Conference | Early Modern Collections in Use

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on August 6, 2017

From the conference flyer:

Early Modern Collections in Use
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, 15–16 September 2017

Ferrante Imperato, Dell ’Historia Naturale, 1599, detail from a double plate (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute).

From cabinets of curiosities, auction houses, and libraries to stables, menageries, and laboratories, early modern collections played a key role in the creation and transmission of knowledge. But how were these collections used in their own time? Speakers will explore the relationships between space and knowledge through the discussion of a range of themes in the history of collecting: from management to performance, from visitation to dissemination. Cumulatively, the papers will offer a new basis for thinking not only about the origins and content, but also about the functions and dynamics of early modern collections.

Conference registration and optional lunches by reservation only. The registration fee is $25 (students free), with buffet lunches for $20 each day. Please visit The Huntington website for more information. Funding provided by The Huntington’s William French Smith Endowment and The USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.

F R I D A Y , 1 5  S E P T E M B E R  2 0 1 7

8:30  Registration and coffee

9:30  Welcome by Steve Hindle (The Huntington) and remarks by Elizabeth Eger and Anne Goldgar (King’s College London)

10:00  Session 1 | Conceptualizing
Moderator: Anne Goldgar
• Paula Findlen (Stanford University), Why Put a Museum in a Book? Ferrante Imperato and Natural History in Sixteenth-Century Naples
• Peter Mancall (University of Southern California and The USC-Huntington, Early Modern Studies Institute), Birds of (Early) America

12:00  Lunch

1:00  Session 2 | Displaying
Moderator: Elizabeth Eger
• Vera Keller (University of Oregon), Johann Daniel Major (1634–1693) and the Experimental Museum
• Mark Meadow (University of California, Santa Barbara), Quiccheberg, Prudence, and the Display of Techne in the Brueghel/Rubens Allegories of the Senses

2:45  Break

3:00  Session 3 | Performing
Moderator: Arnold Hunt (University of Cambridge)
• Dániel Margócsy (University of Cambridge), Stables as Collections for Breeding: The Production of Knowledge and the Reproduction of Horses
• Anne Goldgar (King’s College London), How to Seem a Connoisseur: Learning to Perform in Early Modern Art Collections

S A T U R D A Y , 1 6  S E P T E M B E R  2 0 1 7

9:00  Registration and coffee

9:30  Session 4 | Hiding
Moderator: Peter Mancall
• Jessica Keating (Carleton College), Hidden in Plain Sight: The Kunstkammer of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II
• Victoria Pickering (The British Museum), Sealed and Concealed: The Visible and Not-so-Visible Uses of a Botanical Collection

11:30 Lunch and time to view exhibition, Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin (led by exhibition curator Daniela Bleichmar)

1:00  Session 5 | Visiting
Moderator: Kim Sloan (The British Museum)
• Elizabeth Eger, Collecting People
• Felicity Roberts (King’s College London), Sir Hans Sloane’s Museum and Animal Encounters

2:45 Break

3:00  Session 6 | Disseminating
Moderator: Miles Ogborn (Queen Mary University of London)
• Alice Marples (The John Rylands Research Institute, University of Manchester), ‘Raised to High Eminence By the Excitement’: Collections and the Creation of ‘Provincial’ Medical Education
• Daniela Bleichmar (University of Southern California), The Interpretation of Mexican Indigenous Objects in Collections in Early Modern Europe and New Spain

4:45  Concluding Roundtable
Arnold Hunt (University of Cambridge), Miles Ogborn (Queen Mary University of London), Kim Sloan (The British Museum), and Mary Terrall (University of California, Los Angeles)





Exhibition | Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on August 6, 2017

Press release from The Huntington:

Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin
The Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, 16 September 2017 — 8 January 2018

Curated by Catherine Hess and Daniela Bleichmar

A sweeping international loan exhibition at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens will explore how the depiction of Latin American nature contributed to art and science between the late 1400s and the mid-1800s. Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin, on view in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery from September 16, 2017 to January 8, 2018, will feature more than 150 paintings, rare books, illustrated manuscripts, prints, and drawings from The Huntington’s holdings as well as from dozens of other collections. Many of these works will be on view for the first time in the United States.

Visual Voyages will be complemented by a richly illustrated book, along with an array of other programs and exhibitions, including a sound installation by Mexican experimental composer Guillermo Galindo. The exhibition is a part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, an exploration of Latin American and Latino art that involves more than 70 arts institutions across Southern California.

“Despite notorious depredation of people and resources during the period, the brilliant work of a number of Latin Americans and Europeans helped to illuminate our understanding of the natural world,” said Catherine Hess, chief curator of European art at The Huntington and co-curator of Visual Voyages. “We aim to shed light on this relatively unexamined piece of the story—to show how beautiful, surprising, and deeply captivating depictions of nature in Latin America reshaped our understanding of the region and, indeed, the world—essentially linking art and the natural sciences.”

Visual Voyages looks at how indigenous peoples, Europeans, Spanish Americans, and individuals of mixed-race descent depicted natural phenomena for a range of purposes and from a variety of perspectives: artistic, cultural, religious, commercial, medical, and scientific. The exhibition examines the period that falls roughly between Christopher Columbus’s first voyage in 1492 and Charles Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, a work based largely on Darwin’s own voyage to the region in the 1830s.

“Information and materials circulated at an unprecedented rate as people transformed their relationship to the natural world and to each other,” said Daniela Bleichmar, associate professor of art history and history at the University of Southern California (USC) and co-curator of the exhibition. “Images served not only as artistic objects of great beauty but also as a means of experiencing, understanding, and possessing the natural world. These depictions circulated widely and allowed viewers—then and now—to embark on their own ‘visual voyages’.”

Bleichmar, who was born in Argentina and raised in Mexico, is an expert on the history of science, art, and cultural contact in the early modern period. Her publications include the prize-winning book Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment (The University of Chicago Press, 2012).

The Huntington’s three collection areas—library, art, and botanical—all contribute to Visual Voyages. Its Library is one of the world’s greatest research institutions in the fields of British and American history, art, and the history of science, stretching from the 11th century to the present, and includes such riches as the first European depiction of a pineapple and a rare 16th-century manuscript atlas that includes three stunning maps of the Americas. From The Huntington’s art holdings, Frederic Edwin Church’s monumental painting Chimborazo (1864) will be on display, depicting a Latin American landscape both real and imaginary. The Huntington’s 120 acres of gardens include several thousand plant species from Latin America, including pineapple, vanilla, cacao, and various orchids and succulents.

Designed by Chu+Gooding Architects of Los Angeles, Visual Voyages engages visitors through an evocative installation that includes interactive media, display cases of specimens and rare materials, and two walls almost completely covered with grids of visually arresting depictions of botanical specimens and still lifes.

The exhibition opens with a playful display of taxidermy mounts to make vivid the rare animals that captured the imagination of Europeans and were avidly collected during the period. Visual Voyages then begins with a section on “Rewriting the Book of Nature,” in which manuscripts, maps, and publications show how nature came to be reconsidered in the first century of contact. This section includes a copy of the 1493 letter Christopher Columbus wrote to the King and Queen of Spain while on the return leg of his first voyage to the New World. He writes that the region is “so fertile that, even if I could describe it, one would have difficulty believing in its existence.” This section highlights the many contributions of indigenous Americans to the exploration of New World nature, among them two large-scale maps painted by indigenous artists in Mexico and Guatemala; a volume from the Florentine Codex, a 16th-century Mexican manuscript on loan from the Laurentian Library, Florence; and a spectacular feather cape created by the Tupinambá of Brazil.

Next, a gallery called “The Value of Nature” explores the intertwining of economic and spiritual approaches to Latin American nature. Commercial interests resulted in the investigation, depiction, and commercialization of such natural commodities as tobacco and chocolate. Indigenous religions considered the natural world to be infused with the divine, while Christian perspectives led observers to envision Latin American nature as both rich in signs of godliness as well as marked with signs of the devil—and needing eradication. Various depictions of the passion flower, a New World plant, show how the flower’s form recalled to missionaries the instruments of Christ’s Passion.

A third section, “Collecting: From Wonder to Order,” shows how the ‘wonder’ that European collectors held for the astonishing material coming from the New World became a desire to possess and, later, to “order” this material, following systems of taxonomy and classification. On view will be a spectacular set of large paintings depicting Brazilian fruits and vegetables by the Dutch painter Albert Eckhout (ca.1610–1665) as well as 30 artful, vivid, and detailed drawings of botanical specimens painted by artists from New Granada (present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, Peru, northern Brazil, and western Guyana), never before seen in the United States.

The final section of the exhibition, called “New Landscapes,” examines scientific and artistic perspectives on Latin America created in the 19th century, a period when a new wave of voyagers explored the region and independence wars resulted in the emergence of new nations. The Romantic and imperial visions of artists and scientists from Europe and the U.S. are juxtaposed with the patriotic and modernizing visions of artists and scientists from Latin America, who envisioned nature as an integral part of national identity. This juxtaposition can be seen visually in the pairing of The Huntington’s monumental Chimborazo by Church with the equally monumental Valley of Mexico (1877) by Mexican painter José María Velasco, on loan from the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City.

Gallery text is in Spanish and English.

Daniela Bleichmar, Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 240 pages, ISBN: 978 030022 4023, $50.

Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin is accompanied by a hardcover book of the same title written by Daniela Bleichmar, co-curator of the exhibition. In a narrative addressed to general audiences as well as students and scholars, Bleichmar reveals the fascinating story of the interrelationship of art and science in Latin America and Europe during the period.

More information is available from Yale UP.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

The Huntington will present an array of public programs to complement Visual Voyages, including a lecture, a curator tour, and focused exhibitions.

Guillermo Galindo Installation and Performance
16 September 2017 — 8 January 2018

Experimental composer, sonic architect, and performance artist Guillermo Galindo will create an outdoor sound installation and performance at The Huntington during the run of the exhibition. The program is part of USC Annenberg’s Musical Interventions, a series of public events organized for Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA by Josh Kun, historian of popular music and recently named a MacArthur Fellow.

Nuestro Mundo
16 September 2017 — 8 January 2018

About two dozen paintings by students of Art Division make up this installation of works inspired by Visual Voyages. Art Division is a non-profit organization dedicated to training and supporting underserved Los Angeles youth who are committed to studying the visual arts. Flora-Legium Gallery, Brody Botanical Center (weekends only).

In Pursuit of Flora: Eighteenth-Century Botanical Drawings
28 October 2017 — 19 February 2018

European exploration of other lands during the so-called Age of Discovery revealed a vast new world of plant life that required description, cataloging, and recording. By the 18th century, the practice of botanical illustration had become an essential tool of natural history, and botanical illustrators had developed strategies for presenting accurate information through exquisitely rendered images. From lusciously detailed drawings of fruit and flowers by Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708–1770), a collaborator of Linnaeus, to stunning depictions of more exotic examples by the talented amateur Matilda Conyers (1753–1803), In Pursuit of Flora reveals the 18th-century appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.

Symposium: Indigenous Knowledge and the Making of Colonial Latin America
The Getty Center, Los Angeles, 8-10 December 2017

This symposium will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to explore the ways in which indigenous knowledge contributed to the making of colonial Latin America. A dozen talks will examine practices related to art, architecture, science, medicine, governance, and the study of the past, among other topics. Curator-led visits to two related exhibitions—Visual Voyages at The Huntington and Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas at The J. Paul Getty Museum—will allow participants to view magnificent examples of work by indigenous artists and authors, including more than half a dozen rare pictorial manuscripts (codices). The symposium is organized by Daniela Bleichmar, co-curator of Visual Voyages and Kim Richter, co-curator of Golden Kingdoms and senior research specialist at the Getty Research Institute, with funding from the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, the Seaver Institute, and the Getty Research Institute



Exhibition | Project Blue Boy

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on August 6, 2017

Press release (3 August 2017) from The Huntington:

Project Blue Boy
The Huntington, San Marino, 22 September 2018 — 30 September 2019

Thomas Gainsborough, The Blue Boy, ca. 1770; oil on canvas, 71 × 49 inches (San Marino: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens).

One of the most famous paintings in British and American history, The Blue Boy, made around 1770 by English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788), will undergo its first major technical examination and conservation treatment. Project Blue Boy begins on August 8, 2017, when the life-size image of a young man in an iconic blue satin costume will go off public view for preliminary conservation analysis until November 1. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, home to The Blue Boy since its acquisition by founder Henry E. Huntington in 1921, will conduct the conservation project over a two-year period. The final part of the project will largely take place in public view, during a year-long exhibition, also called Project Blue Boy, presented from September 2018 to September 2019 in the Thornton Portrait Gallery, where the painting traditionally hangs.

“We are profoundly conscious of our duty of care towards this unique and remarkable treasure,” said Steve Hindle, The Huntington’s Interim President and W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research. “The Blue Boy has been the most beloved work of art at The Huntington since it opened its doors in 1928. It is with great pride that we launch this thoughtful and painstaking endeavor to study, restore, and preserve Gainsborough’s masterpiece. The fact that we are able to do so while inviting the public to watch and to learn is both gratifying and exciting—not least since the project is so perfectly suited to our mission.”

The Blue Boy requires conservation to address both structural and visual concerns. The painting is so important and popular that it has been on almost constant display since The Huntington opened to the public almost 100 years ago. “The most recent conservation treatments have mainly involved adding new layers of varnish as temporary solutions to keep The Blue Boy on view as much as possible,” said Christina O’Connell, The Huntington’s senior paintings conservator and co-curator of the exhibition. “The original colors now appear hazy and dull, and many of the details are obscured.” According to O’Connell, there are also several areas where the paint is beginning to lift and flake, making the work vulnerable to loss and permanent damage; and the adhesive that binds the canvas to its lining is failing, meaning the painting does not have adequate support for long-term display. These issues and more will be addressed by Project Blue Boy.

In addition to contributing to scholarship in the field of conservation, the undertaking will likely uncover new information of interest to art historians. O’Connell will use a Haag-Streit surgical microscope to closely examine the painting. To gather material information, she will employ imaging techniques including digital x-radiography, infrared reflectography, ultraviolet fluorescence, and x-ray fluorescence. The data from these analytical techniques will contribute to a better understanding of the materials Gainsborough procured to create The Blue Boy while at the same time revealing information about earlier conservation treatments. The Huntington will address several questions. “One area we’d like to better understand is, what technical means did Gainsborough use to achieve his spectacular visual effects?” said Melinda McCurdy, The Huntington’s associate curator for British art and co-curator of the exhibition. “He was known for his lively brushwork and brilliant, multifaceted color. Did he develop special pigments, create new materials, pioneer new techniques?” She and O’Connell will build upon clues gleaned from previous conservation projects to learn more. “We know from earlier x-rays that The Blue Boy was painted on a used canvas, on which the artist had begun the portrait of a man,” she said. “What might new technologies tell us about this earlier abandoned portrait? Where does this lost painting fit into his career? How does it compare with other portraits from the 1760s?” McCurdy also looks forward to discovering other anomalies that may become visible beneath the surface paint, and what they might indicate about Gainsborough’s painting practice.

The Huntington’s website will track the project as it unfolds.



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