Archive for the 'American Art' Category

Time Travel at the DMA

This week we had a special visitor who traversed through time and space in advance of our November 8 Second Thursdays with a Twist all about Doctor Who. For his tour through the Museum, he said he would like to see some people and places that he’s traveled through time to visit. We were happy to oblige, mostly because we didn’t want him to use his sonic screwdriver on us. As he was walking through the Museum, he also found a few artworks featuring people and places he had not encountered and he wanted to learn more about those too.

The Doctor hadn’t yet met George Washington, so he was eager to see his portrait:

No trip to the DMA is complete without a stop at Frederic Edwin Church’s The Icebergs:

A future iteration of the Doctor met Vincent van Gogh, so naturally we had to show him Sheaves of Wheat:

And here are a few of the other stops he made in our galleries:

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When you visit the DMA on November 8 for our next Second Thursdays with a Twist, you, too, can go back in time to see Winston Churchill, the Aztecs, and many other important historical characters through our scavenger hunt and warp drive tours that’ll have you exploring all that timey wimey stuff!

Katie Cooke is the Manager of Adult Programs at the DMA.

Basis of Bourbon

As the weather becomes cooler (well, sort of), we’re looking forward to warming up inside the Museum with our third installment of Artful Pairings this Thursday—an exclusive night of drink tastings and Museum tours for adults. This event will feature a tour of our new exhibition Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art, and what better drink to go with quintessentially American art than bourbon? We’ll hear from the folks at Crooked Fox Bourbon about their product, and mix our own cocktails with bourbon as the star, paired with small bites from our cafe.

To get you in the mood for some barrel-aged goodness, here are some fun facts about bourbon and a few works from our collection that pair nicely with them.

Rembrandt Peale, George Washington, c. 1850, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.41

Did you know that George Washington played a role in how bourbon came to be? In 1789 frontier farmers violently rebelled against their new American government for trying to tax their whiskey, which they used for currency and trade (not just for drinking). As George Washington led an army out west to end this rebellion, some of the disgruntled distillers fled further west to Kentucky, where they thought they would be able to operate under less restrictive conditions. These settlers ended up distilling corn-based alcohol, which gave us the modern day drink we know and love.

To pair with this fact, we have the portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale. Peale widely advertised this portrait with pamphlets including quotes from family members and friends of the president to show this was the most accurate portrayal. His advertising campaign worked, because nearly 80 versions of this portrait exist, including one hanging above the dais in the US Senate Chamber.

Richard Long, Stones of Scotland, 1979, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Nancy M. O’Boyle, 1997.154

Although many people could argue the differences between American bourbon and Irish whiskey, they are much closer in production process than you might realize. Bourbon barrels can only be used once for storing the liquor before bottling. Once those barrels have had one batch in them, some become furniture or firewood. Others are repurposed for aging either soy sauce or—most often—Scotch whiskeys made across the pond. Much like the rules and regulations keeping bourbon from being made outside the US, Scotch whiskey can only be made in Scotland. The landscape and natural materials of Scotland inspired the land artist Richard Long to create his space-specific artworks.

Cup: upside-down head, Peru, Sicán (Lambayeque), 900-1100 CE, gold, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.543

When Irish immigrants settled in Kentucky, they discovered they could make corn into a sweet-tasting liquor. Even though the Irish Americans believed they had come across a new form of alcohol, many cultures in Central and South America had been making corn-based alcohol for centuries. The golden cup above is from the Sicán peoples, who lived around the Andes in Peru until around the 12th century. The vessel would have been used to drink chicha, a corn-based beer that is still made today in many areas of South America during special ceremonies.

We hope this whets your appetite to learn more about this American-made spirit. We still have a few spots open for Artful Pairings, so get your tickets here for the program on Thursday, October 4, at 7:00 p.m.

Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programs at the DMA.

Writing the Wrong

While museums increasingly take on roles in entertainment and education, they remain, like libraries, stewards of knowledge. However, sometimes this knowledge—what we think of as researched, established fact—is misguided. Admitting you’ve been wrong can be humiliating, yet slip-ups within the museum field encourage humility. Mistakes remind us that correcting, preserving, and adding to the record is, at the end of the day, what museums are called to do.

The blunder in question surrounds the identity of the objects seen in Gerald Murphy’s 1924 painting Razor.

Gerald Murphy Razor

Gerald Murphy, Razor, 1924, oil on canvas, The Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the artist, © Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly, 1963.74.FA

The journey began when Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art, received an email from a concerned fountain pen enthusiast who notified her that the Museum was misinformed about Murphy’s painting. Sue asked me to create a timeline of recorded references to find out when the misinformation began. Then I was asked to search for what may have misled our predecessors and to untangle this 15-plus-year hiccup in the DMA’s records.

For years, the Museum said the razor and pen featured in the painting were modeled after products designed or sold by the Murphy family through their successful storefront, Mark Cross & Co. While it is true that Murphy designed a prototype razor in the mid-1910s that had a short burst of fame from 1912 to 1913, and that his family’s company most likely sold top-of-the-line writing utensils in their luxury goods stores, the razor and pen are NOT Murphy-designed objects. After thorough research, I concluded that years of accidental conflation caused the mix up.

Mark Cross Logo

The Mark Cross logo after its inception in 1845. Gerald Murphy’s father, Patrick Murphy, bought the company in the 1880s, which led to the family’s increasing wealth. © Mark Cross Leathergoods LLC

Murphy confirms the object’s correct identity in his letters with former DMCA director Douglas MacAgy: “The first Gillette razor and the first Parker pen (of red rubber) were real objects (not gadgets) ‘no bigger than a man’s hand.’”

Gerald Murphy letter

A letter from Gerald Murphy to Douglas MacAgy referencing Razor and Watch, another painting by Murphy, 1960, DMA Archives

The object for which Razor takes its name is a Gillette “New Standard” safety razor. This razor featured new technology that increased consumers’ ease of use and overall safety. Fewer shaving cuts? Yes, please! It was the most successful razor during the time of the painting’s creation and reached both American and European markets. By comparing the Mark Cross and Gillette razors below, and looking again at the painting, you can see how the Gillette attribution makes more sense with what Murphy illustrates.

The Parker Pen Company took the American (and later European) markets by storm with its iconic “Big Red” Duofold fountain pen in the early 1920s. Instead of wanting a new Xbox or iPhone as a gift, consumers hoped for a Parker pen.

lucky strike

A 1920s Parker “Lucky Strike” Duofold fountain pen, Courtesy of edgepens on Ebay.com

Why? The pen featured cutting-edge technology, including a leak-proof inkwell system and a durable, strikingly modern red rubber shaft. Murphy’s detailing even alludes to it being not the first version of the pen but the glitzier 1923 version, which included the fashionable “gold girdle,” seen in the advertisement below.

parker ad

1923 Parker advertisement, Courtesy of the-ad-store on Ebay.com

Now to the probable sources of the mix-up: a combination of trying to make the painting more personal to Murphy, plus an unfortunate conflation of similarly named companies. Symbols are always intriguing and tempting for art historians. If Murphy had designed the razor and/or pen, it could be seen as a self-portrait; yet, Razor still can be, despite the objects not being of his design (see Deborah Rothschild’s book Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy).

Additionally, an accidental conflation occurred between the Mark Cross name and the A.T. Cross Company, a popular producer of pens. A.T. Cross bought the Mark Cross company in 1983 (right before the first publication of the misinformation), as referenced on A.T. Cross’s website. Prior to the buyout, Mark Cross was known primarily for its leather goods, not its side hustle of writing accessories. Every source that labels Mark Cross as a pen company and the pen as sold/designed by Mark Cross occurs after this buyout date.

Murphy’s Razor and his dazzling 1925 painting Watch are currently not on view, but be sure to check them out in the DMA’s upcoming exhibition Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art, on view from September 16 through January 6!

Ashton Smyth is the Summer Curatorial Intern for American Art at the DMA.

Streamline Design: The Art of Technology

Today is National Radio Day, and yesterday, August 19, was National Aviation Day. The two days celebrate the development and technological advancements in aviation and the invention of the radio. While it is most likely coincidental that both holidays fall back-to-back, in terms of 1930s industrial design, this pairing is meant to be.

The years between World War I and World War II were the Golden Age of Flight and the Golden Age of Radio in America. During these decades, affordable, safe, and comfortable long distance plane trips became a foreseeable travel option for the greater American public. Similarly, the affordability of the radio brought families across the United States together for regular nightly programming and entertainment—essentially bringing the world into their living room. With both the skies and airways now within reach, the fascination with rapidly developing technology, speed, and motion became hallmarks of the era.

Artistically speaking, this era is one of my favorite periods in terms of the decorative arts. The emergence of flight had a profound impact on the design of many household and consumer goods during the interwar years, and radio encasements often reflected the Machine Age aesthetic of the 1930s. Prominent industrial designers of the day embraced America’s love affair with flight and successfully blurred the lines between art and technology with of-the-moment consumer products. Good design sells; therefore, it is no surprise that for the radio—one of the most prominent fixtures in the 1930s American household—overall design aesthetic often dominated the purchasing decision of a design-savvy consumer.

If you’re looking for a creative way to pay homage to these two holidays, take note of these aerodynamic gems on view at the Dallas Museum of Art that incorporate characteristic elements of streamline design, including horizontal banding, smooth exteriors, and the use of modern materials like chrome and plate glass. Each object suggests the concepts of speed and movement while stylishly capturing a moment in decorative art and design history when the worlds of aviation and radio effortlessly collide.

Take a look at the 1933 “Air-King” radio (model 66) designed by Harold Van Doren and John Gordon Rideout. The form of this radio is a play on the motif of a skyscraper, with its stepped shape toward the top; however, the circular glass plate on the façade with showing AM and FM broadcast band numbers, combined with the tuning and volume knobs, remind me of a cockpit’s control panel.

Don’t miss this “Bluebird” radio (model 566) designed by Walter Dorwin Teague and manufactured by the Sparton Corporation in 1934. The name alone embraces the notion of flight and is enhanced even further through streamlined design elements. Here, the straightforward use of circles and horizontal banding set against the plate-glass backdrop seems to mimic a single engine propeller plane’s nose and wingspan. I imagine a plane flying gracefully through the clear blue open sky, transporting the avid listener to new destinations through the magic of radio.

To learn more about how the Machine Age influenced art and design in America, visit the Dallas Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art, which will open to the public on September 16.

Jennifer Bartsch-Allen is a Digital Collections Content Coordinator at the DMA.

America the Beautiful

Happy Independence Day! Many of you likely have exciting activities on your agenda today, like proudly parading through the streets, chowing down on some backyard BBQ, watching the night sky illuminate with sparkling bursts of color, or all of the above. For those of you in need of some balance between raucous outdoor festivities and quieter, more subdued plans, today is a great time to visit the DMA and stroll through the American art in our collection. The Museum is open today from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

To celebrate the array of differing landscapes and perspectives that make up the United States, here are a few works from American artists that illustrate various scenes and slices of life in our country.

Small towns:

 

Big cities:

 

Towering mountainscapes:

 

Seaside scenes:

 

Deserts and dry lands:

 

Lush green views:

 

Everyday people:

 

And all the critters in between:

 

Hayley Caldwell is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.

Farewell to Florals

For the past several months, the Rachofsky Quadrant Gallery on the Museum’s first level has been occupied by seven large paintings spanning half the gallery, nearly floor to ceiling. Installed on a lilac-colored wall, the framed canvases contain figures posed with flowers, rendered in eye-catching pastel hues, and surrounded by alternating sections of black and gold leaf.

These paintings are Edward Steichen’s In Exaltation of Flowers, a commissioned series that the artist completed in 1914 for the home of New York financier Eugene Meyer and his wife, Agnes. Never installed in the space for which they were created, the majority of the panels were kept in storage for the past century. Last summer, the DMA’s conservation team unrolled the canvases, stretched and framed them, and completed conservation treatment so the series could go on tour. Newly conserved and reunited in one exhibition, In Exaltation of Flowers is a time capsule of Edward Steichen’s life and the lives of his close friends on the eve of World War I.

On Thursday, April 26, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., we will say goodbye to In Exaltation of Flowers with a soiree that will include a complimentary reception with drinks and small bites inspired by the paintings, a tour about flower symbolism with Dallas Arboretum VP of Gardens Dave Forehand, and a talk by art historian Dr. Jessica Murphy.

Reception
6:00 p.m., Check in at Will Call, Horchow Auditorium, Level 1
Arrive early for a complimentary reception featuring beer, wine, and small bites inspired by In Exaltation of Flowers and Edward Steichen’s French country garden. Hors d’oeuvres will include:

FRESH PEA AND MINT SHOOTER
butter-poached shrimp and hibiscus crema

DRIED FIG AND BRIE CROSTADA
balsamic glaze

GRILLED QUAIL AND SUNDRIED CHERRY SALAD
chive crepes and saffron aioli

ROASTED RED & GOLDEN BEETS WITH TEXAS GOAT CHEESE
arugula and orange-tarragon dressing

PARSLEY CHICKEN IN PHYLLO
romesco sauce

ROSE AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
candied rose petals and toasted almonds

Tour: In Exaltation of Flowers
6:30 p.m., Meet at the Flora Street Visitor Services Desk, Level 1
Edward Steichen was an avid gardener who exhibited his celebrated delphiniums in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. For Steichen and much of society at this time, flowers were more than just beautiful objects; they took on human character traits and the giving or receiving of flowers served as a kind of subtle language. Each of the sitters for In Exaltation of Flowers is paired with specific flowers that relate to their personalities or the nicknames given to them within their friend group. Join Dave Forehand of the Dallas Arboretum for a tour of In Exaltation of Flowers focusing on the types of flowers Steichen included in his paintings and what they might have communicated to a viewer in 1914.

Exhibition Talk: Murals from a “Magic Garden”: Edward Steichen’s “In Exaltation of Flowers”
7:00 p.m., Horchow Auditorium, Level 1
In Exaltation of Flowers captures a very particular moment in Edward Steichen’s career, in the history of art, and in the lives of a circle of friends on the eve of the World War I. A very personal project for the artist, the murals include portraits of close friends, either painted from life or from photographs, alongside flowers inspired by his garden at the French country home where he hosted lively parties. Steichen’s careful portrayal of his subjects reveals the nuances of their personalities and relationships within the social group. Best remembered as a photographer, Steichen had a somewhat rocky relationship with painting and ultimately destroyed much of his painted work. His approach to this series shows a nod toward the Symbolist movement, with its emphasis on flatness, invariable color, and in some sections abandonment of realism. Jessica Murphy, Brooklyn Museum’s Manager of Digital Engagement, will bring to life these and other stories behind Edward Steichen’s murals and the people who inspired them.

Don’t miss your chance to spend an evening in 1914 with Edward Steichen and his closest friends before In Exaltation of Flowers leaves the DMA in early May. For more information, visit DMA.org or click here to purchase a $5 ticket.

Jessie Carrillo is Manager of Adult Programs at the DMA.

 

Dashing Paint

John Singer Sargent, Dorothy, 1900, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc., 1982.35

On an afternoon in London, a two-year-old girl posed for the American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Dorothy Williamson was the granddaughter of one of Sargent’s American patrons, and sat before one of society’s greatest portraitists. But how long could a toddler sit still? What might that studio visit have been like?

Sargent would have painted Dorothy in his Tite Street studio in London (Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler had also lived on the street). Behind the imposing bricks, the room was packed with antique silks, Chinese screens, and a gramophone to play music for clients.

Dorothy herself was perched on one of the chairs the artist kept around the studio. Sargent was already familiar with painting upper-class children: to keep them entertained and holding a pose, he might bribe them with oranges, whistle a tune, or recite a limerick.

First, he would place the easel next to Dorothy so he could step back and visualize sitter and canvas together. Sargent advised his students to place lots of paint on the palette in order to create a thick layer on the canvas. With the brush, he would start to add flesh colors, apply dark tones for contours around the eyes and mouth, and finish it off with white highlights along the nose and rosy cheeks.

Rather than create preparatory sketches, he often worked ideas out on the canvas—even painting a portrait in one afternoon. To capture the wriggling toddler, Sargent set up a fast-paced sitting, seen in his sketchlike brushwork. As he looked at tones and shadows, suddenly a face would miraculously emerge from the background. He tried to use the fewest strokes, perhaps a single mark for Dorothy’s bangs or pursed lips. He dashed a blue line for a shadow under the pudgy cheeks and left bits of the cream canvas untouched to suggest voluminous feathers on the hat. Sargent also added a single mark of white to the hat for a flamboyant detail.

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He took breaks to play a song on the piano, and then jumped up to finish a few brushstrokes. Sitters described how he would run toward the canvas with a loaded brush of paint, balance a fragrant cigarette in his mouth, and suddenly make a single stroke on the canvas. Looking closely, you can almost see Sargent’s gestures, when he arched his brush, twisted the wrist, and finally made a stroke on the canvas. He described wanting to create portraits that were “alive”—capturing a sitter in the midst of moving or speaking. The result is Dorothy’s hand—energetic and vibrating strokes for the fingers.

Sargent would hold his brush in the air and then place it down upon the canvas exactly where he wanted it to fall. As described by one of his students, “The stroke resounded almost like a note in music.” My personal favorite is the gray line that travels down the pinafore, just one stroke to suggest the folds of the dress.

Finally, he added the finishing touch—the signature. On the upper left side of the canvas, Sargent playfully signed his name with the butt-end of the brush by scratching into the paint layers. Come visit little Dorothy in the Level 4 galleries and marvel at Sargent’s dazzling skill.

Lea Stephenson is the McDermott Graduate Intern for American Art at the DMA.


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