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Year: 2017

A “Stellar” Show of Prints by Frank Stella!

Rarely do citizens of a city the size of Montgomery have an opportunity to see a retrospective exhibition of a great living artist here at home. Frank Stella Prints: A Retrospective from the Collections of Jordan Schnitzer and his Family Foundation, is one of those rare occasions, with 84 works on paper (some of which are extremely large) that are on view at the MMFA through October 29.

 

For over 50 years, American artist Frank Stella (born 1936) has created a significant body of abstract paintings, reliefs, sculptures, drawings, and prints. Frank Stella Prints illustrates the artist’s remarkable career as a printmaker and shows how his highly experimental endeavors have redefined printmaking. Stella’s three decades of collaboration with master printmaker Ken Tyler, first at Gemini GEL and then at Tyler Graphics, set the standard for contemporary printmaking during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Together, the two men pioneered new techniques to produce unorthodox blends of relief, intaglio, lithography, and screen-printing, as well as hand-painted monoprints. Through it all, Stella’s style evolved from the minimalist geometric abstraction of his early years to the baroque exuberance of his later gestural work.

 

Jordan D. Schnitzer. Courtesy of Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.

It’s all on view at the MMFA thanks to the generosity of Jordan Schnitzer, a philanthropist in Portland, Oregon, whose collection of 15,000 (yes, fifteen thousand) contemporary works on paper—a veritable lending library of art—is the source of this exhibition as well as the Andy Warhol exhibition at the High Museum in Atlanta that closes on Sunday, September 10. Both exhibitions have toured the country courtesy of the generous Jordan Schnitzer, bringing world-class modern art to cities large and small.

 

Frank Stella Prints premiered at the Madison (WI) Museum of Contemporary Art, where Dr. Richard H. Axsom, Curator Emeritus, organized the show and authored the hefty catalogue raisonné of Stella’s prints, which is available for purchase in the MMFA store. The exhibition then went to the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Stella’s alma mater. At the Addison, Stella, Tyler, Axsom, and Schnitzer participated in an insightful panel discussion that addresses the renowned artist’s collaboration with the master printmaker and his atelier, as well as the insights of the curator and collector. Thanks to the Addison, that wide-ranging conversation is as close as your phone, computer, or digital assistant – just click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFbFnSHuFHA&feature=youtu.be.

 

Thanks to Jordan Schnitzer and local exhibition sponsors Laura and Barrie Harmon, Melissa and Frank Wilson, Ann Hubbert, Dr. Maria Wohlman and John Crews, Frank Stella Prints is as close as the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a rare opportunity to see a retrospective exhibition of a great living artist right here at home. Don’t miss it.

 

 

Michael W. Panhorst, Ph.D.

Curator of Art

 

Start Your Fall Season off at the MMFA

Jazz music featuring local talent, arts and crafts, and a reception celebrating one of the most influential and important contemporary American Artists are just a few of the events visitors can expect this month.  As the seasons change we encourage you to take a moment to check out the artwork in our galleries and enjoy the activities created with you in mind. View the September calendar now.

First Sundays
Sunday, September 3, 1 P.M.

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is the perfect place to spend quality time with your family. Please take advantage of this free one-hour docent-led tour of the Museum’s temporary or permanent collection.

 

 

 

Young Artists  (ages 3 to 5 with adult caregiver)
Tuesday, September 12, 3:45 P.M.

In this introductory class, preschoolers will learn about the basic elements of art through looking at and creating a variety of artworks. The instructor will base the projects on work on display in our permanent and temporary galleries.

All About Prints Homeschool Workshop
Thursdays, September 14, 21, and 28, at 1 P.M.

Who says homeschool students cannot make lots of new friends? Homeschoolers of all ages will be able to come together and make life-long friendships in this three-part workshop where all are encouraged to apply.

Family Art Affair and Jazz Jams
Sunday, September 24, at 2 P.M.

Round up your family and head out to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts as we host an afternoon full of creativity and jazz.

Frank Stella Prints: A Retrospective from the Collection of Jordan Schnizter and His Family Foundation
Thursday, September 21, at 5:30 P.M.

Come join us at the Frank Stella Prints: A Retrospective from the Collection of Jordan Schnitzer and His Family Foundation exhibition opening reception. Stella has created a beautiful body of abstract art comprised of paintings, reliefs, sculptures, drawings, and prints. Frank Stella Prints: A Retrospective from the Collection of Jordan Schnitzer and His Family details the artist’s amazing career as a printmaker. This is the artist’s first major print retrospective since 1982 and you do not want to miss out on the life-size creations.

Meet the New Faces of MMFA Education!

The Museum Education Department has welcomed four new team members in 2017. We have quickly become close colleagues and friends; it’s hard to believe they are so new to the Museum staff. I hope you will take the time to get to know the talented individuals who have recently joined fellow Educators Brandy Morrison, Meg Hall, Jill Byrd, and myself.

 

From left to right: Kaci Norman, Elisabeth Palmer, Laura Bocquin, and Kelly Bazan.

 

Kelly Bazan, ARTWORKS Educator

What is your favorite thing about your role at the Museum?

“I am able introduce art to children one-on-one.  They think of it as play, and I construct their play so it’s about learning – it’s all about that moment of seeing them understand.”

 

Does being a parent of a young child inform your practice?

“My preschooler has always loved coming to ARTWORKS to dance in front of the Tannenbaum Screen, race cars, and put on puppet shows.  It is rewarding to watch all young members of our community have that opportunity and to see them return to the Museum as adults.”

 

What do you enjoy most about the field of Museum Education?

“I enjoy getting to bring my ideas and talents to a team that is dedicated to educating all ages.”

 

 

Laura Bocquin, Outreach Coordinator

 

What a does a new school year mean to you?

“We are back in session with the 3rd and 4th graders at Wares Ferry and the adjudicated high school students at Mt. Meigs (DYS). When I meet new students, I am newly inspired.  I love the chance to help enrich Montgomery beyond the walls of the Museum through weekly classes at both locations, connecting them to the arts and this great establishment. “

 

You did a lot of teaching with the Museum before joining us full time.  What led you here?

“I am driven to share the joy of art and started working in art education in my late teens.  In college, while I was student teaching, a great art educator recommended me to MMFA where I taught a children’s drawing class.  Ever since the Museum has been a home for me.”

 

 

 

Elisabeth Palmer, Assistant Curator of Education, Docent and Adult Programs

 

Docents are the ambassadors of the Museum. What are you working on together?

“I am excited about getting to know the collection with the new docents and the excursions the docent council has planned – first stop an exhibition about the Museum of Wonder.  I also look forward to supporting docents leading the new 5th grade tour program Becoming Alabama.”

 

What inspires you in your work? 

“With all that we offer for visitors of all ages, I feel I’ve arrived at a feast and look forward to extending it to the sculpture garden.  I have been planning programs for Uncommon Territory (opening November) and can’t wait to introduce our audiences to what’s happening in contemporary art in Alabama.”

 

 

Kaci Norman, Assistant Curator of Education Youth and Family Programs

 

Why did you choose the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts?

“To work at the MMFA was on my career bucket list.  The reputation of the Museum attracted me here, and its commitment to Education and the community make me want to stay.”

 

Have you been faced with any rewarding challenges since you have been at the Museum?

“One of my challenges was to develop a tour of Alabama History as told through our collection – in celebration of our bicentennial.  I am excited to see the docents inspired by a new perspective on the narrative power of art and look forward to seeing the 5th graders’ response.”

 

What are you looking forward to now?

“Since I arrived, I have been excited about opportunities to expand school programs and the chance to teach children in the studios as they become more comfortable with self-expression.”

 

 

What a joy to work with each of these individuals.  We are looking forward to a new and exciting year with you at the Museum.

-Alice Novak, Curator of Education

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ending Summer Vacation at the MMFA

Dinosaurs at the Museum, cool tours, and a romantic comedy are just a few of the upcoming artful attractions you can check out at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts this month. Take time out and use the MMFA events in August calendar as your guide to finishing the summer with a bang!

 

Film at the Museum: Night at the Museum

Wednesday, August 2, at 1 P.M.

Kids and adults alike have enjoyed this film since its release. For the first time, we invite families to view Night at the Museum at the MMFA! If you haven’t seen this movie starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, and a cast of familiar characters who reside in the Museum of Natural History, you won’t want to miss this opportunity.

 Last Call

Thursday, August 3, at 5:30 P.M.

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Junior Executive Board invites you to Last Call in conjunction with the 42nd MAG Montgomery Art Guild Museum exhibition. Enjoy food provided by Montgomery’s newest restaurant, Taste, and drinks provided by Opelika’s Red Clay Brewing Company, at the event.

 First Sundays and Third Saturdays

Sunday, August 6 at 1 P.M. and Saturday, August 19, at 1 P.M.

Come and take an afternoon stroll through the MMFA galleries. During these one-hour docent-led tours, you can learn about the works of art on view at the Museum. For more information, please call 334.240.4333.

 Film at the Museum: How to Steal a Million 

Thursday, August 17, at 5:30 P.M.  

Join us for the classic Audrey Hepburn film How to Steal a Million. The Museum will provide complimentary popcorn, and beverages will be available for purchase.

Celebration for 1917-2017: A Century of U.S. Airpower and Sketching the Skies exhibitions in conjunction with Military Open House 

Thursday, August 24, at 5:30 P.M.  

All active-duty military veterans and their immediate families are invited to join us for a FREE evening of family fun as we celebrate both exhibitions.

World Watercolor Month Project

July has been World Watercolor Month, so we wanted to share a step-by-step project that is easy to follow and fun to do! This project has only seven steps and was inspired by Frederick Warren Freer’s Boat on the Beach, a watercolor painting from 1892 that is a beautiful addition to the Museum’s collection of Freer’s artwork.  Anyone unfamiliar with basic watercolor techniques can find reference to those used in this project (Dark to Light/Feathering, Wet on Dry, and Wet on Wet) at the very end of this post.

We hope you enjoy creating your own watercolor painting, and please post your projects on Facebook and tag us with #MMFAWorldWatercolorMonth @MontgomeryMFA!

 

Materials needed:

Two sheets of heavy paper/watercolor paper, piece of cardboard larger than paper, blue painter’s tape, scissors, glue, pencil, eraser, ultra-fine Sharpie marker, watercolor paints, watercolor paint brush, cup of water, and paper towel.

 

Before you begin painting, firmly tape down one sheet of paper to the cardboard by stretching the blue tape along each edge. This is important to keep the paper from buckling (wrinkling with the weight of the water) too much. It also creates a nice, clean border on the finished product, so keep in mind how wide of a white edge you want (tape in further for a wider border).

 

Step 1. Create the Sky

Begin painting the sky using the Wet on Wet technique. Paint clean water onto your paper, to about halfway down the sheet. Then get the desired amount of blue pigment on your brush and quickly paint this into the dampened paper. The color will rapidly spread in uneven amounts, but we are trying for a cloudy sky so this is good! If you like, swirl the paintbrush around to create fluffy textures.

 

Step 2. Create Horizon

Next, create the initial horizon line and base for the ocean water using a Feathering technique. Begin with a damp brush saturated in blue paint, and make a horizontal brushstroke across the center of the paper. Gently dip the brush in the water to wash away some of the paint, then paint the next line underneath but touching the first. The color should become lighter and lighter with each new brushstroke. Continue feathering for a few strokes, but make sure to leave room for the beach!

 

Step 3. Create your Sandy Beach

Before beginning the beach, thoroughly rinse the paintbrush. Paint the sand in below the ocean all the way to the bottom edge of the paper, using the same Wet on Wet technique used to paint the sky—just with yellow paint this time. You can lightly add in brown to create a more realistic sand color.

 

Step 4. Finish your Horizon

If desired, you may add some darker blue to the horizon line now to strengthen it visually, and paint in some wavy lines of blue to better distinguish waves in the ocean. After the background looks how you want, set it aside to dry.

Step 5. Draw a Boat

 

Next, draw the little boat on the new sheet of paper. Using simple lines, create the body of the boat, beginning with a pointed arch, and then add the rest to signify its shape. This is designed to be a sketch, not a perfect drawing, so do not stress too much about making it look like a real boat! Outline the drawing with the Sharpie, then erase away the pencil marks.

Step 6. Paint the Boat

 

Using a Wet on Dry technique, paint the boat as you like! Dampen the paintbrush and get the desired amount of pigment on it, then paint in the various sections of the boat. To create some visual depth, focus on painting the walls of the boat the darkest, the floor of the boat a little lighter, and the edges and seats the lightest.

Step 7. Finish Your Watercolor!

 

When your boat is dry, carefully cut it out with the scissors. When the background is dry, carefully remove the blue tape strips by gently peeling each piece back and away from the paper (pulling straight up quickly can cause the paper to rip). After all of the tape is removed, decide where on the beach to place the boat, add a little glue, and stick it down. Congratulations, your picture is complete!

 

If you do not want to draw a boat, you can leave the scene void of objects, or add anything you want. One variation may be a beach ball! Simply trace a circle and paint it however you desire.

 

That’s it! We hope you enjoyed creating your own watercolor painting, and please post your projects on Facebook and tag us with #MMFAWorldWatercolorMonth @MontgomeryMFA!

 

Basic Watercolor Techniques

Light to Dark/”Feathering”: Feathering simply means the paint color is washed out more with each connecting brush stroke. After wetting the paintbrush and getting the desired amount of pigment, make an initial stroke (in this case horizontally) across the paper. Dip the brush back into the water, slightly rinsing away some color and making it a lighter pigment, then paint the next brushstroke below but touching the first line. Repeat this step down the paper to carry out the feathering. It is important to let each new line gently overlap, as this is what creates the cohesive lightening of the paint.

 

 

 

 

Wet on Dry and Wet on Wet: Each of these techniques are exactly what their titles describe. Wet on Dry means to dampen the paintbrush and get the desired amount of pigment on it then paint directly on to dry paper. This technique is good for when you want more control over the paint—for example, to paint in an object or make a specific shape. Wet on Wet is the exact opposite. Wet the paper with clean water first, paint on desired pigment, and watch the color quickly spread!

MMFA Director Retires After 23 Years

The Board of Trustees of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and Mark M. Johnson, Director of the Museum, announce his retirement effective August 15, 2017. Johnson served for 23 years, by far the longest tenure of any director in the Museum’s history.

Johnson is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and received a BA in art history/studio art from the University of Wisconsin, and an MA in art history/museum studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. He then joined the staff of the education department at the Art Institute of Chicago, and later worked as a curator of art history at the Cleveland Museum of Art, before accepting the position of Assistant Director at the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Subsequently, he was named Director of the Muscarelle Museum at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.  He joined the staff of the MMFA as Director in August of 1994.

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is Alabama’s first art museum, founded in 1930. It is nationally recognized for its collections of American art, Old Master Prints, and regional works from the American South.

During Johnson’s tenure, the museum welcomed over 3 million visitors and acquired 1,700 works of art. Among the notable acquisitions were paintings by American masters including George Inness (1825–1894), Mary Cassatt (1844­–1926), Max Weber (1881­­–­1961), and Thomas Hart Benton (1889­–1975). He inaugurated the collection of American Studio Art Glass that now numbers more than 50 works. He also oversaw the growth of the Museum’s Old Master Print Collection and an expansion of the collection into traditional African art. The Museum undertook three major renovation or expansion projects during his tenure: the creation of the Weil Graphic Arts Study Center in honor of Adolph “Bucks” Weil Jr. in 1998, and the expansion of the education wing/ARTWORKS gallery and creation of the Margaret Berry Lowder Gallery in 2006. In 2014, the Museum broke ground for a sculpture garden presently under construction on the eastern side of the Museum.

At a meeting of the Board of Trustees held June 27, 2017, the Board acknowledged Johnson’s long tenure and accomplishments, and accorded him the honorary title, Director Emeritus.

At a subsequent meeting on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, the Board announced the appointment of Edwin C. Bridges, Ph.D., as the Interim Director of the Museum. Dr. Bridges is the former Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, serving in that position from 1982 until his retirement in 2012. He has agreed to serve as Interim Director while the Museum’s Board of Trustees conducts a national search for a permanent director of the Museum.

Since his retirement, Dr. Bridges has continued to be involved in historical research and has completed a new general history of Alabama entitled Alabama: The Making of an American State, published in 2016 by the University of Alabama Press.  He has also been actively involved as a volunteer working for Alabama’s upcoming Bicentennial. Dr. Bridges comes to the Museum after a tremendous career as the well-respected director of one of Alabama’s most important historical organizations, and will be acting to insure a continuation of the Museum’s mission as well as a smooth transition for new leadership in the future.

 

 

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Photograph of Ed Bridges courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Creativity and Imagination: 2017 MMFA Summer Art Camp

During the almost ten years I have worked in museum education, I have seen my share of summer art camps. Every year summer arrives with a little trepidation about the preparation, registration, and arrival of young artists excited about getting their hands—and inevitably their clothes—messy. At the MMFA, summer camps have been a well-oiled machine for years, and I was so glad for that coming in as a newcomer in January.

This summer, we had two art camps: a youth camp and our first ever art camp for teens ages 13-18. Although the teen group was small, they were dedicated and engaged throughout the week learning about alternative photography techniques and creating both individual artworks and group installation pieces. Following our successful teen camp were three youth camps that each week focused on a different theme: portraits, still-life, and landscapes. Having such a quality camp roster is due no doubt to the high caliber instructors that teach each session, all current and active in the art education field in Montgomery. The teachers were Amanda Ingram, Sarah Gill, Sara Woodard (featured above), Donna Pickens, and Sarah Struby,  and we were lucky to have them share their expertise and creative spirit with us.

 

The campers ranged in age from 6-13 and had a wide variety of interests and levels of exposure to art at the beginning of the camp. Campers experienced painting, printmaking, ceramics, mixed media and sculpture to just to name a few media as well as spending time in the galleries looking and discussing the art in the Museum’s collection. Within each medium campers learned about tone and shading, perspective, color, form and other basic elements of art. Each week ended with a student art show where the campers hosted a reception and exhibition of their work for their families. Families were delighted to see a variety of projects  ranging from Wayne Thiebaud inspired ceramic cupcakes to still-life works painted from real live cacti and sculptures made from paper clay exemplifying their children’s grown-up aspirations. The artworks that were created during all of our summer camps not only exemplified our campers’ creativity and imagination but also the level of learning and enrichment that happened throughout the week.

 

 

So as the last week of camp begins, the slight apprehension I felt before my first MMFA camp has been replaced with both a renewed enthusiasm for museum education and pride for art education at the MMFA.  As elementary schools lose art programs throughout the region it is imperative that organizations like the MMFA continue to offer these invaluable classes, camps, tours, and programs for visitors of all ages.  Art camp is only one of the many opportunities for children in the area to experience the visual arts both in the gallery and in the studio setting. Learning to look and discuss art is as important as getting to create art, and for those who participated in this year’s summer art camp they definitely got their fill of both.

 

Kaci Norman
Assistant Curator of Education, Youth, Family, and Studio Programs

“Volunteer Voices” Part II

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts has lots of wonderful volunteers and docents who donate countless hours to a variety of programs year in and year out.  In the first “Volunteer Voices” blog post, volunteers and docents answered the question  “What drew you to the museum to share your time and energy?” We received so many wonderful answers, we decided to continue the blog posts and create a series. This second installment of “Volunteer Voices” is dedicated to the question  “Do you have a favorite or most rewarding moment with visitors of the museum?”

Take a look at some of the responses from Docents and Volunteers below on their favorite or most rewarding moments at the MMFA, and leave some of your own in the comments!

 

“When the Uribe exhibit was here recently, I captured several people and took them to see the exhibit.  They thanked me profusely.  The same is true for other exhibits.”  Frances Durr, Docent

 

“Several years ago I was giving a gallery tour to a 1st grade class and right before they were to leave the entire class gave me hugs!!!” George Jacobsen, Docent (featured right)

 

“I have had lots of great conversations with visitors about lots of different exhibits.”  Meili Wang, First Impressions Desk

 

“I enjoy seeing children learn.” Penny Thompson, Docent

 

“The kindergarteners’ insightful observations, seeing the excitement as they explore a piece of art for the first time.” Frank Gitschier, Docent, After a Cakewalk gallery tour (featured right)

 

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping visitors that come into the museum.  If I can provide information that enhances their visit I have done my job.”  George Childress, First Impressions Desk

 

“Any time a kid walks into the museum.” Liz Land, Docent (featured below)

 

“I like it all. The best part of volunteering for the museum is working with staff and other volunteers to help the patrons have a good experience when they visit.”  Luigi Edwards, Special Events Volunteer

 

 

 

We look forward to your stories and the next installment of “Volunteer Voices” very soon!

Meg Hall
Volunteer Coordinator

Beat the Summer Heat With Cool Activities at the MMFA

During the month of July, we offer new exhibitions and programs that provide you with numerous opportunities to celebrate and learn about art here at the MMFA. Take a look at the guide below of summer events being offered around the Museum, and we hope to see you soon!

First Sundays and Third Saturdays

Sunday, July 2, 1 P.M. and Saturday, July 15, 1 P.M.

Come and take an afternoon stroll through the MMFA galleries. During these one-hour docent-led tours, you can learn about the works of art on view at the Museum.  For more information, please call 334.240.4333.

Summer Art Camp

July 10 through 14 and July 24 through 28

The MMFA is offering its final two youth summer camps for the year. Both will focus on the elements of art and promise to be fun and engaging, and participants will leave with an armful of their own artworks created in the studio.

 

Ekphrasis: A Monthly Book Club About Art (Open Meeting)

Wednesday, July 19, at 12 noon

The featured book of the month of July is War and Turpentine: A Novel. Curator of Education Alice Novak will lead the presentation and provide visual context for the chosen book. Lunch will be provided at a cost of $10. To reserve lunch from Café M, call 334.240.4365, or email edsecy@mmfa.org.

 

Tales for Tots

Wednesday, July 19, at 10 A.M. (for childcare groups) or 10:30 or 11 A.M. (for children with an adult caregiver)

This FREE monthly program (designed for children ages 2 to 5 with adult companions) helps develop early learning about elements of art through storytelling and a simple craft activity related to art that is on display in the galleries. Each session is limited to 25 children on a first come, first serve basis.

Also during this month, daycare groups and other childcare organizations are invited to the Museum for a story and craft in our galleries. Reservations for the group session must be made by Wednesday, June 21. Adult chaperones must be present and encouraged to participate with their group.

 

DiVine Lunch

Thursday, July 20, 11 A.M. to 2 P.M.

Please join us for DiVine Lunch Thursday, July 20, 11 A.M. to 2 P.M. in Café M. United- Johnson Brothers, LLC. will be pairing wines specifically for the menu created by the chefs at Café M. This special menu will highlight the seasonal fare. Lunch is offered for $20 per person (plus tax and gratuity), and additional glasses of wine may be purchased for $8.

Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 334.240.4399. Also, stop by the Museum Store between 12 noon and 2 P.M. to see Artist in Action Queen Opulence at work. Along with meeting the featured artist, you will have the opportunity to purchase some of her work.

 

Four “True” Rodin sculptures on view in Rodin: Realism, Fragments, and Abstraction at MMFA through January 7, 2018

When the art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866–1939) asked Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) how to distinguish a false from a true Rodin, the sculptor replied: “Only I can do so. It’s quite simple. A true Rodin is one that has been cast with my consent; the false is done without my knowledge.”

Rodin’s statement is true, but it is not as simple as it seems—at least relative to the determination of the authenticity of his casts today. First, he has been dead for a century, so he certainly is not able to speak now about the authenticity of any particular cast. Moreover, he knew that there were illegitimate casts made during his lifetime and illegitimate casts have been made since his death. Moreover, Rodin complicated matters in 1916 when he willed to the French state his studio full of sculptures and models along with the authorization to make posthumous casts in return for France assuming stewardship of his studio and collection in perpetuity as a public museum. In short, he knew that the Musée Rodin would make posthumous casts of his sculptures; therefore, those too would be “true” Rodin sculptures.

Four of these “true” Rodins are on display in the small exhibition, Rodin: Realism, Fragments, and Abstraction. Jean de Finnes, The Three Shades, and The Gates of Hell, Third Maquette are on loan from Iris Cantor, who with her husband B. Gerald Cantor built the third largest collection of Rodin sculpture in the world (only surpassed by the Musée Rodin in Paris and the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia) and gave most of it to Stanford University. The Head of Jean d’Aire is from the MMFA collection.

The monumental figure of Jean de Finnes and the full-scale Head of Jean d’Aire are both from Rodin’s renowned Burghers of Calais (1884–1889), an innovative memorial to heroes who volunteered their lives to lift the siege of their town during the Hundred Years War (1337–1453). They illustrate Rodin’s distinctive approach to realism, which included a tendency to abstract features like hands and feet for expressive effect.

The Three Shades and the maquette, or study, for The Gates of Hell (1880­–­1917) are two out of scores of individual sculptures associated with the artist’s commission for the entrance portal of a decorative arts museum that was never built. Although Rodin knew that the commission was canceled, he continued to work on the enormous sculptural composition based on the Divine Comedy (ca. 1308–1321) by Dante (ca. 1265–1321) throughout his life.

The Three Shades illustrates the master sculptor’s avant-garde style of fragmenting and reassembling sculptures in new compositions, often evolving their titles and meaning in the process. The Three Shades are three identical casts of a figure he originally titled Adam. Rodin decided to replicate the figure and group them as the finial element on the Gates. Close inspection reveals that each of the figures is missing its right hand, a conscious decision Rodin made for compositional reasons.

In addition to the four original Rodin sculptures, the exhibition includes several reproductions of photographs from the Musée Rodin that show the artist and his work in progress. Rodin used photography to record assemblages of sculptural components in compositions that he wanted to study, often drawing or making notes on the photographs.

Together, these photographic reproductions and these “true” Rodin posthumous bronzes give us a glimpse at the genius of the “Father of Modern Sculpture” who used realism, abstraction, and fragmentation in unprecedented ways to create art that continues to resonate with viewers around the world.

Michael W. Panhorst, Ph.D.
Curator

 

 

Image 1: Unknown photographer, Portrait of Rodin wearing a beret and a coat covered with plaster, 1880, Reproduction of albumin print, From the Collection of the Musée Rodin, Paris, Ph.00311

Image 2: Installation photograph of Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917), Jean de Fiennes (Clothed), modeled 1885-1886, Musée Rodin cast 2/8 in 1981, bronze, 82 x 48 x 38 inches. Lent by Iris Cantor.

Image 3: Auguste Rodin (French, 1840­–1917), The Three Shades, modeled 1880–1904, Musée Rodin cast 10 in 1981, bronze, 40 ¾ x 37 ½ x 20 ½ inches. Lent by Iris Cantor

 

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