Exhibition | Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on April 12, 2021

The exhibition opens this Saturday; from the press release:

Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore
Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Maryland, 17 April — 24 October 2021

Curated by Daniel Fulco

This exciting exhibition, organized by the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and curated by Daniel Fulco, Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator, is the first monographic look at the work of the enigmatic and compelling African American artist Joshua Johnson (ca. 1763–1824) since 1988. Often considered the first professional Black artist in America, Johnson was a freed slave who achieved a remarkable degree of success as a portraitist in his lifetime by painting affluent patrons in his native Baltimore. Johnson’s subjects consisted of politicians, doctors, clergymen, merchants, and sea captains.

Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore contextualizes Johnson both historically and culturally and explores further the key forms of natural symbolism represented in his paintings. Featuring works by Johnson and his contemporaries, key loans come from the Maryland Center for History & Culture, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. This exhibition also will include a fully illustrated scholarly interpretive catalogue and a diverse range of related educational programs. Museum Director Sarah J. Hall says, “This exhibition has been in planning for three years, and has ended up being a particularly timely investigation of both art history and Black history. Additionally, it adds to our understanding of regional history in terms of both the practice of portraiture and our understanding of those who made and commissioned portraits. Happily, the exhibition will be on view for a full six months in order to allow as many people as possible to enjoy Johnson’s work and the wide variety of related public programs scheduled.”

An artist whose ancestry was both African and European, Johnson was primarily a self-taught painter. He was especially adept at capturing his sitters’ features and the details of their clothing, which offered subtle insights into their personalities. Johnson’s attention to detail and extensive inclusion of moths, fruits, and flowers in his paintings indicate that he carefully absorbed techniques and motifs from traditional European portraiture to create symbolic meaning. Furthermore, Johnson combined these elements with the latest trends in his genre, responding closely to work of the Peales, Charles Peale Polk, and Mid-Atlantic limners such as Frederick Kemmelmeyer and Caleb Boyle.

Given his background and the era in which he lived, Johnson was impelled to overcome many racial and social hurdles in pursuing his profession and he persevered remarkably in that endeavor. As described in an advertisement in the Baltimore Intelligencer from 1798, Johnson referred to himself in the third person as “A self-taught genius, deriving from nature and industry his knowledge of the Art; and having experienced many insuperable obstacles in the pursuit of his studies, it is highly gratifying to him to make assurances of his ability to execute all commands with an effect, and in a style, which must give satisfaction.”

Joshua Johnson, Portrait of the James McCormick Family, 1804–05, oil on canvas, 51 × 69 inches (Collection of Maryland Center for History and Culture, Baltimore, gift of Dr. Thomas C. McCormick, 1920.6.1).

Such issues of race in Early American society still remain relevant and while a compelling and important theme to consider in relation to Johnson’s life and work, the exhibition also examines how his work engages with key developments in Maryland’s artistic heritage from approximately 1760 until 1840. Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore also explores issues related to politics, slavery, abolitionism, and society in antebellum Maryland.

As a complement to the Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore, the Museum will be installing a companion exhibition. Face to Face: Portraits from the 18th and 19th Centuries (April–October 2021), featuring European and American portraits from the permanent collection. These works expand the context of the Johnson exhibition and allow for a deeper understanding of the artist’s portraiture both before and during his lifetime.

Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore is organized by the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibition is generously supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Art Dealers Association of America Foundation, Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, Maryland Marketing Partnership, and Community Foundation of Washington County Maryland, Inc. This exhibition also is made possible with the support of an anonymous donor, Mr. and Mrs. James N. Holzapfel, Dr. & Mrs. George E. Manger, Dr. and Mrs. Robert S. Strauch, and Mr. & Mrs. Thomas B. Riford.

Daniel Fulco, ed., with David Taft Terry and Mark B. Letzer, Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore (Hagerstown, MD: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, 2021), 106 pages, ISBN: 978-09144950301 (paperback), $25 / ISBN: 978-09144950408 (ebook), $10.

Daniel Fulco is Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. David Taft Terry is Associate Professor in the Department of History and Geography and Coordinator, Museum Studies & Historical Preservation Program at Morgan State University. Mark B. Letzer is President & CEO of the Maryland Center for History and Culture.

A variety of engaging complementary on-line programs are scheduled to enhance enjoyment of the exhibition, including discussions, lectures, and lesson-plans for use in classroom or at home. Check wcmfa.org, or the Museum’s social media pages for more information on registration and access.

About the Museum
Located in beautiful City Park, Hagerstown, Maryland, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1931, the legacy of Hagerstown native Anna Brugh Singer and her husband, Pittsburgh-born artist William Henry Singer, Jr. Featuring a collection of more than 6,000 objects, the Museum has important holdings of American painting, Old Masters, decorative arts, and sculpture. The Museum schedules an ambitious program of exhibitions, lectures, concerts, tours, and talks featuring national and international artists, and annually organizes and hosts the Cumberland Valley Artists and Cumberland Valley Photographers exhibitions, as well as a yearly showcase of the art of K-12 students in Washington County Public Schools. Its free youth art education programs have served four generations of local families. The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts has been free to the public since 1931.

Exhibition | Bibiena Drawings from the Jules Fisher Collection

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on April 3, 2021

Opening in May at The Morgan:

Architecture, Theater, and Fantasy: Bibiena Drawings from the Jules Fisher Collection
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 28 May — 12 September 2021

For nearly a century, members of three generations of the Bibiena family were the most highly sought theater designers in Europe. Their elaborate stage designs were used for operas, festivals, and courtly performances across Europe: from their native Italy to cites as far afield as Vienna, Prague, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Lisbon. Beyond these performances, the distinctive Bibiena style survives through their remarkable drawings. This exhibition is the first in the United States in over thirty years to celebrate these talented draftsmen and marks the promised gift to the Morgan of a group of Bibiena drawings from the collection of Jules Fisher, the Tony-winning lighting designer. These drawings demonstrate the range of the Bibienas’ output, from energetic sketches to highly finished watercolors. With representations of imagined palace interiors and lavish illusionistic architecture, this group of drawings will highlight the visual splendor of the baroque stage.

Arnold Aronson, Diane Kelder, John Marciari, and Laurel Peterson, Architecture, Theater, and Fantasy: Bibiena Drawings from the Jules Fisher Collection (London: Paul Holberton, 2021), 96 pages, ISBN: 978-1913645045, £17 / $25.

Arnold Aronson is professor of theatre in the MFA Theatre Program at the Columbia University School of the Arts. Diane Kelder is professor emerita of art history at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and consulting curator of the Fisher collection. John Marciari is the Charles W. Engelhard Curator of Drawings and Prints and curatorial chair at the Morgan Library & Museum. Laurel Peterson, formerly the Moore Curatorial Fellow at the Morgan Library & Museum, is an independent scholar.


Exhibition | Taming the Tongue in the Heyday of English Grammar

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 24, 2021

From the press release for the exhibition:

Taming the Tongue in the Heyday of English Grammar, 1711–1851
The Grolier Club, New York, 4 March — 15 May 2021

The exhibition Taming the Tongue in the Heyday of English Grammar (1711–1851), is on display March 4 through May 15, 2021, at the Grolier Club. It offers a revelatory glimpse into a time when English grammar was taught and studied with a grim fervor unthinkable to us now. Sales of books on grammar were second only to those of the Bible. The subject was so serious that grammar books, when illustrated, often showed pictures of children being caned or whipped, perhaps for sins such as dangling their participles.

Some grammarians offered beautiful tributes to the language; others came for battle, armed with claims of invincibility against allegedly incompetent rivals. This exhibition tells the colorful story of these books and the extraordinary characters who wrote them. Highlights from the English-grammar collection of Bryan A. Garner, a grammarian, lexicographer, law professor, and Grolier member, are on view in the second-floor gallery.

The exhibition also explores issues central to our literary history. For instance, it sheds new light on the rivalry between Noah Webster, the “father of the American dictionary,” and Lindley Murray, the “father of English grammar.” One previously unknown document connects the two men in a failed business transaction in New York—a real-estate contract that Webster breached. It helps explain how the two men came to detest each other.

There’s more:
• Elizabeth Elstob, who in 1715 wrote the first Old English grammar despite being raised by an uncle who disapproved of female education. The book is an amazing feat.
• William Cobbett, a populist politician who became a grave-robber, digging up Thomas Paine’s bones in hopes of rallying the English around political reform. Passionate about linguistic correctness, he would have gone to prison (where he often found himself), had the need arisen, in defense of his grammatical views.
• Samuel Kirkham, the best-selling grammarian who inspired Abraham Lincoln. Kirkham was also a phrenologist who bequeathed his own skull to his widow, and then to his son. His obituary began with its precise measurements.

One of the grammars, by John Comly (1808), contains the first-known (now widely repudiated) prohibition of the split infinitive. Another, by Ann Fisher (1762), first laid down the still-controversial ‘rule’ that the masculine pronoun includes the feminine.

The catalogue tells some extraordinary stories, such as the member of Congress—a Pennsylvania Whig—who in 1847 wrote a grammar filled with racial animus; the Ohio gubernatorial contender who in 1835 wrote a grammar rife with plagiarism, which helped get him booted from his church; and a cult leader who, once excommunicated, decided in 1826 to write a grammar “to liberate this important branch of science from long-received errours [sic].” Then there’s the best-selling grammar with the big-print typo on the title page: “ENGISH GRAMMAR.”

This is not your father’s grammar—nor your mother’s. It’s your great-great-great-great grandparents’ grammar. And it’s all on display at the Grolier Club, accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue from Oak Knoll Press.

Bryan Garner, Taming the Tongue in the Heyday of English Grammar, 1711–1851 (New York: The Grolier Club, 2021), 301 pages, ISBN: 978-1605830926, $45.

An online version is available here»

Exhibition | Yinka Shonibare CBE: End of Empire

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 21, 2021

Yinka Shonibare CBE, End of Empire, 2016; fiberglass mannequins, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, metal, wood, motor, globes, and leather; 116 × 201 × 39 inches.

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Opening this spring at the Museum der Moderne:

Yinka Shonibare CBE: End of Empire
Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, 22 May — 12 September 2021

Curated by Thorsten Sadowsky and Marijana Schneider

One of the most prominent and versatile artists working in the UK today, Yinka Shonibare CBE (b. London, 1962) makes work that scrutinizes the legacy of Western colonialism and its lingering traces. The British-Nigerian artist rose to renown with installations featuring headless life-sized figures in historic costumes tailored out of colorful batik-dyed fabrics. A self-described ‘postcolonial hybrid’, Shonibare zooms in on episodes from art and history, primarily from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, employing subversive creative strategies to visualize them in tragicomic scenes of human activity. Shonibare’s multimedia oeuvre probes constructions of race, class, and national and cultural identities through a sustained study of the historic interdependencies between Africa and Europe. The retrospective gathers ca. sixty works from the past thirty years.

The catalogue is distributed in North American by The University of Chicago Press:

Thorsten Sadowsky, ed., Yinka Shonibare CBE: End of Empire (Munich: Hirmer Publishers, 2021), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-3777435893, $45.

Since the 1990s, the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare CBE has developed opulently executed sculptures and installations, colorful collages, and theatrically staged photographs and films. The signature material in Yinka Shonibare’s multimedia artworks, so-called African fabric, is a cipher. Originally produced in Manchester and intended for sale in Indonesia, the brightly colored fabric gained its name after British imperialists shifted their focus to colonial Africa. Featuring this product of both colonization and self-identification, Shonibare’s sculptures and installations revisit the conflicted legacy of many historical artifacts in order to explore the complex hybridity of postcolonial life with unique irony. Illustrated by two hundred full-color reproductions of his work, Yinka Shonibare CBE: End of Empire offers an up-close encounter with the tensions and history that motivate this singular artist, tracing colonialism and its consequences for leaders, worldviews, and body images in his oeuvre.

Thorsten Sadowsky is director of the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Austria.


Exhibition | Thomas Lawrence: Coming of Age

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 14, 2021

From The Holburne Museum:

Thomas Lawrence: Coming of Age
The Holburne Museum, Bath, 9 January — 3 May 2021 (currently closed)

When he arrived in Bath in 1780, aged just eleven, Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830) was already being hailed as a prodigy in the mould of Renaissance masters such as Raphael, Dürer, and Michelangelo. The Holburne Museum’s new exhibition, Thomas Lawrence: Coming of Age, focuses on works made when the artist was between the ages of ten and twenty-two, giving visitors fresh insights into the early development of one of Britain’s greatest portrait painters and the range of his uniquely prodigious talent. The show includes some of Lawrence’s earliest and most brilliant works in pencil, pastel, and oil—several of which have been rarely seen in public.

When the Royal Academy’s 22nd annual exhibition opened in April 1790, its most sensational paintings included twelve portraits by Lawrence. Visitors and critics could scarcely believe that the artist was only 20 (he was due to celebrate his 21st birthday the following week); in fact, one reviewer published Lawrence’s birth certificate to prove that the creator of several of the exhibition’s most outstanding and original works had yet to come of age.

The Holburne exhibition presents fifteen works, following the future President of the Royal Academy over a period of twelve years, from childhood to his early-twenties. Seven of these years were spent in Bath, where he learned the professional skills of a portrait painter, and five in London where, despite his youth, he produced some of his most brilliant and memorable work. The show begins in 1779 as Lawrence, the Bristol-born son of an innkeeper from Devizes in Wiltshire, makes his debut as a child prodigy in Oxford. It follows him to the competitive and colourful world of Bath, where he made friends with actors such as David Garrick and writers, including the famed diarist Fanny Burney, and other influential patrons. Bath being Bath, his sitters included some of the most famous and glamorous members of British high society, including the legendary Georgiana Spencer, later Duchess of Devonshire, whose 1782 pastel on paper portrait has been kindly loaned to the exhibition by the Chatsworth House Trust. The story ends in the early 1790s shortly before his election as a full member of the Royal Academy, aged 25.

Thomas Lawrence, Head of Minerva, 1779, pencil drawing (Private Collection).

Lawrence had demonstrated an aptitude for sketching when he was around the age of four and had begun producing saleable work aged six. It is known from the few surviving early portraits that he began working in graphite pencil, drawing quick, small-scale head and shoulder profiles on vellum. Coming of Age features several such portraits: the earliest, a Head of Minerva (private collection) made in 1779 during his brief sojourn in Oxford; an accomplished and imaginative profile portrait of his sister Anne (British Museum), drawn in 1781; and a sketch of his cousin, Miss Hammond (British Museum), made in the same year, vividly capturing the young girl’s character and energy.

The artist’s father, recognising his son’s artistic gifts, had taken Thomas to Oxford and London on something of a promotional tour. It was in the capital that Lawrence met the preeminent English painter and President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, who is said to have pronounced the youngster as his successor and, according to Fanny Burney’s account from 1780: “The most promising genius he had ever met with.”

Lawrence’s father was declared bankrupt in 1779, and the family relocated to Bath, a thriving city with a wealthy and fashionable society, which would afford the putative artist ample opportunity to demonstrate his skills and make money.

Near the time of his eighteenth birthday, Lawrence moved to London where, despite his youth, he produced some of his most brilliant and memorable work, a fine example of which is the Holburne’s own preparatory sketch for a portrait (now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), of Arthur Atherley (1791). Five years after leaving Bath, Lawrence exhibited his final three-quarter-length portrait of Arthur Atherley at the Royal Academy. At the time, he was just three years older than his nineteen-year-old sitter, who had recently left Eton College. The Holburne portrait of Atherley is both striking and memorable, showing the determined the youngster as he launches into the adult world.

Thomas Lawrence, Portrait of Elizabeth Carter, pastel on vellum, ca. 1788–89, 35 × 30 cm (London: National Portrait Gallery).

Coming of Age charts Lawrence’s development as an artist, showing his use of different materials and burgeoning technical craft. As his ability in oil and chalk grew, he gradually abandoned pastel portraits. His last and best head in crayons is a likeness of the elderly classical scholar Elizabeth Carter (ca. 1788–89, National Portrait Gallery). Carter was renowned as a woman of exceptional intellectual powers and also possessed great warmth as a person, which Lawrence’s portrait evokes, revealing her combination of the cerebral and the grandmotherly, deftly using pastel to convey the soft plumpness of her face and the elaborately trimmed and starched cap, while her thoughtful expression suggests a mind tuned to higher things.

The Holburne’s Director, Chris Stephens, says: “Thomas Lawrence did as much as any other artist, before or after him, to define the age in which he lived. The Holburne is renowned for celebrating local creativity and bringing the best of world art to the region, and this is perfectly encapsulated in the study of Thomas Lawrence’s youthful works, a true Bath story. He is our very own answer to Raphael. The exhibition was inspired by our acquisition of one of Lawrence’s greatest works, his Portrait of Arthur Atherley, 1791. It is one of a number of portraits by Lawrence of young men, and women, in their late teens, on the cusp of adulthood. This is, perhaps, a unique phenomenon of an artist portraying young adulthood when he was, himself, not much older than the sitters. It is around this idea of young people facing a rite of passage, confronting the hopes and fears of leaving adolescence for adulthood, that we find some of the contemporary resonances in Lawrence’s art.”

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Amina Wright, Thomas Lawrence: Coming of Age (London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2021), 112 pages, ISBN: 978-1781300947, £18.



1  Portrait of the Artist as a Young Prodigy
2  Striking Likenesses
3  Old Masters and New Horizons
4  Risking my Reputation
5  The Most Hazardous Step
6  Gleams of Power

Select Bibliography
Image Credits

Print Quarterly, March 2021

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, journal articles, reviews by Editor on March 12, 2021

Marco Carloni, Franciszek Smuglewicz, and Vincenzo Brenna, plate nine from Vestigia delle Terme di Tito e Loro Interne Pitture, 1776–78, hand-coloured etching (London: The British Museum).

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The eighteenth century in the latest issue of Print Quarterly:

Print Quarterly 38.1 (March 2021)


Francesca Guglielmini, “Ludovico Mirri’s Vestigia and Publishing in Eighteenth-Century Rome”, pp. 29–49.

This article is a detailed study of the publishing activities and business model of the erudite antiquarian, art dealer and print publisher Ludovico Mirri (1738–1786). His ambitious project Vestigia delle Terme di Tito e Loro Interne Pitture (The Remains of the Baths of Titus and Their Paintings) is discussed in detail alongside eight previous unpublished images of hand-coloured etchings of grotesque wall decorations taken from antique ruins in Rome and surroundings, now in the British Museum, here proposed as an extension of the original Vestigia. Four appendices contain a compilation of uncoloured and coloured impressions of the Vestigia etchings; a description of the contents of the Vestigia and Giuseppe Carletti’s accompanying booklet; known copies of the Vestigia in public collections; and a list of supplementary plates, including those eight mentioned in the British Museum collection.

David Stoker, “The Marshall Family’s Print Publishing Business”, pp. 50–63.

This article explores the little researched late activities of the Dicey print publishing business which was run by members of the Marshall family into the nineteenth century after Cluer Dicey (1715–1775) retired in 1770. The article discusses various publications produced by each member of the Marshall family, from Dicey’s partner Richard Marshall (d. 1779) to his grandson John II Marshall (b. 1793).

N O T E S  A N D  R E V I E W S

Antony Griffiths, Review of The Lost Library of the King of Portugal (2019), pp. 72–74.

This review sheds light on new research uncovered about the lost library of John V, King of Portugal, specifically archival documents. A significant portion of this review tells the fascinating story of how orders were sent to the Portuguese ambassadors in various European capitals in 1724 for an impression of every available print in those countries. These indeed happened but the various volumes of prints disappeared in the cataclysm of 1755, except for three volumes representing British, French, and Italian prints which were rediscovered in recent decades.

Domenico Pino, “Anton Maria Zanetti II and Limited Editions in Venice, c. 1734,” pp. 74–76.

This note seeks to interpret a handwritten inscription found on the verso of a print by Anton Maria Zanetti the Younger (1706–1778) in the British Museum. The inscription provides important evidence on early exploitation of limited editions in printmaking among the Zanetti clan and their contemporaries.

Antoinette Friedenthal, Review of La vita come opera d’arte: Anton Maria Zanetti e le sue collezioni (2018), pp. 108–14.

This review of an exhibition catalogue exploring Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder (1680–1767) offers an overview of his intellectual and artistic interests. His admiration for Parmigianino is discussed in detail, as well as his own reconstruction of the technique of chiaroscuro woodcuts. The review concludes with a few paragraphs on his forays into publishing.

Exhibition | The Search for Ancient Ionia, 1764

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 24, 2021

William Pars, Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, 1764, pen and grey ink with watercolour and bodycolour and some gum arabic
(London: The British Museum)

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From the Soane Museum:

The Romance of Ruins: The Search for Ancient Ionia, 1764
Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, 3 March – 11 July 2021

Curated by Ian Jenkins

Produced in collaboration with the British Museum, this exhibition showcases a series of powerful and poetic watercolours made on an expedition to discover the ruins of ancient Ionia (modern Turkey) in 1764. The expedition, funded by the Society of Dilettanti, included artist William Pars, antiquary Richard Chandler, and architect Nicholas Revett.

The beauty and fame of the Ionian cities—part of the Greek world from the 8th century BC and ruined in antiquity—lived on in the writings of ancient commentators such as Herodotus and Strabo. This exhibition focuses on the published accounts of the expedition, produced in lavish volumes funded by the Society of Dilettanti, and the evocative images by the brilliant young artist William Pars, placing them in dialogue with the collections and architecture of Sir John Soane, who deeply admired ancient Greek architecture. Pars’ drawings record the classical ruins encountered in Turkey and Greece, and also the living landscape–its flora and fauna, and the customs, manners and dress of the people, bringing to life extracts from Chandler’s diary account. These images represent Enlightenment themes of travel and discovery and embody melancholy reflections on the passing of the great age of antiquity and the reduction of its monuments. They capture the spirit of Edward Gibbon’s reflection on the fall of civilizations and in so doing they portray the romance of ruins.

This exhibition has been made possible thanks to the generosity of David and Molly Lowell Borthwick. The accompanying catalogue has been kindly supported by the Society of Dilettanti Charitable Trust.

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Ian Jenkins, ed., The Romance of Ruins: The Search for Ancient Ionia, 1764 (London: Sir John Soane’s Museum, 2021), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1999693244, £40.

The Romance of Ruins: The Search for Ancient Ionia, 1764 focuses on a series of highly finished watercolours by the brilliant young artist William Pars. These were based on sketches and drawings made on the spot during the Society of Dilettanti’s 1764 expedition to Ionia. This remarkable set of pictorial documents has never been fully published in spite of their beauty and cultural significance. The book includes an introduction by the exhibition’s curator, Ian Jenkins, Senior Curator at the British Museum; a series of essays by eminent scholars including Alastair Blanshard, J. Lesley Fitt, Jason M. Kelly, Philip Mansel, and Kim Sloan; and a catalogue of works in the exhibition.

New Book | Living with Architecture as Art

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 11, 2021

The exhibition is scheduled to open this spring, with the catalogue now available via Paul Holberton Publishing:

Architectural Training and Practice in Paris in the 19th and Early 20th Century:
Selected French Drawings from the Peter May Collection
New-York Historical Society, 9 April — 13 June 2021

Living with Architecture as Art: The Peter May Collection of Architectural Drawings, Models, and Artefacts (London: Ad Ilissum, 2021), 2 vols., 352 pages each, ISBN: 978-1912168194, £260 / $325.

Introduction by the collector peter may; catalogue by Maureen Cassidy-Geiger; essays by Maureen Cassidy-Geiger, Charles Hind, Basile Baudez, Matthew Wells; afterwords by architect Mark Ferguson and interior designer Bunny Williams.

This stunning two-volume publication introduces readers to one of the largest private collections of architectural drawings in the world. Showcasing drawings and related models and artefacts dating from 1691 to the mid 20th century, this lavish tome includes both a catalogue and new texts by leading authorities and provides a fascinating look at these often very beautiful by-products of architectural training and practice.

One of the largest private collections of architectural drawings in the world has been assembled over 30 years by investor and philanthropist Peter May. Comprising more than 600 sheets that have all been carefully preserved and handsomely framed, the drawings and related models and artefacts date from 1691 to the mid 20th century. This handsome two-volume publication will introduce amateurs and specialists alike to the largely unknown collection. The book includes a catalogue and innovative texts by leading authorities that present the raison-d’être for the production and preservation of these sometimes neglected by-products of architectural training and practice that have been collected off-and-on through history by individuals and institutions.

The architectural sheets acquired for the collection are principally 19th- or early 20th-century competition or certification drawings by design students. Others are presentation drawings for public commissions, reconstruction studies or interior designs. The catalogue is arranged by category, to demonstrate May’s inclination towards specific building types such as commercial or cultural institutions, train stations and spas, landmarks and monuments, private and royal residences, and cast-iron architecture. Also included is a category for landscape designs and garden architecture, reflecting May’s experience as a gentleman farmer with a predilection for building.

Peter May informs the reader about his history as a collector and builder. Maureen Cassidy-Geiger discusses the formation of the collection and with Basile Baudez introduces the French system of architectural education, from which some of the finest drawings come. Charles Hind offers a history of design training in Britain and writes about patterns of collecting and the market for architectural drawings. Matthew Wells’s subject is the history of architectural models.

Maureen Cassidy-Geiger is a curator and scholar with special expertise in European decorative arts, patterns of collecting and display and the history of architecture, court culture, gardening and travel. Her most recent book on architecture was The Philip Johnson Glass House: An architect in the Garden (Rizzoli, 2016). Charles Hind, FSA, is Chief Curator of Drawings at RIBA in London. A Palladio specialist, he was with Sotheby’s, 1986–93, as their expert in architectural drawings and British watercolors. Basile Baudez is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art & Archaeology, Princeton University, previously at Paris-Sorbonne University, University of Pennsylvania and at the Pratt Institute. Matthew Wells is Lecturer in the Department of Architecture at the ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) in Zurich. His dissertation “Architectural Models and the Professional Practice of the Architect, 1834–1916” was awarded the Theodor-Fischer Prize from the Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in Munich.


Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, films, online learning by Editor on February 6, 2021

The exhibition Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection opened briefly at Harvard, before the museum was forced to close due to the pandemic. The catalogue of the collection, however, is scheduled to be published next month, and online programming continues, including a discussion of the film Edo Avant Garde.

Film Discussion: Edo Avant-Garde
Online, Tuesday, 9 February 2021, 7pm (EST)

Still from ‘Edo Avant-Garde’ (2019). Master of the I’nen Seal (1600–1630), Sōtatsu school, Trees, Japanese, Edo period, mid-17th century; pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, colors, and gold on paper (Washington, D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art, F1962.30).

Join us on Zoom for a discussion of the film Edo Avant-Garde with curator Rachel Saunders and director Linda Hoaglund, presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection.

Edo Avant-Garde (2019) reveals the story of how Japanese artists of the explosively creative Edo period (1615–1868) pioneered innovative approaches to painting that many in the west associate most readily with so-called modern art of the 20th century. Through groundbreaking interviews with scholars, priests, art dealers, and collectors in Japan and the United States, the film explores how the concepts of abstraction, minimalism, and surrealism are all to be found in Edo painting. The film’s exquisite cinematography and outstanding original soundtrack, composed in response to individual paintings, present a remarkable immersive experience of some of Japan’s most celebrated and yet least-filmed paintings, many of them outside traditional museum and gallery settings. Simultaneously dynamic and mesmerizing, at its heart Edo Avant-Garde offers a unique opportunity to look closely and see differently.

This conversation will take place online via Zoom. Free admission, but registration is required. To register, please complete this online form.

Edo Avant-Garde will be available to stream for free through the Harvard Art Museums from Friday, February 5 to Friday, February 12. Upon registration, you will receive a link and password to access the film. We encourage you to view the film in advance of the discussion! The film is also available to rent through the Pacific Film Archive at the Berkeley Art Museum (BAMPFA). Please click here for further details.

If you have any questions, please contact am_register@harvard.edu.

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Distributed by Yale University Press:

Rachel Saunders, ed., Catalogue of the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art (Cambridge: Harvard Art Museums, 2021), 264 pages, ISBN: 978-0300250909, $65.

The sophistication and variety of painting in Japan’s Edo period, as seen through a preeminent US collection.

Over more than four decades, Robert and Betsy Feinberg have assembled the finest private collection of Edo-period Japanese painting in the United States. The collection is notable for its size, its remarkable quality, and its comprehensiveness. It represents virtually every stylistic lineage of the Edo-period (1615–1868)—from the gorgeous decorative works of the Rinpa school to the luminous clarity of the Maruyama-Shijo school, from the ‘pictures of the floating world’ (ukiyo-e) to the inky innovations of the so-called eccentrics—in addition to sculpture from the medieval and early modern periods. Hanging scrolls, folding screens, handscrolls, albums, and fan paintings: the objects are as breathtaking as they are varied. This catalogue’s twelve contributors, including established names in the field alongside emerging voices, use the latest scholarship to offer sensitive close readings that bring these remarkable works to life.

Rachel Saunders is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Associate Curator of Asian Art at the Harvard Art Museums.

Exhibition | Goya’s Graphic Imagination

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 23, 2021

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Giant Seated in a Landscape (detail), by 1818, burnished aquatint with scraping and strokes of ‘lavis’ added along the top of the landscape and within the landscape; plate: 28.4 × 20.8 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 35.42).

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Opening next month at The Met:

Goya’s Graphic Imagination
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 12 February — 2 May 2021

Regarded as one of the most remarkable artists from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Francisco Goya (1746–1828) is renowned for his prolific activity as a draftsman and printmaker, producing about nine hundred drawings and three hundred prints during his long career. Through his drawings and prints, he expressed his political liberalism, criticism of superstition, and distaste for intellectual oppression in unique and compelling ways. This exhibition will explore Goya’s graphic imagination and how his drawings and prints allowed him to share his complex ideas and respond to the turbulent social and political changes occurring in the world around him. The broadly chronological presentation will follow Goya’s evolution and different phases as a graphic artist as well as his approaches to his subjects. Around one hundred works on display will come mainly from The Met collection—one of the most outstanding collections of Goya’s drawings and prints outside Spain—with other works coming from New York, Boston, and Madrid’s Museo Nacional del Prado and the Biblioteca Nacional.

The catalogue is distributed by Yale University Press:

Mark McDonald, with contributions by Mercedes Ceron-Pena, Francisco J. R. Chaparro, and Jesusa Vega, Goya’s Graphic Imagination (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art , 2021), 320 pages, ISBN: 978-1588397140, $50.

This book presents the first focused investigation of Francisco Goya’s (1746–1828) graphic output. Spanning six decades, Goya’s works on paper reflect the transformation and turmoil of the Enlightenment, the Inquisition, and Spain’s years of constitutional government. Two essays, a detailed chronology, and more than 100 featured artworks illuminate the remarkable breadth and power of Goya’s drawings and prints, situating the artist within his historical moment. The selected pieces document the various phases and qualities of Goya’s graphic work—from his early etchings after Velázquez through print series such as the Caprichos and The Disasters of War to his late lithographs, The Bulls of Bordeaux, and including albums of drawings that reveal the artist’s nightmares, dreams, and visions.

Mark McDonald is curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.