and Barbara Palmer Artã T. H. Benton and R. P. Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

"There is something about flowing water that makes for easy views. Down the river is an immense sense of freedom given to those who yield to it."

-Thomas Hart Benton, An Artist in America (1937)

Images of water figure prominently in the art of the Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975). His depictions of rivers, streams, gullies, and creeks form a subgenre of American landscape painting, inviting us to rethink the artistic meaning and historical legacy of even the narrowest of inlets. Among Benton's most significant representations of this subject matter is a body of work from 1938-42 depicting intimate coves and creeks. The painting Shallow Creek (1938) is a lynchpin of this series.

Raised on the edge of the Ozarks in southwestern Missouri, Benton maintained a lifelong love affair with rivers. He periodically fed his visual and psychic appetite for rivers through "float trips," where he filled sketchbooks with studies of people interacting with their vernacular waterscapes -- whether for work, play, or even religious reasons. He also turned for watery inspiration to the novels and short stories of his fellow Missourian Mark Twain. Not surprisingly, the free-spirited Huck Finn and related characters figure prominently in many of these works. Like Twain, Benton also recognized the "dark side" of the river and its link to the cycle of life and death. As such, he mined water's symbolic potential in combination with religious or mythological figures, such as Persephone, and even his own children. While such images at first appear simply as genre scenes, a closer reading reveals deeper psychological implications.

In his later years, Benton developed a growing environmental awareness-participating in campaigns to prevent the damming of the Buffalo and Missouri rivers by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- in order to save some of the waterways that he'd so long admired. Whether capturing the natural beauty of the waterways or the colorful characters associated with them, Benton's watery iconography recorded a uniquely American way of life that in many places was also in peril.

Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975), "Different kinds of moonlight change the shape of the river,"Study for Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, ca. 1944, Gouache and watercolor on paper, 7 x 4 1/2 inches. The State Historical Society of Missouri, 1966.0100. Courtesy of the Limited Editions Club, New York Art © T. H. and R. P. Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York

Two Paintings by Rembrandt

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Portrait of a Bearded Man in a Red Doublet, 1633
Oil on panel, 25 x 20 in.
Private Collection, New York

This painting of 1633 attests to youthful Rembrandt’s famous ability to bring his sitters vividly to life and demonstrates the style that made him the most-sought-after portraitist of his day in Amsterdam. The man’s lifelike expression is complemented by his bright red doublet, an unusually colorful outfit, very different from the somber black attire usually worn by Rembrandt’s patrons. The sitter’s identity has not yet been discovered, but the doublet and braid fastenings had military associations and it has been speculated that he might have been foreign soldier residing in the year of its commission in The Hague.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, 1658 Oil on canvas, 42 ¼ x 34 ¼ in.
Courtesy Otto Naumann, Ltd.

In contrast The Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo offers an excellent example of Rembrandt’s later, more painterly and tenebrous style. It depicts a young bearded man in his prime, posed three-quarter length and frontally, his hands on his hips and his steady gaze meeting the viewer’s with confidence bordering on defiance. It was painted in the year that Rembrandt was forced to vacate his house and art collection following his declaration of bankruptcy in 1656. The subject’s identity once again is unknown. Indeed, notwithstanding his individualized features, it is not even certain that the painting is a portrait. However, by the early nineteenth century it was called a “Portrait of a Dutch Admiral.” While his brown doublet, sash and beret were not elements of everyday attire in the seventeenth century, the subject’s pose, with arms akimbo, also had military and specifically nautical associations, suggesting that he may have been a member of the burgeoning maritime community in Amsterdam. Whoever the sitter is, the painting is a fine example of Rembrandt’s bold late manner, a style which increasingly fell out of favor with the rise of international Classicism in the Netherlands.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Titian: Diana and Actaeon, 1556-59. © National Gallery, London

Visitors to National Museum Cardiff have a unique opportunity to see one of the most important paintings of the Italian Renaissance this springtime. Titian’s famous painting ‘Diana and Actaeon’ will be coming to Cardiff on a tour from the National Gallery, London and will be displayed from 19 April – 17 June 2012.

The painting is one of the artist’s finest creations – remarkable for its ambitious scale, masterful unity of colour, subject matter and excellent condition. 'Diana and Actaeon' is one of six large-scale mythologies inspired by the Roman poet Ovid, which Titian painted for King Philip II of Spain. Titian began the picture and its companion ‘Diana and Callisto’ (which was last month purchased for the nation after a £45m deal was agreed with owner the Duke of Sutherland) in 1556, the year of Philip’s coronation. Spurred on by the prestige of royal patronage, he unleashed all his creativity to produce works of unprecedented beauty and inventiveness. Titian worked for three years to perfect these masterpieces, which were shipped to Spain in 1559. He claimed their lengthy genesis was due to the relentless pains he took to make sumptuous works of art worthy of the king.


American Modernism from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

Jackson Pollock, No. 34, 1949, Enamel on paper mounted on masonite, 22 x 30 inches
Edward W. Root Bequest, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, Utica, NY
Photographer’s credit: Williamstown Art Conservation Laboratory
© 2011 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Maurice Prendergast, Landscape with Figures,i> c. 1912, Oil on canvas,30 x 42 inches
Edward W. Root Bequest, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, Utica, NY
Photographer’s Credit: John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler Photography

Between 1902 and 1953, Edward Wales Root amassed a spectacular collection of contemporary American art, which became the cornerstone of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute collection. This exhibition features highlights from that collection, including key works from some of the most important artists of the first half of the 20th century. Among the 35 paintings in this collection are works by Maurice Prendergast, Mark Rothko, Arthur Dove, Ashile Gorky, Jackson Pollock and more.

The exhibition surveys Root's interest in the American avant-garde and displays the radical transformation of art during that period. Prendergast to Pollock complements the Naples Museum of Art's permanent American Modernism Collection.

Major works of Renaissance and Baroque art from the famed Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, to the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa.

Alessandro Di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli, Madonna with Child ("Madonna della loggia") (detail), ca. 1466-1467, oil on panel. 72 x 50 cm. Collection of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Luca Signorelli (and his workshop) (Cortona 1450 circa-1523), Detail, The Last Supper, The Prayer in the Garden, Flagellation, 1510 ca., Oil on panel, cm 32.5 x 204.5.

Dignitaries from leading cultural institutions of the region spoke at the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia today, announcing the arrival of major works of Renaissance and Baroque art from the famed Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, to the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa.

This is the first American tour of an exhibit drawn entirely from the Uffizi collection. Offering of the Angels: Treasures from the Uffizi Gallery will feature works from Botticelli, Titian, Tintoretto and others at the Michener April 21 through August 10, 2012.

“This is the first time the Michener is hosting an international touring exhibit,” said Katsiff. “There are 1.6 million visitors annually to the Uffizi. This is the biggest exhibition to come to Bucks County.”

Admission to Offering of the Angels: Treasures from the Uffizi Gallery, April 21 through August 10, 2012, is included with general museum admission. Timed tickets can be purchased through or over the phone at 1-800-595-4849.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thomas Benton's Indiana murals

The Indiana murals were originally created for the Indiana Hall at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago in 22 panels that stretched 250 feet, encircling the exposition. When the Century of Progress Exposition closed, Benton's panels were stored in a horse barn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Herman B Wells, early in his tenure as Indiana University president, arranged for the state to give the murals to IU in 1940.

Today, 16 of the panels are in the lobby of the IU Auditorium, two are in Woodburn Hall and four were in the old University Theatre building, which is currently under construction (the two panels currently being restored come from the theater building).

Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975), "Indiana Puts Her Trust in Thought," 1933. From the Indiana Murals (Cultural Panel 11).Tempera on canvas on panel.

Benton (1889-1975) was a Missouri native who studied art in Paris and New York. When Indiana officials commissioned him to produce the murals, he delved into study of the state's history and traveled across Indiana for months to gain a sense of Indiana's people and geography.

"History was not a scholarly study for me but a drama," wrote Benton, who was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1934. "I saw it not as a succession of events but as a continuous flow of action having its climax in my own immediate experience."

Culture panel 10, "Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press"

Benton is perhaps best known at IU for his controversial mural, "Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press," which includes an image of robed Ku Klux Klansmen burning a cross alongside an interracial hospital tableau in what has been interpreted as a tribute to the newspapers that brought down the hate group. While he was often critiqued for his "vulgar" style and focus on everyday life, Benton insisted on presenting both the good and bad elements of Hoosier history.

More panels: