The Clark Acquires Lethière’s ‘Brutus Condemning His Sons’

Posted in museums by Editor on May 24, 2018

Guillaume Guillon Lethière, Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death, 1788, oil on canvas, 23 × 39 inches
(Williamstown: The Clark Art Institute)

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Press release (22 May 2018) from The Clark:

The Clark Art Institute today announced the recent acquisition of Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death, an important early work by neoclassical French artist Guillaume Guillon Lethière (1760–1832), marking a significant addition to its permanent collection.

Completed in 1788 when Lethière was at the French Academy in Rome, and subsequently displayed at the Salons of 1795 and 1801, the painting depicts a dramatic scene featuring the decapitation of one of the sons of Lucius Junius Brutus. Brutus led the 509 BC revolt to overthrow the last king of Rome and establish the Roman Republic, swearing a sacred oath before its citizens that Rome would never again be subject to the rule of a king. When his two sons were later discovered to be among the conspirators attempting to restore the monarchy, Brutus demonstrated his commitment to the Republic by ordering and then witnessing the execution of his own children. Painted before the onslaught of the French Revolution, Lethière’s composition is eerily prescient in its moralizing message and its brutal iconography. Brutus’s willingness to prioritize the interests of his country above his own made him an exemplar of Republican duty and stoicism. The tale inspired Voltaire and other leaders of the French Enlightenment to establish Brutus as a foundational hero of the French Republic. Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death is the first of two paintings on the subject executed by Lethière. The second version is in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

“We are truly thrilled to add this magnificent painting to our permanent collection,” said Olivier Meslay, the Hardymon Director of the Clark. “This is Guillaume Guillon Lethière’s masterpiece, and it is a transformative moment for our collection. Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death is important both for its masterful execution and for its place in the canon of world and art history. It is an iconic and prophetic painting that struck a chord with the French public at a moment when history’s role in understanding and interpreting contemporary issues was perhaps never more instructive or imperative.”

The painting has been in private hands for more than two centuries. A preparatory drawing by Lethière (ca. 1788) and a stipple engraving dated 1794 by Pierre Charles Coqueret (Paris 1761–1832) after Lethière’s painting were also acquired. The purchase, made at auction, was approved by the Clark’s Board of Trustees according to the Institute’s acquisitions policies, and funded through a special art acquisition fund.

Noted scholar Henry Louis Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, said of the acquisition, “I was delighted to hear that the Clark has acquired an important painting by Guillaume Guillon Lethière, who is widely recognized as the first major French artist of African descent. His celebration as an artist of great skill and significance is long past due.” Gates edits The Image of the Black in Western Art (Harvard University Press and the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research) along with David Bindman, professor emeritus of art history at University College London. The landmark research project and publication series is devoted to the systematic investigation of how people of African descent have been perceived and represented in art. A synopsis of Lethière’s career is featured in Vol. 3.3 of the publication.

“The significance of this painting cannot be overstated,” said Esther Bell, the Clark’s Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture. “Completed early in Lethière’s career, this is an icon of French painting and French history. By 1788, the twenty-eight-year-old Lethière was already in full command of his talent. Lethiere likely could not have imagined it at the time, but his painting would be publicly exhibited during the height of the French Revolution, and would inspire his contemporaries to contemplate the democratic principles at the heart of their tumultuous society. Like his contemporary, Jacques-Louis David, Lethière played a critical role in promoting the artistic tenets of the Enlightenment.”

Bell led the Clark’s effort in pursuing the acquisition of the Lethière painting and related works on paper.

“It is an exhilarating moment for the Clark,” Bell noted. “I look forward to installing the Lethière in our galleries and sharing the story of this painting and this important artist with our visitors.”

While the unlined painting is “in remarkably good condition,” Bell said the objects will undergo examination and conservation before going on view in the Clark’s galleries later this year.

Future programmatic plans include an exhibition related to Lethière’s work and an introductory lecture by Bell when the painting goes on view in the Clark’s galleries.

About Guillaume Guillon Lethière

The life and career of Guillaume Guillon Lethière (1760–1832) are extraordinary. Born in the French colony of Guadeloupe, he was the son of Pierre Guillon, a French government official, and Marie-Françoise Pepayë, an emancipated African slave. He was called “Le Thière,” a reference to his status as his father’s third illegitimate child. Lethière moved to France with his father at the age of fourteen, studying with Jean-Baptiste Descamps in Rouen for three years before entering the studio of Gabriel-François Doyen at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris. He submitted works for the Prix de Rome in 1784 and 1786 and secured a Roman pension in 1786.

Lethière remained in Rome until 1791 before returning to Paris, where he opened a studio that competed with that of Jacques-Louis David. His ethnicity caused Lethière’s contemporaries to refer to him as a “man of color” and “l’Americain.” Napoleon’s brother Lucien Bonaparte was his close supporter, and he was rumored to have fathered an illegitimate child with Lethière’s wife while on a group trip to Spain in 1801. On his return to Paris, Lethière killed a soldier during a dispute, and as a result, his studio was closed by government officials. Despite this, Lucien Bonaparte interceded on the artist’s behalf, helping him to secure an appointment as the Director of the Académie de France in Rome at the Villa Medici. Pensionnaires at the academy during Lethière’s tenure as director from 1807–1814 included Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Merry-Joseph Blondel, and David d’Angers, among others. During this time, Ingres sketched Lethière (Morgan Library & Museum) as well as members of his family, as evidenced in the beautiful sheet, Madame Guillaume Guillon Lethière and her son Lucien Lethière (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

With the Bourbon Restoration, Lethière lost his position as director in Rome and returned to Paris, where he took on private students. After initially being rejected—likely on the basis of either his race or his political alignments—Lethière was admitted to the Institut de France in 1818. He was awarded the Légion d’honneur in the same year. In 1819, he became a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he worked until his death. His studio included several students from Guadeloupe, notably Jean-Baptiste Gibert and Benjamin Rolland. Despite living the majority of his life in France, Lethière’s strong identification with his place of birth never diminished.

In 1822 Lethière sent a monumental canvas measuring thirteen by ten feet, Oath of the Ancestors, as a gift to the Haitian people commemorating the nation’s independence and resistance to colonization. The painting represents the alliance of a black officer and a slave leader standing under God; it hung in the cathedral of Port-au-Prince until it was moved to the presidential residence. Although the painting sustained significant damage as a result of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, it has since been restored and is one of Haiti’s most celebrated cultural assets. Lethière signed this work with his name and dual-national identities, noting both his birthplace as Guadeloupe and his then-current residence in Paris.

Lethière, along with Jacques-Louis David and Jean Germain Drouais, ranks as one of the most important neoclassical artists of the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries.

About the Acquisition

The Clark’s acquisition includes three works:

Guillaume Guillon Lethière (Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe 1760–1832 Paris)
Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death, 1788
Oil on canvas
23 × 39 inches (59.4 × 99.1 cm)

Guillaume Guillon Lethière (Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe 1760–1832 Paris)
Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death, c. 1788
Black chalk, brush with brown and gray washes
14 × 24.5 inches

Pierre Charles Coqueret (Paris 1761–1832) after Guillaume Lethière
Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death
Stipple engraving on laid paper, 1794
Image: 22.5 × 39 inches, Sheet: 27 × 42.5 inches

Raymond collection, 1801
Private collection, Paris, from whom acquired by the present owner

Newly Redeveloped RA Campus Opens on 19 May 2018

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on April 27, 2018

From the press release:

The Royal Academy of Arts, the world’s foremost artist and architect-led institution, will open its new campus to the public on Saturday 19 May 2018 as part of the celebrations of its 250th anniversary year. Following a transformational redevelopment, designed by internationally- acclaimed architect Sir David Chipperfield CBE RA and supported by the National Lottery, the new Royal Academy will open up and reveal more of the elements that make the RA unique—sharing with the public historic treasures from its Collection, the work of its Royal Academicians and the Royal Academy Schools, alongside its world-class exhibitions programme.

One of the most significant outcomes of the redevelopment is the link between Burlington House and Burlington Gardens, uniting the two-acre campus. This will provide 70% more space than the RA’s original Burlington House footprint, enabling the RA to expand its exhibition programme and to create new and free displays of art and architecture across the campus for visitors year-round. From dedicated galleries to surprising interventions, a dynamic series of changing exhibits and installations will present the living heritage of the Royal Academy; exploring its foundation and history in training artists as well as showcasing contemporary works by Royal Academicians and students at the RA Schools. To animate the displays, a new range of free tours, taster talks and object handling stations will be available to visitors.

Tacita Dean: LANDSCAPE (19 May — 12 August 2018) will inaugurate the new Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries in Burlington Gardens. With Art Fund support, the exhibition is part of an unprecedented collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in London. It will showcase the internationally-renowned visual artist and Royal Academician Tacita Dean who will explore the genre of landscape in its broadest sense: intimate collections of natural found objects, a mountainous blackboard drawing and a major new, two screen 35mm film installation, Antigone, that uses multiple exposures to combine places, people and seasons into the single cinematographic frame. Antigone was funded in part through the support of the Laurenz Foundation-Schaulager and its founder Maja Oeri; and VIA Art Fund.

The magnificent new Royal Academy Collection Gallery will present The Making of an Artist: The Great Tradition highlighting works from the RA Collection, including the Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo and the RA’s almost full-size sixteenth-century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, along with paintings by Reynolds, Kauffman, Thornhill, Constable, Gainsborough, and Turner. Selected by the President of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun, it will focus on the first sixty years of the RA, juxtaposing masterpieces from the RA’s teaching collection with Diploma Works by past Royal Academicians. The display of the RA Collection has been supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

The Architecture Studio within The Dorfman Senate Rooms will provide a creative space that invites audience engagement with innovative and critical ideas on architecture and its intersection with the arts. It will open with Invisible Landscapes (19 May 2018 — March 2019), explored in three ‘Acts’ of immersive interventions looking at the impact and future of technology in people’s environments. In contrast, recently conserved historical architectural casts on display in The Dorfman Architecture Court will convey the history of teaching architecture: the tradition of learning to draw from casts of buildings.

Located at the entrance to the Weston Bridge, which connects Burlington Gardens into Burlington House, The Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery will stage site-specific installations by Royal Academicians. The first major work will be Tips for a Good Life by Bob and Roberta Smith RA (September 2018 – September 2019), on the subject of gender in the history of the RA.

Moving through to Burlington House, visitors will arrive at the Weston Studio. Located within the heart of the Royal Academy Schools, the Weston Studio will bring the ethos and thinking of the RA Schools’ postgraduate programme to a changing contemporary series of two displays a year and projects developed by students and graduates. It will open with a group exhibition of works by first year students, revealing their rich use of subjects, approaches, methods, and materials.

Going back in time, The Vaults will exhibit The Making of an Artist: Learning to Draw a formidable selection of plaster casts from the early years of the RA Schools displayed together with works on paper from the RA’s teaching collection, illustrating the RA’s role in the teaching of art since the RA Schools’ foundation in 1769. Works will include anatomical casts and casts of antique sculptures, such as the Venus de Milo and Farnese Hercules, juxtaposed with recent works on related themes by RA Schools graduates. Works on paper include a special display From the Child to the President by John Everett Millais PRA, who aged 11 started in the RA Schools where he was known as ‘The Child’.

Further interventions in Burlington House will include:
• An impressive installation of three dimensional details from buildings designed by current architect Academicians, curated by Spencer de Grey RA, which will be displayed across a three-story vertical wall, an affirmation of British architecture both today and in the future.
• Yinka Shonibare’s Cheeky Little Astronomer, 2013, which will take pride of place in the sculpture niche outside the Grand Café.
An Allegory of Painting: A Project by Sarah Pickstone, which will feature two new wall and ceiling paintings by Sarah Pickstone (September 2018 – September 2019). A graduate of the RA Schools, she will celebrate the work of Angelica Kauffman RA, one of the two female founding members of the Academy.
• Already open to the public, Richard Deacon RA Selects presents his own selection of sculptures by Royal Academicians from the RA Collection, spanning over 200 years.

Alongside the transformation of the RA’s physical space, the first phase of a new online platform has launched to open up the RA Collection to be more accessible to audiences worldwide. Comprising paintings, sculptures, artists’ letters and books from the RA Collection, over 10,000 items have been newly digitised with the support of the National Lottery. The RA worked with Fabrique, the award-winning designers of the Rijksmuseum’s website.


Nationalmuseum Sweden Acquires Mirror from the 1690s

Posted in museums by Editor on April 18, 2018

Attributed to Burchard Precht, mirror, 1690s (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, NMK 114/2017; photo by Bukowskis).

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Press release (17 April 2018) from the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm:

A mirror just acquired by Nationalmuseum is among the most magnificent examples of Swedish Baroque ever produced. The ornately carved and gilded frame contains engraved, inset plate glass. The mirror’s unusually well-documented origins go back to the initial commission.

Count Wrede (1641–1712) was a top official who had earned the unwavering trust of King Karl XI. Following a career as Viborg County Governor, he contributed to preparations for the compulsory restitution of alienated estates in 1680. He was the Lord Marshall for the 1682 session of the Parliament. He subsequently held a number of prominent official positions. Promoting mercantilism in the private sector was among Wrede’s obsessions. It wasn’t long before he was elevated to countship and became one of the wealthiest Swedes alive. His political fortunes declined, however, after he advocated a more defensive military policy than Karl XII was pursuing. In 1711, he was pushed out of nearly all his positions.

Attributed to Burchard Precht, mirror, 1690s (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, NMK 114/2017; photo by Bukowskis).

The frame of the large, 195-centimetre mirror features a lace border, acanthus, cornucopia, grape clusters and flowers. The inset plate glass is adorned with engraved, scattered flowers. The top of the mirror brandishes a meticulously engraved coat of arms for the Wrede lineage. Though not signed, the mirror is most certainly the handiwork of Burchard Precht (1651–1738). As the leading sculptor of his day, he received many royal and ecclesiastical projects, often in collaboration with court architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. Born in Bremen and educated in Hamburg, he emigrated to Stockholm in the 1670s. His workshop produced furniture, frames and crests for the court and nobility. The evidence strongly suggests that he was able to polish and silver glass. No wonder he is regarded as one of the first Swedish mirror craftsmen. The high quality of plate glass is due to the requirement back then that mirrors be imported.

Engraving the glass with an artistic touch was a daunting challenge. The technique had been resurrected in Europe during the early seventeenth century and had become a coveted skill. A handful of engravers passed through Sweden from the 1650s to 1680s. After Kristoffer Elstermann arrived in the 1690s, engraving assumed its rightful place in the Swedish glassmaking tradition. The first time Elstermann shows up in the accounts is 1691, when he received an order from Queen Dowager Hedvig Eleonora for the new royal chapel at the Tre Kronor castle. He had his own workshop and later obtained projects from the Kungsholm Glassworks as well. He was skilful at engraving various motifs that went well with the surface and shape of the particular object. He exerted a major influence on Swedish engraving until his death in 1721. The glassworks have never produced such high-quality engravings as during that period.

The panels in the frame of the Wrede mirror have the same types of scattered flowers as the glasswork used, but their placement is less standardized than later on. The noble coat of arms at the top typifies the dexterity of Elstermann’s works. More than likely, he engraved it himself. Precht’s mirrors also became more streamlined and formulaic as time went on. Cast pewter strips replaced sculptured wood, and the engraved adornment of the frame was painted white. No portents of such austerity are visible in this mirror, which is why it can be dated with so much exactitude to the 1690s.

Wrede’s impact on the appearance of the mirror cannot be overestimated. It’s hard to miss signs of his close association with the court and contemporary vogues, including new ornamentation techniques and Precht’s carved, gilded furniture. He had the financial resources to purchase such an exquisite object, and the cornucopia is a nod to his mercantilist inclinations. The same mindset no doubt convinced him that the mirror should be produced in Sweden to the extent possible.

The records clearly show that his daughter Sophia inherited the mirror when she married Erik Axelsson Sparre in 1707. It has been passed down from generation to generation ever since.

Acquisition of the mirror by Nationalmuseum was made possible by an Axel Hirsch endowment. The museum has no funds with which to purchase handicrafts and works of art but is wholly reliant on donations and private foundations.

Reading and Conference | Walpole’s ‘The Mysterious Mother’

Posted in anniversaries, conferences (to attend), museums by Editor on April 16, 2018

Presented by the Lewis Walpole Library and the YCBA:

Horace Walpole’s The Mysterious Mother: A Staged Reading
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2 May 2018

As part of the year-long celebrations of the tercentenary of Horace Walpole’s birth, the Lewis Walpole Library and the Yale Center for British Art are collaborating to present a staged reading of The Mysterious Mother—abridged by David Worrall (Emeritus Professor of English at Nottingham Trent University) and directed by Misty G. Anderson (ReLindsay Young Professor of English, University of Tennessee). Completed just a few years after Walpole’s celebrated gothic novel The Castle of Otranto (1764), this under-appreciated tale of incest and intrigue was initially circulated only among the author’s friends. Walpole never permitted it to be performed during his lifetime except as a private theatrical. Following the reading there will be a talk-back session moderated by Catherine Sheehy (Professor of the Practice of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism, Yale University). This event is free and open to the public. Wednesday, 2 May 2018, 5:30pm, Yale Center for British Art.

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Horace Walpole’s The Mysterious Mother: A Mini-Conference
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 3 May 2018

Organized by Jill Campbell and Cynthia Roman

Diana Beauclerk (1724–1808), The Mysterious Mother, Act 3d, Scene 3, 1776 (The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University).

10:00  Reading The Mysterious Mother
Chair: Jill Campbell, Professor of English, Yale University
• Nicole Garret, Lecturer, Department of English, SUNY Stony Brook
• Cheryl Nixon, Associate Provost, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Massachusetts, Boston
•Matthew Reeve, Associate Professor Art History, Queen’s University
• Dale Townshend, Professor of Gothic Literature, Manchester Metropolitan University
• Nicole Wright, Assistant Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder

12:00  Lunch

1:15  Breakout session with Cynthia Roman, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Paintings, The Lewis Walpole Library, to view Diana Beauclerk’s drawings of The Mysterious Mother. Attendance is limited, and advance registration is required.

2:00  Staging The Mysterious Mother
Chair: Misty Anderson, Lindsay Young Professor of English, University of Tennessee
• Al Coppola, Associate Professor of English, John Jay College, CUNY
• Marcie Frank, Professor of English, Concordia University
• Judith Hawley, Professor of English, Royal Holloway, University of London
• Jean Marsden, Professor of English, University of Connecticut
• David Worrall, Professor Emeritus, Nottingham Trent University


Portrait by Nicolas de Largillierre Returns to Hillwood

Posted in museums by Editor on April 10, 2018

Press release via Art Daily:

Nicolas de Largillierre, Portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur, likely Jacques-François de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur, oil on canvas, 136 × 105.5 cm (Washington, D.C.: Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens). The painting was purchased at Sotheby’s in Paris in December 2017 for 345,000€, surpassing its high estimate of 80,000€ (Lot 609 of sale PF1730).

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. announces the acquisition of the painting Portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur, likely Jacques-François de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur, by Nicolas de Largillierre (1656–1746) from Sotheby’s sale of the collection of Eleanor Post Close (1909–2006), Marjorie Merriweather Post’s daughter, and her son Antal Post de Bekessy (1943–2015) in December 2017. The 54 × 42 inch oil on canvas painting, lot 609 of the auction, is a three-quarter length portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur, likely Jacques-François de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur.

“Like her mother, Eleanor Post Close was a discerning collector of remarkable objects,” said Hillwood executive director Kate Markert. “The sale of her collection, and this work in particular, presented a rare opportunity for Hillwood to acquire an excellent example of French portraiture, particularly because of its alignment with Hillwood’s collection and particularly because it was once in Marjorie Post’s collection.” Marjorie Merriweather Post was the founder of Hillwood, who left her Washington, D.C. home as a museum to benefit future generations.

Born in France, Largillierre was trained in Peter Lely’s atelier in England and became a renowned portraitist. Upon his return to Paris in 1679, he served as First Painter to King Louis XIV and depicted many royals and members of the European and French aristocracy, among them the Marquis de Puysegur. The sitter, framed by a classical column, is depicted wearing abundant drapery of shimmering fabrics while elegantly gesturing to his left, a testament to Largillierre’s technique and virtuosity.

First documented in France in 1902, the portrait was acquired at auction by Marjorie Post-Hutton in New York in 1922. In 1937, the portrait was recorded in the draft catalogue of Post’s art collection. It was first displayed in Post’s library in New York, then in the entrance hall at Tregaron, her first home in Washington, D.C., and finally in the second floor hall at Hillwood.

In 1964, Post sent the portrait to her daughter, Eleanor Close Barzin, in Paris, in exchange for the return of Nattier’s Portrait of the Duchess of Parma (acc. no. 51.4), which Marjorie had presented to Eleanor as a wedding present. In June 1984, Hillwood’s curator, Katrina V. H. Taylor, stated about the portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur that “the return of this painting would add to the interest of the collection at Hillwood.”

Thanks to the persistence and generosity of Ellen Charles, Post’s grand-daughter and president emerita at Hillwood, who attended the sale in person and memorably surpassed Hillwood’s maximum bid, the painting will return to Hillwood for good. “It was no surprise that this important portrait exceeded the estimated auction price,” said Charles. “I am thrilled and honored that I could be there in person and contribute to Hillwood’s important acquisition. I just felt that I had to bring it home.”

The painting will go through moderate conservation work, after which it will be displayed in the entry hall at Hillwood.

Hillwood Announces Two New Curatorial Appointments

Posted in museums by Editor on April 10, 2018

The paneling in the French Drawing Room of Hillwood dates to the reign of Louis XVI (1774–92) and now serves as a backdrop for a portion of Marjorie Merriweather Post’s collection of eighteenth-century French decorative arts.

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From the press release (20 February 2018) . . .

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. has appointed two new curators to manage, research, and publish on areas of Hillwood’s collection and further develop the dynamic special exhibitions program. Associate curator of 18th-century French and Western European fine and decorative arts, Rebecca Tilles will spearhead exhibitions, publications, and acquisitions related to Hillwood’s collection of 18th-century French and Western European art. Megan Martinelli Campbell, as the new assistant curator of apparel, jewelry, and accessories, will manage and research Hillwood’s collection of more than 175 dresses and over 300 accessories, all acquired and left to Hillwood by Marjorie Merriweather Post. Both curators began their work at HIllwood in February.

“Marjorie Post had a discerning eye for the finest and most important works of 18th-century France and imperial Russia and left them for the benefit of the public at Hillwood,” explained Dr. Wilfried Zeisler, Hillwood’s chief curator. “With great insight, she also left to Hillwood the most important examples of apparel and accessories she acquired over the years and today they offer added perspective into her life as a collector and connoisseur. We’re always learning more about these important areas of Hillwood’s collection, so we are thrilled that Rebecca and Megan will apply their exceptional backgrounds and talents to ensure the public continues to be educated and inspired as Post intended.”

Tilles is currently a doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Sussex, with a dissertation on the collection and collecting partnership of German-born banker and collector George Blumenthal (1858–1941) and his wife Florence Meyer (1873–1930) who together amassed an important collection of medieval, Renaissance, and 18th-century French works of art in both New York and France. Tilles completed substantial original research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, and the Archives de Paris and Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Prior to her Ph.D. studies, Tilles was a curatorial research fellow in the art of Europe department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she assisted with the exhibitions Splendor and Elegance: European Decorative Arts and Drawings from the Horace Wood Brock Collection (2009) and Symbols of Power: Art of the Empire Style, 1800–1815 (2007). In 2007, she received a Master of Arts degree in European decorative arts from the Bard Graduate Center, where she completed her thesis on the reconstruction of Marie-Antoinette’s corbeille de marriage. She has a bachelor’s degree in French and French cultural studies from Wellesley College and has completed the third year of the Premier Cycle at the Ecole du Louvre, which included coursework in 17th-to 20th-century painting, decorative art, sculpture, and architecture.

Coming to Hillwood from the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Campbell was previously a research assistant there, where she assisted with a complete assessment of the institute’s 19th- and 20th-century collections, researching and presenting hundreds of garments and accessories for curatorial consideration. She assisted with the installation of the special exhibitions Manus X Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology (2016) and China: Through the Looking Glass (2015). Prior to the Costume Institute, Campbell worked with the historic textiles and costumes collection at The University of Rhode Island, where she selected and interpreted a rotation of objects for display. Her work in highlighting the influence of menswear on women’s clothing was incorporated into the exhibition, Subject to Change: Art and Design in the Twentieth Century. At the University of Rhode Island, she was also the co-curator and designer for the special exhibitions The Other White Dress: Non-Wedding Gowns of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (2014) and Five Rhode Island Families (2011). Campbell holds a Master of Arts and Sciences degree in textiles, fashion merchandising, and design from the University of Rhode Island and received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Providence College.

In addition to conducting new research on their areas of Hillwood’s collection, the new curators are organizing upcoming exhibitions. Tilles’s first project at Hillwood is the exhibition Perfume and Seduction (working title). Opening February 2019, the special exhibition will showcase the finest examples of 18th-century perfume bottles, gold boxes, porcelain, figurines, and other luxury items from Hillwood’s collection, in conjunction with fine objects from the private European collection of Givaudan, the Swiss manufacturer of flavors, fragrances, and active cosmetic ingredients, founded in 1898 by the French brothers, Xavier (1867–1966) and Léon Givaudan (1875–1936). Campbell has taken over the organization of an exhibition of works by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, who famously photographed Marjorie Merriweather Post, in addition to a host of other important 20th-century figures, to open in June 2019.


New Expansion Plan for The Frick Unveiled

Posted in museums by Editor on April 7, 2018

A rendering of The Frick Collection from East 70th Street in New York (Credit: Selldorf Architects). According to the press release from The Frick, the $160million project, scheduled to begin in 2020, “encompasses approximately 60,000 square feet of repurposed space and 27,000 square feet of new construction.”

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From The New York Times:

Robin Pogrebin, “Frick Collection, With Fourth Expansion Plan, Crosses Its Fingers Again,” The New York Times (4 April 2018).

The irony is not lost on Ian Wardropper, the director of the Frick Collection: The very gated garden that upended the museum’s previous attempt to renovate its 1914 Gilded Age mansion is now the centerpiece of its revised design.

In 2015, preservationists, designers, critics and architects successfully opposed the Frick’s plans to remove the garden on East 70th Street, designed by the British landscape architect Russell Page, to make way for a six-story addition, by Davis Brody Bond.

The new plan, by the architect Annabelle Selldorf—which the Frick board approved Wednesday—has situated several new elements precisely so that each provides a tranquil view of the garden: a renovated lobby; a newly created second level above the reception hall; and a new education center, cafe and expanded museum shop.

In addition, the garden will be restored by Lynden B. Miller, a garden designer and preservationist, in keeping with Page’s original vision.

And rather than build over the garden, as previously planned, the Frick will now build beneath it, creating a 220-seat underground auditorium to better accommodate educational and public programs. . .

The full article is available here»

New Skylights for The Met

Posted in museums by Editor on April 5, 2018

As Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of the Department of European Paintings at The Met, explains in a blog posting for The Met from 7 December 2017, the museum has embarked on a four-year-long project to replace the building’s skylights, which were originally constructed in 1939. Coverage by James Barron for The New York Times is available here. From Christiansen’s blog posting

One of my favorite documents (yes, it is possible to have favorite historical documents!) was only discovered in Rome’s dusty state archives five years ago. It notes how the brilliant young Spanish painter Jusepe de Ribera, having found lodgings in which he could paint, received permission from his landlord to create a window in the ceiling of his apartment. The purpose was, he said, “to facilitate painting.” Caravaggio had done the same in his lodgings in 1605.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Allegory of the Planets and Continents, 1752, oil on canvas, 185 × 139 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1977.1.3).

You see, artists can’t paint without good light—and not just any light, but sunlight (ideally with a northern orientation). Just try to imagine Jan van Eyck trying to paint the minute details of the distant cityscape and mountains in his phenomenal Crucifixion without adequate lighting—which, believe me, could not be obtained with candles.

In an age dominated by the drama of artificial light, it’s all too easy to forget how important daylight has always been to artists: natural light possessing the full color spectrum; light that falls evenly across the surface of the panel or canvas. A beautiful illustration of this is Vermeer’s famous Allegory of Painting in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, where we see the well-dressed artist sitting on his stool in front of his easel while a woman poses, dressed as Clio, the muse of history. The natural light from an unseen but clearly present window falls across her figure and gives an evenly balanced light to the artist’s canvas.

It follows that you cannot judge a painting without good light either. Not surprisingly, the optimal light in which to view a painting is dispersed and even daylight—which is why The Met is embarking on a four-year-long project to replace the skylights in the European Paintings galleries—originally constructed in 1939—and replace them with an up-to-date system; one that will significantly improve the way visitors experience the collection.

On our new web feature, Met Masterpieces in a New Light, you’ll be able to follow the project’s progress over the next four years and discover new ways to engage with our European paintings collection online while the galleries are closed. Be sure to bookmark the page and check in with us every month.


Stephanie Wiles Named Director of the Yale Art Gallery

Posted in museums by Editor on April 2, 2018

Press release (28 March 2018) from Yale:

Stephanie Wiles (Photo by Jon Reis Photography).

Stephanie Wiles, currently the Richard J. Schwartz Director of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, will serve as the next Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, announced President Peter Salovey. Her appointment will begin July 1.

“I am thrilled to announce the appointment of Stephanie Wiles,” Salovey said. “She is an inspiring leader who is excited by the power of art to help us make connections and spark new ideas. I know she will steward the gallery—one of Yale’s finest treasures—while, together with other arts leaders on campus, envisioning new possibilities for the arts at our university.”

Wiles comes to Yale with over 20 years of experience leading college and university art museums. In her prior roles, Wiles has led efforts to connect the visual arts to other areas of university life by developing interdisciplinary courses, reimagining gallery spaces to be more inviting to visitors from campus and beyond, and spearheading exhibitions and publications to showcase research. She served on several committees at Cornell Tech, a science and technology graduate school in New York City, tasked with bringing art to the campus and into the curriculum. Wiles has successfully created educational and research opportunities across disciplines that take advantage of museum collections. She secured funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop eight semester-long courses that bridged the arts, humanities, science, and engineering.

At Cornell, Ms. Wiles oversaw the negotiation and completion of Cosmos, a site-specific light sculpture by Leo Villareal ’90 comprising 12,000 LED lights. The work, named in honor of scientist Carl Sagan and visible across campus and from many parts of Ithaca, is a beacon attracting visitors to the museum.

“Stephanie shares my commitment to connecting the arts to everything we do at Yale,” Salovey said. “The arts can bring us together, inspiring us to see ourselves and the world with new eyes. As we continue to foster an even more unified Yale, we are imagining new ways to connect the gallery’s magnificent resources to education, research, preservation, and practice. I am confident Stephanie will guide these efforts with enormous wisdom, creativity, and vision.”

Wiles began her career in the department of drawings and prints at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City; she later assumed leadership positions at Wesleyan University, Oberlin College, and, most recently, Cornell. Wiles received her bachelor’s degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a master’s degree in art history from Hunter College of the City University of New York, and a Ph.D. in art history from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her dissertation surveys the careers of British-born artists Thomas Charles Farrer, a Ruskin admirer and leader of the American Pre-Raphaelites, and his brother Henry Farrer.

In making the announcement, Salovey expressed his deep appreciation to members of the search committee: Mary Miller (committee chair), Sterling Professor of History of Art and senior director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage; Emily Bakemeier, deputy provost and dean of faculty affairs of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Tim Barringer, the Paul Mellon Professor in the History of Art and chair of the Department of the History of Art; Deborah Berke, dean of the Yale School of Architecture; Susan Gibbons, the Stephen F. Gates ’68 University Librarian and deputy provost for collections and scholarly communication; Daniel Harrison, the Allen Forte Professor of Music Theory; Roger Horchow ’50, a member of the Yale University Art Gallery Advisory Board; Ian McClure, the Susan Morse Hilles Chief Conservator of the Yale University Art Gallery; and John Walsh ’61, a member of the Yale University Art Gallery Advisory Board and director emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Salovey praised the tenure of Jock Reynolds, who will step down as director on June 30, noting that he had led the Yale University Art Gallery “with distinction, energy, and originality for 20 years.”

V&A Cabinet of Curiosity Project, with Artist Victoria Adukwei Bulley

Posted in museums by Editor on March 22, 2018

As Eileen Budd writes on the V&A’s blog (28 February 2018) . . .

Cupboard, unknown, 1678–80, possibly Rotterdam, Netherlands (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, W.7-1914).

The Project
The Cabinets of Curiosity project examines the History of Collecting over the centuries, from Early Modern, to 19th Century to Contemporary. Dr Hannah Young is currently undertaking research that seeks to uncover some of the unexplored histories of the V&A, which in many respects became a large-scale nineteenth-century ‘cabinet of curiosity’. In particular, she is investigating some of the links between British slave-ownership and the development of the museum. Her research focuses on absentee slave-owners who used their wealth, rooted in the exploitation of enslaved people, to invest in collections in the metropole. Objects that were once collected by absentees and their descendants can now be found throughout the museum.

Why Involve an Artist in Residence?
There are multiple histories (our histories) that are hidden in plain sight within our collections.  Such a wealth of stories, voices and lives that surfacing these and even knowing where to begin, can be challenging. We want to open up a new dialogue around our collections and so it’s vital that we have these conversations beyond academia. Artists are often better able to ask questions beyond historical ones. Inviting an artist to interrogate how this history has (and has not) been remembered and how the legacies of this history continue to shape the world we live in today can help change the way we think about the museum collections. We had an amazing response to our open call, from so many talented artists that selecting the right person for the project was incredibly hard. However, I am now delighted to announce that we have selected Victoria Adukwei Bully.

The Artist
Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a British-born Ghanaian poet, writer and filmmaker based in London. Her work explores memory and cultural heritage—their loss and (re)creation—from a diasporic vantage point. Engaging with archival texts in addition to oral and indigenous histories, her practice posits memory as a form of creative activism which seeks to revivify bodies of knowledge that face erasure.

An alumna of the Barbican Young Poets programme, Victoria’s work has been commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts, in addition to featuring on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. She was shortlisted for the Brunel University African Poetry Prize 2016, and is a Complete Works Poetry fellow. Her debut pamphlet, Girl B, edited by Kwame Dawes, forms part of the 2017 New-Generation African Poets series. Victoria is the director of MOTHER TONGUES, a poetry translation and film initiative supported by Arts Council England and visual arts charity Autograph ABP.

We are excited to be working with her and can’t wait to share the work with you as it progresses.

Cabinets of Curiosity project duration: 2016–18
Project co-leads: Dr Marta Ajmar, Deputy Director VARI, Dr Hannah Young (Maternity cover); Dr Lisa Skogh, external fellow
V&A co-investigator: Dr Martha Fleming, Previous Deputy Director VARI
Artist in Residence: Victoria Adukwei Bulley
Visiting researcher: Earle Havens, William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Sheridan Libraries and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures, Johns Hopkins University