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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Category: General

Early Modern

MaxWeber_LibCongress_blogThe painter Max Weber was one of the first American artists to personally experience the art world in Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century, a time of amazing transition in the history of art. In Weber’s case, this experience included meeting and learning from artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau, and taking tea at the salon hosted by art collectors Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo… in other words he was in the heart of it.

After his return to the U.S. in 1909, Weber created a range of work that was influenced by the Cubists initially, but his style regularly evolved over his forty-year career. The MMFA’s most recent acquisition, using funds bequeathed by Ida Belle Young in 2007, is a painting by Weber created during the 1920s when he had moved to Long Island. (below: View of Roslyn, New York, ca. 1922-1925, oil on canvas) It is a landscape depicting the village of Roslyn on the north shore of Long Island, painted from a vantage point just across a body of water known as the Roslyn Pond. While representational (we can readily see trees, town, and pond), it is also clearly in keeping with the reductive tendencies of Modernism—buildings composed of simple geometric shapes and the rest a symphony of varied brushstrokes in green, blue, rust, and tan. Though he largely left Picasso’s Cubism behind, he maintained a love of the style of the French Post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne, who created monumental landscapes in this same palette and with the same intent: to capture the soul of this peaceful place in paint.

MaxWeber_blogWhen Weber moved to Long Island in 1921 he and his wife left the urban bustle of upper Manhattan for a quieter natural environment where they could raise a family. They purchased a small house about five miles south of Roslyn, and the artist purchased a car (he named it Dinky) so that he could drive the rural roads looking for likely subjects. The Museum’s painting View of Roslyn, New York, is one of a number of works he painted while he lived in this house near Garden City.

Our Museum collection has grown significantly with the additions made using the funds provided by Ida Belle Young’s gift. Most of these works were made in the nineteenth century and have helped to enhance and further shape the core collection of works given by Winton Blount in 1989, and expand the resources our educators use to teach about the development of American art. When the Weber became available, it was immediately clear that this painting was going to play a significant role in our collection—it opens a chapter that takes viewers into twentieth-century art and introduces the modernist approach to art and design that dominated in Europe and America for years to come. It is a much-needed addition to our collection, and we look forward to sharing it with our audiences when it is installed next month.

Arthur D. Chapman, Max Weber, 1914, platinum print, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-90145]

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

There’s a Story in Here Somewhere…. 

We will be hearing a lot in the next year about Selma, most of it related to the historic events that surrounded “Bloody Sunday” and the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. Those events put Selma on the map, both nationally and internationally, but the town has been on Alabama’s map for a very, very long time, and what you don’t know about Selma may surprise you. One thing you might not know? There have probably been more creative and literary people in Selma per capita than in any other place in Alabama—maybe the whole South.

The curious coincidence that brought this to mind is the presence of two wonderful works of art that are currently in our galleries. They just happen to depict two members of a Selma family—two members who lived almost one hundred years apart.

Siegel_Fax_blogThe first is found in Romantic Spirits: Nineteenth-Century Paintings of the South from the Johnson Collection. The painting is by an artist named George Cooke who came to Alabama in the summer of 1848. He was traveling and took commissions to paint members of Alabama’s Black Belt planter families. He was given the task of painting a young boy named Joseph Fairfax Lapsley, known to his family as “Little Fax.” Like many children in the nineteenth century, Little Fax had a brief life, dying when he was only two. Little Fax’s father, Colonel John Whitfield Lapsley commissioned the painting as a memorial of his young son. Little Fax stands on a porch overlooking what was certainly the Alabama River as it winds past Selma. Up the river we see a steamboat, carrying away people and goods to a world little Fax would never know. It is a melancholy painting, intended to remind his parents of a life cut woefully short.

Flash forward to 2004 and a photograph by  Selma artist, Jerry Siegel in the exhibition Creator/Created: Jerry Siegel Portraits and Artists from the Permanent CollectionSiegel_lapsley_blogIt depicts the painter John Lapsley, the great-grandson of Colonel John Whitfield Lapsley, and an artist who is well represented in the MMFA permanent collection. Unlike Little Fax, John Lapsley had a long, very productive life as an artist, dying at the age of 90, but they are both depicted at the end of their natural lives. John Lapsley died a year after the photograph was made; Little Fax’s portrait was made the year after his passing. Those who knew John Lapsley knew a genuine Alabama character; like another Alabama native, author Truman Capote, he had a sharp wit and a sense of irony that was always present. John’s works in the Museum’s collection  date from the 1930s to the late twentieth century, fulfilling his destiny in a way that Little Fax unfortunately could not.

And there’s one more Selma art family to consider—that is the Siegels. Photographer Jerry Siegel was preceded one generation by his uncle, Jerome E. (Jerry) Siegel, Jr., who was for many years one of the best and most respected dealers in Southern art. As a true, old-fashioned gallerist Jerry nurtured the careers of artists such as John Lapsley, Crawford Gillis, Charles Shannon and others now in our MMFA collection. siegel_self_blogHis nephew continues that tradition through his photographs of artists in their studios, and although he makes his home elsewhere now he clearly knows his roots, artistic and otherwise. His own self-portrait in Creator/Created was made at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of “Bloody Sunday,” and a reminder that Selma is at the heart of Alabama’s history, both artistic and social.

Alabama’s greatest storyteller, Katherine Tucker Windham (and, yes, she was also from Selma) would have made a fine tale out of the Lapsleys, the Siegels and their lives across the centuries. Like all us Southerners, she did love a good story.

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Docent Field Trip to Chattanooga

On the first day of spring seventeen MMFA docents and four members of the educational staff headed north to Chattanooga, TN.

DocentTrip_blog1Our destination was the Hunter Museum of American Art. Several months in planning, this was the MMFA’s first overnight docent field trip. Set upon an eighty foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, the Museum features beautiful views of the riverfront and the surrounding area.

Upon arriving at the Museum we had a curator led tour of a current exhibition, African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond.  After having free time to explore the Hunter’s permanent collection, we attended a stimulating discussion, “Art + Issues: Diversity Is! Now Deal with It?” led by Bart Washington and Brian O’Leary of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

DocentTrip_blog2That evening and the following morning we were able to explore the city’s downtown area which, along with the Hunter, features the Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum, a pedestrian bridge across the river, several art galleries and a wide range of restaurants. All of these attractions are within walking distance of each other. Art is everywhere in the downtown area, often in places you would least expect to find it. Those of us who toured the Aquarium were delighted to find an exhibit of Stephen Rolfe Powell’s  “Whacko” series complementing the jellyfish exhibit.

Just as Cappy Thompson was “enraptured by the celestial fireworks of the muses,” our group was enchanted by the hospitality we received at the Hunter, the range and beauty of it’s collection and the stimulating atmosphere of Chattanooga’s downtown area. Being able to enjoy these attractions as a group made the trip all the more memorable.

George Jacobsen
Docent Council Chair

‘Tis the Season…

…for spring fever, weddings, Easter, confirmation, graduation, Mother’s Day… well ’tis ALWAYS the season for SOMETHING, right?  And, although we DO have gifts for all of the above, DON’T wait for a special occasion to come peruse our one-of-a-kind collection here at The Museum Store.  I think we have the best selection of pottery in the city (Christopher Greenman, Randy Shoults, Tena Payne, Margaret Barber, Suzanne Jensen, Anna Bastida, Jo Taylor– to drop a few names), plus paintings, jewelry, glass, and more (so many artists/so little space)… surely something for everyone (including kiddies) and at all price points.

Teena Payne, Earthborn PotteryWe are constantly adding new artists and merchandise to keep things interesting and fresh.  So if you were here two weeks ago or it’s been two years, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll find.  More than once, I’ve heard the comment:  ”This is one of the best museum stores I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot…” So, what are you waiting for?  I didn’t even mention that we provide free gift wrap and that our sales staff is always happy to offer suggestions, tell you about the artists we represent or just smile and nod– whatever you prefer.

Oh, and quarterly, we feature an Artist in Action where you can meet an artist and watch them at work here in the Museum Store, which is quite entertaining.  The next one is Thursday, April 17th from Noon-2:00– in conjunction with Cafe M’s Divine Lunch.  The artist will be Montgomery’s own, Barbara Binford Davis, painter extraordinaire and you’re all invited.  (Reservations are needed that day at Cafe M but you never need a reservation for the store.)

Do yourself a favor and see for yourself…
Tuesday-Saturday 11:00-4:00 and Sundays Noon-4:00. 334.240.4337

Kay Jacoby, Museum Store

What’s an ADDY?

blog_publicationsIt’s the American Advertising Awards, and we just heard that our catalogue for Material Transformations received the 2014 Best of Show Addy Award for the Montgomery region! The ADDYs recognize creative endeavors in all media and Camille Leonard of STAMP’s inventive design is nothing if not creative. We frequently work with Camille and designers of STAMP, one of Montgomery’s best Ad Agencies. Camille really understood the ideas and works of art featured in the Material Transformations exhibition and captured a wonderful way to portray them in print form. We’re thrilled with her concept and so excited that the American Advertising Awards program acknowledged Camille’s stunning achievement. It works not only as a companion piece to the exhibition but also stands on its own. It was great fun to work with Camille on this project and it’s not the first time the Addys recognized our collaboration with her—our exhibition catalogue Psychedelic Mania: Stephen Rolfe Powell’s Dance with Glass received an award in 2013. Come pick up your own copy! Both of these award-winning catalogues are available in the Museum Store.

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art

The process behind Creator/Created

Blog_jjOur newest exhibition, Creator/Created: Jerry Siegel Portraits and Artists from the Permanent Collection just opened. This was a particularly fun exhibition to put together.  The idea started through conversations with Jerry who’s been photographing Southern artists for over 15 years.  In looking through his images we realized that the MMFA has many of these artists’ works in our collection and we thought by pairing photo and artwork together we could present a unique view into the works of art, the artists themselves, and their artistic process.  Going through our collection to select which of these artists’ works to feature was a real treat for me. I got to dive in and really begin to understand the breadth and depth of works by regional artists that we own in addition to all the other fantastic pieces in our collection.

Jerry is a wonderfully generous artist and I think his portraits speak to that; he really captures the essence of each of these personalities. When Jerry photographs his subjects, he takes multiple shots and often prints in both black and white and color. For the exhibition, we decided to use only the black and white images to present Jerry’s photographs as a cohesive body of work since we spread them throughout the galleries.  blog_iPadHe and I met several times to look at prints (both working and final) and to choose what worked best in this particular exhibition. Alternate images and color versions, along with interviews with many of the artists, are on I-Pads displayed throughout the galleries. Come take a look!

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art

Alabama Natives, Alabama Neighbors

PoarchCrk-2The Museum and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians partnered  to present Alabama Natives, Alabama Neighbors, our Native American Family Day celebration on Saturday, March 8th.  1,500 visitors of all ages enjoyed dance and craft demonstrations, hands-on art activities, and story telling.  Many cultural artifacts from Kerretv Cuko (Building of Learning) Poarch Band of Creek Indians Museum in Atmore were on view in the Rotunda. PoarchCrk-1For more information about the tribe, please visit http://pci-nsn.gov/

Art Auction was such fun!

auction_MerLynchauction4

Thank you all who worked to make it possible, especially Auction chair Emilie Reid and co-chair Lisa Capell and Art Selection chair Ginny Cumbus and co-chair Mary Dunn. Thanks also to our long standing Auction sponsor, Merrill Lynch.

auction3

The 2014 Art Auction was chaired by Emilie Reid and co-chaired by Lisa Capell. Committee members included Jean Belt, Lu Ann Cobb, Ginny Cumbus, Suzanne Davidson, Mary Dunn, Benita Froemming, Jason Goodson, Don Groesser, Brenda Hellums, Debbie Hobbs, Gage LeQuire, Lucy LuQuire, Cathy Martin, Tammy McCorkle, Lisa Newcomb, Caroline Rosen, Gloria Simons, Melissa Tubbs, Florence Tyson, Ashley White, Cindy Wilson, and Kelli Wise.

Ginny Cumbus chaired this year Art Selection Committee along with co-chair Mary Dunn. Other members of the Art Selection Committee included Jane Barganier, Camille Elebash-Hill, Bonner Engelhardt, Susan Geddie, Katharine Harris, Allison Ingram, Lucy Jackson, Gage LeQuire, Winston Wilson Reese, Bruce Reid, Emilie Reid, Laurie Weil.

auction2We had over 50 additional volunteers at the events that led up to and included the Auction. We could not have done it with out you!   The entire Museum staff is involved in this, our biggest fundraiser.  A big thanks to everyone – artists, galleries, workers, bidders and buyers!

Jill Barry
Deputy Director

MMFA Short Course: Art of the 18th Century (Tuesdays at noon)

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.

Piranesi_series
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.

 Copley2
John Singleton Copley (American, 1738–1815), Joseph Henshaw, ca. 1770-1774, oil on canvas,
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama, The Blount Collection, 1989.2.6

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,

Fragonard_danseJean 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

FAC.int.1988.1w

and there is always time for a nice cup of tea.

teacupWorcester Porcelain Factory (English, Founded 1751), Teacup, ca. 1765-1768,
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Lucien Loeb, 1993.3.1.1

Alice Novak, Assistant Curator of Education

Ekphrasis: A Book Club for the 21st Century

EV1_BookClub

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

 

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