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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

Open Today 10am-5pm


The Fall Edition of DiVine Lunch and Artist in Action

cafe.33Please join us for what promises to be a great afternoon of delectable food and beautiful art on Thursday, October 15,  with DiVine Lunch, 11 A.M. to 2 P.M. and Artist in Action, 12 noon to 2 P.M.

The menu for DiVine Lunch will start with a delicious Callaloo soup made of leafy greens typical of Caribbean dining accented with a southern twist of Ambrosia Salad. Our partnership with United Johnson Brothers, LLC., wine distributors continues and their suggestion of either a crisp Equilibrium white blend or a smooth Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay will pair perfectly with the soup and salad combo.

The second course continues the Latin American theme using cumin and paprika to spice up the tomato sauce covering a quinoa and lentil hash, which may be accompanied by your choice of Lamb Pops, Braised Grouper or Cheese and Bread Stuffed Mirliton Squash. The squash often referred to as Mirliton in Haitian or Creole cultures, is better known in the states by another moniker, the chayote. It is smaller in size and green in color. Depending upon your entrée choice, either the A to Z Pinot Noir (which received a 90-point rating from Wine Spectator) or the Cambria Chardonnay will enhance your dining experience.Café M

Last, but certainly not least, the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake uses spiced chocolate to create an interesting spin on a classic dessert. We are excited to be working with Goat Hill Roasters, an original coffee roasting company located in Montgomery, for the first time. The owners will bring their unique coffee blend to the Museum from their mobile store downtown.

Betty Carroll BlogMake sure to stop by the Museum Store to see Betty Carroll, our Artist in Action. She will be working on a fall lake scene with the vibrant colors of the changing foliage reflecting on the water’s surface. She has been a great addition to the Museum Store and her landscapes are always in high demand. So make sure to meet her as she brings fall colors to life as the Artist in Action.

Reservations are strongly recommended for DiVine Lunch; please call 334.240.4339 as soon as possible to insure a not-to-be-missed dining experience. The cost is $20 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Upcoming DiVine Lunch dates are Thursday, January 21 and Thursday, April 21, 2016.

Blake Rosen,
Special Events Coordinator


A Day in Historic Eufaula with the Collectors Society

EufaulaCollector'sSociety1On Thursday, October 1, the Collectors Society took a splendid excursion to Eufaula. Doug Purcell, Executive Director Emeritus of the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, led the tour of historic architecture and collections.

The day began at the neo-classical Shorter EufaulaCollector'sSociety#2Mansion (1884, renovated 1906) where Mayor Jack Tibbs warmly welcomed the group. Ann Hubbert, who has been a part of Collectors Society since its inception, remarked that going to Shorter Mansion was a highlight both for its beauty and remarkable history. She was also glad she ascended to the cupola at Fendall Hall in order to enjoy the view.

EufaulaCollector'sSociety#3The group enjoyed lunch on the porch of the Italianate-style Fendall Hall (1860). Afterwards the Collectors Society toured the notable murals in the house, which was built by the ancestors of Lucy Jackson, who was on the tour. The last residence, the Petry-Honan House (1868), is still in the hands of the family that bought it in the 1870’s and retains its original detached kitchen. The final stop was the Eufaula Athenaeum, which houses special collections related to Barbour County in a historic drug-store building (1850’s) located downtown.

EufaulaCollector'sSociety#4Jane Barganier articulated the impact of the day, “We went to a small town that is proud of their EufaulaCollector'sSociety#6history, and they are keeping it alive. I was reminded that the culture of small towns is just as important as that of major cities. We should all be proud of the communities in our state, such as Eufaula and Selma, that have worked so hard to preserve their heritage in their homes, buildings, and art and have so much to contribute in terms of interesting people, history, artists, and writers. The day was fun, it was interesting, and studying history is so terribly important. ”

The Collectors Society will hear from glass sculptor Beth Lipman next month, in conjunction with Once and Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman. The group is also looking forward to a visit to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta to see the exhibition Hapsburg Splendor, a luncheon lecture with the Chief Historian of the History Channel, and more. It is not too late to join for this year. If you would like to be part of the Collectors Society, please contact Alice Novak at 334-240-4362, or at

Alice Novak
Assistant Curator of Education




A Thomas Hart Benton for the MMFA

Benton.BlogThursday, May 21, 2015 marked a significant milestone in the history of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and its collection.  At around 10:30 that morning, the Museum purchased Ozark Autumn, 1949, by the Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975) for its American paintings collection. It is the first painting by one of the three major American Regionalist painters—Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood—to enter the collection.   Acquiring a painting by one of the artists from this particular school of American art was long considered an important goal for our MMFA collection because the Museum owns a significant number of works by Southern Regionalist painters who were contemporaries of Benton and the others. J. Kelly Fitzpatrick and his students formed a “mini-Regionalist” cohort here in the heart of Alabama, and these works were the foundation of the MMFA collection that began in 1930.
Benton.Blog.4Thomas Hart Benton was a controversial and influential character in both the art and social worlds in early and mid-twentieth century America.  After study and the practice of art in Paris and New York, Benton’s outspokenness, writings, and large-scale public mural projects made him a voice for national political and art issues in Depression-era America.  Early in his career he worked for a time as a modernist painter, but he eventually abandoned that style to pursue one rooted in traditional European art, creating murals with distinctly “American” themes that resonated with the public.  He is best known for his mural cycles such as America Today (now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), and his massive composition for the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. His association with Wood and Curry, along with a December 1934, Time magazine cover story about Benton’s work, allowed him to settle into his permanently defined role as a Regionalist painter. (Above: Registrar Pamela Bransford and MMFA Consulting Conservator Larry Shutts examine the Museum’s latest acquisition.)
The acquisition of this critical work was made possible only by the amazing legacy of Ida Belle Young, who bequeathed the Museum funds for the purchase of “traditional American art” upon her death in 2004. However having the resources for a purchase was only one factor in acquiring the appropriate work.  The staff made a concerted effort for more than seven years to locate “the right Benton” before Ozark Autumn became available.  This work possessed two attributes that were considered critical—as a larger scale work in oil and tempera it could be put on long-term view with our other important American paintings (unlike a work on paper which is subject to damage over time from exposure to light), and the subject was an agrarian one depicting a corn harvesting scene.  Since many of our Southern Regionalist works depict the rural South, it was important to us that our Benton reflect that same agrarian tradition.
And yet a second exciting day dawned on August 31, when we finally unveiled this outstanding work of art for our MMFA Board of Trustees. The event, held in the Museum’s Rotunda at 5:30 P.M., celebrated the support of the Board, the generosity of Ida Belle Young, and the City of Montgomery’s ongoing belief in our mission to the community.Benton.Blog.3  The painting was given a very warm and hearty welcome, accompanied by a toast to the memory of Ida Belle Young, whose gift in the form of the Ida Belle Young Art Acquisition Fund had made its acquisition possible.(Right: Acquisition Committee Chairman Winnie Stakely and MMFA President of the Board of Trustees Roger Spain unveil Ozark Autumn)
For any collecting museum the addition of a truly major work of art is a rare event, and one that contributes to the ongoing vitality of the institution.  It takes a concerted team effort to achieve the Museum’s mission “to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret art of the highest quality.” This acquisition of Ozark Autumn, and the many people that worked to get it to Montgomery, is a testament to what that mission statement is really all about.Benton.Blog.2

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Korean–Language Gallery Talk: Connecting to American History through Art

KoreanTalk.Blog.2On September 17, MMFA Docent Jiyeon Suh led a dynamic Korean-language gallery talk in the exhibition Journey Through the Collection: Docent Choices.  She focused on a section of the exhibition called Remembering the Past, which includes art that addresses American history from the Native American experience to the Civil Rights Movement.  I was lucky enough to be a participant and occasionally heard an English phrase such as “Manifest Destiny” or “flappers” which gave me a sense of the conversation.  At the end I asked Jiyeon, “Did you mention Kevin Costner?” and a few other questions . . .
“What is something about American history as represented in the exhibition that you find particularly interesting?”
Jiyeon: “At the beginning of the gallery talk, I introduced the idea that learning about the major conflicts that define American history helps to understand the social and cultural shifts in this country’s relatively brief history.  We looked at representations of the Civil War, First World War, and Second World War during the gallery talk.  Korean audiences can follow the timeline of American history easily because there are many close relationships to our national history.”   
“What connections to popular culture did you make in the galleries to help people understand the works of art?”
J: “While we were looking at a painting of Plains Indians beside a portrait of a Confederate Solider, I talked about Dances with Wolves, since native cultures and the Civil War are at the heart of the movie.  We also examined works from the 20s and 30s,  and I made connections to The Great Gatsby, which is very well-known in Korea, and a more recent Korean film, Assassination, which is set in 1933.”
“What is your message to your friends about enjoying the Museum?”
J: “The Museum is a wonderful gift to all of the families in Montgomery.  I love the people I meet at the Museum, connecting with my fellow volunteers, and the passion for art here!
With a Korean audience, I like to emphasize that by learning more about American art, history, literature, music, movies, and current issues we can better relate to our children and help them with everything they are studying in school.  It also gives us fun topics to discuss at home! “KoreanTalk.Blog
Many people are looking forward to hearing more from Jiyeon and her perspective on American culture in Journey Through the Collection very soon. 
– Alice Novak, Curator, with Jiyeon Suh

Military Open House Welcomed More Than 600

Military Open House Blog#1World War II veteran Roy McInnis was among the first guests to walk through the door of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts for this year’s Military Open House. “I have been here several times. I was excited about coming,” said McInnis. The 92-year-old joined the many active, reserve, and retired armed forces personnel and their families who participated in the patriotic event hosted by the MMFA Thursday evening, August 20.

MilitaryOpenHouse#9Museum director Mark Johnson and his wife Amy personally greeted many of the guests, including Major General Jocelyn Seng, USAF, who shared her enthusiasm and knowledge of the fine arts on an impromptu tour with Mark.

Military Open House#4Major Nick Van Elsacker and his wife Amanda just moved to Montgomery from Shreveport, Louisiana. “This time of year there is a large influx of students for the Air University.” said Major Elsacker. This is Elsacker’s second time stationed at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base. Amanda added, “I saw the advertisement in the paper and I told my husband about it. I love museums.”

Guests enjoyed a dinner of fried fish and chicken complemented with coleslaw, hush puppies, macaroni and cheese, and dessert of bread pudding–all provided by the Museum’s co-sponsor of the evening, Wintzell’s Oyster House. The Lo-Fi Loungers performed in the Lowder Gallery entertaining guests as they ate.

Military Open House#2Retired army Lt. Col. Isaiah Flowers said it’s an honor to be recognized for his service to our country. “Makes you feel good. I think it’s great. This event exposes people to something we should all be coming to but don’t, because we simply aren’t aware of what the Museum has to offer,” said Flowers.

Military Open House#6MilitaryOpenHouse#8-MOHGuests received an early look at the two newest special exhibitions, William Christenberry: Tracing a Line and Journey Through the Collection: Docent Choices, both of which opened early for MOH. Inspired by Christenberry’s drawings, younger visitors created their own tree collages in the studios. Others built clay masks reminiscent of the masks in the Museum’s African exhibition.

The Museum is pleased to offer this annual evening event as a small “thank you” to those who serve our community and our country in the armed forces.  It was a fun evening for everyone involved, and we hope to see our military friends visit often!

Military Open House#596-year-old World War II and Korean War veteran Roscoe Brannon says you can count on him coming back. “I loved it. I am glad my granddaughter Rhonda brought me here.”

Jill Barry
Deputy Director for Development

A First for the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Docents BlogThe excitement is mounting! On Thursday evening, August 27 the first ever docent organized and curated exhibition will open. In May of 2014, our docent corps of 45 members was given the unique opportunity of creating an exhibition from beginning to end. It was decided to break down this task into several committees: Selection and Installation, Education Programming, Research and Writing, and Public Relations and Development. All docents were asked for input and most volunteered for one or more of the committees. After many discussions and meetings, works were chosen and it was decided that our exhibition would be titled Journey Through the Collection: Docent Choices. When the selected works were reviewed, it was discovered that they fit into five different categories.

Remembering the Past offers a window into the past, illustrating how events from the past shaped our present and helped us to envision the future.

“Isms” and Styles showcases some of the stylistic trends in 20th-century art and describes these evolving theories in art.

How Do They Do It? helps answer questions the viewer might have about artists’ creative processes and techniques.

Echoes of the South reflects a diverse cultural and personal history that calls to mind the strong sense of place embodied in Southern culture.

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words stimulates and challenges the viewer to look closer and discover the stories within each work.

JJ in Maltby Sykes Gall BlogDuring this process, the docents not only became familiar with MMFA’s entire collection but discovered the amount of preparation and work that it takes to mount an exhibition. After the works were selected,  labels were researched and written to help the viewer get a better understanding of the exhibition’s content.

Public Relations and Development not only helped secure funding for the exhibition but made it possible to spread the word through various types of media. The Education Programming committee planned audio tours of some of the works, created a studio activity to be used during Family Day, and arranged for speakers for short courses that will cover the five categories. There will also be a gallery talk in Korean for our local Korean community. All of this could not have been accomplished without the help, support, and enthusiasm of the entire MMFA staff. Thank you.

Gloria Simons

African Art at the MMFA

Blog.BauleAfrican “art,” like most European, Asian, and American “art” made before the middle of the nineteenth century, was not made for museums. In fact, public museums did not exist prior to the nationalization of the French royal collections in the wake of the French Revolution after 1799. At that time, European paintings (portraits, landscapes, genre pictures, and religious images) and sculptures (more portraits and religious figures, plus Greek and Roman antiquities and their copies) that had previously been collected by the aristocracy were displayed for the public. Portraits, votive images, and the decorative arts thus came to be categorized as art and physically isolated from the family homes, churches, and other contexts for which they were made.

 Blog.MasaiiAfrican art has suffered similarly. When first collected by Europeans and Americans in the nineteenth century, it was viewed as ethnographic artifact—the product of  then so-called “primitive” cultures—but the sculptures and masks were valued primarily for their formal characteristics—shapes, colors, patterns, etc.—rather than the insights that the objects provided regarding the individuals and cultures that made and used them. In fact, by the time most works of African art migrated to European and American collections, most knowledge of the location, date, and purpose of its fabrication was lost. That is the root reason why most African art is labeled as made by unknown artists. Nineteenth-century collectors made little effort to know who made the objects, or why they made them. But subsequent ethnographic study of Africans and their material culture has begun to illuminate the context, explaining the function of individual objects and identifying some individual artists. (Left: Milk or Blood Container, Collection of Dileep and Martha Mehta)

Blog.PwoYet the fact remains that African art was not made for museums. When we encounter it in off-white, climate-controlled galleries on pedestals covered with Plexiglas vitrines, it is very distant from the place of its birth and isolated from its original function. Most African masks and statuary were made for religious purposes. The masks on display in the MMFA today were usually part of elaborate costumes that cloaked dancers from head to foot. The masks were animated by the spirits of ancestors and deities. They responded to drumming and songs to perform community rituals to praise and/or placate those spirits. (Right top: Female Spirit Figure (Blolo Bla), 2013.17.9; bottom: Mask (Pwo), Collection of Dileep and Martha Mehta)

Likewise, most African sculpture had a religious purpose. Yoruba “twin” figures were created as a repository for the spirits of deceased infants. Baule “spirit spouses” were carved and painted to enable the living to communicate more easily with beings in the spirit world who might become jealous and harm them should the living show them inadequate veneration and affection. Other African sculptures on display in the MMFA served other functions. Dolls were used to train young girls about their roles as adults, and other statuary served much like votive statuary in Catholic chapels except that African idols were typically enshrined in an environment of wood smoke rather than incense.

Consequently, when we encounter African masks, sculpture, and domestic objects in museum galleries, they are in many ways mere remnants of what they were intended to be. Divorced from their original contexts, isolated from the loving hands that made and used them in the jungles, forests, grasslands, and estuaries of Africa, we see relatively lifeless artifacts in a sanitary museum space that is a quintessential product of Western thinking. Our view is limited by our perspective.Blog.Dogon

Those who desire a deeper and broader view of African art are encouraged to explore the excellent videos produced, edited, and narrated by Dr. Christopher D. Roy through the Art and Life in Africa website at the University of Iowa ( Through this masterful series of short videos about carving, casting, weaving, basketry, and other practices, a viewer can come to know the carvers, casters, weavers, basket-makers, and other artists and the cultures they represent. Dr. Roy shows how and why a carver sacrifices a chicken before he fells a tree to make a mask. He shows how contemporary artists smoke masks in the rafters of their kitchens to achieve the patina that tourists and collectors prefer. Indeed, Dr. Roy captures the character of African artists so effectively that the viewer can almost feel the heat of the desert, the humidity of the rain forest, and the reverence the artists have for their materials and their tasks. That is not an insignificant achievement for a Western humanist communicating through the Internet to viewers who sit with computers in homes, libraries, and coffee shops around the world. It adds a dimension, a depth of understanding to the isolated objects of African art one encounters at the MMFA. (Right: Horse Rider, 2013.17.14)

Michael W. Panhorst, Ph.D.
Curator of Art

Now on View—J. Kelly Fitzpatrick’s Negro Store

NegroStoreBlogLast winter the Museum was contacted by a member of the staff at the Fine Arts Program of the U.S. General Services Administration, otherwise known as the GSA. The program had just taken repossession of an oil painting by J. Kelly Fitzpatrick (1888–1953) and, knowing the MMFA has a large holding of this Alabama native’s work, they asked if we might be interested in receiving this painting to exhibit on long-term loan.

Most Americans associate the Federal government’s art holdings with the many and varied collections of the National Gallery of Art or the system of Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C.  However, there’s also a large collection of art owned by the U.S. government that is housed outside of museums, and indeed outside of Washington.  This collection is administered by the Art in Architecture and Fine Arts offices of the GSA., and consists of all types of art—everything from wall murals, to public sculpture, to printed materials.    It can be found in government-owned buildings all over the United States. A sizeable portion of this collection dates from the era of the New Deal in the 1930s, and was created under the auspices of the Federal relief programs that assisted Americans during the Great Depression. (Above: Negro Store, 1936, oil on canvas, Loan from the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration Treasury Relief Art Project, 1935-1938 Loan from the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services AdministrationTreasury Relief Art Project, 1935-1938)

Kelly Fitzpatrick was one of some 10,000 artists who were out of work and seeking assistance when Franklin Roosevelt inaugurated the New Deal programs in 1933. Fitzpatrick eventually worked for the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), and later for both of the Treasury Department-based programs—the Treasury Section of Paintings and Sculpture (popularly known as “the Section”), and the Treasury Relief Art Project, called TRAP.  For the Section program, he created post office murals in Ozark and in Phenix City.  Negro Store was painted for the TRAP program, and is an outstanding example of Fitzpatrick’s work at its best.KellyBlog

The artists painting for the Federal relief programs were generally directed to paint scenes depicting events and places in their locality.  For Fitzpatrick, this meant choosing subjects that were familiar to him from his life in Wetumpka, then an agricultural center just outside of Montgomery, Alabama.  Negro Store depicts a typical dusty street in small town Alabama. It is an outstanding Southern example of the American painting style known as Regionalism, conveying the sense of the every day lives and activities of Americans through subjects that implied activity tied to specific places or events. In this composition the figures in their work-a-day clothes lingering in the doorway of the store, protected from the fierce midday sun by a metal awning, are contrasted with the more formally dressed passersby who represent a contemporary society on the move.  Fitzpatrick was one of the best of the painters in this style in the Southeast, and his works are generally characterized by brilliant sunlight, making the intense, saturated colors glow against a sun-washed landscape of trees and clouds.  The work was painted with strong, vigorous strokes of thick paint that add a textural dimension to the surface and model the forms.

It was the New Deal programs that allowed artists to continue to pursue their profession in years of the Great Depression, producing art that was accessible to their local communities in museums, libraries, community centers, and post offices. KellywithStudentsBlog

The MMFA is grateful that the Fine Arts Program of GSA elected to offer us this beautiful and typical work by the artist to exhibit alongside our outstanding collection of his works, many of which also date from the 1930s and the years of Fitzpatrick’s New Deal employment. Please stop by the Museum one of these hot summer days and enjoy this 1936 version of a summer scene in central Alabama, now on view in the Museum Foyer.

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, Curator of Art

MAG Featured Artist Clark Walker Discusses His Art and Demonstrates Its Creation

walker1blogrevisedArtists rarely have the opportunity to see their work in museum galleries, and the public rarely has the chance to hear artists discuss their work that is on display in museum galleries. On Sunday, June 28, Clark Walker and River Region art aficionados were able to enjoy these rare treats.

Walker conducted an informal gallery talk in the Museum galleries that are temporarily devoted exclusively to his retrospective show that is part of the 41st Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition. Two-dozen paintings and drawings on loan from a dozen local collectors comprise the show. The artist also demonstrated his drawing techniques.

walker3blogrevisedStanding at an easel in the Museum library, felt-tipped pen in hand, surrounded by admiring fans and collectors of his work, the artist showed how he typically begins drawings of faces with the eyes, then nose, mouth, and finally the silhouette of the head—all with an economical use of line. He explained in his typical deadpan manner that he paints the same way, “in my underwear.” It was not the first laugh he elicited from the crowd of forty people, nor the last. Nor was it the only insight he provided on how he draws and paints the “circus people,” “curb market people,” and countless cats and still-life compositions that have earned him well deserved respect among Montgomery art connoisseurs and collectors.

An illustrated brochure that documents the exhibition is available for free in the galleries, and may be downloaded free as a PDF from the Museum’s website. The 41st Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition with Featured Artist Clark Walker is on display through Sunday, August 9.

Michael Panhorst
Curator of Art


MMFA and the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Honor Zelda Fitzgerald, the Artist

Blog.TeaandTalkA group of some 85 excited participants assembled at the MMFA on Saturday morning, June 20, to learn more about the visual art created by Montgomery-native Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (1900–1948).  Although she is chiefly recognized in tandem with her novelist/husband F. Scott Fitzgerald as one of America’s first international celebrity couples, the crowd was in attendance to see a collection of her artwork now held by the MMFA.

Her two hometown museums teamed up to recognize Zelda’s achievements as an artist in her own right, and to celebrate her creativity.  We were delighted to partner with the Fitzgerald Museum to create this program, particularly as we get many requests over the period of a year from visitors, both local and those traveling through Montgomery, to see her work.  Clearly the response indicates the fascination that this famous couple still inspires today.

Blog.TeaandTalk.4The program began with refreshments that included Southern biscuits and peaches, which were two favorite foods that reminded Zelda of her roots when she lived outside of Alabama.  Willie Thompson, Executive Director of the Fitzgerald museum (pictured left), gave an introductory talk about Zelda’s life and focused on her reputation for youthful exuberance, as well as the challenges she met in later life as she suffered with chronic mental illness.  I followed with a discussion of the watercolor paintings by the artist, now on view in the MMFA’s Weil Print Study until August 23.  This is a rare opportunity for the public to have access to them, since paintings on paper are some of the most fragile media to exhibit due to their sensitivity to light and heat. Blog.TeaandTalk.3

We want to thank Willie, the supporters of the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, and our own Curator of Education for Adult Programs, Alice Novak, for their planning and coordination of the event.  We hope that everyone who attended has a better appreciation for Zelda Fitzgerald the artist, and for her passionate creativity.  Come to the Museum for a summer lunch in our Café M before August 23 and see these works for yourself.

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

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