Posts Tagged 'Dallas Museum of Art Collection'

DMA Online Collection: An Inside Look (Part I)

As the Dallas Museum of Art’s Digital Collections project comes to a close at the end of December, we’re taking a look back at the important work the Digital Collections Content Coordinators (D3Cs) have undertaken over the past three years, including writing, researching, gathering, compiling, and condensing information for over 5,000 individual objects. Their end result is an online collection that takes advantage of its digital format. Unlike the physical limitations of the DMA galleries, the online collection promotes three unique learning opportunities:

  1. Connecting the dots—linking objects and narratives across collections or disciplines.
  2. Deep dives—providing detailed information about one or more objects in texts that far exceed typical wall labels.
  3. Hidden gems—highlighting works that are rarely on view or risk being overlooked in the galleries.

We’ve asked each D3C to recount some of the insights she accumulated on the job.

Jennifer Bartsch-Allen, Decorative Arts and Design, 2016-2018

jennifer allen
Hidden gem:
Although I’ve researched a variety of works across the Decorative Arts and Design Collection, the bulk of my last two years was focused on the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection. This enabled me to draw attention to furniture, including a Baroque cabinet by Pierre Gole. In the gallery, the cabinet remains closed and distant. Online, however, the high-res photos show the drawers in multiple positions and give close-ups of signatures and surfaces. Supplemental essays include biographies of the collectors and definitions of some of the specialized terms.

baroque cabinetCabinet on stand, Pierre Gole, Paris (?), France, 1660–80, wood, ivory, tortoiseshell, shell, and gilt bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.573.a-c

Deep dives:
One of my favorite eras is 20th-century design, so I thoroughly enjoyed exploring works featured in the Museum’s South Gallery. At first glance, Peter Muller-Munk’s relatively modest Normandie shape pitcher appears straightforward and functional. However, it becomes much more impressive and influential after reading about its context in American streamlined design.

pitcherNormandie shape pitcher, Peter Muller-Munk, Rome, New York, 1935, chrome-plated brass, Dallas Museum of Art, 20th Century Design Fund, 1996.27

Similarly, the historical references in René Jules Lalique’s glass vases become easier to identify once you recognize the popularity of neoclassical imagery at the time. Several, including the Denaides vase, rely on these mythological motifs while simultaneously embodying the early 20th century’s Art Deco movement.

vaseDanaides vase, René Jules Lalique, Lalique et Cie, Cristallerie, Wingen-sur-Moder, France, c. 1926, molded glass, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Steinberg, 2004.48.5

Heather Bowling, Classical Art, Contemporary Art, and Decorative Arts and Design, 2016-2018

heather

Deep dives:
Throughout the course of this project, I have enjoyed learning more about contemporary art and decorative arts and design, but it was fun to return to my classical roots and do some original research on a 2nd century CE portrait bust. The DMA’s Roman portrait head of a young woman joins an array of Roman portraits that reflect ideas about gender roles in the ancient world. Spoiler alert: portraits of modest, fertile, upper-class women were created largely to boost the public stature of the men in their lives. Additionally, elaborate hairstyles of wealthy Roman women imitated favored empresses and indicated the wearer’s high status, not unlike today’s celebrities.

roman headPortrait head of a young woman, Roman, 2nd century CE, marble,
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, 2016.36

Accessioned just three years after its creation, Cathedral is the cornerstone of contemporary art at the DMA and one of the first Pollock drip paintings to enter any museum collection in the world. Because this work is so prolific, I had to wade through a substantial amount of scholarship to create a concise description that answers the question you may be asking yourself: why is throwing paint on a canvas a big deal?

paint canvasJackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas,
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard J. Reis, 1950.87, © Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Hidden gems:
In the galleries it would be easy to pass by this minuscule scarab beetle, but online you can zoom in and inspect each side. Although initially there was no information available about the inscription on its underside, extensive research of Egyptian amulets revealed exactly how it afforded the deceased special protection in the journey to the afterlife.

scarabScarab, Egyptian, 1785–1550 BCE, faience, Dallas Museum of Art, given in memory of Jerry L. Abramson by his estate, 2009.25.4

Connecting the dots:
Alongside my work in the Contemporary and Classical Art departments, researching modern design and postmodern design illuminated the intersection of ancient and contemporary objects, and gave me a new appreciation for how an encyclopedic museum collection can demonstrate the connections between different places and times.

Stay tuned for Part II, coming next week. Meet the other half of our D3C team and discover more insights into our collection!

Artist Astrology: Libra

Whether or not you believe in astrology, it’s fun to read about your zodiac and the characteristics that are associated with your sign! As I was thinking about this fascination of my own, I began to wonder what artists shared my sign and whether their artwork aligned with the traits of their zodiac. So I decided to research the birthdays of some of the prominent artists in the DMA Collection to explore the relationship between their zodiac and their art. Tune in every month to find out what artists share your zodiac!

This first month of Artist Astrology will focus on the balanced, intellectual Libras (September 24 – October 23). Libras are represented by the symbol of a scale. They are often defined by their intellect and, as a result, make great problem-solvers. Although Libras posses great mental capacity, they are also extremely social and very communicative. They have the ability to look at a problem from multiple perspectives, often acting as mediators in a disagreement. Libras lead harmonious, balanced lives and seek to create peace and harmony in their surroundings, including their relationships. They are also creative spirits and their imaginative nature is often represented in their style, interior decoration, and hobbies. Libra’s are said to bring a bit of art into everything they do and enjoy creating new and unusual things. Some of our favorite DMA Libra’s include:

1968_9

Mark Rothko – September 25

Communication is a central element in Mark Rothko’s work. In the late 1940s, Rothko removed figural representations from his work, believing that a universal representation of human drama was better conveyed through large masses of color which for him suggested concrete human emotions. An intellectual thinker, Rothko stated in an interview with Tiger’s Eye magazine in 1949, “The progression of a painter’s work…will be toward clarity; toward elimination of all obstacles between painter and the idea, and between the ideas and the observer.” Rothko’s attention to the reaction of the viewer demonstrates his Libra sensibility for clear thought and observant social prowess.

1975_86_FA

Alberto Giacometti – October 10

Throughout his career, Alberto Giacometti primarily worked in portraiture. His mature style, as seen in Three Men Walking from 1948-49, was especially popular and hailed as a symbol of the isolation and anonymity of the post-war period. Three Men Walking is demonstrative of Giacometti’s keen ability to observe humanity from an impartial and fully-encompassing perspective. Interestingly, this period also coincided with the renewal of his relationship with his brother and marriage to his long-term domestic partner, Annette Arm, in 1949. Socially active individuals, Libras are said to only achieve peace and satisfaction through loving and supportive relationships.

1951_41

Childe Hassam – October 17

Childe Hassam is typically identified as an American Impressionist. His style features soft brush strokes and an attentive perception of the atmospheric qualities of light and air. In fact, Hassam encouraged this label and considered himself a painter of “light and air” rather than solidly an Impressionist. Paintings, such as Duck Island above, demonstrate his tendency to present his surroundings in a peaceful, harmonious composition. Interestingly, the Duck Island coast, one of the Isles of Shoals near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was known among sea captains for its treacherous waves and dangerous reefs. Hassam avoids this dark reference in favor of a restful representation of this popular vacation spot.

1986'8'A-B

Robert Rauschenberg – October 22

Robert Rauschenberg collected the source material for his silkscreen prints from a variety of sources, including newspapers, Life magazines, personal photographs, and New York Times archives. His attraction to such various sources demonstrates his active engagement in current and past historical events. Having collected his varied materials, Rauschenberg successfully organized his images to present one cohesive, effective image. Produced for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Skyway is emblematic of the optimism and expansionism of the early 1960s, featuring images of President John F Kennedy, the space race, urban construction, and the American bald eagle. The title is suggestive of the “New Frontier” of American expansion as space became labeled the ‘highway’ of the future.

A few other lovable Libras include Jean-Francois Millet (October 4), Frank Duveneck (October 9), Jean Antoine Watteau (October 10), and Maurice Prendergast (October 10). Tune in next month for some of our superb Scorpios!

Artworks shown:

  • Mark Rothko, Orange, Red and Red, 1962, Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated
  • Alberto Giacometti, Three Men Walking, 1948-49, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus
  • Childe Hassam, Duck Island, 1906, Dallas Museum of Art, Bequest of Joel T. Howard
  • Robert Rauschenberg, Skyway, 1964, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund, The 500, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Mark Shepherd, Jr. and General Acquisitions Fund

Hayley Prihoda
McDermott Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching

How It’s Made: Japanese Cloisonné

Have you ever wondered how Japanese artists created such beautiful cloisonné pieces?  Well, I have, and after a lot of research, I’d like to share what I discovered.

What is Cloisonné?

The technique of cloisonné actually dates back to the Mycenaean and early Greek cultures.  In antiquity, it was common for artists to solder the wires to a metal body and then fill the recessed areas with enamel, a compound made of sand, flint, soda, and lead.  After it is fired in a charcoal-fueled kiln at very high temperatures, the enamel compound fuses and assumes a very glossy, glass-like texture.  The Japanese process varied slightly from this, as I will describe in the next section.

“Cloisons” or wire cells used to create cloisonné.
“Box”, Japan, 19th century, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The John R. Young Collection, gift of M. Frances and John R. Young

The nomenclature of cloisonné stems from France.  The term cloisonné comes from the French word “cloisons,” or wire cells, which are used to create this technique.  Most of the enameling terms you hear will be of French origin, and that’s likely because the French dominated the enameling practice for about ten centuries.  However, the Japanese use a different term to describe cloisonné: shippōShippō references the seven treasures of the sūtra, a direct correlation to ancient Buddhist texts.  The seven treasures include gold, silver, pearl, crystal, agate, lapis lazuli, and coral.  This definition of cloisonné emphasizes the Japanese affinity with nature and religion, while the French term focuses on the technical aspect of the technique.

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What’s the Process of Cloisonné?

Namikawa Yasuyuki loading an object into the kiln. Image from Coben and Ferster’s “Japanese Cloisonné: History, Technique, and Appreciation.”

As mentioned earlier, in ancient times it was common to solder your copper or silver wires down to a metal base.  The Japanese process differs by adhering the wires to a metal base using a rice-paste or glue made from an orchid root, called biyaku-gu.  After the wires are secure on the base, the artist takes the enamel paste, a mixture of water and enamel, and gently place the paste in the wire cells using a bamboo pen.  After this step, the object must sit to allow all the moisture to evaporate from the enamel.  Once completely dried, the artist delicately places the object into a muffle kiln, or a nishiki-gama, a clay kiln that is fueled by charcoal.  After the enamel has fused, the piece can be taken out to cool.  Once cooled, the artist can go back in and add more enamel paste and fire it until the enamel is flush with the metal wires.  The final step includes sanding and polishing the enamel and wires until an even surface is acquired.  Once sanded and polished, the enameled object goes into the nishiki-gama one last time to bring the enamel to a high gloss.

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How Did Cloisonné Come to Japan?

Prior to the 16th century, very little enamelware was found in Japan.  Even with neighboring China, a society already exemplary in producing cloisonné, did the artform hit Japan until artist Hirata Hikoshiro, better known as Dōnin, was commissioned by a lord to create a cloisonné object.  Dōnin learned the ways of Chinese cloisonné and brought back the secrets of the trade to Japan.  He became well-known in the samurai community for making decorative sword furniture, but kept his cloisonné process to himself, and only let his family know the tricks of the trade.  A century later another Japanese artist, Kaji Tsunekichi, sought the mysteries of cloisonné.  In the mid-1830’s, Tsunekichi purchased a piece of Chinese cloisonné and purposely broke it apart to discover the manufacturer’s secrets.  After a lot of trial and error, he found success and became known as the “Father of Modern Japanese Cloisonné.”  Tsunekichi trained many artists, creating a cloisonné community within Japan.

The Golden Age

Because of the Western desire for Japanese cloisonné, more and more workshops opened up in small communities like Toshima.  Toshima became known as the shippō-mura, or cloisonné village.  The mass production of cloisonné wares in workshops like Toshima were part of the Japanese industrial revolution that occurred during the second half of the 19th century.  Rather than the large, boisterous factories we envision of the American and European industrial revolutions, the cloisonné workshops of Japan remained very traditional and true to the lead artist’s designs.  Alice M. Hart, an American journalist, visited one of these workshops and this is what she found:

“What an ideal, no smoke, no noise, and no hurry.  Engaged in the pursuit of delightful art, the workmen had only to lift their eyes from their work to see cherry blossoms tossed up against a blue sky…”

Japanese cloisonné workshop. Image from Coben and Ferster’s “Japanese Cloisonné: History, Technique, and Appreciation.”

All this production during the late 19th century has been coined as the “Golden Age for Japanese cloisonné.”  The Golden Age was brought on by a whirlwind of technological advances that Japanese artists were initiating.  Three instrumental leaders in the Golden Age are Namikawa Yasuyuki, Namikawa Sōsuke, and Andō Jūbei.

Namikawa Yasuyuki was known for his invention of the first transparent black glaze and his ‘traditional’ style.  This new transparent black enamel led to a whole production of transparent enamels, which provided artists more freedom with the material.  With this new application, Namikawa Sōsuke was able to rise to fame with his “painting-like” enamels.  Sōsuke also became known as the inventor of shōsen-jippō, where he would etch away the cloisonné wires with sulfuric acid to create a more natural transition, rather than the heavy outlines of wires.  Finally, Andō Jūbei brought the ‘new fashion’ to Japanese cloisonné by combining various styles and techniques such as plique-a-jour; a technique where the wires are fused together and there is no metal backing, allowing sunlight to shine through the enamel.  His company, the Andō Company, was very prolific and received several international awards.

Ando Jubei, Koro and Cover, c. 1900, Japan, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The John R. Young Collection, gift of M. Frances and John R. Young

In the Japanese galleries on the third floor of the Museum, you can find exquisite examples from all three artists.  Many of these works instill both awe and beauty.  Even though I know how these objects were created, I’m still amazed by the amount of detail and craftsmanship involved.  Next time you are at the Museum, come explore these small treasures of Japan—I know you will be impressed by their splendor.

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits

References:

  • Coben, Lawrence, and Dorothy Ferster, Japanese Cloisonné: History, Technique, and Appreciation, New York: Weatherhill, 1982.
  • Darty, Linda, The Art of Enameling: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration, New York: Lark Books, 2004.

How it's Made: Etruscan Jewelry

Welcome to the introductory blog of the “How it’s Made” series.  In this series, I aim to shed some light on the technical methods of how objects in our collection were created and to gather a greater appreciation for art-making in general. 

Coming from a metalsmithing background, I wanted to start this series with precious  metal objects.  I selected Etruscan jewelry because I have such admiration for how beautifully designed and how well-crafted these metal objects are.  While studying metalsmithing at the University of North Texas, I had the opportunity to learn several of the same techniques the Etruscans used, but with the convenience of modern tools and technology.

Pair of "a bauletto" type earrings, Etruscan, 6th-early 5th centuries B.C., Museum League Purchase Funds, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., and Cecil H. and Ida M. Green in honor of Virginia Lucas Nick

Who were the Etruscans?

Early inhabitants of Italy, the Etruscans settled in the northern region of Rome in the late eighth century B.C., and can trace their heritage by name in modern-day Tuscany.  The Etruscans succeeded the Villanovan culture, a civilization that established early foreign trade and was adept in creating bronze jewelry. The influx of Greek colonization in Italy aided in the transition from Villanovan to Etruscan culture, which thrived until Roman imperialism succeeded around 200 B.C.

 

Etruscan territory

What Makes Etruscan Jewelry Interesting?

Today, it’s no mystery why jewelers love to use gold.  Gold is a very easy metal to work with; it’s malleable (which means it’s easy to shape and form), there is less clean up after soldering, and it doesn’t tarnish over time.  So, why is Etruscan gold so amazing?  This ancient civilization manipulated metals and implemented tedious applications without the modern convenience of a torch and other fancy tools is pretty incredible.  It amazes me that such delicate pieces could be fused together by controlling an open flame instead of a pressure-controlled torch. 

Take granulation, for example.  Granulation derives from the Latin word granum, meaning “grain,” and it describes the method of fusing small granules to a base.  This ancient technique is a hallmark of Etruscan jewelry and requires a lot of meticulous preparation. 

Pair of Funerary Earrings, Etruscan, 4th-3rd Century B.C., gift of Mr. and Mrs. Cecil H. Green

In order to make the granules, Etruscans would place gold dust or very small clippings of metal into a crucible.  In order to keep the granules from clumping together and melting into one giant granule, they placed layers of charcoal between the clippings, and then heated them to their melting point.  At that point, the metal dust or clipping will roll itself into a little ball and create a granule.

Modern granulation technique, courtesy of "The Complete Metalsmith" by Tim McCreight

Modern granulation technique, courtesy of "The Complete Metalsmith" by Tim McCreight

Once you have your tiny granules, you have to then position them and fuse them to a base.  Today, metalsmiths use ready-made flux and solder to join granules on a base.  According to Jochem Wolters in his essay “The Ancient Craft of Granulation: A Re-Assessment of Established Concepts,” adhesive non-metallic solders such as the gem chrysokolla (which literally translates to “gold glue”) or any other copper-bearing compounds were the solder of choice for the Etruscans. 

Chrysokolla, a gem used for non-metallic solder

If you’ve never soldered before, and you’re having a hard time visualizing this, think of a peanut butter sandwich.  You have two surfaces that need to be fused together.  Think of the base and the granule as the two slices of bread, and the solder as the peanut butter; without it, the two surfaces cannot fuse.  Once you have your solder and granules in place, you place your object over an open charcoal fire and heat it evenly.  Amazing!

It’s important to note that the Etruscans didn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of metalsmithing techniques, for many of the methods they are recognized for (such as granulation, filigree, chasing, and repoussé) were borrowed from neighboring cultures.  The true reason Etruscan jewelry stands out is because of the ancient metalsmiths’ technical skill and amazing ability to manipulate gold with precision.  I can attest that even with modern tools, it is difficult to execute many of the techniques that were used in the 6th and 7th centuries B.C. 

I hope you find Etruscan jewelry as riveting as I do, and if you have any questions about other works from our collection, please feel free to post your questions in the comments area. 

Happy making,

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits

Resources:

  • Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, Ancient Gold Jewelry at the Dallas Museum of Art, (Washington: University of Washington 1996), 31-57. 
  • Tim McCreight, The Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition, (Davis Publications: February 2004).
  • Jochem Wolters,”The Ancient Craft of Granulation: A Re-Assessment of Established Concepts,” Gold Bulletin, Vol. 14, Number 3, 119-129. 

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