Archive for December, 2017

A Dallas Arts Patroness . . . Identified

This photo has been popular in Museum histories for a long time. It was used in the book Seventy-Five Years of Art in Dallas: The History of the Dallas Art Association and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1978) by Jerry Bywaters; the 90th Anniversary Timeline; and the 2003 Centennial history exhibition, and she has always been identified as a “Dallas arts patroness.”

The panel of the image from the 2003 exhibition currently hangs in the Archives. When curators come down, they always search to see if any of the paintings in the photo are part of the collection, though nothing is familiar. I have always thought that the paintings in the photo were from one of the Dallas Art Association’s (DAA) early annual exhibitions, but I had no idea which one. Then I came across a memo that identified the painting at her feet as an Albert Pinkham Ryder work that was to be part of the 2002 Gilded Age exhibition touring from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I was thrilled with this clue because now I could search the digitized exhibition catalogues and figure out the exhibition to at least date the photo.

It turns out that the painting in the photo was not the one in the exhibition, but a different Ryder painting of a ship at sea. Using books on Ryder from the library, I was able to identify the work as Ryder’s painting The Waste of Waters is Their Field, now in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Albert Pinkham Ryder (American, 1847-1917). The Waste of Waters is Their Field, early 1880s. Oil on panel, 11 5/16 x 12 in. (28.8 x 30.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, John B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 14.556 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 14.556_SL1.jpg)

With the new information, I could search for this painting in the digitized catalogues. I identified the exhibition as being from the Third Annual Exhibition: American Art from the Days of the Colonists to Now, held by the DAA at the Adolphus Hotel’s Palm Garden, November 16-30, 1922.

By using the exhibition checklist in the catalogue, with a bit of library and internet searching, I was able to definitively identify two of the other works in the photo, with educated guesses on two others. The oval painting is Mother and Child: A Modern Madonna by George de Forest Brush, also in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

George de Forest Brush (American, 1855-1941). Mother and Child: A Modern Madonna, 1919. Oil on canvas, 43 1/2 x 35 5/8 in. (110.5 x 90.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund and by subscription, 19.93 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 19.93_transp3194.jpg)

The painting leaning on the settee below it is Arthur B. Davies’ Banquet to a Hero, identified from the article “Davies the Absolute” by F. Newlin Price in the June 1922 issue of International Studio.

F. Newlin Price, “Davies the Absolute,” International Studio LXXV, no. 301, June 1922, p. 213-19.

Now I had the exhibition and date, but I still had no idea who the “patroness” was. Time for a different tactic.

The exhibition was curated for the DAA by Robert MacBeth of the MacBeth Gallery, and being a good archivist, I went searching for records from the gallery in hopes of finding a new clue. I found the records at the Archives of American Art. Using the digitized scrapbooks from the MacBeth Gallery Records, I found a whole section of news clippings related to the Dallas exhibition in the 1922 scrapbook.

I was flipping through these pages, when all of a sudden, there was my patroness photo!

MacBeth Gallery Records, Archives of American Art, Scrapbook 8, 1922 January-1924 December.

The photo illustrated the November 13, 1922, Dallas Times Herald article “Noted Concert Singer Delighted Over Collection of Art Treasures in Dallas.” The concert singer is Madame Louise Homer. She knew Robert MacBeth from his New York gallery and he invited her to preview the exhibition while in Dallas for a performance at the coliseum. So, the woman in the photo is technically an art patroness, just not a Dallas one.

The other paintings in the photo are also identified in the article, and I am happy to say that my educated guesses were correct.

This was a fun research project to work on, and happily it resulted in definitive answers and a mystery solved—if only they were all like that.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

How Lovely Are Thy Branches

I eventually settled on a Christmas tree as a central motif for my design. The tree… was profusely decorated with gifts, baubles and tinsel adorning the fronds. – Harold Holdway

"Regimental Oak" shape dinner plate with "Christmas Tree" pattern

Maker: W. T. Copeland & Sons, Designer: Harold Holdway, “Regimental Oak” shape dinner plate with “Christmas Tree” pattern, designed 1938, earthenware, enamel, transfer-printed, enameled, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Stephen Harrison in honor of George Roland, 1997.181

Many of us are familiar with this festive design that has graced our holiday tables for almost eight decades, but do you know the story behind this cheery tree? The image was born in 1938 in Stoke-on-Trent, a charming city in Staffordshire, England known for its pottery industry. Sydney Thompson, the only U.S. based agent for Spode (Copeland & Thompson Inc.) was visiting the factory in hopes of finding a new design for the holiday season. Uninspired by the current seasonal sketches, Harold Holdway, a Spode designer was tasked with producing something truly magical. Holdway’s original design did not include presents until Thompson let him in on a little secret, “in America Christmas gifts, wrapped in gaily-coloured paper and tied with ribbon, were placed at the foot of the tree,” he said. Spode continued to produce Holdway’s iconic design with slight variations until 2009 and it can still be found in stores today!

Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year. We hope your day is merry and bright! – Dallas Museum of Art 

 

 

Present Perfect

To get you into the holiday spirit, we’ve gathered and gift-tagged some DMA artworks that were originally made to be gifts for others.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lise in a White Shawl, c. 1872, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection 1985.R.58

Renoir is thought to have gifted the sentimental Lise in a White Shawl to its model, Lise Tréhot. There are many well-founded rumors about a romantic relationship between Lise and Renoir. We can certainly confirm that Lise was a frequent sitter for Renoir, and according to Emery Reves, the painting’s final private owner, Lise in a White Shawl was the last work Renoir made of his favorite model. Lise kept this portrait, along with the now DMA-owned Lise Sewing, throughout her life.

Aberdeen Painter, Red-figure pyxis and lid, Greek; Attic, last half of 5th century B.C.E., Ceramic, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Junior League of Dallas 1968.28.A-B

This Greek red-figure pyxis was likely given to a young woman as a wedding gift to hold her medicine, jewelry, incense, or cosmetics. The images on the outside of the pyxis depict a leisurely life at home, with closed double doors perhaps symbolizing the transition of a maiden into her new life as a wife. Even the shape of the pyxis is symbolic: the alluring lidded vessels that concealed hidden items were often a classical metaphor for women.

Crawford Riddell, Bedstead, c. 1844, Brazilian rosewood, tulip poplar, yellow pine, and polychromed textile, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of three anonymous donors, Friends of the Decorative Arts Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, Discretionary Decorative Arts Fund, and the Boshell Family Foundation 2000.324

This imposing Gothic revival bed was supposed to be a gift to Henry Clay, a well-known American statesman who ran for president in 1844. Whig supporters were certain that Clay would win the presidency. Before the election even occurred, these supporters commissioned furniture from Crawford Riddell to fill Clay’s White House. When Henry Clay lost the election to James K. Polk, this bed traveled to a new owner in Louisiana instead of D.C.

Hemis Mana, Hopi, c. 1915, Cottonwood, paint, and fiber, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Martin Matyas, Bob Rheudasil and Mrs. Edward S. Marcus in honor of Edward S. Marcus 1982.95

Traditional Hopi Katsina dolls are given to children during ceremonial masked dancer performances. The wooden dolls are the carved representations of spirit intermediaries and are typically hung in the home with string. This DMA Kachina doll, Hemis Mana, was carved to be sold to non-Hopi people, but the traditional giving of Katsinas during Hopi religious ceremonies is still practiced today.

A big thank you to my fellow McDermott Interns who helped me find these objects! Seasons greetings and happy gift-giving!

Kathleen Alva is the McDermott Intern for Adult Programming and Arts & Letters Live.

Winter Wonderland

Oh, the weather outside is not so frightful
But inside the Museum it’s so delightful
And since we’ve got no real snow, let your disappointment go, let it go, let it go

Man it doesn’t show signs of ever startin’
So I brought some paintings for viewin’
The canvas’ don’t require shovelin’ though
Let it go, it’s not gonna snow, let it go

Dallas in Winter

Guy Carleton Wiggins, Dallas in Winter, 1942, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, the Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, bequest of Patsy Lacy Griffith, 2001.175

East Dallas House in Snow

John Breckinridge Martin, East Dallas House in Snow, 1913, pastel on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Maggie Joe and Alexandre Hogue, 1986.229

Winter Landscape, Fort Lee NJ.

James P. Knox, Winter Landscape, Fort Lee NJ., 1923, oil on board, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. W. A. Morrison in memory of Mrs. Alvin M. Owsley, 1992.29

1912.4

Guy Carleton Wiggins, Fifth Avenue in Winter, c. 1911–1912, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association, 1912.4

Winter Morning

Leonard Ochtman, Winter Morning, 1911, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1912.2

Julie Henley is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the Dallas Museum of Art

The Art of Installing Media

Truth: 24 frames per second took a team of DMA staff to create and Lance Lander, Manager of Gallery Technology & Innovation, shared the nuts-and-bolts logistics of putting together  the challenging installation with Uncrated.

What are some past media installations you’ve mounted and how were they special or different from Truth?
The first large scale installation that I did was Fast Forward in 2006. I had fourteen media based works of art to install and maintain. One of the works was “I like it here better than in Westphalia,” El Dorado 1968-1976 by Lothar Baumgarten which is three slide projectors and sound. The piece is a beautiful work of art that uses technology to convey the beauty found in nature. There is a soundtrack that controls the advancement of the slide projectors. So you have the sounds and visuals of nature and the sounds and visuals of the mechanical slide projectors. The projectors require a lot of maintenance and I spent many hours keeping that thing going. In retrospect, working so hard on that piece made me fall in love with the job.

Other large scale installations I’ve done include Phil Collins’ the world won’t listen, and the exhibitions Private Universe and Mirror Stage.

What were some of the major time consuming tasks that you had to complete before installing the works of art?
For a typical video installation like the Rachel Rose, Omer Fast, or Steve McQueen, where you have a single channel video with sound, I like to have 5 days for installation. For this exhibition with 24 works of art we had a mere three weeks. We worked late nights and weekends all the way up to the opening. Because the exhibition is in two galleries at opposite ends of the building I was walking eight miles a day!

From 16mm projectors to 12-feet-tall LED screens, Truth encompasses a range of diverse technologies. Were there any works especially challenging to install? Do you have a favorite?
I really love the historical connection we made in the Bruce Conner REPORT space. Our Exhibition Designer, Skye Olson, was able to procure 6 original seats from the Texas Theater which is where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured.  But the most difficult piece, and my favorite, is Western Flag by John Gerrard. It is also the only piece in the exhibition that is not a film or video. It’s a software based simulation of a landscape. Essentially, it’s a non-interactive video game. Mr. Gerrard sent very precise drawings and stated that if it was even 2 millimeters off we would need to rebuild it. Our carpenter, Josh Harstrom, built the walls of the cube and Tom McKerrow and Brian Cahill built the frame of the projection screen. The preparators stretched and stapled the screen. When Mr. Gerrard arrived he was impressed with all the work we had done.

This exhibition was truly a cross-departmental collaboration that has involved every branch of the Museum. Can you call out some MVPs who helped you knock it out?
Mike Hill was the Head Preparator for this show and he did, as always, an incredible job. He took over the Anne Tallentire Drift and Dara Birnbaum Tiananmen Square installations. He also installed all of the acoustical material and covered them with fabric in the James Coleman space. Doug Velek has assisted me on everything I’ve installed since I started working here. I couldn’t have done it without him. All of the preparators stepped up to make the exhibition happen. John Lendvay, Mary Nicolette, Sean Cairns, Erik Baker, Ellia Maturino, Marta Lopez, and Russell Sublett all served a vital role. Registrar Melissa Omholt was so great to work with. She kept the flow of information going and kept me on track. There was also the design that Jessica and Skye came up with. Some of these pieces require specific room dimensions and I am amazed they were able to make it all fit and have all of the artists agree to it. I would be remiss to not mention Joni and her equable style of managing complex exhibitions with aplomb.

But I really can’t stress enough the indelible impact that Sue MacDarmid had on the exhibition. I first met Sue in 2007 when she came to install the world won’t listen. She represents and installs for Willie Doherty, Phil Collins, Steve McQueen, and others. When we started discussing an all media show I knew that she would be an integral part. I was able to reach her early enough to schedule her for three weeks. She is one the best media installers and she inspires me. I have so much trust in her that whenever she had an idea I would make it happen.

Chelsea Pierce is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant, Contemporary Art at the DMA

Testing for Truth

The Center for Creative Connections has an area designated as the Testing Zone. The space consists of two walls, each with a chalkboard, a large table with stools, and three wires from which items can be suspended for display. The Testing Zone debuted in 2012 as a vehicle for education staff to evaluate the ways visitors engage with various types of art, experiment with potential in-gallery activities, and enable visitors to share their preferences on what objects and interpretative materials are provided in permanent collection galleries.

Prior to the opening of Truth: 24 frames per second, we decided to use the Testing Zone to post a series of open-ended questions and gauge visitors’ interest in a range of topics inspired by works in the exhibition. Unlike most Testing Zone activities, the Truth experiment was challenging because participants did not have the benefit of seeing the works beforehand, nor could we summarize the full scope of the exhibition in the limited amount of space. Additionally, the exhibition resists traditional notions of fine art and consciously avoids a singular narrative, lesson, or point of view.

After reading the series of prompts clipped to the Testing Zone’s three display wires, visitors selected one or more slips of paper to share their thoughts. Each slip contained a single prompt followed by five potential responses that would indicate their level of interest in the topic, whether the prompt was easily understood, and whether the question was something they wanted to encounter at the Museum or discuss in a community forum. The back of each piece of paper was left available for people to write additional thoughts.

Much to my surprise, nearly 350 visitors shared their feedback over two weeks. The responses allowed me to rephrase some of the questions and set others aside. In the end, the prompts became part of the exhibition’s visitor guide and the conversation continues via Twitter (#DMATruth) and written responses which provide the source material for a scrolling LED sign hanging near the exhibition’s entrance.

Emily Schiller is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA

Arts & Letters Live Announces its 27th Season

Arts & Letters Live, the DMA’s signature literary and performing arts series, is excited to announce its 27th season of 25 events from January through June 2018! Ignite your curiosity and secure your seats now to hear award winners and icons in the fields of literature, music, visual art, poetry, happiness, and food.

Some of the headliners for the 2018 season include:

▪ Creator-producer-screenwriter of the PBS Masterpiece series Victoria, Daisy Goodwin

▪ Happiness researcher and bestselling author Shawn Achor, whose TED Talk has more than 16 million views

▪ Grammy Award–winning vocal ensemble Conspirare’s Dallas premiere performance of Considering Matthew Shepard

▪ Emmy Award–winning journalist and producer Maria Shriver

▪ Award-winning poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye, who will debut a new poem inspired by a work of her choice in the DMA’s collection and will juxtapose works from the collection with a live reading of her poetry

Two authors who have been on Arts & Letters Live’s wish list for years, Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri and Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje, will take part in the Distinguished Writers series. Jhumpa Lahiri will talk about her experience moving to Rome with her family, seeking full immersion in the Italian language—“a trial by fire, a sort of baptism.” Imagine being soaked in the art, language, and culture of Rome for an extended period of time, enjoying beautiful vistas of the Colosseum as seen here in Jean-Achille Benouville’s painting.

Jean-Achille Benouville, Colosseum Viewed from the Palatine, 1844, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Shutt, Dr. and Mrs. George N. Aldredge, Jr., the Societe Generale, 1984.63

Many opportunities exist this season to connect art in the DMA’s collection with authors and books featured at Arts & Letters Live, both through pre-event tours and short story, poetry, and illustration workshops, often using works of art as inspiration for writing and drawing. On February 7, author Denise Kiernan will talk about her new nonfiction book The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, which explores the drama and tragic struggles of the famous Vanderbilt family inside the Biltmore House. This story features a captivating cast of real-life characters, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. The pre-event tour will spotlight a beautiful console table that was once housed in the Vanderbilt mansion in New York City and other paintings and decorative arts of that era.

Vanderbilt Console, Herter Brothers, c. 1881–82, oak, marble, silverplate, and bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of an anonymous donor and the Friends of the Decorative Arts, 1996.213.a-e

Bestselling cookbook author, Emmy Award–winning television personality, and successful restaurateur Lidia Bastianich will talk about her heartwarming memoir My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food. Bastianich spent two years in a refugee camp before moving to the United States—a hugely formative experience in her life. You can enjoy a dinner featuring some of her favorite recipes before the event and hear her share stories about those dishes. Her vibrant personality and love of food call to mind one of my favorite still lifes in the DMA’s collection by Paul Cézanne.

Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Apples on a Sideboard, 1900–06, watercolor over pencil on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.12

Arts & Letters Live will delve further into the theme of immigration with a dynamic pairing of two award-winning authors, Luis Alberto Urrea and Francisco Cantú, who will explore the United States–Mexico border in fact and fiction. Cantú served for years as a US Border Patrol guard, and Urrea’s forthcoming novel, The House of Broken Angels, paints a vivid portrait of a complex family and reminds us what it means to be the first generation and to live two lives across one border. Dallas Nine artist William Lester’s painting The Three Crosses evokes for me the often tragic aspects of border crossings. The stark landscape with barbed wire is not Golgotha, but is recognizably Texas.

William Lester, The Three Crosses, 1935–36, oil on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the New York World’s Fair Department of Contemporary Art, 1937.24, © The Estate of William L. Lester

 

To see a complete roster of the Arts & Letters Live 2018 season from January through June, visit DMA.org/all.

Carolyn Bess is the Director of Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

 


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