Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thomas Hart Benton In Story and Song

In conjunction with the Nashville Public Library’s city-wide celebration of beloved author Mark Twain, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts organized Thomas Hart Benton in Story and Song, presented  from Oct. 2, 2009 through Jan. 31, 2010. The exhibition features more than 80 works, including 20 drawings from each of the three illustration projects he completed to accompany Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi. The exhibition also featured prints, drawings, and paintings relating to Benton’s deep love of American vernacular music.

  • Thomas Hart Benton. Illustration for Life on the Mississippi, “If the fire would give him time to reach a sandbar,” 1944. Drawing and watercolors, 7 x 4 3/8 in. The State Historical Society of Missouri. © Benton Testamentary Trusts / UMB Bank Trustee /Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
The exhibition will be presented alongside Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Times: American Modernism from the Lane Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, comprising more than 50 works exploring the development of American Modernism through the eyes of a passionate collector.

“We thought these two exhibitions worked well together,” says Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala, “as they both look at America from different perspectives at a time when the country was moving from a rural, agricultural-based economy to one that was more urban and industrial.”

“By creating images that capture what he saw as the simplicity and dignity of everyday life in rural America, Benton strove to pay homage to his country’s people, history, and land,” says Katie Delmez, Curator. “While music was a tremendously significant part of his life and inspiration for his work, it’s surprising that, until now, the influence that music had on his work has not yet been fully explored.”

The Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley by Thomas Hart Benton
The exhibition is divided into two sections. The first, “Thomas Hart Benton in Story” includes his delightful and lively illustrations of three of the most beloved works by Mark Twain, Benton’s favorite novelist. Like Twain, a fellow Missourian, Benton made his images with a raw, unvarnished tone, intending to present the quintessentially straightforward and unpretentious character of America. Although the two men were separated by a generation, their respective bodies of work were informed by their small-town, Midwestern upbringings.
The second section, “Thomas Hart Benton in Song,” includes works relating to his deep love of music. In addition to his talents as an artist, Benton was also a largely self-taught musician. Growing up, he listened to country music and was familiar with its artists and songs. As an adult, he began to play the harmonica and achieved enough proficiency to record an album (Saturday Night at Tom Benton’s, Decca 1931).
Benton often incorporated musicians and country ballads into his images. Several of the works in this section relate to specific songs, including

 Wreck of the Ole’ ’97,

a ballad recounting the 1893 fatal crash of a Southern Railway train.

Others, such as

The Music Lesson,

show the pleasure of sharing music among family and friends, as the artist so often did himself.
In 1975, the Country Music Foundation approached Benton to create a work based on the roots of country music. He began the project, The Sources of Country Music (on view at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum), in December of that year. In 1975, as he was putting the finishing touches on the work in his studio, Benton suffered a massive heart attack and died in front of the mural. During the years of development of the work, he submitted dozens of sketches to the foundation board for their comment and review, and ten of these works will be included in this exhibition.
Benton, who was born in Missouri in 1889 and died in 1975, is well known for his distinctive style and colorful palette. He enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago in 1907 and later studied in Paris, where he met Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, who undoubtedly influenced Benton’s style and choice of subject matter. In his early years as an artist, he traveled from the art scene in Paris, to New York, to the rural South, and home to Missouri. In his travels, he became a keen observer of America’s working classes and also became aware of the distinction between urban and rural cultures that is often reflected in his work.

From a review by Anam Cara:

Thomas Hart Benton in Story and Song features drawings and watercolors the artist created for three books by Mark Twain, as well as paintings inspired by American Folk Music.  Benton was a part of the Regionalist movement that saw beauty in the ordinary men and women who populate ordinary towns and do ordinary things.
BentonThe exhibition highlights Benton's versatility.  Each of the books was illustrated in a slightly different medium.  For The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the artist used pen and ink to create clean, sharp, black and white images that snap with the same vitality the rascally Tom was known for.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, however, received a sepia wash "to evoke the muddy Mississippi River and the somber undertones of the book".  Finally, Twain's memoir, Life on the Mississippi, is rendered in eloquently subdued watercolors.
One of the most intriguing elements of this exhibit for me is a serious of studies for Thomas Hart Benton's last work; a large scale painting commissioned by the Country Music Hall of Fame here in Nashville, called "The Sources of Country Music" (above).  Sketches of individual characters followed by composition studies reveal the mind of the artist as he worked and reworked; positioned and repositioned.  Fascinating!

Related Work:

Alternately praised as “an American original” and lampooned as an arbiter of kitsch, the regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton has been the subject of myriad monographs and journal articles, remaining almost as controversial today as he was in his own time. Missing from this literature, however, is an understanding of the profound ways in which sound figures in the artist’s enterprises. Prolonged attention to the sonic realm yields rich insights into long-established narratives, corroborating some but challenging and complicating at least as many. A self-taught and frequently performing musician who invented a harmonica tablature notation system, Benton was also a collector, cataloguer, transcriber, and distributor of popular music. 

In Thomas Hart Benton and the American Sound, Leo Mazow shows that the artist’s musical imagery was part of a larger belief in the capacity of sound to register and convey meaning. In Benton’s pictorial universe, it is through sound that stories are told, opinions are voiced, experiences are preserved, and history is recorded.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection + Chaim Soutine

Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection” is a major traveling exhibition organized by the Princeton University Art Museum. The works featured in the exhibition showcase the extraordinary vision of Henry Pearlman (1895-1974), a modest American entrepreneur who amassed an astonishing collection of modern art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including perhaps the greatest collection of watercolors by Cézanne outside of France.
The Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection has resided at the Princeton University Art Museum since 1976, and this exhibition marks the first international tour of the entire collection since Pearlman’s death in 1974.

Exhibition Organization and Tour
“Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection” has been organized by the Princeton University Art Museum in cooperation with the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation. The exhibition premiered at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford, Oxford, England (March 13–June 22, 2014), then traveled to the Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, France (July 11–Oct. 5, 2014) and to the High Museum of Art (Oct. 25, 2014–Jan. 11, 2015). Following its presentation at the High, the exhibition will be on view at Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada (Feb. 7–May 18, 2015), and the tour will culminate at Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, N.J. (Sept. 12, 2015–Jan. 3, 2016).
The exhibition is co-curated by the Princeton University Art Museum’s Betsy Rosasco, research curator of European painting and sculpture, and Laura Giles, Heather and Paul G. Haaga Jr., Class of 1970, curator of prints and drawings.

“Cézanne and the Modern” Exhibition Catalogue

A richly illustrated catalogue, published by the Princeton University Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition and includes Henry Pearlman’s personal narrative “Reminiscences of a Collector”; a major essay by Rachael Z. DeLue, associate professor in the department of art and archaeology at Princeton University, which considers Pearlman’s collecting practices and milieu; a chronology of Pearlman’s life and the history of the collection; brief essays on each of the artists and their works in the exhibition by leading scholars in the field; and detailed information on each of the works, including the discoveries of new conservation and technical analyses undertaken specifically for the exhibition.

From a review by in the Oxonian Review by Emma-Victoria Farr:

This is the first European exhibition of the collection of Cézanne’s work formed by Henry and Rose Pearlman in North America after the Second World War. The Ashmolean has been closely involved with Princeton University Art Museum in putting together the exhibition, which will move on to Aix-en-Provence, Atlanta, and Vancouver, before returning to Princeton, where it is on long-term loan.
The Pearlman collection, however, comprises not only of works by Cézanne, but also paintings and sculptures by leading Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masters. It features fifty works by nineteen artists, ranging from Gustave Courbet to Jacques Lipchitz. Yet, at the heart of the collection remain the Cézannes: six oils, two drawings, and sixteen watercolours, which reflect Pearlman’s own taste wholeheartedly. 
The exhibition opens with a bright portrait of Henry Pearlman by Oskar Kokoschka from 1948, a few years after he started his art collection. (Rose Pearlman managed the collection from her husband’s death in 1974 until her own death in 1994). Pearlman sits commandingly in the foreground, almost enthroned in front of the painting’s riverside setting, as if to survey his surrounding collection. Immediately behind his portrait opens up a mesmerising room of watercolours, a feast for the eyes of gentle pastel hues.
 L.1988.62.32Paul Cézanne (1839–1906)Three Pears, c. 1888–90Watercolour, gouache, and graphite on cream laid paper24.2 x 31 cm

Three Pears (c. 1888-90), a still life watercolour, stands out. The pattern of the tablecloth Cézanne paints brings the composition to life, making the pears appear tangible. As Harrison describes it: “These are extremely sensuous pears” – and he has a point. Their delicate curves offer a sort of femininity one might expect to find in the depiction of a nude. In contrast, the watercolour Study of a Skull (1902-1904) shows a meditation on the fragility of life. He is portraying vanitas, conscious of his predecessors and their influence, and aware of his own ill health. The vibrancy of the skull outlined in pencil and watercolour makes the image even more menacing.

L.1988.62.47Paul Cézanne (1839–1906)Still Life with Carafe, Bottle, and Fruit, 1906Watercolour and soft graphite on pale buff wove paper48 x 62.5 cm
Another highlight in the watercolour room is Still Life with Carafe, Bottle and Fruit(1906). The bright shades of the fruit, juxtaposed with the dark tones of the centred wine bottle, and the clarity of the glass carafe, offer a marvellously vibrant composition of light and color..,

These other elements of the Pearlman collection complement the famous Cézanne oils of 

Paul Cézanne (1839–1906)Mont Sainte-Victoire, c.1902Oil on canvas83.8 x 65.1 cm

Mont Sainte-Victoire (c. 1902) (above)  and 

Cistern in the Park of the Château Noir (c. 1900) as well as show his independence in what works he bought.
Nonetheless, the exhibition’s winning feature lies in its watercolours. These gentle sketches with soft pastel colours remain the sparkling jewel in its crown. Their effect both individually and in combination leaves the viewer with a lasting impression of great richness...

High to Showcase Five Soutine Portraits with Fall 2014 Cézanne Exhibition

In conjunction with “Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection,” the High Museum of Art will present five portraits by the acclaimed Expressionist painter Chaïm Soutine (French, born Lithuania, 1893-1943), on view Oct. 25, 2014 through Jan. 11, 2015.
These paintings, a generous loan from the Lewis Collection, are superb examples of the nearly 200 portraits that Soutine created throughout his career. The portraits join seven other works by Soutine that will be on view as part of the “Cézanne and the Modern” exhibition, and together they mark the greatest number of works by Soutine ever to be on view at the High. The portraits will complement 50 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by such artists as Cézanne, van Gogh, Modigliani, Degas, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and others.
The five portraits by Soutine from the Lewis Collection featured in the presentation include:

  • “Le paysan” (“The Peasant”) (c. 1919-20) – This painting of a bust-length figure, identified only as a peasant, shows the sitter standing at a slight angle. His ruddy face is a symphony of yellows and reds against a painterly background of green.

  • “Le garçon en bleu” (“The Boy in Blue”) (1924) – In this portrait, the sitter’s hat frames his head like a halo in a medieval altarpiece. A colorful mass of paint resolves itself as the sitter’s clasped hands.

  • “Le petit pâtissier” (“The Little Pastry Chef”) (c. 1927) – Soutine was fascinated by people in uniform, and he painted multiple portraits of people who worked in uniformed professions. In this touching portrait, the artist captured the mannerisms of a young pastry boy, from the slight tilt of his head to his apprehensive expression and melancholy, searching eyes.

  • “Portrait d’une jeune fille (Fille en blouse bleu)” [“Portrait of a young girl (Girl in Blue Blouse)”] (c. 1937) – In this half-length portrait, Soutine has captured the uncertain profile of a young girl, peering nervously upward, clutching a book to her chest.

  • “Portrait du garçon en bleu” (“Portrait of a Boy in Blue”) (c. 1928) – In the 1920s Soutine alternated between painting still-life and portraits. Like the other four paintings in this small group, the sitter is unidentified, a young boy who is portrayed in a relaxed pose with his hands clasped in his lap.

About Chaïm Soutine

Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943) was born into a poor family in Smilovitchi, Lithuania, and grew up as the tenth of 11 children in an Orthodox Jewish village, or shtetlConcerned about idolatry, the shtetl community was suspicious of image making, and so for Soutine, making art was an act of rebellion. At around age 16, Soutine asked a religiously observant man in his community to pose for a portrait. In response, the man’s son and his friends beat Soutine. They were later forced to compensate Soutine for the damage, and the artist used the money to pay for his first art lessons. Soutine later continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vilna, and after graduating, moved to Paris, where he enrolled at the École des Beaux Arts. During this time, he befriended fellow artists Jacques Lipchitz and Amedeo Modigliani.

Critics and collectors saw Soutine as the artistic successor to Cézanne. Like the older artist, Soutine avoided traditional forms of perspective, especially in his landscapes. The trees and buildings are tipped upward, offering a disorienting view that borders on abstraction. However Soutine’s energetic application of paint stood in contrast to the work of his predecessors. He took advantage of the three-dimensional quality of oil paint, sculpting it on the surface of the canvas in thick strands. No evidence exists that Soutine ever made preparatory sketches, and acquaintances reported that he plotted his compositions directly on the canvases, painting them quickly and spontaneously with brushes, palette knives, and his fingers. 

Soutine was relatively unknown until the American collector Dr. Albert Barnes traveled to Paris in 1922 and purchased 52 of his paintings. Although Soutine did not achieve success overnight, his reputation was sealed, and his work sold well for the rest of his life. Soutine’s painting style influenced some of the most important painters of the 20th century, from the Abstract Expressionists working in New York to British painters like Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud.

More images from the exhibition:

Vincent van Gogh’s “Tarascon Stagecoach” (1888)  is included in the High Museum of Art exhibit “Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art From the Pearlman Collection” 

Edouard Manet, Young Woman in a Round Hat, c. 1877–79

Portrait of Jean Cocteau - Amedeo Modigliani


From 24 October 2014 to 8 February 2015, the exhibition LOOKING AT MONET in the Orangery presents icons of Impressionism within a synthesis unique across Europe, as well as their multiple impacts on domestic art production. Thanks to first-rate loans from around the globe, the exhibition assembles key works by Claude Monet, some of which have never been on view in Austria. Eighteen years after its legendary Monet exhibition in 1996, the Belvedere presents some 30 principal works by Claude Monet, some of which have never been on view in Austria, including the world-famous paintings of Rouen Cathedral, several versions of Waterloo Bridge in London, and the late paintings of the water lilies. These will be juxtaposed with works by such Austrian contemporaries and followers as Gustav Klimt, Herbert Boeckl, Heinrich Kühn, Carl Moll, Emil Jakob Schindler, Max Weiler, and Olga Wisinger-Florian. Their works exhibit and visualise the traces the Frenchman left in Austrian landscape painting and photography.

Monet as a Source of Inspiration

The life of those days was marked by profound changes: such technological inventions as the steam engine, the railway, the telegraph, the chemical industry, and industrial production provoked an unbelievable acceleration of life, to which photography could not respond properly. It may well have been able to reproduce faces, buildings, objects, plants, or landscapes much more exactly, yet initially it could not capture movement. Atmospheric manifestations were also largely excluded from being rendered by photography.

This is where a new type of painting came into play. It was able to lend expression to modern life, to this enormous acceleration of daily routine, and to the diversity of new societal developments  curator Stephan Koja says. And it was able to deal with such fleeting phenomena as weather, atmospheres on the surface of water, fog, mist, wind, and smoke, declaring the interplay of light and colour its favourite theme. It was capable of addressing the subject of progress, considering smokestacks, locomotives, steamships in the harbour, etc. as motifs Stephan Koja explains.

An aestheticism of the spontaneous of swift representation emerged, relying on the tradition of a bravura painting style that had been cultivated by painters from the Baroque age to the present day. Austrian artists, too, were faced with the phenomena of a rapidly changing epoch and the challenges of its adequate depiction, and they also tried to find answers. However, they were confronted with a cultural climate that was by far more conservative and which, in the sphere of the visual arts, was dominated by the Künstlerhaus in Vienna as the institution moulding and dictating taste. Nonetheless, there had been such painters as Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller or Rudolf von Alt, who, in their constant search for a more convincing rendering of nature, had painted outdoors and sought to augment the intensity of light. 

Impressionist Tendencies in Austrian Painting

Particularly French art produced from the late nineteenth century on undoubtedly paved the way for modern European painting of the early twentieth century. Many artists felt attracted to Paris as an art metropolis. However, around the turn of the century there were also more and more possibilities to study contemporary French art in the German-speaking area. Nonetheless, it took a while until Austrian painters began to deal with Impressionism in their art: first Impressionist tendencies can be observed around 1890. It was primarily younger artists who adopted typically Impressionist themes.

Austrian painters also voluntarily embraced the Impressionist principle of perceiving an object as a manifestation of light. Younger artists increasingly felt at ease with Impressionism, so that references to the style were openly made from the turn of the century onwards.

Claude Monet, Path in Monet’s Garden in Giverny, 1902
Oil on canvas
89.5 x 92.3 cm

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1914-1917
Oil on canvas
150 x 200 cm
Claude Monet, The Cook, 1882
Oil on canvas
64.5 x 52.1 cm

Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge: the Sun in a fog, 1903
Oil on canvas
73.7 x 100.3 cm
Purchased 1914

Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect, 1903
Oil on canvas
65 x 100 cm

Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect, 1903
Oil on canvas
65.1 x 100 cm

Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, 1902
Oil on canvas
65 x 100 cm

Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect, ca. 1900 (dated 1903)
Oil on canvas
73.82 x 98.11 cm

Gustav Klimt, Attersee, 1900
Oil on canvas
80.2 x 80.2 cm:

Franz Jaschke, At the Donaulände, 1903
Oil on canvas
87.5 x 113 cm

Theodor von Hörmann Nighttime, Paris with the Eiffel Tower, 1889
Oil on canvas
45.5 x 55 cm
Theodor von Hörmann Nighttime, Paris with the Eiffel Tower, 1889 (JPEG, 3.78 MB)

Claude Monet, Fisher on the Seine at Poissy, 1882 | © © Belvedere, Vienna

Claude Monet, Fisher on the Seine at Poissy, 1882
Oil on canvas
59.8 x 81.7 cm

Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” and the Art of Invention

Samuel F. B. Morse’s monumental paintingGallery of the Louvre will embark on a multi-year tour across the United States in January. Kicking off at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, in San Marino, CA (January 24–April 20, 2015), the tour will visit nine museums across the country, including venues in Fort Worth, TX; Bentonville, AR; Detroit, MI; Salem, MA; and Winston-Salem, NC.

The exhibition, Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” and the Art of Invention, is the culmination of the painting’s extensive conservation treatment in 2010 and two years of scholarly investigation.

 It will be accompanied by an anthology of the same title, published by the Terra Foundation and distributed by Yale University Press
Chicago businessman and art collector Daniel J. Terra (1911–1996) poses next to Samuel F. B. Morse’s iconic painting Gallery of the Louvre, which has been a signature work in the Terra Foundation’s collection ever since it was acquired in by Mr. Terra in 1982.
Chicago businessman and art collector Daniel J. Terra (1911–1996) poses next to Samuel F. B. Morse’s iconic painting Gallery of the Louvre, which has been a signature work in the Terra Foundation’s collection ever since it was acquired in by Mr. Terra in 1982.

“We are delighted to host the kickoff of this extraordinary tour,” said Kevin Salatino, director of the art collections at The Huntington. “And Gallery of the Louvre is particularly fitting here, where our collections span the history of American art as well that of science and technology—interests shared with Morse himself.  Los Angeles audiences are sure to be fascinated in many ways by this gem of an exhibition.”
Exhibition tour dates are as follows:

  • The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA, January 24, 2015–April 20, 2015
  • Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX, May 23, 2015–September 7, 2015
  • Seattle Art Museum, Washington, September 22, 2015–January 10, 2016
  • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, January 2016–April 2016
  • Detroit Institute of Arts, MI, June 2016­–September 2016
  • Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, October 2016–January 2017
  • Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, NC, February 2017–June 2017
  • New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT, June 2017–October 2017
  • Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, November 2017–January 2018
Known today primarily for his role in the development of the electromagnetic telegraph and his namesake code, Samuel Morse began his career as a painter. Created between 1831 and 1833 in Paris and New York, Gallery of the Louvre was Morse’s masterwork and the culmination of his studies in Europe.
“Morse’s ‘gallery picture,’ a form first popularized in the seventeenth century, is the only major example of such in the history of American art,” says Peter John Brownlee, curator at the Terra Foundation. “For this canvas, Morse selected masterpieces from the Louvre’s collection and imaginatively ‘reinstalled’ them in one of the museum’s grandest spaces, the Salon Carré.”
In addition to highlighting renowned works by the Old Masters, Gallery of the Louvre serves as a painted treatise on artistic practice, positioning Morse, depicted as the centrally placed instructor in the work, as a link between European art of the past and America’s cultural future.
In 2010 Gallery of the Louvre underwent a six-month conservation treatment in the studio of Lance Mayer and Gay Myers, specialists in American painting who have restored such major works as Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851; Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Rembrandt Peale’s The Court of Death (1824; Detroit Institute of Arts). The conservation repaired damages that had occurred over time and yielded insight into Morse’s working methods.
“The conservation treatment greatly improved the overall look of the Gallery of the Louvre and confirmed that Morse was as fearless an experimenter with painting media as he was with the daguerreotype and the electromagnetic telegraph later in his career,” added Brownlee.
The painting’s conservation was documented in the 30-minute video A New Look: Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre,” produced by Sandpail Productions for the Terra Foundation. The video provides information about Morse’s career, as well as paintings depicted in the picture, and features interviews with conservators, curators at the Terra Foundation and the Musée du Louvre, and other specialists, including Morse scholar Paul J. Staiti, Alumnae Foundation Professor of Fine Arts at Mount Holyoke College.
From 2011 to 2013, the painting was exhibited for extended periods at the Yale University Art Gallery,

 the National Gallery of Art, 

and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where it was the subject of scholarly investigation and dialogue.