Archive for May, 2021

Connections Across Collections: Motherhood

Motherhood is an art! We’re celebrating Mother’s Day by spotlighting artworks and objects in our collection that illustrate the theme of motherly love and strength. Read below to find out about what our curators from different departments selected.

Dr. Michelle Rich, The Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Assistant Curator of Arts of the Americas

Curator Michelle Rich selected this 100 BCE–250 CE ceramic sculpture made by the people of Jalisco. The object depicts the bond between a mother nursing her infant child.

Woman nursing child, 100 BCE–250 CE, Jalisco peoples, ceramic, paint, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus Collection of Fertility Figures, 1982.387.FA

Dr. Mark A. Castro, The Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art

In this drawing, Guillermo Meza draws a reddish line from the mother’s head and down her spine. The same color as the blanket that holds the child on her back, together they evoke the physical ties that bind mother and child together.

Guillermo Meza, Mother and Child, 1953, crayon and colored chalk, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard K. Weil, 1959.27

Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art

Mary Cassatt is known for images of a mother and child that also recall Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and Child. Typically, her models were neighbors rather than family. This is one of the last works she devoted to this theme.

Mary Cassatt, Sleepy Baby, c. 1910, pastel on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund, 1952.38.M

The Many Lives of a Still Life

When you walk past a painting in a museum, do you ever wonder what the back side looks like?

Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Carafe, Milk Can, Bowl, and Orange, 1879–80, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.10
Back side of the frame of Still Life with Carafe, Milk Can, Bowl, and Orange

For curators and researchers, the verso, or B-side, of a painting can be a mine of information about its past life. Paul Cézanne’s Still Life with Carafe, Milk Can, Bowl, and Orange, currently featured in the Reves Spotlight rotation gallery on the DMA’s third level, is a case in point: the back of the frame was once filled with stamps and labels applied over many years by the painting’s former owners and their shippers. Those historical records have subsequently been transferred to a backing board to guarantee their preservation and that of the precious information they carry. As a result, this backing board is now reminiscent of an avid traveler’s passport stamp page.

Backing board for Still Life with Carafe, Milk Can, Bowl, and Orange

In the top right, a rectangular piece of cardboard reads “about 1880-2 / Venturi” in faint handwritten pencil. This Italian art historian was the author of the first catalogue raisonné of Cézanne’s works, which is perhaps why his dating of this painting was carefully recorded.

Even before arriving in the US, Cézanne’s Still Life had traveled internationally. From Paris, where the artist likely sold it to a dealer, it entered a private collection in Amsterdam before returning to the French capital in the early 1920s, where it was acquired by Marius de Zaya, an artist and dealer based in New York City who offered it in his newly founded gallery among “drawings, paintings and sculptures of the very best artists of the modern movement.”[1] There, a founder of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Lillie P. Bliss, purchased it, and upon her death she bequeathed it to that institution, which eventually deaccessioned the work in 1944.

As recorded by two large labels on the left side of the panel, at MoMA the painting was known as The Water Can, based on the metal vessel at its center. In 1985 the enigmatic nature of that element was discussed in a letter exchange between then DMA director Steven Nash and Columbia University professor Theodore Reff, who concluded: “The picture is quite wonderful, charming, fresh, simple, almost naïve, and will grace your collections, regardless of the identity of the objects in it.”[2]

Shortly after Wendy and Emery Reves acquired it in 1955, the picture was referred to as simply Nature Morte (still life) or Nature Morte en bleu (still life in blue) in two French exhibitions that were likely the occasion in which the painting received the two transportation labels seen on the right side of the backing board. After entering the DMA’s collection in 1985, the painting’s current title was first formulated in 1998 and slightly revised in 2003 (the term “coffee” referring to the bowl was dropped) in an effort to describe the subject matter as accurately as possible. While we must agree with Reff that the charm of this picture remains unchanged no matter what we call it, by recording the painting’s previous titles and where it traveled, these labels have been essential to the work of art historians to reconstruct the history of the ownership, exhibition, criticism, and scholarship of this object over its 140-plus years of existence.

Stop by to see this work in the Reves Spotlight rotation gallery now through September 27 and admire more still lifes at the DMA in an exhibition focusing on the work of Cubist painter Juan Gris, an avid admirer of Paul Cézanne. In Cubism in Color: The Still Lifes of Juan Gris, the labels and inscriptions on the back of Guitar and Pipe are on full display.

Gloria de Liberali is the Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Intern Fellow for European Art at the DMA.


[1] John Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne. A Catalogue Raisonné (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996), 1:288.

[2] Their correspondence is preserved in the painting’s object file at the DMA.

The Life and Work of Kazuya Sakai

To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re spotlighting a unique Latin American artist of Asian descent whose painting we are proud to welcome into the DMA’s collection this spring: Kazuya Sakai.

Kazuya Sakai (1927-2001) was an artist, as well as a translator, professor, magazine editor, critic, and jazz and new music expert. His impressive biography spans three continents. He was born in Buenos Aires and immigrated to Japan as a child, where he completed his formal education. As a young adult, he returned to Argentina and began a long career that would take him to New York City, Mexico City, Austin, San Antonio, and, finally, Dallas. 

Sakai was recognized among the leading Latin American abstract artists of his time, and his work often drew upon both contemporary trends and Japanese artistic traditions. The brushstrokes in early gestural paintings from his time in Argentina make allusions to Japanese calligraphy. The undulating bands seen in his colorful geometric paintings that he started in the 1970s in Mexico were partially inspired by the bold colors and striking patterns of 17th century Japanese Rinpa artist Ogata Kōrin. His Genroku series of works, created after he moved to Texas, was named after the culturally rich period of Japanese history from 1688 to 1704.

This September, the DMA presents Expressive Abstractions, an exhibition of works from our own collection that reexamines the history of abstract art during the mid-20th century, and the significant innovations of Black, East Asian, Latin American, and women artists. Sakai’s painting Integrales II (Edgard Varèse) (1979), acquired by the DMA this spring, will be featured in the exhibition.

Kazuya Sakai, Integrales II (Edgard Varèse), 1979, acrylic on canvas. Copyright Kazuya Sakai’s estate, courtesy of Galería Vasari, Buenos Aires
Kazuya Sakai, The University of Texas at Dallas Office of Communications Collections

Sakai is an important figure to include in this history of postwar abstraction, and even more so for us given his connections to Texas and Dallas. He was an influential figure in Argentina, which he represented at the São Paulo Biennial in 1961 and at the Venice Biennale in 1962. He also participated in the seminal DMA exhibition, South American Art Today, in 1959. After a short stint in New York, he lived for more than a decade in Mexico, where he was an acclaimed artist of geometric abstraction. But his time in the U.S. has not received quite as much attention, although he spent the final two decades of his life here in Texas. He was selected to be a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin in 1976; in fall 1977 he became a visiting professor at UT San Antonio; and in 1980 he was hired as a permanent professor at UT Dallas, where he taught until he retired in 1996. In addition to mentoring countless students, Sakai had solo exhibitions at the Blanton Museum of Art and the McNay Art Museum in the 1970s, as well as co-organized the show 12 Latin American Artists Today and its related influential symposium, “Speak Out! Charla! Bate-Papo!” at the Blanton.

South American Art Today, 1959, Dallas Museum of Art

The DMA is thrilled to have Kazuya Sakai represented in our collection. His rich artistic career is an excellent example of the layered stories about diasporas and international cultural exchange we strive to tell, and the multicultural histories we celebrate about our home city and its artists.

Dr. Vivian Li, Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art
Lillian Michel, Media and Communications Specialist


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