Enfilade

Exhibition | In Her Majesty’s Hands: Medals of Maria Theresa

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on August 17, 2017

Matthäus Donner / Andreas Vestner, Maria Theresa Box Medal (Schraubmedaille) containing hand-coloured drawings; silver, hand-coloured drawing on paper inside the medal (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Coin Collection, inv.no. 5955/1914B).

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Press release (via Art Daily) for the exhibition now on view at the KHM:

In Her Majesty’s Hands: Medals of Maria Theresa
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 28 March 2017 — 18 February 2018

Curated by Anna Fabiankowitsch and Heinz Winter

The Kunsthistorisches Museum’s Coin Collection holds both the largest and by far the most important collection of coins minted under Maria Theresa; it is the best place, and now is the best time, to host an exhibition that presents the monarch’s life in medals to celebrate what would have been her 300th birthday.

The exhibition focuses on the most important topoi in Maria Theresa’s private and public life. It presents her in the company of her large family, running the gamut of events from dynastic marriages to heart-breaking calamities. It showcases her role as a ruler forced to fight several wars for her inheritance and, together with her son and co-regent Joseph II, as a pioneering social reformer. The artefacts on show also illustrate the extent of Maria Theresa’s realm, which comprised many different ethnicities and cultures.

All these topoi are reflected in medals that emblematise historical events with the help of allegories. Maria Theresa was already widely glorified and celebrated during her lifetime, but the exhibition also documents how she was portrayed by her enemies. So-called satirical medals, which were passed around in private, turned Maria Theresa into an object of derision.

The exhibition focuses, too, on the historical background of medal production to illustrate the requisite technical skills, expenditure, and effort; introduce the most important protagonists; and document the range, purview, and media-value of Maria Theresa’s medals.

Maria Theresa (1717–1780) became a legend during her lifetime, and few female rulers were depicted more frequently or diversely. Her many likenesses—among them portraits, engravings, medals, and medallions—were designed to preserve her memory for posterity, turning her into an 18th-century media-star.

Medals played a central role in this propaganda effort controlled by the imperial court. Among the period’s foremost artistic mass media, medals were minted under the aegis of the court, and they continue to reflect the ruler’s political aims and the way she saw herself. Over three hundred different medals were produced during Maria Theresa’s reign to commemorate or celebrate either members of the imperial family or political events, both national and international.

Medals functioned as a way to commemorate important events of her reign, and as they were minted in large numbers, the material is noted for its longevity and their handy format made it easy to disseminate them, they were regarded as a historical record that would last forever. Contemporaries called these miniature memorials show- or commemorative coins, and they evolved into much sought-after and frequently exchanged collectors’ pieces. The monarch presented them as signs of imperial favour, in recognition of the recipient’s merits or achievements, or to strengthen diplomatic ties, and the majority of the medals produced in Vienna were destined for the court—ending up in Her Majesty’s hands.

Zuhanden Ihrer Majestät: Medaillen Maria Theresias (Vienna: Kunst Historisches Museum, 2017), 100 pages, 15€.

Curator Anna Fabiankowitsch during preparations for the exhibition
Photo by Lukas Beck

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Exhibition | Living Rooms: The Period Room Initiative

Posted in exhibitions by internjmb on August 14, 2017

Providence Parlour, ca. 1760–70; painted pine
(Minneapolis Institute of Art)

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I’m glad to note that former Enfilade intern Mattie Koppendrayer contributed portions of the research for the room on ‘Science and Sociability’. Along with these fascinating installations of Mia’s period rooms, the museum’s eighteenth-century offerings for the fall will include the exhibition Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe, which recently closed at The Getty and opens in Minneapolis on September 10. CH

Now on view at Mia:

With Living Rooms, a multi-year initiative, Mia is reinvigorating its period rooms for today’s visitors, placing the past in dialogue with the present, while simultaneously broadening the conversation to include other histories—of marginalized people, of the senses, and even of time itself.

Just Imported: Global Trade in 1700s New England
Minneapolis Institute of Art, 22 April 2017 — 15 April 2018

The Providence Parlor once occupied prime real estate on a wharf in 1700s Providence, Rhode Island. Its owners, brothers Joseph and William Russell, operated a prosperous merchant business that imported and exported goods by sea. Their store, The Sign of the Golden Eagle, offered a resplendent selection of imported fabrics, exotic spices, fine housewares, and hogsheads of rum, among other goods. Their market was the world, and the world, their market, made possible by trade winds, war profiteering, and the labor of enslaved people. With their wealth, the Russell Brothers built the first three-story home in Providence, with views of the harbor. Originally installed at Mia in 1923, the parlor, along with its original inhabitants and harborside location, is brought back to life through a naturalistic soundscape, multi-sensory discovery cabinet of mercantile curios, and animated shadow puppets.

Read more here»

Charleston Drawing Room, ca. 1772; cyprus
(Minneapolis Institute of Art)

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The Many Voices of Colonial America
Minneapolis Institute of Art, 22 April 2017 — 15 April 2018

The Charleston Dining and Drawing Rooms came from the 1772 home of Colonel John Stuart, who served as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Britain’s southern colonies and was also an owner of enslaved Africans. For over 80 years, the rooms have been interpreted as late-1700s interiors featuring high-style Chippendale and Federal-style American and English furniture and objects. This new temporary exhibition replaces a stylistic approach by reinserting African and Native American presence in these spaces. In the Charleston Drawing Room, Cherokee art of the Colonial era and contemporary Cherokee art that responds to this moment of history reveal stories of diplomatic relations and travel between the Cherokee Nation and the British Crown. In the Charleston Dining Room, West African and African American objects tell important stories of Charleston’s dependence on enslaved West Africans’ indigenous knowledge of rice cultivation for commercial gain and as a source of nourishment during this time—foreshadowing the legacy of African cuisine in contemporary America.

Read more here»

In addition, see this Mia blog posting by Alex Bortolot (Content Strategist at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and a specialist in the arts of Africa), “Who Is an American? Here’s one way museums can ask—and answer,” available here»

Grand Salon from the Hôtel de la Bouëxière, 1733–37; painted and gilt wood, plaster, marble and iron
(Minneapolis Institute of Art)

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Up All Night in the 18th Century
Minneapolis Institute of Art, 22 April 2017 — 15 April 2018

In the 1700s, European cities witnessed a gradual but profound shift in daily life: people stayed up later and partied harder into the night. Many of their nocturnal soirees were private affairs, hosted in elite homes by invitation only. The Grand Salon from the Hôtel de la Bouëxière will be prepped for one of these exclusive parties with a games table for card-playing (the night-loving aristocrat’s favorite diversion), candlesticks, and the required stimulants: coffee and chocolate. Of course, staying up late meant burning the midnight oil, so artificial lighting with candles and fire increased in importance during this time. New lighting in the Salon will simulate the effects of flickering flames, revealing the warm glow of gilded paneling and metalwork in a ‘nighttime’ setting.

Read more here»

Additional information on the Grand Salon is available here»

Georgian Drawing Room, ca. 1740; painted pine
(Minneapolis Institute of Art)

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Science and Sociability in 1700s England
Minneapolis Institute of Art, 22 April 2017 — 15 April 2018

In 1700s England, the home was a place where genteel men and women studied and conversed about natural history; only later did science move exclusively to the laboratory, where it became a predominantly male profession. This temporary exhibition presents Mia’s British rooms as places for the pursuit of science. Women often engaged with scientific discoveries and cultivated observational skills through embroidery and drawing—common pursuits for women of leisure. The c. 1730 Queen Anne Room will feature works on paper and textiles made by women. The adjoining c. 1740 Georgian Drawing Room will be arranged for a ‘scientific party’ where curious men and women socialized amidst telescopes, microscopes, an electrostatic generator—an experimental instrument that generated an electric charge—and, of course, tea.

Read more here»

In addition, see this Mia blog posting by Nicole LaBouff (Assistant Curator, Textiles Department of Decorative Arts, Textiles and Sculpture), “Science Is for Lovers: Why the planet needs scientists and passionate amateurs to work together,” available here»

and this posting by Peter Heering (Professor of Physics at the Europa Universität Flensburg in Germany and the former president of the International History, Philosophy, and Science Teaching Group), “Social Science: How to recreate an Enlightenment-era ‘science party,” available here»

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Exhibition | Piranesi: Rome in Ruins

Posted in exhibitions by internjmb on August 14, 2017

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of the Remains of the Dining Room of Nero’s Golden House, commonly called the Temple of Peace, 1756–78; etching (Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton 2007.49.2.2).

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Now on view at Mia:

Piranesi: Rome in Ruins
Minneapolis Institute of Art, 20 May 2017 — 14 January 2018

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) takes us on a ramble through the ruins of ancient Rome. His etchings of the remains of a great civilization couple his archaeological interest in detail with his flair for dramatic effect. This intimate exhibition invites you to reflect on a quiet world of grand desolation. Seen through the lens of the mid-1700s, the ruins suggest romance, mystery, melancholy, awesome possibility, and loss.

 

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Exhibition | Chinese Daoist Priest Garments

Posted in exhibitions by internjmb on August 14, 2017
                                                                                                                             
Daoist Robe, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), 1821–50, silk
(Minneapolis Institute of Art, 42.8.118)

 

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On view for a few more weeks at Mia:

Embroidering an Ordered Cosmos: Chinese Daoist Priest Garments of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)
Minneapolis Institute of Art, 12 December 2016 — 3 September 2017

Daoist belief emphasizes an ordered cosmos, harmonious existence with nature, and heavenly paradise. Together with Confucianism and Buddhism, it is one of China’s three major belief systems. Daoism emerged after 100CE and soon acquired the trappings of organized religion: a supreme god, a set of scriptures, temples, priests, and ritual practices.

Robes worn by Daoist priests represent some of the richest embroidered decoration in Chinese clothing. They take two basic forms: a square, full-length, sleeveless robe with center-front opening (jiangyi) and a full-length, sleeved garment with center-front opening fastened with ties (daopao). Elaborate symbolic schemes are common to both. They feature cosmic diagrams representing paradise, the sun and moon, phoenixes (birds with fiery feathers), abstract forms of China’s five sacred mountains, and circles containing 12 zodiac animals. When priests wore robes like these, they were symbolically united with the cosmos and able to go beyond the earthly and heavenly realms.

 

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Exhibition | Stones Steeped in History

Posted in exhibitions, on site by Editor on August 13, 2017

GoMA and Royal Exchange Square taken from Grant Thornton offices on the 8th floor of 110 Queen Street. Photo by Jamie Simpson.

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Press release (9 August 2017) from GoMA:

Stones Steeped in History
Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, from August 2017

As Scotland’s most popular modern art gallery and one of the country’s top ten visitor attractions, the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow has opened a new display charting significant dates in the development of the site, together with important milestones in the cultural development of Glasgow. Stones Steeped in History tells the story from 1777, when the original building was commissioned as a mansion for tobacco merchant, William Cunninghame, until the present day. The permanent show will inform visitors of the history of the building and is also part of the city’s ambition to aid a deeper understanding of the role slavery played in the narrative of Glasgow. Images of beautiful old photographs, watercolours, and postcards complement nostalgic images of Glasgow throughout the years, which enhance the detailed timeline on display.

Stones Steeped in History begins with a brief account of the life of William Cunninghame and moves through times of great wealth, created by international trade. The building’s first commercial purpose was as a bank some forty years later, before becoming Glasgow’s Royal Exchange in 1827, where for over 100 years businessmen gathered to trade cotton, sugar, coal, and iron. Many, like Exchange founder James Ewing of Strathleven, owned or profited from the labour of enslaved people on the sugar and tobacco plantations in the American colonies and West Indies.

The display continues with innovations such as one of Glasgow’s first telephone exchanges, housed in the building from 1880 and records the iconic Duke of Wellington statue being erected outside in 1884. Glasgow Corporation purchased the building in 1954. Its first civic use was as a library, containing both the Stirling and Commercial Library collections. Stones Steeped in History then chronicles the building’s key role in Glasgow’s rise as a centre for art and culture, which began in the 1970s.

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald, said: “We are pleased to open Stones Steeped in History and share a few of this historic building’s stories, including its undeniable ties to slavery. GoMA has been a home, a bank, an exchange, a library, and is now a respected gallery of modern and contemporary art. This building’s stones really are steeped in history. This exhibition records some of the key events in the cultural development of Glasgow. Importantly it continues to tell the story of Glasgow’s links to the slave trade, by providing a fuller appreciation of the part slavery played in the narrative of the city and how important that is not only to the past, but also to the future.”

Glasgow had a reputation as a tough city, but always running alongside this has been a history of innovation and creativity. In the 1970s, Glasgow City Council recognised how culture could be used to re-frame the city’s reputation. The first major project was the creation of a new museum to hold Sir William Burrell’s gift to the city—his collection of over 9,000 objects. The Burrell Collection opened in 1983, to international acclaim. The Garden Festival followed in 1988, attracting over 4 million visitors and in 1990 Glasgow won the title of European Capital of Culture, changing its cultural standing forever. Glasgow and the artists who have emerged from it are now acknowledged around the world and the city boasts one of the finest civic art collections in Europe.

The Mitchell Library opened in 1911, incorporating much of the book collection housed in the building. Stirling’s Library remained until work began on the Gallery of Modern Art in 1994. GoMA opened in 1996, under the leadership of then Director of Museums Julian Spalding. It had six galleries, five showing works from the permanent collection, with one for exhibitions. Spalding’s vision was quite radical—to display only works by living artists—but his selection of artists was met with dismay by the artistic community. Glasgow Museums’ current approach to collecting and commissioning is quite different and now focuses on building the collection and important social justice and human rights issues. Curators continue to collect and commission work by artists with a Glasgow connection. Visitors can see displays of local and international artworks from the collection as well as temporary exhibitions and artist events across the building’s four galleries. The basement is home to a library and café; there is a shop and artists workspace on the top floor.

Stones Steeped in History is located on two balconies across level 1 and 2 at GoMA. The display covers the period from when the first building appeared in the 1700s up to the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art in 1996. It highlights some of the significant dates and functions in the history of the venue, alongside some key points in the cultural development of Glasgow. It is open now. The exhibition was made possible thanks to the generous donations from the 3.1 million visitors who visit Glasgow Museums every year.

 

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The Burlington Magazine, August 2017

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, journal articles, obituaries, reviews by Editor on August 11, 2017

The eighteenth century in The Burlington:

The Burlington Magazine 159 (August 2017)

E D I T O R I A L

• “Reflected Glory: University Art Collections in Britain,” p. 599.

O B I T U A R I E S

• Simon Jervis, “Rudolf Hermann Wackernagel (1933–2017),” p. 639. His great article, “Carlton House Mews: The State Coach of the Prince of Wales and of the Later Kings of Hanover, A Study in the Late-Eighteenth-Century ‘Mystery’ of Coach-Building, in Furniture History 31 (1995) remains the most authoritative statement on London coach building in the late eighteenth century. But his crowning achievement was the massive two-volume Staats- und Galawagen der Wittelsbacher (Stuttgart, 2002). This is a catalogue of the wonderful collection of the Marstallmuseum at Schloss Nymphenburg, outside Munich, where he generously deposited part of his own extensive and systematic archive on coaches and carriages…

R E V I E W S

• Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Review of Christine Casey, Making Magnificence: Architects, Stuccatori and the Eighteenth-Century Interior (Yale University Press, 2017), pp. 642–43.
• Ayla Lepine, Review of Julian Holder and Elizabeth McKellar, eds., Neo-Georgian Architecture, 1880–1970: A Reappraisal (Historic England, 2016), pp. 643–44.
• Michael Hall, Review of Pauline Prévost-Marcilhacy, ed., Les Rothschild: une dynastie de mécènes en France, 1873–2016 (Somogy éditions d’Art, 2016), pp. 644–46.
• Francis Russell, Review of the exhibition Canaletto and the Art of Venice (London: The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 2017), pp. 651–52.
• Matthi Forrer, Review of the exhibition Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave (London, The British Museum; and Osaka: Abeno Harukas Art Museum, 2017), pp. 652–53.
•Eric Zafran, Review of the exhibition America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting (Washington: D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2017), pp. 669–70.

R E C E N T  A C Q U I S I T I O N S

Recent acquisitions (2007–17) by regional university collections in Britain

Joshua Reynolds, Maria Marow Gideon and Her Brother, William, 1786–87 (Birmingham: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts), January 2013.

Rosalba Carriera, Portrait of Gustavus Hamilton, 2nd Viscount Boyne, ca. 1730–31; pastel, heightened with white bodycolour on paper (Birmingham: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts), 2009.

John Opie, The Death of Archbishop Sharpe, 1797; oil on canvas (University of St Andrews), 2008.

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Exhibition | Basic Instincts

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on August 9, 2017

Joseph Highmore, The Angel of Mercy, ca. 1746; oil on canvas, 59.7 × 48.3 cm (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1981.25.362).

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Press release from The Foundling Museum:

Basic Instincts
The Founding Museum, London, 29 September 2017 — 7 January 2018

Curated by Jacqueline Riding

A highly successful artist and Governor of the Foundling Hospital, Joseph Highmore (1692–1780) is best known as a portrait painter of the Georgian middle class. However, during the 1740s Highmore’s art radically shifted as he turned his focus to societal attitudes towards women and sexuality. Curated by Highmore expert, Dr Jacqueline Riding, Basic Instincts explores this ten-year period and his disruptive commentary, reflecting his engagement with the work of the new Foundling Hospital and its mission to support desperate and abused women. On public display in the UK for the first time is a remarkable painting that still retains the power to shock.

In 1744 Highmore created a series of 12 paintings on his own initiative inspired by Samuel Richardson’s international bestseller, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. First published in 1740, the novel’s sixth edition of 1742 included illustrations by Hubert Gravelot and Francis Hayman. However, unlike the commissioned illustrations, Highmore’s paintings explicitly make reference to the abuse and sexual violence at the heart of Richardson’s story of a virtuous young maidservant fighting off the unwanted advances of her predatory master. Highmore and Richardson became friends, and Highmore subsequently illustrated Richardson’s masterpiece, Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady, whose tragic heroine avoids a forced marriage, but dies having been abandoned by her family, duped by an admirer, drugged and raped.

Unlike William Hogarth, Highmore’s representation of Georgian society favoured realism over broad humour and theatricality, so his nuanced articulation of social attitudes towards women and sexuality means that modern audiences can miss his challenging commentary. However, at the heart of Basic Instincts is a remarkable painting that has never before been publically displayed in the UK and which does not fail to shock. The Angel of Mercy (c.1746) depicts a desperate mother in the act of killing her baby, with the distant Foundling Hospital presented as an alternative solution. This painting is unique in western art for showing maternal infanticide as a contemporary reality. The fashionably dressed mother is free from direct biblical or mythological allusion, unlike Hagar and Ishmael (1746) the large canvas Highmore donated to the newly established Hospital, which represents an Old Testament story of maternal abandonment. Instead The Angel of Mercy confronts the ‘elephant in the room’ in terms of the Hospital’s campaign; that without Christian compassion and practical support, even respectable women will be driven to murder.

Basic Instincts curator Jacqueline Riding said: “This is the first major Highmore exhibition for 50 years and nowhere can his life and work have greater resonance than at the Foundling Museum: an organisation at the forefront of the public display, interpretation and appreciation of early-Georgian art. Setting The Angel of Mercy, the Pamela paintings and Hagar and Ishmael among Highmore’s most tender portraits of mothers and children, family and friends, uniquely demonstrates the artist’s depth and variety, while indicating the true breadth of British Art in a period still labelled ‘The Age of Hogarth’.”

Foundling Museum director Caro Howell said: “Basic Instincts demonstrates that in the eighteenth century, the Foundling Hospital’s impact on contemporary artists went far beyond a simple donation of art. For Joseph Highmore it sparked a radical engagement with the issue of women’s vulnerability to sexual assault and society’s unwillingness to support them, culminating in a work of quite exceptional power.”

Basic Instincts explores the limits and narratives around female respectability in Georgian society, and reveals the complexity of Highmore’s engagement with issues surrounding women’s vulnerability to male exploitation. The first major publication dedicated to Joseph Highmore and written by Dr Riding will be published by Paul Holberton publishing to coincide with the exhibition. The exhibition is supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

On display in the Museum’s historic rooms, a series of nine previously unseen sculptures by acclaimed contemporary artist Rachel Kneebone provide a highly charged counterpoint to Basic Instincts. Exploiting porcelain’s history as a material of refinement and rococo exuberance, Kneebone subverts viewers’ expectations by creating works that are simultaneously delicate and visceral. Raft of the Medusa’s tumbling limbs and fractured swags are at once coquettish and sinister; their gleaming white surfaces and exquisite detail belie scenes of collapse and dismemberment. Displayed amongst the Museum’s historic Collection, these works distil and abstract the Foundling Hospital’s suppressed narratives of sexual desire, emotional damage, and female strength.

Jacqueline Riding specialises in Georgian history and art. She read History and Art History at the universities of Leicester, London, and York and has over twenty-five years’ experience working as a curator and consultant within a broad range of museums, galleries, and historic buildings, including the Guards Museum, Tate Britain, and Historic Royal Palaces. From 1993 until 1999 she was Assistant Curator of the Palace of Westminster and later founding Director of the Handel House Museum in London. She has published widely on early-Georgian art and history, including her major book Jacobites: A New History of the ’45 Rebellion (Bloomsbury 2016). She is currently writing a biography of William Hogarth (Head of Zeus). She was the consultant historian and art historian on Mike Leigh’s award-winning film Mr. Turner (2014) and is the consultant historian on his next feature film, Peterloo. Jacqueline Riding is Associate Research Fellow in the School of Arts, Birkbeck College, University of London and a Fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme.

Rachel Kneebone (b. 1973) lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include Rachel Kneebone at the V&A, London (2017); 399 Days, White Cube Bermondsey (2014) and London; and Regarding Rodin, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2012). Group exhibitions include Obsession, Maison Particulière, Brussels and Flesh, York Art Gallery (2016); Lust for Life, Galleri Anderson Sandstrom, Stockholm and Ceramix at Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht (2015); 3am: Wonder, Paranoia and the Restless Night, The Bluecoat, Liverpool and Chapter, Cardi (2013–14); The Surreal House, Barbican Centre, London (2010); Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2008); and Mario Testino at Home, Yvon Lambert, New York (2007). In 2005, Kneebone was nominated for the MaxMara Art Prize and this year has been nominated for the breakthrough award for the 2017 South Bank Show Sky Arts Award.

The accompanying book is published by PHP:

Jacqueline Riding, Basic Instincts: Love, Passion, and Violence in the Art of Joseph Highmore (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2017), 120 pages, ISBN: 978 1911300 281, £25.

Published to coincide with the exhibition at the Foundling Museum in London, this fascinating book will re-introduce Joseph Highmore (1692–1780), an artist of status and substance in his day, who is now largely unknown. It takes as its focus Highmore’s small oil painting known as The Angel of Mercy (ca. 1746, Yale), one of the most shocking and controversial images in 18th-century British art.

The painting depicts a woman in fashionable mid-18th-century dress strangling the infant lying on her lap. A cloaked, barefooted figure cowers to the right as an angel intervenes, pointing towards the Foundling Hospital, the recently built refuge for abandoned infants, in the distance. The image attempts to address one of the most disturbing aspects of the Foundling Hospital story—certainly a subject that many (now as then) would consider beyond depiction. But if any artist of the period had attempted such a subject it would surely be William Hogarth, not the portrait painter Joseph Highmore? In fact, the painting was attributed to Hogarth for almost two centuries, until its reattribution in the 1990s. Even so, it is surprising that despite the wealth of scholarship associated with Hogarth and the ‘modern moral subject’ of the 1730s and 1740s, The Angel of Mercy has received little attention until now. The book and exhibition seeks to address this, while encouraging greater interest in, and appreciation for, this significant British artist.

Jacqueline Riding sets this extraordinary painting within the context of the artist’s life and work, as well as broader historical and artistic contexts. This includes exploration of superb examples of Highmore’s portraiture, such as his complex, monumental group portrait The Family of Sir Eldred Lancelot Lee and the exquisite small-scale ‘conversations’ The Vigor Family and The Artist and his Family, juxtaposed with analysis of key subject paintings, including the Foundling Museum’s Hagar and Ishmael and Highmore’s Pamela series, inspired by Samuel Richardson’s bestselling novel. Collectively they tackle relevant and highly contentious issues around the status and care of women and children, master/servant relations, motherhood, abuse, abandonment, infant death, and murder.

 

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Exhibition | Made in York: Inventing & Enlightening the Georgian City

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on August 8, 2017

Now on view at Fairfax House:

Made in York: Inventing & Enlightening the Georgian City
Fairfax House, York, 5 May — 12 November 2017

Pioneering ideas, great inventions, ground-breaking discoveries, objects of beauty, innovation, artistry and craftsmanship and the people behind their creation…. These products of York’s age of Enlightenment are as rich as their impact is far-reaching. Made in York celebrates the wealth of this Georgian city’s inventive and enlightened output through the long eighteenth century (1670–1830).

York’s pages of history are strewn with astronomers, mathematicians, horologists, and zoologists through to world-class scholars, celebrated painters, sculptors, architects, and cabinetmakers. This is the story of those people who made this city a crucible for enlightened thought, intellectual creativity, and a centre for exquisite craftsmanship throughout the Georgian age. York nurtured some of the greatest names such as Grinling Gibbons, Thomas Chippendale, Laurence Sterne, John Goodricke, John Flaxman, and Joseph Rose, leaders in each of their metiers. But behind these icons are some lesser-known pioneers; Made in York rediscovers their rich and eclectic legacy and the rare objects and often forgotten triumphs that they have left for future generations. For the first time, this landmark exhibition will be showcased throughout the townhouse, vividly animating both Fairfax House’s beautiful period rooms and its exhibition gallery.

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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.

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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

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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, September 2018 — 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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