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