Archive for December, 2018

When the Painting Meets the Frame

The centerpiece of Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow is her Highland Lighthouse series. Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe painted seven variations of the lighthouse in the early 1930s, using mostly related color palettes and experimenting with dynamic symmetry. The first, a realistic representation, is now lost, but the following six lighthouses she painted are all reunited here at the DMA in one room.

Five of the paintings have a “clam shell” frame. The sides of a clam shell frame slope inward toward the painting. Each side is half of an arch that peaks at the inner edge where the frame meets the canvas. These frames were all made by painter and frame maker George F. Of, who worked closely with Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery. Thus, it is through her relationship with her sister Georgia and her brother-in-law Alfred Stieglitz that Ida came to know Of during the early years of her career.

Ida’s paintings are not the only example of close working relationships between artists and frame makers on view at the DMA. Artists often worked closely with particular frame makers and some were known to prefer certain styles of frames.

PG_2016_11_21_McD-framed_o4

Maurice Prendergast, Merry-Go-Round, c. 1902-06, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

On view in An Enduring Legacy, Maurice Prendergast’s painting Merry-Go-Round is in a frame that was probably not made by his brother Charles. Many other artists of his time mechanically reproduced patterns for their frames, but Charles designed and hand carved his frames. He considered himself an artist too. If he made a frame for Merry-Go-Round, it was long gone when it entered the McDermott’s collection. Margaret McDermott chose this frame to accentuate the style of the painting.

prendergast detail

The frame has both an inner and outer edge of roughly carved wood in ropelike patterns. Between these layers is an expanse of unvarnished wood with groups of scratches perpendicular to the painting’s edges. The unfinished quality of the wood frame complements the blank canvas that is visible throughout the painting where colors meet.

George Bellows’s portrait of his wife, Emma in a Purple Dress, is in a “Bellows frame.” Bellows favored frames by the New York frame maker M. Grieve Company. This particular water-gilded gold frame has three thin, curved ridges descending toward the painting within a squared outer frame. Its back is stamped with “Grieves Co.” The gilded, textured surface of the frame emphasizes the shining fabric of the sitter’s dress.

Reviews of Ida O’Keeffe’s New York shows sometimes mention her tendency to decorate her own frames, though few of them survive today. Ida most likely didn’t make the frame for Star Gazing in Texas, but she did decorate its upper molding with star-shaped foil stickers and five-point stars cut from tin.

These stars on the frame make it part of the composition. The title, Star Gazing in Texas, reinforces the relationship between painting and frame. During Ida’s lifetime, the painting was exhibited under several other titles—Dreaming in Moonlight; Spring Lethargy, Texas; and, possibly, Texas Hillbillies. The DMA’s Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art, Sue Canterbury, chose the title Star Gazing in Texas, which Ida used in an inventory of her paintings, because it captured the interconnectivity of the painting to its frame. The star-gazing woman looks outside her painted environment, making the frame part of her world as well as part of ours.

Rebecca Singerman is the McDermott Graduate Intern for American Art at the DMA.

Re-creating a Roman Feast

On Tuesday, December 11, archaeologist and food writer Farrell Monaco will be here for a talk and feast exploring ancient Roman cuisine. Monaco is the author of a celebrated food blog, Tavola Mediterranea, in which she explores recipes from across the Mediterranean and even re-creates recipes from the archaeological record.

In what has become a tradition for the Adult Programs team whenever we have a program about food, we tried our hand at making a few of the recipes featured in Tavola Mediterranea. You can find our other cooking attempts here, here, here, and here.

Katie Cooke, Manager of Adult Programs
When scrolling through the blog, the Libum caught my eye. I think because of a distant memory about the sweet bread that the Romans ate, from my days learning Latin. I also thought that the idea of an ancient cheesecake drizzled with honey couldn’t be that bad, even with my amateur baking skills.

The ingredients list could not have been easier to assemble. The base for the bread was only three things: eggs, flour, and ricotta. I had Great British Bake Off in the background, so I was reminded to let it proof and not knead it into a stiff mass.

While the dough was resting, I arranged the bay leaves on the bottom of the pans so that the bread would sit on them and soak up all the delicious, savory flavor.

I split the dough between two pans as the recipe says, and it’s a good thing Farrell specified that, because the baking time is already an hour—I would’ve been up very late if all that dough was baked in one loaf! The fun part was decorating the tops with pine nuts.

The finished product was very nicely browned loaves of dense cake/bread. I drizzled them with honey and then used some for dipping. I would recommend keeping a lot of honey on the side when eating this. I thought that the bay leaves were going to give it a little more flavor, but overall the taste of the bread is very neutral.

What I learned: If I were part of an ancient civilization, I would have worshiped honey because it makes even the simplest of breads sugary and delectable.

Jessie Carrillo, Manager of Adult Programs
From the moment I saw Vatia’s Fig-Stuffed Pastry Piglets, I knew I had to make them. While not directly drawn from an ancient source, this dish is not too far off from something that the Romans would have eaten, and the combination of ingredients sounded tasty.

I started by making a dough from whole wheat flour, olive oil, and water. While the dough rested in the fridge, I sliced two portions of pork tenderloin, pounded them with a meat mallet until they were very thin, and seasoned them.

Next I combined dried figs with salt, pepper, and honey in a food processor, spread the mixture on the pork pieces, and then rolled them up like a couple of Ho Hos®. I rolled out my dough until it was about the thickness of a pie crust and cut pieces large enough to wrap around the pork, as well as some smaller pieces that I fashioned into my piglets’ ears, noses, and tails.

After wrapping each piece of pork in pastry and decorating the piglets, I followed the author’s advice and threw them into the oven without naming them. After about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, the piglets came out sadly missing their tails, but otherwise adorable and surprisingly yummy!

What I learned: Meat wrapped in pastry dough has always been delicious, and cooking is even more fun when you combine it with sculpture.

Stacey Lizotte, DMA League Director of Adult Programs
I decided to make Apicius’ Tiropatina (Tiropatinam), which is an egg custard, because it only had three ingredients (six if you count the garnishes), and because I was curious about what flavor and texture you would get in a custard from just eggs, milk, and honey (instead of sugar).

You would think three ingredients would make this a simple recipe, but it was VERY time consuming—literally a two-day process (so if patience is not a virtue of yours, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe).

Once the three ingredients were combined, there was a lot of custard mixture—A LOT. There was no way the mixture I had would only make 18 small custards like the recipe said. If you want to make that amount, I would recommend at least halving this recipe. The one step I added is that I strained my custard mixture before putting it in the tins. I do this for any custard or curd that I make, and I feel that it’s important in order to get a smooth texture.

I didn’t have a pudding tin and my muffin pans were too large to put in a water bath, so I decided to use my mini cheesecake pan. I didn’t take into account how watery this mixture is compared to a cake batter so, as you can see, during the baking process a few of my custards seeped out of the pan.

I often find egg custards too “eggy” for my taste, but these custards actually had a light flavor that I found appealing. I attribute that to the honey. I also enjoyed the black pepper on top—clearly those Romans knew what they were doing.

What I learned: A water bath is essential for baking custards. Since I had so much extra batter, I decided to make a batch of custards in a muffin tin but without a water bath and the result was  horrible.

If you would like to learn more about Roman cooking and enjoy a Roman Feast, you can purchase your tickets for the event here.


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