Posts Tagged 'European Art'

Examining “Saint Jerome in the Wilderness”

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness by Herri met de Bles after conservation treatment

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, 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.

Saint Jerome before treatment

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, 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.

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.

Image: Herri met de Bles, Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, 16th century, 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.

Musical Musings

Think back to your favorite scene in a movie. Was it action packed? Romantic? Full of suspense? Chances are that the music—the film’s score—helped create the mood of the scene.

Now think about your favorite work of art. How would you describe its mood or feeling? How did the artist convey that mood? When we describe the mood of a work of art, we typically think about visual elements like color, the quality of the brushstrokes, and composition. But sometimes, even with a work of art, music can enhance your experience.

We recently paired up with two local musicians, Clint Niosi and Claire Hecko, and invited them to imagine one minute “film scores” for a handful of works of art in the 18th Century European Gallery. Meet the musicians, learn about their process, and hear a sample of their work below.

Tell us about yourselves-in 50 words or less.

Clint Niosi: I’m a songwriter, film score composer, and audio engineer from Fort Worth.  I also work as a Digital Technology Specialist for the Art + Art History Department at UT Arlington.

Claire Hecko: INFP, musician, composer, picture maker, seamstress, cat lover and motorcycle enthusiast, among other things. My primary instruments are viola and bass. I like long walks in the desert and good manners.

How would you describe your process of creating a “score” for a work of art?

Clint Niosi: While I wasn’t really sure how to approach it initially, I ended up using basically the same process I would have used for a film score. I try to find the emotional core of the scene and use the music to help move the story forward. Once I feel like I’ve found the mood I add or take away layers until it feels right with the picture.

Claire Hecko: I have very little education in music theory, so I’m not entirely sure how to best describe my process. I consider the feelings I want to embody in a piece and try to determine how to best represent them musically. Often, this entails picking up an instrument and just playing around on it until I come up with something that will serve as a foundation for the piece. From there, I begin adding layers to build a complete composition.

Were there any challenges?

Clint Niosi: Yes there were. Creating a modern composition outside the historical milieu in which the paintings are set seemed very daunting. Also, the limited duration of the format (one minute per piece) was an additional challenge. Some of the paintings have very complex stories and complicated emotions to convey. Ultimately I just dove in and had fun with it.  

Claire Hecko: My biggest challenge was creating the “score” for The Harp Lesson by Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust – I had many ideas, but no access to (or training to play) a harp. Thankfully, technology allowed me to replicate the sound of a harp on a laptop.

What did you enjoy most about this opportunity?

Clint Niosi: It was such a treat to have a chance to collaborate with the DMA. I’m an art enthusiast and a long time fan of the DMA’s permanent collection. The chance to dive into something like this is something I will always remember. It was a learning experience.

Claire Hecko: My degree is in Art History, a subject close to my heart. The opportunity to represent a work of art through music was very exciting for me!

Stop by the Pop-Up Art Spot this Saturday to check out an iPod and listen to the “film scores” composed and recorded by Clint Niosi and Claire Hecko.

Jessica Fuentes
Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections

Emily Wiskera
Manager of Access Programs

Sound Waves

We have plenty in store to stimulate your senses during this Friday’s Late Night, and one program in particular is sure to hit the right note. As part of a special DMA Friends reward, DMA Friend Kyle West has created a soundtrack for our European collection on Level 2 that you’ll be able to enjoy that night. To whet your appetite, listen to this lively jig he paired with Seasickness on an English Corvette. We hope to see you Friday to hear the rest!

François Auguste Biard, Seasickness on an English Corvette (Le mal de mer, au bal, abord d'une corvette Anglaise), 1857, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J.E.R. Chilton 2011.27

François Auguste Biard, Seasickness on an English Corvette, 1857, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J. E. R. Chilton, 2011.27

Sarah Coffey is the Education Coordinator at the DMA.

30-Minute Dash: Eric Zeidler

Because we offer free general admission, visitors often pop in for a few minutes when they are in the Dallas Arts District. Our Visitor Services team is frequently asked this question: “What would you recommend seeing if you only had thirty minutes to visit the Museum?” We thought it would be fun to pose this tough question to DMA staffers from different departments to see what they consider to be among the highlights. First up is Eric Zeidler, our Publications Manager:

If a visitor had thirty minutes and accepted me as a guide, I would take them to many galleries to highlight multiple works in the collection, starting with the African galleries on Level 3.


My favorite stops include the Fang reliquary guardian figure. It is so riveting and perfectly carved, I can never get my fill of looking at it. Another work to visit is the Songye female power figure with her sheen (she exudes the oil with which she has been anointed down through the years) and that unnerving grin. I can well imagine her exerting a beneficent or malefic power, depending on the inner qualities of those who come into contact with her. Last stop in this gallery would have to be the Djennenke/Soninke figure, with her protuberant eyes and spare, almost angular, elegance.


Continuing our tour on Level 3 in the Arts of Asia gallery includes time to take in the serene Buddha Muchalinda. I love his canopy of naga heads and the fascinating expressiveness of his lips. The Vajrabhairava, with its horns and fangs and union of ecstatic abandon with higher truth, is always a must see, as is the sensuously provocative celestial female with that scorpion on her thigh. And finally we would visit the Vishnu as Varaha, with its diagonal lines and the redoubtable tusks and snout.


We would then dash downstairs to the European galleries on Level 2 to look at a large selection of some of my favorite works, starting with Paul Signac’s neoimpressionist masterpiece Comblat-le-Château, the Meadow (Le Pré), Opus 161. We would then continue on to Paul Sérusier’s Celtic Tale, which partly reminds me of Paul Gauguin but also has symbolist elements reminiscent of Javanese-Dutch artist Jan Toorop, with whom (for me) its imagery has luminous affinities. Next would be Piet Mondrian’s Farm Near Duivendrecht, in the Evening, with its low light, reminds me of Dahl’s Frederiksborg Castle, on view around the corner (it makes me wish that we could acquire some Atkinson Grimshaw canvases), and a quick look at Hans Hofmann’s expressive masterpiece Untitled (Yellow Table on Green).


Going down the other side of the European galleries, I would point out the nice little Still-life with Fruit by Emilie Preyer; Sir Joshua Reynolds’ commanding Portrait of Miss Mary Pelham (she has such a penetrating stare, which for me suggests a certain formidable willfulness); the gorgeous still-life Basket of Flowers by Beert the Elder, with its petals lying strewn on a tabletop; and my beloved College of Animals by Cornelis Saftleven. I think this work, beyond its allegorical subtleties and its charm for all those who love animals, is a beautifully painted canvas, and I love studying its various striking details.


I would also take a quick trip to the Level 4 to see the Dust Bowl and other Texas paintings, which show that beauty can be found amidst stark desolation, and the Navajo eye-dazzler blanket, which is a pleasure to gaze upon. We would end our whirlwind tour with the fascinating little painting by Roberto Montenegro, The Shell, one of my favorite works in the entire collection.

Follow Uncrated to catch the next DMA Dash and more behind-the-scenes scoops. Visit our collection online anytime here.

 Reagan Duplisea is the Associate Registrar, Exhibitions at the DMA.

Hocus Pocus

Halloween is just around the corner and it has us seeing haunting references in works at the DMA and treats throughout the Museum’s galleries. Tell us which works cause you to have a hair-raising Museum visit.

DMA Athletes in Training

One of my favorite parts of my job is that I get to spend one morning every month talking with our fantastic Gallery Attendants about works in the collection. So far, we have discussed European art, shared Personal Responses to works in the collection, written Facebook profiles for photos in the Cindy Sherman exhibition, and compared three vastly different works in our American collection. Last week, we spent time in The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum.

After looking at the discus thrower, the Gallery Attendants were asked to divide into teams of two. Each team had to select a sport and strike a pose that epitomizes an athlete participating in that sport. The rest of us had to guess which sporting event they were re-creating. Their poses were creative, clever, and funny, and we couldn’t resist sharing them with you!

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Shannon Karol is the Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs at the DMA.


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