Archive for July, 2014



Murder Revisited

Last year, over 700 visitors participated in our Museum Murder Mystery Game during Late Night! If you were one of those determined detectives, you found out that it was Winston Churchill who killed Eros, the God of Love, in the Silk Road gallery with the Scepter from the Asian galleries.

And while justice was served last year, we have it on good authority that during our next Late Night on Friday, July 18, there will be another murder!

It will be up to our visitors to solve this third Museum Murder Mystery by figuring out who the murderer is, the weapon he or she used, and the room where the murder took place.

For one night only, the seven works suspected of the murder will come to life and answer your questions. Without revealing who the suspects are, as they are innocent until proven guilty, these photos will give you a clue to their identities.

In addition to the Murder Mystery Game, there will be a lot more mysterious and fun things to do during the Late Night; be sure to check out the full schedule of events.

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services at the DMA.

Culinary Canvas: Spritz Cookies

The author of this post is stepping in (just this once!) for our resident DMA baker and Culinary Canvas blogger, Sarah Coffey, whose baking talents we are all missing during her maternity leave.

Last week when the weather got toasty, I started to daydream about my favorite pseudo-holiday: Christmas in July.  Instead of donning a goofy sweater and decking the halls, I decided to mark the occasion with a trip to visit our Icebergs painting, and a little Christmas baking.  (Actually, as you’ll notice when you get down to the recipe, it was a lot of Christmas baking).  Spritz cookies, a Swedish butter cookie often baked during Christmastime, are one of my favorite holiday treats.  I love the cookie’s buttery richness, slight almond flavor, and the thumbprint full of preserves in the center.  There’s also something very satisfying about piping the dough into shapes, one by one.

The Spritz cookie recipe below is a commercial one, taken from a baking class I recently finished through El Centro Community College’s Bakery/Pastry Arts program.  The recipe’s yield is high, but since this baking adventure was inspired by the holiday spirit–and the sharing  and overeating it inspires–I thought a few extra (dozen) cookies would be a welcome thing!

Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Norma and Lamar Hunt

Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Norma and Lamar Hunt

Spritz cookies

Yield: pipes approximately 85 cookies

1 lb. butter
12 oz. sugar
4 oz. eggs
2 tsp almond extract
1 lb 4 oz. cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar at low speed, blending to a smooth paste. Add eggs and almond extract in at a low speed. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined.

Using a pastry bag and a large #5 star tip, pipe dough onto parchment sheets, garnishing tops with pieces of fruit, nuts, or preserves of any flavor. Place cookies in freezer for about 30 minutes to set shape. Put in a 350˚F oven and bake approximately 8 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to brown.

 

Spritz cookiesAnd because this is a Friday Photo post, below are some more images of my semester of baking at El Centro!

Amy Copeland
Manager of Go van Gogh and Community Teaching Programs

 

Painting Without the Point: Pissarro’s “Apple Harvest” Unvarnished

A long-time favorite in the DMA’s European galleries, Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest of 1888 has returned to view this month after a visit to the Painting Conservation Studio.

Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest (1888), on Mark Leonard’s easel, in the DMA’s Painting Conservation Studio

Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest (1888) on Mark Leonard’s easel in the DMA’s Painting Conservation Studio

Removal of the old varnish layer began at the right side of the picture, as is seen in this image taken during the cleaning process.  Soft cotton swabs and a mild organic solvent mixture were used to remove the discolored resin.

Removal of the old varnish layer began at the right side of the picture, as is seen in this image taken during the cleaning process. Soft cotton swabs and a mild organic solvent mixture were used to remove the discolored resin.

The painting, which has been at the Museum since 1955, is in very good condition, but it was brought to Chief Conservator Mark Leonard to determine whether it was in need of cleaning. He opened a small “cleaning window” along the right side of the canvas, removing the layer of protective varnish. The bright pigments revealed by this small test confirmed that the varnish had become dark and yellowed over the past half-century, masking the true colors of the painting. It needed to be removed. The painting was carefully cleaned and its original vibrant tonality has been rediscovered.

 

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Pissarro actually made three different paintings of this subject: a group of peasants gathering apples in the shade of an apple tree. The first version dates back to 1881, when Pissarro was one of the leaders of the impressionist group, and is painted in a classic impressionist style, with open brushwork describing the dappled sunlight that falls on the figures.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881, Oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 ¼ in. (65 x 54 cm), Private Collection

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 ¼ in. (65 x 54 cm), Private Collection

The same year, Pissarro started another, larger version of the subject, but did not complete it until 1886, when he showed it at the eighth and final impressionist exhibition.

 Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881-1886, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 50 in. (126 x 127 cm), Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881-1886, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 50 in. (126 x 127 cm), Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan

At that exhibition, Pissarro championed the participation of the young pointillist painters, Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, and Seurat showed his “manifesto painting,” A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte1884.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, 1884-86, oil on canvas, 81 ¾ x 121 ¼ in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, 1884-86, oil on canvas, 81 ¾ x 121 ¼ in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

Pissarro had recently adopted Seurat’s neo-impressionist method as the approach to painting that was “in harmony with our epoch” and an evolution from the older, “romantic” impressionism of artists like Monet. When he began work the next year on the DMA’s Apple Harvest, Pissarro was returning to a familiar subject, but armed with the new, “scientific” principles he had learned from Seurat.
Pissarro prepared the painting with a number of drawings, oil studies, and a full compositional watercolor, which he squared for transfer.

Camille Pissarro, Compositional study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, watercolor on paper, 6 5/8 x 8 ½ in. (16.7 x 21.5 cm), Whereabouts unknown

Camille Pissarro, Compositional study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, watercolor on paper, 6 5/8 x 8 ½ in. (16.7 x 21.5 cm), whereabouts unknown

In one drawing for the apple tree, Pissarro carefully noted the local colors he observed in the grass while sketching in the apple orchard: “yellowish red-orange,” “green,” “violet,” and “pink.”

Camille Pissarro, Study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, graphite and colored pencil on beige paper, 7 x 9 in. (17.8 x 22.7 cm), The Eunice and Hal David Collection

Camille Pissarro, Study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, graphite and colored pencil on beige paper, 7 x 9 in. (17.8 x 22.7 cm), The Eunice and Hal David Collection

In the final painting, these colors were evoked optically through a flurry of carefully selected and painstakingly applied flecks and dots of pure, unmixed color.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

The pointillist method was a source of ongoing internal debate for Pissarro during these years. Despite his methodical preparatory studies, Pissarro placed a very high value on freedom and improvisation in painting. In September 1888, around the time he was completing work on Apple Harvest, he wrote to his son Lucien, a fellow neo-impressionist: “I am thinking a lot here about a way of producing without the point,” he reported. “How to attain the qualities of purity, of the simplicity of the point, and the thickness, the suppleness, the liberty, the spontaneity, the freshness of sensation of our impressionist art? That’s the question; it is much on my mind, for the point is thin, without consistency, diaphanous, more monotonous than simple.”

In Apple Harvest, Pissarro went to great lengths to avoid the monotony of pointillism, and his dots are surprisingly active and diverse, fracturing and curling to define form as well as color.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

Robert Herbert, one of the great 20th-century historians of impressionism, described Pissarro’s complex approach to describing the deep shadow under the apple tree at the center foreground of the painting with a myriad of colored points: “The shadow has brilliant red, intense blue, intense green as well as pink, lavender, orange, some yellow, and subdued blues and greens. The pigments were not allowed to mix much together, and preserve their individuality which, because of the high intensity, results in an abrasive vibration in our eye that cannot be resolved into one tone. In order to make the contrast still sharper, Pissarro strengthens the blue around the edges of the shadow, a reaction provoked by the proximity of the strong sunlit field.”

 Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

By February of the next year, Pissarro informed his son that he was still “searching for a way to replace the points. Up until this moment, I haven’t found what I desire; the execution doesn’t seem to me to be quick enough and doesn’t respond simultaneously enough to sensation.” Pissarro sought nothing less than translating the immediacy of his optical sensations into the solid fact of paint on a canvas. Throughout the late 1880s, he was testing the capacity of the neo-impressionists’ methods to sustain this personal artistic goal.

Camille Pissarro taking his rolling easel outdoors to paint near his house in Éragny, France, c. 1895

Camille Pissarro taking his rolling easel outdoors to paint near his house in Éragny, France, c. 1895

The first critics who saw Apple Harvest in 1889 and 1890, when it was shown at important exhibitions in Brussels and Paris, were profoundly impressed with how Pissarro managed to convey the experience of sunlight using the pointillist approach. One early critic wrote, “Truly, the canvases of M. Pissarro are today painted with the sun.” Later writers have agreed, pointing out how Pissarro “directed the light so that it appears to radiate from the depths of the scene, to activate with color everything along its path and then to issue forth in to the viewer’s space.”

How, then, does the painting’s recent cleaning alter our understanding of Apple Harvest? For many decades, the painting has appeared more yellow than Pissarro intended because of the darkened layer of varnish on its surface. This change has no doubt influenced viewers of the painting who noted the “warm” palette of the canvas, which “positively throbs with the heat of a late summer’s afternoon.” The intensely sunlit effect of the painting was, it seems, given an additional golden glow by the amber hue of the darkened varnish. But, the dazzling luminosity of Apple Harvest—its “powerful fiat lux,” in the words of one early critic—was no accident of time. It was apparent to viewers as soon as the painting left Pissarro’s easel, and now, 125 years later, the painting’s brilliant colors and lighting effects have been restored to their original, white-hot intensity.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888, oil on canvas, 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888, oil on canvas, 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Celebrate Camille Pissarro’s birthday on July 10 with a visit to the newly conserved work on Level 2.

Heather MacDonald is The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the DMA.

Alles Gute Zum Geburtstag Käthe Kollwitz

Popular throughout Europe and the United States during her career, German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) captured images of life and the tragedy of war during the first half of the 20th century. Commemorate Kollwitz’s July 8 birthday with a visit to the free focus exhibition Käthe Kollwitz: A Social Activist in the Era of World War I in the Museum’s European Art Gallery on Level 2.

 

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Kimberly Daniell is Manager of Communications and Public Affairs at the DMA.

Friday Photos: Welcome Baby Rhys!

I am delighted to introduce you to baby Rhys Amann Coffey, born to Sarah and her husband Todd.  Rhys made his debut on June 9 at 12:57 p.m., weighing in at five pounds and twelve ounces.  Mom, dad, and baby are happy and healthy.  We will miss Sarah while she is on maternity leave, but can’t blame her for wanting to spend as much time as possible with this handsome little guy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMelissa Gonzales
C3 Gallery Manager

 

DMA Snapshot: American Portraits

2014-06-14 15.14.42

Sometimes visitors will ask me what they should see if they don’t have much time to spend in the galleries. Generally, I like to tailor my suggestions to the visitors’ preference for a particular style of art, but sometimes I just really like to show off a few of my favorites. One of the sections that I like to visit is the wonderful (and impressive) portrait collection on Level 4 in the American Art Galleries. During a quick visit  you can see celebrities such as George Washington, whose portrait was painted in 1795 by Rembrandt Peale when the artist was only seventeen years old. It wasn’t until 1823 that Peale decided to improve on the original painting.

Rembrandt Peale, George Washington, c. 1850, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation

Rembrandt Peale, George Washington, c. 1850, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation

The sitter in John Singer Sargent’s Dorothy was the granddaughter of one of Sargent’s first American patrons, George Millar Williamson. Dorothy was selected to be a part of the Art Everywhere US campaign to celebrate American history and culture nationwide. Be on the lookout for her on outdoor displays this August.

John Singer Sargent, Dorothy, 1900, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc.

John Singer Sargent, Dorothy, 1900, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc.

You don’t want to miss the beautiful portrait of Theodore Roosevelt’s first cousin, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer).This portrait is stunning and perfectly exemplifies the practices of John White Alexander that put him on the map, not just as a portrait artists but also as a muralist and illustrator.

John White Alexander, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer), 1901-1902, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation in memory of Pauline Gill Sullivan

John White Alexander, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer), 1901-1902, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation in memory of Pauline Gill Sullivan

The American Art Gallery features the finest portraits and decorative arts from the 18th and 19th centuries that America had to offer and is a definite must-see. If you’re yearning for more information, visit the DMA.mobi tour to learn interesting facts about more works in the collection, like John Singleton Copley’s portraits Woodbury Langdon and Sarah Sherburne Langdon. Then don’t forget to check in to the DMA Friends program to get your points!

Maegan Hoffman is Assistant Manager of the DMA Partners Program at the DMA.

Surreal Play: Group Exploration with Surrealist Games

1982_28_FASurrealism is typically regarded as an art movement dedicated to personal exploration by tapping into a person’s subconscious. This was certainly an important component, but Surrealism was also focused on group activity, ranging from the creation of Surrealist journals, to collectively written statements, to unfettered discovery through group play and games.

Many of the games the Surrealists played together were derived from the types of parlor games they learned as children or still enjoyed as leisure.  Such activities, while fun, were also meant to spur creativity and subvert the psychological conditioning of society. Sometimes these games resulted in finished works of Surrealist art and writing.  As the movement’s self-proclaimed leader, André Breton, described their game playing in 1954: “Although as a defensive measure we sometimes described such activity as ‘experimental’ we were looking to it primarily for entertainment, and those rewarding discoveries it yielded in relation to knowledge only came later. […] It is clear that to shut oneself off from game-playing […] is to undermine the best of one’s own humanity.”  (Brotchie and Gooding, 1991, 137-138)

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits for educators using Surrealist games in the classroom is how the activities offer a set of tools to get learners conceptualizing critically and playing with images, words, and ideas where the purpose is surprise, delight, and creativity. For the Surrealists, the fact that games had rules or instructions that mandated how they were played, but the end-goal was itself unstructured, illogical, and messy, was representative of their own world-view.

Let’s briefly explore two games the Surrealists used in group settings that might be fun to apply to classrooms and museum teaching. My descriptions of these games has been adapted from Alastair Brotchie and Mel Gooding’s delightful Book of Surrealist Games (Shambhala Redstone Editions, 1995).

 

The Exquisite Corpse
Perhaps the best known Surrealist drawing game, the Exquisite Corpse was actually born out of a writing activity. Surrealism’s roots are in writing and poetry; its earliest practitioners and founders were all writers.  Games like the Exquisite Corpse (the name is taken from the poetic results of the first game played) were later modified into a visual variant.

Exquisite Corpse by Breton-Knutson-Hugo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group size: Typically three-to-four players, or any size up to how easily one sheet of paper can be folded.

Instructions: A piece of paper is folded so that the number of creased sections matches the number of players, usually horizontally or in quarters for four players.

The first player takes the folded paper with the top fold exposed and draws anything that comes to mind. (Note: In it’s purest incarnation, as a reference to the name of the game, the players are to base their portions of the drawing on the portions of a human body, but this is by no means a hard-and-fast rule!)

She then extends some of her drawn lines across the fold into the next blank section, and refolds the paper so only the second section is exposed, and the next player cannot see what she drew in the first section.

The re-folded sheet is passed to the second player, who bases his drawing on the few exposed lines provided. After completing his section, he also extends a few of the bottom-most lines across the fold, refolds to hide his portion and expose the next, and passes to the next player.

This process continues until all players have a turn to draw a section, when it is unveiled and unplanned, group-designed drawing is revealed. An added variation involves the last player handing the folded drawing to the first player again, who must conceive of a title before the full drawing is shown.

Outcome: An example of an Exquisite Corpse can be seen above, created by André Breton, Greta Knutson, and Valentine Hugo, where the “head” is a florid, calligraphic design, the “torso” is an hourglass, and the “legs” are heart-footed compasses. The surprising and seemingly unnatural conjunctions of objects in these drawings are similar to the visual juxtapositions presented in many Surrealists’ work.  Examples include the René Magritte’s Persian Letters, and Surrealist objects, such the one below by Sonia Mossé, both in the DMA’s collection.

Magritte - Persian Letters - 1958

Gaston Paris - Photograph of Sonia Mosse mannequin from International Surrealist Exhibition - 1938

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Game of Variants

This is essentially the traditional “whisper” game of Telephone. The group sits in a circle, and the first person conceives of a phrase, then whispers it to her neighbor. The second person whispers the same sentence to his neighbor, and so on, through the entire group. By the end, the beginning and ending phrases are compared.

An example:
Starting Phrase: “You must dye blue the pink bags fathomed by orange parapets.”
Ending Phrase: “At all costs forget the fifth paragraph of ‘Paradise Lost’.”

While not practiced by the Surrealists, I have used a fun visual variant of this game in teaching.

Group Size: Best suited for groups between ten and thirty players.

Instructions: Take a piece of paper and fold it horizontally then vertically in an accordion-style (front-over-back) into quadrants that add up to the number of players. (So, with twenty-five players, fold a typical sheet of paper four times horizontally, then four times vertically.)

Present the folded up paper so only one folded quadrant is visible, then have the first player draw a small simple, linear image.

She then presents the drawing to the next player, who looks at it, folds the paper over to the next blank quadrant, then redraws the image from memory. He then passes his version of the drawing on, and the process is repeated until the last player finishes her drawing.

Once finished, unfold the entire sheet, and marvel at the evolution of the image as it transforms from one recognizable thing into something else altogether!

Outcome: Just as the results of the Telephone game are remarkable for the dissimilarity between starting and ending phrases, the results of this visual variant are similarly startling, but the sheet also becomes a visual record of the transformation of starting image into something else entirely.  In the example below completed during a class I taught in 2009, the starting image of a shoe transforms multiple times, into a cigarette and ashtray, a frying pan, a robot, and a bug.

Successive Drawing In-Class_Page_1_2009

Game of Variants Drawing (recto), 2009

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Game of Variants (verso), 2009

 

Have you tried using Surrealist games like these in your teaching or for fun?  Please leave your experiences and ideas in the comments below!

 

Artworks shown:

  • Ferdinand Léger, Composition with Tree Trunks, oil on canvas, 1933, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation.
  • André Breton, Greta Knutson, Valentine Hugo, Untitled (Exquisite Corpse), Colored pencil on black paper, c. 1929, Private Collection.
  • René Magritte, Persian Letters, oil on canvas, 1958, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J.B. Adoue, III.
  • Gaston Paris, Untitled (Mannequin by Sonia Mossé), Gelatin silver print, 1938, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Junior Associates and an anonymous donor.

Sources:

Brotchie, Alastair and Mel Gooding.  A Book of Surrealist Games.  Boston & London: Shambhala Redstone Editions, 1995.

 

Josh Rose
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs


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