Posts Tagged 'Dallas Museum of Art Collection'

Connections Across Collections: Fatherhood

With Father’s Day just around the corner, we asked DMA staff to highlight their favorite works across our collections that connect to the art of fatherhood. See what they selected, and celebrate your own father or father figure with a visit to the DMA on June 20!

Nicole R. Myers, The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Senior Curator of European Art

One of the things I love most about this grand self-portrait by Carpentier is that it celebrates his role as a father and husband as much as it does his profession as painter. By tightly grouping the figures, the women’s arms lovingly intertwined, Carpentier places familial love and support at the center of his studio practice.

Listen to Laura Eva Hartman, Paintings Conservator at the DMA, discuss this painting here.

Paul Claude-Michel Carpentier, Self-Portrait with Family in the Artist’s Studio, 1833, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 2014.38.FA

Stacey Lizotte, DMA League Director of Adult Programs

Julian Onderdonk was one of the greatest early Texas artists known for his paintings of bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas. Julian was originally trained by his father, Robert Jenkins Onderdonk, an artist and art teacher in San Antonio and Dallas who was known as the “Dean of Texas’s Artists” for his contributions to the arts in Texas.

Julian Onderdonk, Untitled (Field of Bluebonnets), 1918–1920, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Margaret M. Ferris, 1990.153

Mark Castro, The Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art

In the Americas, Saint Joseph is depicted as youthful and strong, often carrying the child Christ in his arms, like in this New Mexican bulto currently on view in Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico. This reinforced his role as Christ’s earthly father and the protector of the Holy Family.

José Benito Ortega, Saint Joseph, Late 19th–Early 20th century, wood, gesso, and paint, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus, 1961.51.A-C

Leah Hanson, Director of Family, Youth, and School Programs

This might seem an unusual choice to celebrate fathers, but what you can’t see behind the scenes is a father who supported his daughter in becoming an artist. This love even extended to a menagerie of animals he brought to the family studio for Rosa to study and paint!

Rosa Bonheur, A Sheep at Rest, second half of the 19th century, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Alessandra Comini in honor of Charlotte Whaley, 2018.44

Martha MacLeod, Senior Curatorial Administrator and Curatorial Assistant for Decorative Arts/Design, Latin American Art, and American Art

Chase was one of America’s leading painters and teachers. He completed about a dozen portraits of his daughter Dieudonnée. Here she is in her early teens. Also, one of her father’s students, she was an accomplished still life and landscape painter.

William Merritt Chase, Dieudonnée, c. 1899, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1922.2

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.

Connections Across Collections: Art and Nature

We’re celebrating Earth Month with art from across our collections that connects to the natural world. Read below to find out about the artworks and objects our curators selected.

Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art
In this landscape painted near Waxahachie, Florence McClung emphasizes the rounded forms of the earth, juxtaposing them against the vertical shocks of wheat. She investigates the geometry of the cultivated fields while also emphasizing the richness and bounty of nature.

Florence E. McClung, Squaw Creek Valley, 1937, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Florence E. McClung, 1985.12

Dr. Michelle Rich, The Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Assistant Curator of Arts of the Americas
This Olmec tablet portrays the cosmos arranged in three dimensions. Three dots signify the place of creation and anchor a stepped mountain-pyramid to the earthly realm. Above this, a World Tree reaches to a scaffold structure marked by “crossed bands” associated with the sky.

Tablet with incised symbols, 900–500 BCE, Olmec peoples, greenstone and red pigment, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association purchase, 1968.33
Drawings courtesy of Dr. F. Kent Reilly, Texas State University.

Sarah Schleuning, Interim Chief Curator and The Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design
Faye Toogood explores pure geometric form by using cobb, a material consisting of clay, sand, straw, water, and earth as her media. By focusing on design and material expressiveness rather than functionality, this work pushes into the realm of pure sculpture.

Faye Toogood, Cup/Earth, 2016, cobb composite (acrylic polymer and natural materials), Dallas Museum of Art, Discretionary Decorative Arts Fund, 2018.34.2

Pride of Place: Dallas Artists Respond

It’s always fascinating to see which objects in the DMA’s collection artists are drawn to because it can be a window into what is on their mind and how they think about their own work. For the last three years, the DMA has partnered with the local arts nonprofit Arttitude to celebrate the work of LGBTQ+ visual and performing artists in Dallas through programs like State of the Arts and our annual Pride Block Party. Since we are unable to tour the galleries with local artists for Pride Month this year, we reached out to two artists who exhibited in Arttitude’s recent MariconX show and invited them to find and respond to an object in the DMA’s collection that resonates with their own work. Here is what they had to say: 

Armando Sebastián is a Dallas-based painter whose work draws on Mexican folk art and his own life experiences to explore themes of gender and identity. Sebastián describes his style as akin to magical realism, and he is particularly interested in referencing the traditional Mexican folk art genre of ex voto paintings depicting divine interventions into human misfortunes.

Here are a few recent paintings from Armando Sebastián. You can see more of his work on his website and on Instagram

Images: Armando Sebastián, Los Amados / Live in Harmony, 2020; I know who I am, 2020; The Dreamers, 2019

Sebastián chose the 18th-century painting Christ as Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi), reflecting:

Unknown artist, Christ as Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi), late 18th century, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Cleofas and Celia de la Garza Collection, gift of Mary de la Garza-Hanna and Virginia de la Garza and an anonymous donor, 1994.37.1

“The angels above are conspiring to the master plan on earth. The trinity holds flaming hearts, perhaps the interpretation of humankind. On the ground you see the depiction of evil, a beast eating a fruit. The ladder to the heavens is full of obstacles that makes it impossible for anyone to climb. I personally appreciate narrative in art, the possibility to convey complex ideas and hidden meanings through your work.” 

Olivia Peregrino is a Dallas-based photographer working in portraiture and documentary photography. She began her career as a photojournalist, and her work has expanded to include uplifting portraits of women and Latinx LGBTQ+ communities, event photography, and documentary filmmaking.

Here are a few recent photographs by Olivia Peregrino. To see more of her work, follow her on Instagram or visit her website.

This slideshow contains nudity.

Images: Olivia Peregrino, Omar, El Salvador, LGBT Immigrant, ongoing project, 2020; Rafael, Colombia, LGBT Immigrant, ongoing project, 2020; Wandel, Dominican Republic, LGBT Immigrant, ongoing project, 2020; Melissa, Natural Bodies, 2018

Olivia chose Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1981 photograph Ajitto, saying the following:

Robert Mapplethorpe, Ajitto, 1981, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund, © The Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe. Used with permission, 1981.99

“Robert Mapplethorpe is one of my favorite artists for the beauty of his portraits and his mastery of light and composition. Ajitto’s portrait perfectly reflects Mapplethorpe’s recurring obsessions in his photographs. The representation of the human body through the female and male nude is a theme that I, as an artist, also seek to show in my portraits, but from a feminine and contemporary perspective.”

Examining “Landscape with Saint Jerome”

Landscape with Saint Jerome by Herri met de Bles after conservation treatment

Landscape with Saint Jerome, a fantastical landscape by Herri met de Bles, is hanging in the newly reinstalled European art galleries after years in storage. Before it could be displayed, the 16th-century painting required careful conservation treatment in the DMA’s Paintings Conservation Studio. Treatment revealed a remarkably complex scene, with many tiny figures, hidden creatures, and microscopic details.

Little is known of Herri met de Bles, who was born around 1510 and died after 1550. Regardless of his life being shrouded in mystery, Bles was an important Flemish Mannerist landscape painter, known for knitting together realistic landscape scenes with fantastic imaginary elements. In Italy, where his art was popular, Bles was known as “Civetta” (“owl” in Italian), because he liked to paint little owls into his works, acting as a sort of playfully hidden signature. If you look closely in the tree behind St. Jerome, you will see the beak and eyes of a tiny owl peeking through a tree hollow.

Landscape with Saint Jerome before treatment

Landscape with Saint Jerome, although striking, arrived at the conservation studio in need of treatment. Bles applied colorful, thin layers of paint over a prepared wooden support. The wood warped over time, causing cracks in the support and paint simultaneously. A darkened varnish further obscured the beautiful and precise details. Paint applied in a previous restoration campaign, which was likely undertaken in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, had also discolored, creating dissonance in the surface of the work and obscuring the overall harmony evoked by the artist in the landscape.

The painting was examined using various techniques—including microscopes, ultraviolet light radiation, infrared reflectography (IR), and x-radiography—to gain insight into the condition of the work and the artist’s techniques. Armed with this information, treatment began in preparation for the reinstallation of the European Galleries.

Landscape with Saint Jerome during treatment

First, the dark and discolored varnish and areas of overpaint were removed. Cleaning revealed a world of detail previously unknown. Photomicrographs show details hardly perceptible without the aid of a microscope. Tiny creatures emerged in the wooded forest scene to the right of the central figure and in the mountains to the left, including a bear and cub family, stags, tiny figures hiking with a dog, and mountain goats. St. Jerome centers the composition and is accompanied by precisely painted attributes, including the skull and lion. He is surrounded by tiny, lively creatures such as squirrels, snails, lizards, mushrooms, and frogs. Bles also renders architectural features beautifully and goes so far as to depict not only microscopic decorative sculpture and architectural features but also decorative friezes noticeable only with magnification.

The IR images revealed especially interesting technical information. An elaborate underdrawing emerged when IR images were captured. Carbon-based materials absorb the infrared radiation and will appear black in IR images, while other materials that do not absorb the radiation will look transparent. Using this technique, underdrawing materials that contain carbon such as black inks, charcoal, and other carbon-containing black pigments become visible underneath overlying paint layers. Transfer marks, appearing as tiny black dots, were visible throughout the underdrawing, suggesting the use of prepared cartoon drawings. More free underdrawing was also observed, and can also be seen in the detail image. This type of underdrawing has been observed in other paintings attributed to Bles and serves as a fingerprint, in a way, of his working method.

After years of being stored away, this gorgeous painting by a mysterious artist is now on view for visitors to explore as part of free general admission. The landscape’s abundance of details will reward close looking, and the work serves as a dynamic addition to the newly reinstalled European Galleries.

Laura Hartman is the Associate Conservator at the DMA.

UPDATE: This post was originally written with the artwork title Saint Jerome in the Wilderness. As of May 15, 2020, our curators have identified this work’s title as Landscape with Saint Jerome.

Image: Herri met de Bles, Landscape with Saint Jerome, about 1540, oil on panel, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.21

Breaking the Mold: Three Women Artists

A recent study surveying the permanent collections of 18 prominent art museums in the United States (including the DMA) found that out of over 10,000 artists, 87% are male. Although history has produced fewer female artists than male, women artists have always existed, and their work is currently available on the art market.

In an effort to fix the gender discrepancy in the DMA’s collection, we continue to collect work produced by innovative women artists from past to present. In 2017–2018, for example, the DMA’s European Art Department acquired three masterworks by some of the most well known—yet still under-served—women artists in the history of French art: Adélaïde Labille Guiard (1749–1803), Eva Gonzalès (1849–1883), and Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899). All three works can be seen in the DMA’s current exhibition Women Artists in Europe from the Monarchy to Modernism alongside other works by women artists from the DMA’s permanent collection, private collectors, and nearby museums.

The show is free and open to the public through June 9, 2019. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to these newest arrivals!

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Portrait of a Man, c. 1795, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 2017.18

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was one of four women artists accepted to the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in the latter half of the 18th century. Women were banned from training as students in the Royal Academy at the time, but were occasionally accepted as members (somewhat akin to modern-day professors) with limited privileges if they could demonstrate exceptional talent. After her acceptance as a portrait painter in 1783, Labille-Guiard exhibited consistently at the Academy’s Salon for the next nine years, received prestigious commissions, and was named the official painter of the “Mesdames de France” (King Louis XV’s daughters) in 1787.

During the French Revolution of 1789–99—a time when many members of the royal family fled France or were guillotined by revolutionaries—Labille-Guiard managed to distance herself from her aristocratic patrons. She adopted the revolutionary cause by exhibiting portraits of political leaders and government officials that featured the sober style associated with republican ideals. Portrait of a Man is from this period of Labille-Guiard’s artistic output. The stark background, lack of props or accessories, and the sitter’s expressive demeanor emphasize the man’s individuality and psychology over material wealth.

Eva Gonzalès

Eva Gonzalès, Afternoon Tea, c. 1874, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2018.5.McD

Like many of the artists in this exhibition, Eva Gonzalès came from an affluent family who could afford the cost of private education. The state-sponsored fine art school in Paris would not accept female students until 1897, so the precociously talented Gonzalès enrolled in Charles Chaplin’s private studio for women in 1866. Three years later, she became the only official student of avant-garde artist Edouard Manet. Eventually, she developed her own Impressionistic style characterized by a bright palette, broken brushwork, and the depiction of everyday subjects.

Like Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt—two of Gonzalès’s contemporaries, whose work also appears in this exhibition—Gonzalès was restricted by her sex and elevated social class from depicting most modern urban sites. She instead presented bourgeois femininity and family life, which were cutting-edge subjects in the second half of the 19th century. In this unfinished painting, a woman (likely a nanny) prepares an afternoon meal for the young girl in the foreground. Gonzalès’s use of oil paint—traditionally reserved for male artists—elevated her domestic subject matter to the level of high art.

Gonzalès’s life was tragically cut short in 1883 when she died from complications of childbirth at the age of 34, leaving behind only 124 paintings and pastels. Afternoon Tea is thus a rare example from the oeuvre of a young professional female artist who, though much admired by her contemporaries, remains relatively unknown in the history of art.

Rosa Bonheur

Rosa Bonheur, Ewe in the Field, second half of the 19th century, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Alessandra Comini in honor of Charlotte Whaley, 2018.44

There are few artists, regardless of gender, who achieved the celebrity status and financial success of Rosa Bonheur. As a young girl, Bonheur was encouraged by her father, an artist, to sketch directly from life. She soon developed a profound talent and passion for the realistic portrayal of animals. This was a highly unconventional subject for women, who, like Labille-Guiard and Gonzalès before her, were encouraged to focus on portraiture, domestic genre scenes, or still lifes.

To further develop her talent for rendering the texture and movement of animal fur, Bonheur petitioned the police to allow her to wear pants in order to visit stockyards, horse fairs, and slaughterhouses. These locales were generally off limits to women, or at least difficult to traverse with the billowing skirts women wore in the 19th century. Bonheur eventually achieved great acclaim for her best-known work, The Horse Fair (Metropolitan Museum of Art), which was exhibited at the 1853 Salon. Her notoriety skyrocketed due to her unconventional lifestyle, which included cross-dressing, cigarette smoking, and speaking her mind.

Kelsey Martin is the Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Graduate Intern for European Art at the DMA.

The Texas Kid and “True Stories”

One hour into David Byrne’s 1986 movie True Stories, John Goodman’s character, Louis Fyne, parks his car in front of the eccentric house of a voodoo practitioner. A sign reading “Invisible Hospital of Saint John the Baptist” is barely visible in the nighttime. That sign was hiding another sign that read “The Texas Kid.” The actual owner of the house with a fantastically decorated yard was Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson.

Filming the “Dinero” music video at The Texas Kid’s house in 1984. Top row, left to right: Charlene Dawkins, Lee Gonzalez, George Reiff, Dick Ross, Willard Watson, Kris Cummings, David Byrne, Joe “King” Carrasco. Seated on bottom row, left to right: Adelle Lutz, Georganne Deen. © Christina Patoski

Willard Watson, a.k.a. The Texas Kid, was a folk artist born in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, and raised in Dallas, Texas. He was a local celebrity, recognized for his customized cars, flashy outfits that he sewed himself, and the sculpture garden outside his home near Love Field Airport. Fourteen of his drawings are in the DMA’s collection. The first drawings were acquired just three months after the movie was filmed.

As Watson recalled in his autobiography, “That year, 1985, David Byrne, who had a famous band called Talking Heads, came by the house and asked if he could film part of his movie TRUE STORIES at my house.”

Christina Patoski, a journalist and photographer from Fort Worth, served as a special consultant for the movie. David Byrne called her in 1984, after a mutual friend recommended Patoski to be a point of contact in Texas, and said he was working on a film. In the summer of 1984, Byrne, Patoski, and some friends drove around for three days scouting locations in Dallas and surrounding counties that Byrne imagined as settings for the fictional town of Virgil, Texas. Patoski took photographs during the initial trip and throughout the filming of the movie.

Patoski suggested that Byrne come back in the fall during the State Fair. He returned in October and brought Jonathan Demme, the director of Stop Making Sense. At that time, Patoski was directing a music video for Joe “King” Carrasco staged in the The Kid’s yard. They visited her there and met Watson and saw his incredible yard and home. Byrne decided to use it as a location in True Stories. Demme purchased some of Watson’s drawings and later cast him in his feature film Something Wild.

Byrne and crew came back in August of 1985 and started filming in early September. Patoski says it was an intense six-week shoot. Watson recalled:

“Elnora and I said yes, but we had to give up the use of our home for almost two weeks. They would work all day and often until two or three in the morning. The crew was all over the place. . . . At night, the cast and crew liked to party at nightclubs, particularly Shannon’s club, Tango. . . . I even went to their wrap party at Sons of Herman[n Hall.]”

Watson in the “voodoo room,” built in the dining room of his house in 1985. © Andy Reisberg

While Watson himself doesn’t appear in the movie, his wife, Elnora, and one of their grandsons had roles as the wife and son of the shaman, played by Pops Staples. Patoski says they built the “voodoo room” for the movie, but the rest of the house, filled inside and out with Watson’s art, hardly had to be changed.

While True Stories was filming, a solo exhibition of Watson’s art was on view at the Bath House Cultural Center at White Rock Lake. It was there that a curator from the DMA saw his Life Cycle drawings, and after showing them to the director of the DMA plans were made to acquire them. “I was really really proud for my work to be acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art,” wrote Watson.

Click images to expand.

Lillian Michel is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the DMA.

The Artful Overlapping of Old and Modern Iran

A work by Houston-based Iranian-American artist Soody Sharifi is now on view in the Keir Collection of Islamic Art Gallery. Courtly Love, an archival inkjet print from 2007, is an adaptation of a 15th-century painting in the Keir Collection. The original painting is an illustration of a tale from the Khamsa of Nizami, a collection of five tragic love poems. It depicts a scene from the romance of the Iranian king Khusraw and Armenian princess Shirin. Drunk and guilty of an amorous tryst, Khusraw has arrived at Shirin’s palace on horseback. Shirin, peering out from a window, is counseled by an older woman and refuses him entry. The scene is witnessed by a variety of attendants, including three scribes holding poetic manuscripts below. A darker mood is also present; anxious angels who know the inevitable tragic outcome of the story hover at upper left, while two gardeners with golden shovels foreshadow the twin graves in which the lovers will lie for eternity.

Khusraw at Shirin’s Palace, painting from a manuscript of Nizami’s Khamsa, last quarter of the 15th century, ink, colors and gold on paper, The Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the DMA, K.1.2014.738

Courtly Love is one of a series of works that Sharifi has termed “Maxiatures,” a play on the term “miniatures” that is commonly used to describe the small format of Islamic book paintings. Sharifi’s works are large. For them, she has selected well-known examples of architectural paintings that illustrate Persian literary classics, such as the Khamsa, to serve as a basis for adaptation through the addition of new figures taken from photography. She also works with the architectural elements in the original image, changing their scale and contents. In this work, some of the original painted figures have vanished, and those that remain become unwitting bystanders to a new cast of figures inserted into the scene: contemporary, young Iranians, mainly women, going about daily tasks. These include making a call at a phone booth, jumping rope, playing with a hula-hoop, painting toenails, installing a satellite dish, and looking over the balustrades and through windows. Three young men speak to the women from outside the garden walls—the circumscribed formalities of courtly love referenced in the title of the work, and perhaps referring to the themes of the original painting.

Soody Sharifi, Courtly Love, 2007, archival inkjet print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Richard and Glen de Unger in gratitude to Walter Elcock for his attentiveness and support for the Keir Collection, 2018.40

Sharifi’s work appears to be concerned with issues of dual identities, of a past and present that is especially acute for Iranians of her generation who were exiled by the revolution of 1979. Given that the figures in her works are young, this may represent the nostalgia of young Iranians today who still live in proximity to the elegant palaces and gardens depicted in historical paintings, perhaps inhabited now only by ghosts, like the figures in 15th-century paintings. Her concern with dualities—of language, of national identity, of traditions and contemporary technologies, of political tensions—seems to be present in this work, where contemporaneity hovers over a past that can no longer be reached. Certainly, there is also a sense of humor—it is clever and funny to see modern people in these poetical constructs.

Soody Sharifi’s work is displayed in the Keir Collection Gallery alongside the painting that inspired it so that the public can appreciate her interventions, decode her intentions, and enjoy the presence of both works of art at once. Join Sharifi in person as she shares insights into Courtly Love at our next Late Night on February 15.

Heather Ecker is The Marguerite S. Hoffman and Thomas W. Lentz Curator of Islamic and Medieval Art at the DMA.

 

Ruth Pershing Uhler: A Texas Woman Artist to Know

Why do some women artists become famous while others become footnotes in art history textbooks? That is the topic of discussion in The O’Keeffe Sisters and Women of American Modernism, a series of short talks at the DMA on February 2. Few art history scholars knew Georgia O’Keeffe had a younger sister named Ida who was also an artist, and whose work is now exhibited in Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow. Ahead of the talks, we thought we would take a look at another woman modernist in the DMA collection you probably haven’t heard of: Ruth Pershing Uhler.

Ruth Pershing Uhler was born in a small town in Pennsylvania in 1895. Uhler and her family moved to Houston in 1909, but she returned to Pennsylvania to study art. Receiving the proper training was the first hurdle women had to clear to become artists. Women were often encouraged to study “lesser” mediums like watercolor instead of oil, and art was seen as part of a woman’s aesthetic training to create a beautiful home rather than as a career. Uhler didn’t settle for these expectations. She studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (and did learn to work in oil), and after graduating she obtained a fellowship that provided her with her own studio and the ability to paint and exhibit art in Philadelphia. She worked in Philadelphia for 11 years before returning to Houston in 1925 and exhibiting across Texas in the 1920s and 30s.

Ruth Pershing Uhler, Earth Rhythms, c. 1935, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas Artists Fund, 2018.10, © Estate of Ruth Pershing Uhler

In 1935 Uhler went to Santa Fe with friend and fellow Texas artist Grace Spaulding John. The landscape of New Mexico inspired a series of nine paintings that Uhler completed after returning to Houston the next year. Earth Rhythms (c. 1935), recently acquired by the DMA, belongs to this series. While it is possible Uhler saw and responded to the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, Uhler’s paintings—with undulating forms that glow with an almost spiritual quality—are also reminiscent of Transcendentalists like Raymond Johnson and Agnes Pelton, who were working in New Mexico during the same period. Uhler’s series was exhibited in 1936 at the Twelfth Annual Exhibition of Houston Artists.

Uhler teaching in the MFAH galleries c. 1950. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Archives.

At the time, it was impossible for a woman to support herself as a full-time painter without a gallery to represent her and sell her art, so most women artists took second jobs. Uhler became a teacher at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) in 1937, and in 1941 she became the MFAH’s first curator of education, a position she held until just before her death in 1967. In the same way that Ida O’Keeffe held nursing and teaching jobs on and off her entire life, being an art educator provided Uhler with financial stability, independence, and creative fulfillment. She was hugely influential in the growth of the MFAH’s education programs, but the demands of her job led her to abandon painting.

Curiously, one day in 1940 Uhler intentionally destroyed many of her paintings in a fire. She built the bonfire in the backyard of Grace Spaulding John’s house, which she had been house-sitting. John’s daughter saw her and asked what she was doing. Uhler officially ended her career as a painter that day, remarking, “Well, I only want my best work to survive.” Consequently, her works are few and difficult to find today.

As art historians reconsider the influence of women artists in modernist movements, and as Texas artists are given more serious attention, artists like Uhler will become more popular. It takes time and a conscious effort on the part of curators to shine a light on under-recognized women artists, but we get a fuller and more realistic view of art history when women’s work is recovered from the margins.

Lillian Michel is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the DMA.

2-D to 3-D Wire Creations

This February’s Open Studio will feature funky wire creations! Making sculptures inspired by paintings is a great way to engage with abstract art, and it allows your or your child’s mind to see the differences between a two-dimensional versus a three-dimensional artwork.

Imagine your favorite abstract painting—now imagine it as if it were designed as a sculpture. Would it twist or move? Would it cast shadows not conveyed in the painting? Sculpture is amazing because you can see it in a full 360 degrees and see up close what a painting simply cannot do. I love this activity because it asks the question “what would this painting look like if it were three dimensional?”

The 2-D to 3-D Wire Creations activity is a no-mess art-making project that is suitable for all ages and imaginations. It allows your child to engage with the basic elements of art—color, line, and shape—while introducing more complex subjects like abstract art, space, and movement.

As you twist and manipulate the wire, ask your child questions such as:

  • What kinds of lines can you make with the wire?
  • What colors are similar in the painting and your art?
  • What’s your favorite shape in the painting?
  • Do you like the art better as a painting or a sculpture?

I used Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Grey Blue & Black—Pink Circle to draw inspiration for my wire sculpture.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Grey Blue & Black—Pink Circle, 1929, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 1994.54, © The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The painting has colors and lines that make my sculpture interesting and recognizable.

This will be a fun project for you and your family. The best part is that you will be able to find the painting that inspired your work of art in the DMA’s collection!

Open Studio is for families and individuals looking for something free to do on the weekend. I am so excited to share with you the monthly art activity, how to engage your child in art projects, and a sneak peek of what you might expect. So stay tuned and see you soon!

February Open Studio Dates and Times:

Theme: Wire Creations
Location: Center for Creative Connections Art Studio
Price: Free
Dates:  
Saturday, February 2
Sunday, February 3
Saturday, February 16
Sunday, February 17
Time: Noon–4:00 p.m.

Melissa Brito is a Teaching Specialist for Family and Access Programs at the DMA.


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