Amidst the sun and snow of recent weeks, the latest Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts short course has been exploring the art of the 18th century. A lecture series that began with scenes of French ladies and gentlemen in lush garden scenes ended with an image of sword wielding men swearing allegiance to the state (while the women weeped.)
Now we are spending time in our galleries, making connections across American paintings, Old Master prints, and decorative arts. So how does the world we live in compare to that of several hundred years ago?
Since the eighteenth century, haunting images and stories have provided popular entertainment, from this Piranesi print of an imaginary prison to American Horror Story.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian 1720–1778), Title Plate, From the series, Carceri di Invenzione, ca. 1760,
etching on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Jr.
in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Sr., 1974.19
Wigs on men however are no longer as in vogue.
Interestingly, the sitter in the portrait above was a member of the Sons of Liberty, while the painter’s father in law owned the tea that was dumped into Boston Harbor. But before we get too carried away with politics, sometimes it’s important to go back to where we began and remember that everyone likes to frolic in the garden,
Jean Honore Fragonard (French, 1732–1806), Danse de satyres, 1763, etching on paper,
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Jr.
in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Sr., 1992.5
that classical never goes out of style
and there is always time for a nice cup of tea.
Alice Novak, Assistant Curator of Education
The Ekphrasis book club is an exciting monthly program hosted by the Education Department that explores various topics related to art and art history as they are interpreted by historical or contemporary literature. I borrowed the term “Ekphrasis” from Susan Vreeland (an author we have featured several times) who used the term broadly to address how works of art are interpreted through other mediums (media?). The use of the term in this context is a departure from its traditional usage, but I find Vreeland’s adaptation appealing because it opens up the door for multi-faceted approaches to analysis, allowing us to explore the intersection of art with literature, film, and photography.
With art as the central focus, and our chosen books (fiction and nonfiction) as the main vehicle, we supplement our discussions with multimedia presentations that include visual and digital imagery, audio, and video used to expand our understanding of the topics addressed. For example, a book about the painter Caravaggio was supplemented by a slideshow of his paintings and selected clips from a video documentary as visual references.
On several occasions, featured authors have called in to answer questions via Skype, including (of course), Susan Vreeland (Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Life Studies: Stories, Passion of Artemisia), Jack Flam (Matisse and Picasso: The Story of Their Rivalry and Friendship), and Harriet Chessman (Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper). We have also invited authors to visit the Museum and address the club in person, including, Nancy Robards Thompson (a.k.a. Elizabeth Robards), author of With Violets, and Nancy G. Heller, author of Why a Painting is Like a Pizza.
The next book club meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 12 p.m. Jennifer Jankauskas, Curator of Art, will offer a presentation on the Los Angeles art scene and lead a discussion about the featured book Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp.
I hope you will join us at the next book club meeting!
Tim Brown, Curator of Education
As project coordinator on the Museum side, I can say with certainty, it took a lot of hard work and effort to make this happen. A year ago the Museum team began researching in earnest what functionality a modern museum website needed to have as a base line and then started its wouldn’t it be nice list. In February 2013 we sent out a national Request for Proposal and in March decided to partner with Cuberis out of Durham, North Carolina. You are seeing months of work come to fruition before you.
We still have a few items on our to-do list, but are thrilled to be presenting what you see here today. I would like to thank Mark Johnson for his leadership in approving and finding the funding for the new site. The web working group consisted of Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, Tim Brown, Amy Johnson, Sarah Puckitt, and Tisha Rhodes. Countless other staff came in and out of the workgroup as needed or requested and everyone remembered our flexibility and sense of humor mantra. Let me know what you think of the site. Do you have suggestions for improvements or ideas for us to implement? It’s still a work in progress, so let me know your thoughts.
Deputy Director for Development
By 2012, the three 14-foot-long aluminum arcs installed by Edward Lee Hendricks in the Museum’s lake in 1991 still pivoted on their stainless steel posts in a gentle breeze as designed, adding their graceful movements to the tranquil scene. However, time and the talons of waterfowl—especially wintering flocks of big, black cormorants—had eroded the gilded surface that initially glistened in the sun.
Consequently, the Museum involved the artist in developing a plan to restore the arcs’ golden color and preserve the artist’s intent for his only sculpture in a marine environment. McKay-Lodge Art Conservation of Oberlin, Ohio, examined the sculpture and proposed to clean and re-gild the arcs with traditional gold leaf like that Hendricks had used. They also recommended an innovative Tnemec clear coat to protect the gilding from damage.
In October of 2013 the arcs were removed from the lake and shipped to Ohio for treatment. They will be re-installed in the spring of 2014. This conservation treatment will insure that the gleaming, golden arcs will again swing in the breeze as the artist intended.
The conservators will also be treating a second sculpture from the collection, Buckminster Fuller’s Twelve Degrees of Freedom, 1983. This work is one of the collection’s most significant examples of twentieth-century American sculpture, and it will also return to view in 2014.
Funding for the conservation treat-ment of these sculptures is provided by the Museums for America grant program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Museum, and the MMFA Association.