Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dialogues: Words and Images in Art, 1500-1924

K.[V?] Kealey, Women of Britain Say--"Go", 1915. Lithograph.
Courtesy of Georgetown University Library, Special Collection
When the exhibition opened in the end of January, someone asked me "What, exactly, does the title mean?" It was  a good question because it's a title so tied to the exhibition, that once one actually "sees" the works, the understanding is there. The 47 works in this exhibition all have a relationship to the written word. Some messages are direct, some implied, and others based on cultural or social knowledge.

One example of the direct message is through E. [V?] Kealey's recruitment lithograph Women of Britain Say--"Go".
Frank E. Schoonover, Evangeline, 1908. Oil on
panel.  Courtesy of the Schoonover Collection.

The information to explain the image with the text is there. This poster, one of many issued during World War I,  expresses the dire need to encourage men to enlist for military service.  Kealey was one of several in a team to create art promoting the war effort, and, interestingly, very little is known about him--even uncertainty about his full name! Obviously, it is the poster's message that is important, not the artist's name recognition or association with the British government. But with the marriage of text and image, the viewer gets the point.

In  contrast to the Kealey lithograph, is Frank E. Schoonover's colorful oil painting based on the poem, Evangeline. Henry W. Longfellow wrote this poem in 1847 and it was considered, (although not without criticism), the first important piece of American poetry based on an American subject. No text is included, only a smoky sky in the background, a crucifix, and a mournful maiden holding a Breton bonnet. The viewer understands the full meaning of the painting only if they are familiar with Longfellow's poem.  Clearly, Schoonover read the poem, as the heroine is wearing the blue garment and earrings, and holding a bonnet described in the verse:



Wearing her Norman hat and kirtle of blue, and the earrings, 
                             Brought in the olden time from France...

The background might depict the verses found further in the poem following the death of her father, Benedict Bellafontaine.

Pallid, with tearful eyes, and looks of saddest compassion.
       Still the blaze of the burning village illumined the landscape…

Both of these images are striking and allow the viewer opportunity for contemplation and questions. Does the artist reflect the intentions of the writer? Does the artist care if their depictions are accurate? Do images always need words to be understood? 

Come have your own dialogue with these works! This exhibition, curated by David Gariff, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer at the National Gallery of Art,  remains on view through April 6th.

Lucinda Dukes Edinberg
Curatorial Assistant

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chasing the Moment:
Works from Annapolis Senior High School

January 10-19, 2014

We are well into our exhibition of student artworks from all of the art programs at Annapolis Senior High School and I am deeply touched by the personal side of this exhibition. No bucolic landscapes. No strict bottle/cloth/fruit still lifes. Instead, portraits that confront issues, collages that address personal struggles, and ceramics of function and whimsey.

  Julie Nolker, Antelope Canyon, 2013. Digital photography.
This special exhibition has been possible due to a Special Strategic Impact Grant from   the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. In September 2014, the Arts Council sought proposals for projects that fell outside the standard mission or budget. The Mitchell Gallery wrote the grant with the mission of providing students a museum exhibition experience of their work. Quality was the goal, and quality is what we got. 

The three-dimensional works in this exhibition are varied--stoneware vases and decorative pieces, as well as an installation made from a wood pallet.


  Joel Balch, Untitled, Acrylic, 2013
Drawings in oil pastel and charcoal include portraits and literary ideas, while the paintings refer to celebrity personalities, abstract ideas, and things close to the heart. Photography is included in the exhibition, and I am impressed with the attention to composition and detail and the fact that most do not have their images digitally altered--a temptation in the photography world.

As always, thanks to our Mitchell Gallery members, admission is free. The gallery is open every day except Mondays, noon to 5 p.m. This exhibition of works from Annapolis Senior High School remains on view through Sunday, January 19 and we hope you will set aside a bit of time to see the works of these talented young artists. 


Lucinda Dukes Edinberg
Art Educator




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Moving On


crate interior
One of the fun aspects of my job is the installation of an exhibition. I confess there is a level of stress associated with installing and deinstalling an exhibition, but it is gratifying and we have a solid product at the end.

We are currently in deinstallation mode  and we are surrounded by crates, preparators, shippers, and lots of paperwork to make sure the "children" get to their respective destination safely. Deinstallation is always quicker than installation, in part, because we are familiar with the way the objects were packed, how they fit in the crates, orientation, and other particulars important to their safety.

If you have never seen a fine art shipping crate, it is a level of carpentry and artistry of its own and we have our own laundry list about what constitutes a good one. We appreciate having feet on the base--short leg blocks on each corner that are a little higher than the bottom of the crate, and it also nice to have a wood bar across each end of the crate to serve as a handle. These features make moving things much easier. Even the hardware makes a difference--large bolts with washers and metal plates or locks make the crates seal properly. Crates are custom made to protect the art from abrasions or breakage, but also ward off damp conditions, vibration, and shifts while they are being moved. Foamcore, styrofoam, Tyvek (a DuPont product that is a non woven product consisting of spun bond olefin fiber) are all part of the interior architecture. It is not part of my job to  know the chemical breakdown of these products, but it is helpful to know why or how to use them. 


We follow a protocol for deinstalling exhibitions. Each work is analyzed to assure they are in the same condition in which they arrived and those observations are noted in the "Condition Report Book." (The next venue that receives the exhibition also goes through this same process when the art arrives and before it departs). 

If the crates have not been kept in climate controlled storage, they are usually brought into the gallery at least 24 hours before they are packed in order to "acclimate"--that is, come to the gallery temperature. This allows the works of art to go into their containers without any kind of temperature shock, which can damage the art. The works are then wrapped to protect the frame, paint surface, glazing, etc. and then placed in their allocated slot in the crate. Each work is checked off of the master list as it is placed in the crate and once the crate is completely loaded, the crate is sealed and marked. 

When the fine art shippers arrive--special shippers dedicated to moving works of decorative or fine art-- their trucks are climate controlled, but also have compensations for vibration and shock, and the necessary dollies, lifts, straps and other hardware to move the crates and keep them in place during transport. The crates have an orientation for their direction, be it upright or horizontal, and that orientation is maintained throughout the process of loading and shipping. Fine art shippers are an amazing professional team who do more than move crates and drive trucks. Their knowledge about crate construction, handling works of art, getting in and out of loading docks, and coming up with creative solutions for difficult doorways, surfaces, etc. is impressive.

Today we have put our Venetian prints on the road and we are  preparing the walls and retrieving hardware for our next exhibition which opens January 10, 2014. I hope you will take the time to see the new exhibition titled, Chasing the Moment: Works from Annapolis Senior High. This selective exhibition is comprised of works from students in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate Program, Honors, and other art programs. Our mission is to provide the students with the experience of having their works hung in a museum space, complete with climate control, framing, metered lights and everything else we do for our standard exhibitions. We are so pleased to have the support from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County for this event. 

Best wishes for the holiday season and hope to see you January 10-19 for the students work.

Lucinda Dukes Edinberg
Art Educator

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Artist's Love of Venice

As we are in the last days of the exhibition, Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1945, I am beginning my parting thoughts about the exhibition moving on to another venue. How one is attracted to a piece of art is very personal. And since the works from this exhibition came from a private collection (as a promised gift to Dickinson College), the works acquired are very personal and are chosen for a variety of reasons:  adding a piece for fun, a rare find, or serves as a complementary piece to another work or artist in the collection. But there is a cohesiveness about this collection--the sort of "chain of command" from Whistler to Menpes and Bacher, to Roth and Arms, Mauroner and Brugnoli--the legacy.

Fabio Mauroner, Trattoria "La Vida" (Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio), 1924.
Etching. The Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, 2011.42
One of the things that has struck me most is the artists' intimacy of the subject and the etched line. The delicate line is more than scratching out a depiction of a doorway, canal, or gondola. These works are labors of love. Favorite walkways and trattorias, like that of Fabio Maruoner's Trattoria "La Vida," are places the artists knew well. In spite of their need, commercial or otherwise, to create a unique view of a city well represented by a litany of artists over the centuries, their dedication to their love of Venice and their medium is foremost.

The influence of the artists looking at each others' work is revealed as one walks about the exhibition. It is interesting to note that Fabio Mauroner had a collection of thirteen prints created by Roth, many of which have individual greetings. John Taylor Arms owned some of Ernest Roth's prints. And certainly these are not isolated incidents of artists collecting other colleague's works.
 Fabio Maruoner,  Il Traghetto, 1907. Etching and drypoint. The Trout 
 Gallery, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA. 2011.3.1

Mauroner, a native of Udine, is one of the most intriguing artists in the exhibition. He arrived in Venice in 1905, around the same time as his close friend Ernest David Roth and they produced similar views of churches, plazas, cloisters, and other sites. Mauroner's early works are close to Whistler's and Roth's approach of aspects of Venetian life, scenes more familiar to residents than visitors.  Il Traghetto, shown in mirror image, depicts one of the gondola ferries used at strategic points along the Grand Canal to take people to the opposite bank and is a good example of the portrayal of everyday life. Mauroner  achieved some recognition in the United States through the exhibition of the Chicago Society of Etchers in 1925, the Ehrich Gallery in New York City, and the Seattle Fine Arts Society in 1926.

Although many artists in this exhibition did not receive the "red carpet star" fame as other artists of their period, their contributions for the artistry of etching and our appreciation of their work is no less diminished.  I hope you will have the opportunity to see these works before the exhibition closes on December 13.

Sources: 
Denker, Eric.  Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940, edited by Phillip Earenfight. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012.






Thursday, November 21, 2013

Where Did Cole Porter Party?

John Taylor Arms, Venetian Mirror, 1935. Etching. Private collection.

John Taylor Arms, an American printmaker and architect, co-authored and illustrated several travel books with his wife Dorothy Noyes Arms. Applying his architectural knowledge and drafting skills, Arms created images with painstaking details using various needles, dental and etching tools, and a magnifying glass. The sketch, Venetian Mirror, was created in 1930, but the etching was not produced until 1935 and was included in the volume Hill Towns and Cities of Northern Italy. 1  (This book is on display with the exhibition). For those who have been to Venice, there are several recognizable buildings, including Palazzo Stern, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Balbi, and the bell tower of the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa di Frari in the background. But this image is in reverse, a mirror image—following the traditions of James McNeill Whistler’s ideas about creating the image as one sees it. Due to the intaglio process, if the image is right-reading then the print will be in the reverse, or a mirror image.


All of the buildings included in Arms’ print have significant architectural, historical, or ownership history.  Among one of the interesting residents in the Ca’ Rezzonico was Cole Porter. In 1923, Porter came into an inheritance from his grandfather, and the Porters began living in rented palaces in Venice. He once hired the entire Ballet Monte Carlo to entertain his house guests, and for a party at Ca’ Rezzonico (seen above) which he rented for $4,000 a month ($55,000 in current value), he hired 50 gondoliers to act as footmen and had a troupe of tight-rope walkers perform in a blaze of lights. 1

Compare this photograph with the Arms image for a “right reading” study.



1. Denker, Eric. Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940.     
     University of Washington Press, Seattle. 2012

2. Obituary: Cole Porter is Dead; Songwriter was 72. New York Times, October 16, 1964.





Thursday, November 14, 2013

Six Degrees of Separation

Mortimer Luddington Menpes, Piazzetta and Ducal Palace, c. 1910. 
Etching and drypoint. Private collection. 
The close ties with each of the artists in the Ernest Roth printmaking is an interesting web of associations of friends, colleagues, students, and teachers. I think one of the curiosities about the exhibition is the long-standing and passionate interest in Venice as a focused subject. Certainly it is an interesting city full of architectural interests on varied scales, processions and parades, trattorias, alleys and bridges, beautiful light and elaborate festivals. It's no wonder artists are attracted to its pleasures and tourists are interested in souvenirs of their visit.

The vedute paintings and prints of the 17th century made a point of capturing many monuments and points of interest within one image, sometimes sacrificing accuracy light, precise locations and other details. The artists in this exhibition, Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940, direct their attentions to favorite cafes, back alleys, hidden paths and courtyards--places visitors would have either no interest or access to in their pilgrimage--ideas of displaying Venice in the eyes of the Venetians. The influences of each artist on one another other are evident and, as mentioned in a previous blog, Whistler as the keystone, launches the inspiration for several generations.

The web between them is well-connected, as sort of a "who begat whom."

James McNeill Whistler:                 Joseph Pennell
                                                          Clifford Addams (American)
                                                          Mortimer Menpes
                                                          Frank Duveneck
                 
Frank Duveneck                             (American) and established  the Duveneck "boys"
                                                        Otto Bacher

Roth, familiar with Whistler's work, travels to Venice, and he becomes associated with other artists.

Ernest Roth's friends:                     Jules Andre Smith (British, architect)
                                                          John Taylor Arms (American, architect)
                                                          Louis Rosenberg (American, architect)
                                                          Jan Charles Vondrous (a student with Roth at the National
                                                           Academy of Design
                                                          Fabio Mauroner (Italian by birth, longtime resident of Venice)

Fabio Mauroner                             Emanuel Brugnoli (friend)
                                                         Edward Millington Synge (Mauroner's printmaking instructor)

There are other artists in the exhibition who are not included in Roth's personal associations, and they too are inspired by Whistler's vision and technique.

There are many sources for these artists, but for starters, check out  Menpes "Facebook" page and compare source ideas and images.
                                               
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mortimer-Menpes/102618123125998

       

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice

John Taylor Arms, (American 1887-1953), Venetian Mirror, 1935, etching. Private collection

ARTISTS and ARCHITECTS

The exhibition, Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940, has been on view almost a full week and the Mitchell Gallery has had many visitors excited about these views of Venice. Exhibition curator Eric Denker gave a fascinating overview of the artists and their works in his lecture this past Sunday. The connections between many of the artists and the influence and inspiration of James McNeill Whistler on their work is carefully explored.

It is interesting to note the similarities between many of the artists, particularly those artists who had architectural or draftsman training such as John Taylor Arms, Jules Andre Smith, and Louis Rosenberg. These three artists "happened upon" etching--Arms through a small etching kit as a Christmas gift from his wife. Smith taught himself after receiving his degree in architecture from Cornell University, and Rosenberg received a fellowship to study printmaking at the American Academy in Rome following his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Arms's style is very clean and precise, as seen in his etching, Venetian Mirror. Although most of the artists in this exhibition created their drawings directly on the copper plate, this image has the feeling of T-squares, triangles and precision pens. No variances in lines--and in some ways, not as poetic--no wavering liberties are taken, (which does not mean that Arms did not take liberties in composition, as noted in the reflection in the water, which is a mirror image).

                                     Mortimer Luddington Menpes,(Australian, 1855-1938) Piazzetta and 
                                     Ducal Palacec. 1910, etching. Private collection.

Comparison of the same group of buildings (but a detail view rather than vedute, or cityscape) by Mortimer Luddington Menpes (Australian, 1855-1938) depicts a wider contrast in tonality, texture and play of shadows and other atmospheric effects, qualities that are less prominent in Arms' work.

Both of these artists's works possess  strong design and printmaking craftsmanship, as well as understanding of architectural structure, but they have different philosophies about format and composition and these comparisons are part of what makes this exhibition so interesting. And again, going back to Whistler's stylistic innovations and the influence of his visions provides the viewer a unique journey to Venice.

There are 100 prints in this exhibition, part of which are on view the Kohl Gallery at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland through December 10, 2013. And come explore printmaking in our Opening Reception and Family Event on Sunday, November 3 from 3:30-5 p.m. This event is free and open to the public--just remember to turn your clock back one hour!