Posts Tagged 'Thomas Sully'

Feline Mastermind

It’s undeniable that fuzzy four-legged felines are an internet sensation. Their mischievous whiskers and silly antics have all the making of a viral video. Cats are so trendy that there is an entire month dedicated to adopting them. Much like the social media moguls, clothing, and cosmetics brands that have jumped on the kitty bandwagon, American artist Thomas Sully was in the know. The 1830s and 40s were not without financial crises, and less money meant less desire for portraiture. Sully, who was highly regarded for his artistic talents, should be equally regarded for his keen marketing and forecasting abilities. He began making “fancy pictures” that flawlessly idealized and exaggerated fashionable society, appealing to those with means. He also recognized the popularity of Cinderella, a tale that had entered America only a few decades before; an opera based on the story had taken the US by storm, putting it at the forefront of respectable society’s polite conversations. It only took Sully around three months to complete Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, which features not only a popular subject but also a cat! Talk about a win-win situation! Sully was in tune with the world around him and knew what people wanted, over a century ago and today, and so he flourished during times of financial hardship. Celebrate Thomas Sully’s birthday and National Adopt a Cat Month by visiting this pristine picture of furry fairytale marketing genius this week at the DMA.

 

Julie Henley is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.

Pet-a-Palooza: A Tail-Wagging Line-Up of Fabulous Felines and Furry Fidos

You have got to be kitten me right meow—is it national Dress Up Your Pet Day already? Indeed it is! If you were having a ruff day, not to worry! Every January 14 the dog-gone crazy DMA staff transform their cuddly critters into a favorite work from our collection (check out the catwalk from 2014 and 2015). It is im-paw-sible not to smile after viewing these purr-fect copycats. Who will be your favorite cat-tenders?

recto

DMA Staffer: Stacey Lizotte, Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services
DMA Pet: Parker, English Springer Spaniel, age 2 (he belongs to my parents but I borrowed him when I was home for Christmas)
Portrait Inspiration: Camille Pissarro, Self Portrait, c. 1898
I sent my mom several portraits from our collection to pick from and she liked Camille Pissarro’s Self-Portrait best because Parker has the same soulful look. We had a lot of moving parts with this portrait—from props, background, and getting the right angle so that Parker’s chest hair looked like a beard—therefore it took about 120 shots to get one good one of Parker as Pissarro. And a shout out to George Costanza for letting Parker borrow his beret and painter’s palette.

Mexico Jessica
DMA Staffer:
Jessica Fuentes, C3 Gallery Manager
DMA Pet: Fidel (age 4), Nene (age 6), and Cappuccino (age 2 months), Chihuahuas
Portrait Inspiration: Jesús Guerrero Galván, Images of Mexico (Imágenes de México), 1950
New year, new pup! Just a few weeks ago we added a new Chihuahua puppy to our Chihuahua family, so when thinking about this year’s Dress Up Your Pet Day, I had to find a work of art with three figures. I planned to roam the galleries searching for the perfect painting, starting on Level 4 and working my way down. But I didn’t have to go very far. On the Level 4 Landing, overlooking the DMA Cafe, I came across Images of Mexico (Imágenes de México) by Jesús Guerrero Galván. Not only did it contain three figures, but each figure seemed to capture each of my dogs’ traits. The figure in the middle with the piercing eyes had the unmistakable stare of my moody dog, Nene. The figure on the left seemed younger and sweeter, asleep and cuddling up to the older sibling, spot on for my loveable, cuddly Fidel. And the figure at right, lying slightly adrift, illustrated the slight rift between the dogs who’ve grown up together and the newbie, Cappuccino.

george chloe
DMA Staffer: 
Amanda Blake, Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences and Interim Director of Education, and Kimberly Daniell, Senior Manager of Communications, Public Affairs, and Social Media Strategy
DMA Pet: George Costanza (age 9) and Chloe (age 10), West Highland White Terriers
Portrait Inspiration: Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Mexican Adam & Eve (Adam y Eve Mexicanos), 1933
George and Chloe enjoyed teaming up so much for last year’s blog that they just had to do it again in 2016. Chloe desperately wants to be best friends with George, but becomes a bit shy when he is around because he is such an Insta celebrity. In order to get her out of her bubble and bring these two westies closer together, we decided making them the original couple would help them take their friendship to the next level—could it be puppy love? Both pups enjoyed re-creating this beautiful, large painting by Alfredo Ramos Martinez, and they can’t wait for next year’s art date.

Jessi red hat
DMA Staffer:
Jessie Frazier, Manager of Adult Programming
DMA Pet: Jenny, Basset Hound, age 5 1/2
Portrait Inspiration: Frank Duveneck, Lady with a Red Hat (Portrait of Maggie Wilson), c. 1904
This is one of my favorite paintings in the collection, and I thought it was only fitting for one graceful lady to emulate another. Jenny agreed that, like Ms. Maggie Wilson, her delicate features are best captured in profile.

T43118, 3/31/05, 12:37 PM, 8C, 5518x7554 (216+420), 100%, Repro 1.8 v2, 1/8 s, R68.5, G54.1, B79.0

DMA Staffer: Rebekah Boyer, Assistant Manager, DMA Member Groups
DMA Pet: Stokely Carmichael, Domestic Housecat, suspected Panther, age 4
Portrait Inspiration: Eugène Delacroix, Portrait of a Woman in a Blue Turban, c. 1827
This painting by Eugène Delacroix always catches my eye when I browse our European collection. The model is dressed with studio props intended to persuade the viewer that she is a mysterious and “exotic” foreigner; her “otherization” is further solidified by the use of familiar conventions of Renaissance portraiture. Not only does this send me down memory lane to my undergraduate infatuation with Edward Said but the contemplation of this “Orientalism” piques my interest in the model herself. Was she complicit in this “imperialist oppression,” or was she merely seeking gainful employment to alter her material conditions? I think Stokely’s faraway gaze mirrors and reveals the original work’s secrets: He is ready to help, as long as there is a tuna-laden reward awaiting him.

pollock, 7/10/08, 12:29 PM, 8C, 4086x8892 (1584+108), 112%, chrome 7 stops, 1/8 s, R55.4, G34.4, B47.8

DMA Staffer: Chelsea Pierce, Curatorial Administrative Assistant, Contemporary Art
DMA Pet: Helios, Great Pyrenees mix, age 6
Portrait Inspiration: Jackson Pollock, Portrait and a Dream, 1953
Helios is a sensitive dog with many artistic qualities. Most days, he lounges in his armchair as he waits for his mom to return home. Above this chair is a work on paper—made by a DMA colleague—that resembles the black entangled mass in Jackson Pollock’s Portrait and a Dream. After catching Helios curiously examining this work, the idea presented itself to use his precious face as the portrait side of Pollock’s work. Having worked on the current Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots exhibition for over a year, I can say that Pollock has now become ingrained in every aspect of my life.

2008_43_2_a_e, 11/18/08, 12:33 PM, 8C, 6000x8000 (0+0), 100%, Custom, 1/15 s, R92.9, G57.6, B60.4

DMA Staffer: Andrea Severin Goins, Interpretation Manager
DMA Pet: Artemisia Gentileschi (“Artie”), Malshi (Maltese-Shihtzu), age 6
Portrait Inspiration: Marcel Dzama, The Minotaur, 2008
While Artie is named after a 17th-century painter, her favorite kind of art is contemporary. She is particularly drawn to this Dzama sculpture because, like the Minotaur—a hybrid of man and goat—Artie is herself a hybrid (of Maltese and Shihtzu).

lindsay dorothy
DMA Staffer: 
Lindsay O’Connor, Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs
DMA Pet: Hattie, Dachshund-Terrier mix, age 1
Portrait Inspiration: John Singer Sargent, Dorothy, 1900
Little Miss Dorothy was the natural choice for feisty one-year-old Hattie’s first Dress Up Your Pet Day. While this energetic pup enjoys getting cuddles or tearing around the dog park, Hattie patiently sat for her turn-of-the-century portrait and met the camera with poise beyond her years. She enjoyed chewing on the bonnet when we wrapped up.

Not DMA Photography

DMA Staffer: Dr. Anne R. Bromberg, The Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art
DMA Pet: Miss Suzl, Maine Coon, age 5
Portrait Inspiration: Thomas Sully, Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, 1843
Miss Suzl loves posing in her library home and we have a white Snow Leopard toy for her to pose next to as Cinderella and her cat. I named this piece Companion Animals: Miss Suzl and the White Pussy.

queta
DMA Staffer: Queta Moore Watson, Senior Editor
DMA Pet: Floyd, Tan and White Tabby, age 9 months
Portrait Inspiration: Léon Frédéric, Nature or Abundance (La Nature or Fécondité), 1897
This allegorical depiction of the unity and harmony of nature was painted by Belgian symbolist artist Léon Frédéric. The dual title, Nature or Abundance, is apt here as flora and fauna unite while surrounded by the abundance of the holidays. Perhaps even more apt, however, is the abundance of ornaments Floyd broke as he harmonized with nature.

(Images: Camille Pissarro, Self-Portrait, c. 1898, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.44; Jesús Guerrero Galván, Images of Mexico (Imágenes de México), 1950, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1951.102; Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Mexican Adam & Eve (Adam y Eve Mexicanos), 1933, oil on canvas, Lent by Private Collection, Dallas, TX; Frank Duveneck, Lady with a Red Hat (Portrait of Maggie Wilson), c. 1904, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation, 1987.368; Eugène Delacroix, Portrait of a Woman in a Blue Turban, c. 1827, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., in honor of Patricia McBride, 2005.34.McD;  Jackson Pollock, Portrait and a Dream, 1953, oil and enamel on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, 1967.8, © 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Marcel Dzama, The Minotaur, 2008, plaster, gauze, rope, fabric, chair, bucket, and paintbrushes, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2008.43.2.a-e, © Marcel Dzama; John Singer Sargent, Dorothy, 1900, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc., 1982.35; Thomas Sully, Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, 1843, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation, 2005.1; Léon Frédéric, Nature or Abundance (La Nature or Fécondité), 1897, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 2007.18.FA

Kimberly Daniell is the Senior Manager of Communications, Public Affairs, and Social Media Strategy, and Julie Henley is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.

DMA’s Cinderella Inspires New Show

In honor of Thomas Sully’s birthday on June 19, we sat down with William Keyse Rudolph, the DMA’s former Associate Curator of American Art. Now the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Dudley J. Godfrey, Jr. Curator of American Art and Decorative Arts, William is currently organizing a retrospective exhibition of the artist. Sully (1783–1872) was born into a theatrical family in England but made a career in America, capturing in paint many of the leading actors and actresses of the time. The exhibition will feature many of these portraits as well as his “fancy pictures”–paintings made for mass appeal, with literary, artistic, and/or imaginary subjects. While at the DMA, William acquired Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire for the collection; the painting will be featured in the traveling exhibition and accompanying catalogue.

Thomas Sully, Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, 1843, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation

Thomas Sully, Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, 1843, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation

1. You were quoted in Art and Antiques magazine as saying that the DMA’s Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire took your breath away the first time you saw it. Why is this? Why do you consider this work Sully’s “finest fancy picture”?

For one thing, the picture is bigger than you expect. It’s nearly four feet by five feet. It was hanging on the wall of an art dealer’s office, surrounded by books, clutter, papers–and it just jumped out at me, even with all that distraction. It’s a beautifully painted, delicate picture, full of all sorts of grays and pinks that never reproduce well, but that are knock-out in person. And to be honest, it has this great big wonderful orange and white cat frolicking with Cinderella almost right at front and center. At that time, I had an orange and white cat, so the die was cast. I had to love it! And to be fair, former DMA director Jack Lane’s first words upon seeing an image of the painting were “Look at that cat!” He’s a cat person, too. We were also very fortunate that Mrs. Pauline Gill Sullivan, who had been a great benefactor of the DMA, saw the painting when we brought it to the Museum on approval and very graciously agreed to fund its acquisition. Besides having her own fine collection of European and American art, Mrs. Sullivan had a wonderful track record of making acquisitions available to the Museum, such as the commanding 18th-century portrait by Ralph Earl and a really dreamy late 19th-century Frank Duveneck painting of a woman in a red hat, so I was grateful that she responded so well to a big fairytale scene, which was out of her comfort zone in terms of the artist, size, and subject matter.

2. Did you have an interest in Sully and his paintings prior to this acquisition?

Yes. I had lived, worked, and gone to graduate school in Philadelphia for ten years before coming to the DMA, so I was well aware of Sully. He is so closely linked with the city of Philadelphia, where he worked for about sixty years, that it is almost impossible to spend time in Philly and not run into his work in virtually every cultural institution, from museums to libraries and hospitals.

3. How does it make you feel knowing that a key acquisition you made while working at the DMA will now be featured in Milwaukee’s exhibition and catalogue? Was it difficult to leave Cinderella behind?

I am, of course, thrilled! Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire actually gave birth to the show. After I acquired the work, my colleague Carol Eaton Soltis (a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and I began to talk about why this work was so interesting, which led to us proposing a show at the DMA that examined Sully’s total career: portraits as well as fancy pictures like this one. That show, which we began working on in 2005, was originally scheduled for 2009-2010 but ultimately didn’t happen due to timing and other issues. So we are really happy that years later the idea for the show was able to travel with me to Milwaukee and can now finally be seen here and then at the San Antonio Museum of Art. And yes, it was very difficult to leave Cinderella behind. You never, ever forget your first acquisition, and she was mine. I have missed her every day since I left the DMA, and I’m ridiculously excited to have her back with me for a brief time. If you ask gallery attendants at the DMA who remember me, they will tell you I used to go talk to her in the galleries. So my team here has been warned about that! I will probably burst into tears when she comes out of her crate and I see her again.

4. Since Sully also specialized in portraiture, is there any evidence that the figure of Cinderella was based on a real person?

Carol Soltis and I are convinced that the model for Sully was his daughter Rosalie, who posed for many of his works, several of which will also be in the show. She was a very talented painter herself, who died young.

5. Cinderella was painted when Sully was 60 years old. In your opinion, did it bring him the success and attention he hoped for in his later years? Did it help him attract new clients?

Yes and no. Sully hoped to sell the painting much faster than he did. He exhibited it several times in the Northeast and it was made into an engraving, but it took a few years to actually sell to a collector. One of the fascinating stories of this exhibition is how the fancy pictures like Cinderella functioned for Sully as a way to try to counteract the effects of economic crises on the portraiture market. Works like Cinderella were attempts to keep himself in front of the public, which he hoped would both result in sales of the subject pictures and remind clients that he could still turn it on when he wanted to.

6. A later version of Cinderella was (at least at one time) in the collection of Thomas Sully, Jr., of Naples, Florida. Is he a descendant of the painter? Did you ever track down this painting and will it be part of the exhibition and/or catalogue?

He is a descendant. I’ve seen an old reproduction of this picture, and I actually suspect it was the work of one of Sully’s grown children, whom he trained as artists. For that reason, I’ve never really worried about tracing it, as the DMA has the best one. What I’d be curious to see someday is another version of Cinderella done later that apparently shows her with the fairy godmother, but that one is completely obscure and only listed in Sully’s register. If anyone knows where it is, I would love to see it!

7. Do you know yet which works in the exhibition will be installed near the DMA’s Cinderella?

I don’t know exactly where the painting will go in the gallery, but it will be part of a section devoted to Sully’s fancy pictures. So she will live near an amazing picture of Little Nell Asleep in the Curiosity Shop from the Free Library of Philadelphia, which is based on Charles Dickens; and a gigantic, dramatic painting based on a scene from the early American novel The Pilot by James Fenimore Cooper that we’re borrowing from the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama. All three of them will be stunning together, and all were painted around the same time.

Thomas Sully: Painted Performance will be on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum October 11, 2013-January 5, 2014, and then at the San Antonio Museum of Art February 7-May 11, 2014. I hope some of the DMA’s visitors who love this painting will come see the show in one of these places to help celebrate this important painter and this really beautiful picture that the DMA family has been so quick to adopt as a favorite. And thank you to Sue Canterbury, Maxwell L.  Anderson, and all the DMA family for making her available for loan.

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


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