Enfilade

Williamsburg Receives Hennage Bequest of Decorative Arts

Posted in museums by Editor on January 13, 2021

Press release (12 January 2021) from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation:

Pepper Box, John Blowers, Boston, ca. 1741, silver (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, bequest of Joseph and June Hennage).

Theirs was a love story of many dimensions: a love for one another, a love of America and its decorative arts, and a love of Colonial Williamsburg. The culmination of Joseph and June Hennage’s passion and evidence of their extraordinary philanthropic generosity is the bequest of their entire American decorative arts collection, which they amassed over 60 years, to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The Hennage Collection is a singular gift that will transform the already renowned American furniture and furniture miniatures, silver, and ceramics collections at Colonial Williamsburg. Totaling more than 400 objects of various media, the Hennage Collection also includes paintings, prints, and antique toy animals, vehicles, and figures. To honor this significant bequest, an exhibition of highlighted objects from the bequest, A Gift to the Nation: The Joseph and June Hennage Collection, will open at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, one of the recently expanded Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, in the spring.

“Joe and June Hennage always sought objects of excellent quality and condition. Their gift consequently comes as an outstanding addition to Colonial Williamsburg’s collections. It includes superior examples of furniture from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, as well as silver by the major East Coast artisans of that day and a variety of other materials,” said Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for museums, preservation, and historic resources. “The Hennages’ decision to place the entire collection in a museum setting is a clear example of their public-spirited generosity.”

A Love Affair Begins

In 1945 after being discharged from the United States Navy, Joe Hennage (1921–2010) returned to Washington, D.C. and soon thereafter founded Hennage Creative Printers. When he found himself in need of secretarial help in 1946, he hired June Stedman (1927–2020) who had come to Washington to begin her career after finishing school in Virginia. They were married in 1947 and their partnership blossomed. In the late 1940s they made their first visit to Colonial Williamsburg, and their life-long love for the historic city began. Their first collecting passion was not antiques, but memorabilia relating to Joe’s hero, Benjamin Franklin, and books on printing, the profession the two men shared. June’s love of small objects extended to what she and Joe referred to as ‘penny toys’, or miniature animals, vehicles and figures, as well as miniature furniture, including tables, chests, chairs, and beds. By the early 1950s, they were also collecting antique Chinese bronzes, porcelain, snuff bottles, and netsuke. Although they did not begin attending the annual Antiques Forum, which began at Colonial Williamsburg in 1949, until later in the 1950s and more regularly in the 1960s, Joe often named this event as a great influence on them both. In 1965, Joe was asked to serve on the Fine Arts Committee of the State Department, a group formed to assist White House and State Department Curator Clement Conger in raising funds for the architectural renovation and furnishing of the diplomatic reception rooms and remained a member and sometime chairman of the Committee until 1996. By the early 1970s, the Hennages were collecting American antiques with increased fervor and attending Antiques Forum regularly.

“Joe and June were born-again patriots and their excitement in being American was demonstrated by their passion for American furniture in the 18th century,” said John A. Hays, deputy chairman, Christie’s, Inc. “They loved furniture that made a big statement, and their collection includes many pieces that boldly say ‘I am American.’”

The Love Affair Blossoms

High Chest, Philadelphia, ca. 1770, mahogany, sabicu, yellow pine, and tulip poplar (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, bequest of Joseph and June Hennage, 1989-450).

Over the years Joe and June gave the State Department several exquisite pieces of American furniture and helped to transform the State Department diplomatic reception rooms significantly. Joe’s involvement with this effort led to his being asked to head similar Americana drives for the National Archives and for the Supreme Court. During the Bicentennial year, the Hennage’s philanthropic spirit provided numerous extraordinary gifts of important objects to various American institutions including Mount Vernon, Monticello, the White House, the National Portrait Gallery, and Colonial Williamsburg among others. The Hennages shared these gifts with such institutions, which are among the finest examples of American craftsmanship at its highest levels, not simply because they are masterpieces but in hopes of enhancing the public’s education about its material culture. Although gardening was among June’s greatest pleasures, her interest in and deep knowledge of art and antiques led to her also serving as a member of the Department of State Fine Arts Committee.

Colonial Williamsburg, however remained a special place to both Joe and June where they could learn about and relive American historical events, and this unique interest caused them to use their resources to help the Foundation flourish. They became charter and life members of the Foundation’s highest-level annual giving group, the Raleigh Tavern Society, as well as members of the President’s Council, a group dedicated to nurturing greater awareness of Colonial Williamsburg through philanthropic support. In 1985, the Hennage Auditorium at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, one of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, was named in their honor, and in 2019, the Foundation named a new gallery in the same museum the June Stedman Hennage Gallery in honor of June’s 90th birthday. By 1988, the Hennages completed a Georgian-style home in Williamsburg, which they named Hennage House, and they made this their home after relocating from Chevy Chase, Maryland. This home was where they lived with their extensive collections and viewed themselves as the custodians of the objects rather than their owners. Over time, they gave them to Colonial Williamsburg for safekeeping.

“Colonial Williamsburg inspires us all over time, but some take the message to new heights. That is true for Joe and June Hennage whose Georgian-style house on South England Street reflects the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg and whose stunning collection of masterpieces inside—the furniture in particular—carries the analogy to conclusion,” said Philip Zea, president and CEO, Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts, and former curator of furniture at Colonial Williamsburg from 1999 to 2001. “The Hennages’ significant legacy and generosity secure their presence in Williamsburg and make it possible to use the present tense when we think about them for some time to come.”

The Love Endures

Joe and June Hennage’s passion for their American decorative arts and for Colonial Williamsburg led to the decision to bequeath their entire collection to the Foundation upon their deaths because they believed in Colonial Williamsburg’s unique ability to understand the objects’ significance to American history and make that story accessible to all. Their extraordinary assemblage of material culture is transformative. Already renowned for having the best in British and American fine and decorative arts from 1670–1840, the Wallace Museum will now make its furniture collection complete in its ability to show the full geographic spectrum from Maine to Louisiana through superlative pieces from major East Coast centers. Knowing of this promised gift has also helped to shape the American silver collection over the past decade as acquisitions were made with the Hennage collection in mind; these objects will now serve as the backbone of Colonial Williamsburg’s American silver holdings. The Hennage Chinese export porcelain objects will provide the Foundation with the first pieces from two different services bearing the insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati, a fraternal organization of American and French officers who served in the Revolutionary War. The miniature furniture from the bequest will nearly double the number of pieces currently in Colonial Williamsburg’s collection (separate from its doll house furniture and child’s chairs) and these objects, too, will be transformative in the variation of forms include in the Hennage collection, which includes blanket chests, chest of drawers, a high chest, a desk, chairs, tables, looking glasses, beds, and tall case clocks, as well as the exceptional quality of many of the pieces. These are but a few examples of how this bequest will significantly enhance the way in which the Art Museums can interpret America’s enduring story for its visitors each year.

According to Erik K. Gronning, Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist and Head of Americana Department at Sotheby’s, the Hennages formed “a collection for the ages assembled during the zenith of the 1970s and 1980s collecting period. With great advisors, such as the Israel Sack firm, they acquired many American masterpieces. Their passion for their collection never ceased; it wasn’t just a passing fancy for them…. They were among the very first people to build a new home in period style to display their collection to its fullest. They did it all and didn’t leave a stone unturned. They were ardent supporters of scholarship, and they believed it was their responsibility to further the knowledge about Americana and American history.”

As many have said, Joe and June Hennage were rare people and it was a privilege to know and learn from them. Their dedication to American decorative arts was immense, and their love of America even more so. Through this extraordinary bequest, this collection will live on for generations to come, and visitors to Colonial Williamsburg will have the opportunity to deepen their appreciation through these superlative objects of material culture.

Additional information on particular pieces, including the objects pictured here, is available from this press release addressing highlights of the collection.

Five-piece Garniture, Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1785, hard-paste porcelain
(Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, bequest of Joseph and June Hennage)

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Note (added 12 January 2021) — The original posting did not include the image of the five-piece garniture.

Notre Dame’s Snite Museum Awarded Lilly Grant

Posted in museums by Editor on December 24, 2020

Press release (18 December 2020) from the Snite:

Anonymous, Nuestra Senõra de Guadalupe, 1729, Mexico, oil on canvas (South Bend: Snite Museum, 2002.01).

The University of Notre Dame has received a five-year, $2.4 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative to implement Inspiring Wonder: An Initiative on Religion, Spirituality, and Faith in the Visual Arts. Designed to invite diverse audiences into meaningful conversation, Inspiring Wonder will significantly advance the Snite Museum’s efforts to deepen its constituencies’ understanding of religion, spirituality, and faith in a deliberate and mission-driven way. Notre Dame is one of 18 organizations from across the United States receiving grants through the Lilly Endowment initiative. The group includes fine arts museums, historical societies and history museums, museums dedicated to serving children and families, and museums dedicated to particular locations and cultures.

“On behalf of the entire museum, I express our deepest gratitude to Lilly Endowment and their
Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative,” said Joseph Becherer, director of the Snite Museum. “Such generosity is a profound investment in the future of the museum and countless lives that will be touched through education and programming. More than just faith in the future good work of this museum and University, this grant is a commitment to regional and national audiences through a deepened appreciation of and enlightenment through art that we can uniquely provide.”

The primary project component is the Museum Education Fellowship in Religion and Spirituality in the Visual Arts. The endowed, two-year fellowship will allow for the creation of innovative programming around religion and spirituality, and will help train the next generation of museum professionals and bring their fresh perspectives about museum education into the Inspiring Wonder initiative. This grant-funded work at the Snite Museum includes the development of two major thematic exhibitions, course development, research mini-grants, academic symposia, and strategic acquisitions during the grant period.

Lilly Endowment awarded grants totaling more than $43 million through the initiative. These grants will enable the organizations to develop exhibitions and education programs that fairly and accurately portray the role of religion in the U.S. and around the world. The initiative is designed to foster public understanding about religion and lift up the contributions that people of all faiths and diverse religious communities make to our greater civic well-being.

“Museums and cultural institutions are trusted organizations and play an important role in teaching the American public about the world around them,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These organizations will use the grants to help visitors understand and appreciate the significant impact religion has had and continues to have on society in the United States and around the globe. Our hope is that these efforts will promote greater knowledge about and respect for people of diverse religious traditions.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative in 2019 and awarded planning grants to organizations to help them explore how programming in religion could further their institutional missions. These grants will assist organizations in implementing projects that draw on their extensive collections and enhance and complement their current activities.

“The Snite was founded on the principle that art is essential to understanding human experiences and beliefs. To that end, it is committed to providing its patrons with opportunities to engage in informed dialogue with scholars, artists, and each other—or simply to spend time in silent communion with art,” Becherer said. “These efforts soon will be enhanced by the construction of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art at Notre Dame, which is designed to be more community-facing and will have an active chapel at its heart. This is therefore an opportune moment for the museum to take a bold step forward in deepening its mission as a leader in engagement and education around art and religion, both on campus and in the broader region.”

Napoleon’s Barge, Newly Restored, Unveiled in Brest

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on December 18, 2020

Le Canot impérial de Napoléon, 1810, as installed at Brest, December 2020.

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Unveiled last week at the Musée de la Marine in Brest, as reported in the press release, via CNN (14 December 2020). . .

A spectacular imperial barge built for Napoleon Bonaparte has been unveiled at the Naval Museum in Brest, France, following a restoration project. Ten specialist restorers worked on the vessel, which was constructed in 1810, for two months prior to the opening of the new display on Friday [11 December 2020], according to a press release from the maritime museum. Visitors can appreciate the 62-foot barge from all angles, thanks to glass bays underneath and a mirror that hangs over the top.

Napoleon … ordered the secretive construction of the imperial barge in spring 1810, and it was first used to ferry him around during a visit to the French naval fleet at Antwerp later that year.

The original barge, which had fairly muted decorative elements including an eagle on the prow, was kept in Brest from 1814 onward. The more elaborate elements we see today—a figure of Neptune on the prow, figures at the bow carrying imperial weapons, and the large gold crown supported by four angels on the roof—were added in 1858 prior to a visit from Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie.

In 1943, the barge was moved from Brest to Paris under the protection of the occupying German forces to form part of the new Navy Museum. However, after an eight-day train journey, it was discovered that the doors of its new home, the Palais de Chaillot, were too small to fit the barge. It took two years to make a large gap in the wall of the building, and the barge was finally installed in August 1945.

In 2018, the barge was returned to Brest when the Paris museum closed for renovation.

Jean-Yves Besselièvre, manager of the Naval Museum in Brest, said the barge is one of the museum’s treasures and the only vessel of its kind preserved in France. The restoration is special, he said, because the barge wasn’t built to last a long time: “There is in fact a certain fragility to the object, but it has been perfectly managed by the restorers… and by the hauliers.”

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More information on the larger renovation of the Musée national de la Marine in Paris (scheduled to be completed in 2022) and the institution’s vision for the future is available from this press release.

The Huntington Acquires Newly Discovered Copley Painting

Posted in museums by Editor on October 21, 2020

Press release (23 September 2020) from The Huntington:

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens announced today that it has acquired a newly discovered painting by John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) depicting celebrated 18th-century British actress Mary Robinson, as well as works by British artists Alice Mary Chambers (ca. 1855–1920) and Madeline Green (1884–1947) and a set of screen prints by R.B. Kitaj (1932–2007), who, like Copley, was born in America and worked in England. The acquisitions were funded by The Huntington’s Art Collectors’ Council at its annual meeting last month. In addition, longtime council members Hannah and Russel Kully purchased as a promised gift for The Huntington a painting by the 19th-century British artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898). The painting, a portrait of the artist’s daughter, had been kept in the family since it was painted around 1888.

“This year we cover 200 years of British art history and bridge the Atlantic, celebrating the interconnected web of American and British art,” said Christina Nielsen, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Museum at The Huntington. “In this group are masterpieces, rarities, works by underrecognized female artists, and works that tie together different collection areas at The Huntington in intriguing ways. Together, they amplify our collection’s strengths and further its reach into the 20th century, all thanks to the generosity of our Art Collectors’ Council. To the Kullys—words fail to express the depth of our gratitude for their indefatigable commitment to The Huntington’s art collections. With this Burne-Jones portrait, we will be able to share with visitors a rare and arresting work that expands our great William Morris collection to reveal a very personal look at his artistic partner.”

John Singleton Copley, Mrs. Mary Robinson in the Character of a Nun, ca. 1780, oil on canvas (San Marino: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

Mrs. Mary Robinson in the Character of a Nun (ca. 1780) is a cabinet portrait, perhaps commissioned by an admirer, of one of Britain’s most famous actresses of the late 18th century. Lost for generations until it was sold in 1999 at auction as a French painting of an unknown sitter, the newly identified work portrays Robinson in her role as Oriana in George Farquhar’s comedy The Inconstant; or The Way to Win Him, which she performed on the London stage in the spring of 1780. In the course of the play, Robinson’s character engages in a series of ruses—dressing as a nun, feigning madness, and finally disguising herself as a pageboy—to win the heart of her love interest. The portrait was painted just a few years after Copley, who had already established himself as a leading portraitist in colonial America, moved from Boston to London to test his skills at the Royal Academy, and at the height of Robinson’s career. Around the same time, she sat for four of Copley’s professional rivals—Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, and John Hoppner.

In the painting, Copley’s talent for rendering likeness and dress is on full view, with the darks of the nun’s habit set off by the painter’s incomparable use of gauzy whites. A beam of light through the window illuminates the fine features of the sitter’s face, highlighting her hands and the wooden cross lying across her lap.

Acclaimed by many to be one of the most beautiful actresses in England, Robinson was also a popular poet, novelist, playwright, feminist thinker, fashion trendsetter, and, most famously, mistress of the Prince of Wales, later George IV. The Huntington’s Library holds a renowned collection of materials related to the history of London theater and British literature that includes many of Robinson’s published and unpublished poems, novels, plays, and her posthumously published autobiography. The painting also serves as a complement to The Huntington’s American-made Copley, a portrait of Sarah Jackson (ca. 1765), and a later work from his British period, The Western Brothers (1783), both displayed in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The Robinson portrait will go on view in the Huntington Art Gallery, among The Huntington’s rich collection of British portraiture.

Burne-Jones was among the most influential artists of his day. A friend and collaborator of William Morris, he was a designer of stained glass, decorated furniture, and textiles. Hundreds of working drawings relating to his design accomplishments are held at The Huntington, as well as one of the most popular installations in the Huntington Art Gallery, a two-story-high stained glass window, the David Healey Memorial Window, which he designed for the Unitarian Chapel, Heywood, Lancashire, around 1898.

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Portrait of Margaret Mackail, the Artist’s Daughter, ca. 1888, oil on canvas (San Marino: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

Burne-Jones was also a painter, associated with both the Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetic Movement. His oil paintings often explore themes of faith, chivalry, and love through the lens of medieval or Renaissance art and are marked by a dreamy, otherworldly quality. With its restrained composition and harmonious palette, Portrait of Margaret Mackail, which depicts Burne-Jones’s beloved daughter, is typical of his style. Last owned by the sitter’s great-granddaughter, the painting has never been exhibited or published. It will go on view in the Huntington Art Gallery alongside other works from the British Design Reform period.

Though she was well connected among London’s Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts artists, and regularly exhibited her work at the Royal Academy, Alice Mary Chambers was a Victorian-era artist who only recently is emerging from obscurity thanks to the recent definitive identification of the monogram with which she signed her work and a 2018 scholarly article on her life and career.

Chambers was a friend of infamous art dealer Charles Howell, and correspondent of James McNeill Whistler; and her interest in the work of William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) is evident in Portrait of a Young Woman. Worked in sumptuous strokes of red chalk, the delicate figure looks up from under heavily shaded brows in an expression that lends her a dreamy quality typical of Burne-Jones’s work. The leafy background of the portrait is reminiscent of Morris’s wallpaper designs, and Chambers consciously modeled her monogram in the lower left on that of Rossetti. The portrait adds a rare example of a female artist’s work to the collection of more than 12,000 British drawings at The Huntington.

Joseph Duveen, the famous art dealer who helped Henry and Arabella Huntington acquire the works that became the core of The Huntington’s art collections, championed Madeline Green, acquiring her painting The Future (1925) in 1927 and giving it to the Manchester Art Gallery that year. Green also won awards at the Royal Academy and exhibited at the Paris Salon and Venice Biennale. But her work is practically unknown today, and only recently reemerging through a new publication and recent exhibition at Gunnersbury Park and Museum in London.

With the self-portrait Miss Brown, Green playfully puns on her last name to present herself in the guise of another. Throughout her career, Green played with the concept of portraiture and self-portraiture, depicting herself as a mother, a wife, a dancer, an actress—alternately fierce, timid, provocative, but always appearing intelligent and with a pronounced independence. Miss Brown is dressed as a costermonger (fruit and vegetable seller) with apron and checkered scarf. (In other paintings, Green depicts herself dressed as a male costermonger.) Green’s technique involves rich layers on the canvas, with some areas so thinly painted as if to evoke watercolor, and others thick with impasto. Green explained how she accomplished the unique depth and texture of her painting, saying she worked “in body colour [opaque watercolor] underneath and glazed with pure colour and oil. I always paint in this way and although it takes rather a time, I don’t think the same effect can be obtained otherwise.”

Kitaj , an American, was one of the most prominent figures of the London art scene during the 1960s and ‘70s. As a young man, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study art in the U.K., and ended up staying there for nearly 30 years, only occasionally returning to the U.S. for short periods to teach.

Kitaj is credited with coining the phrase “School of London” to describe his circle of figurative painters that included famous names such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and David Hockney. In addition to painting, printmaking was a major part of Kitaj’s practice since 1962, when he was introduced to master screen printer Chris Prater at London’s Kelpra Studio. For Kitaj, printmaking, with its serial generation of imagery, had an immediacy that did not exist in oil painting. He called the practice “as close to spontaneity as I’ve ever managed to come.”

A portfolio of 50 prints, In Our Time: Covers for a Small Library After the Life for the Most Part, produced at Kelpra, reflects the interconnection of art and literature that is a major hallmark of his work. It reproduces the covers of books the artist had collected. As he recalled, “I combed bookshops and libraries, my own and those of friends, over a few years for memorable covers, for the look of them, their associations, variety, color, reverberations, titles, etc.” The acquisition includes an additional three prints representing book covers not part of the original edition.

In Our Time complements The Huntington’s growing holdings in the field of later 20th-century graphic and pop art, which include the work of Romare Bearden, Henry Moore, and Andy Warhol.

Newly Installed British Galleries at The Met

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on June 13, 2020

Press release (24 February 2020) from The Met, with the audio guide here:

A highlight of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 150th anniversary in 2020 is the opening of the Museum’s newly installed Annie Laurie Aitken Galleries and Josephine Mercy Heathcote Gallery—11,000 square feet devoted to British decorative arts, design, and sculpture created between 1500 and 1900. The reimagined suite of 10 galleries (including three superb 18th-century interiors) provides a fresh perspective on the period, focusing on its bold, entrepreneurial spirit and complex history. The new narrative offers a chronological exploration of the intense commercial drive among artists, manufacturers, and retailers that shaped British design over the course of 400 years. During this period, global trade and the growth of the British Empire fueled innovation, industry, and exploitation. Works on view illuminate the emergence of a new middle class—ready consumers for luxury goods—which inspired an age of exceptional creativity and invention during a time of harsh colonialism.

Installation view of The Met’s New British Galleries, Lansdowne Dining Room (Photo by Joseph Coscia, February 2020).

The British Galleries are reopening with almost 700 works of art on view, including a large number of new acquisitions, particularly works from the 19th century that were purchased with this project in mind. This is the first complete renovation of the galleries since they were established (Josephine Mercy Heathcote Gallery in 1986, Annie Laurie Aitken Galleries in 1989). A prominent new entrance provides direct access from the galleries for medieval European art, creating a seamless transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. A 17th-century staircase with exquisite naturalistic carvings—brought to The Met in the 1930s from Cassiobury House, a now-lost Tudor manor—has been meticulously conserved and re-erected in the new galleries. Three magnificent 18th-century rooms from Kirtlington Park, Croome Court, and Lansdowne House have been transformed by new lighting and painstaking conservation and remain at the heart of the galleries.

“The Met’s extraordinary collection of British decorative arts is unparalleled on this side of the Atlantic, and the redesigned galleries will breathe new life into the collection in compelling and unexpected ways,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “Especially on the occasion of The Met’s 150th anniversary, we are thinking deeply about the stories told in our galleries and how every object on display is an outstanding work of art but also embodies a history that can be read from multiple perspectives: a beautiful English teapot speaks to both the prosperous commercial economy and the exploitative history of the tea trade. The curators have created a new narrative for the galleries that sheds light on four centuries of extraordinary artistic achievement alongside the realities of colonial rule. The result is a thoughtful examination of the British Empire and its astonishing artistic legacy.”

Sarah Lawrence, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Curator in Charge of The Met’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, said: “This ambitious narrative of bold creativity in an entrepreneurial society will have particular resonance in New York, where historic hubs of manufacture have recently been reinvigorated by new design practices and an innovative economy. The installation will demonstrate that this is a history that remains highly relevant, and that these extraordinary objects speak to us today with genuine eloquence.”

Hanging Depicting a European Conflict in South India, before 1763; Indian, Coromandel Coast, for British Market; cotton, plain weave (drawn and painted resist and mordant, dyed), 117 × 103 inches (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Wolf Burchard, Associate Curator of British Furniture and Decorative Arts and lead curator for the new galleries, added: “One of the main reasons why The Met can justify having galleries of this scale dedicated solely to British art is that it is such an international story. It appears particularly timely to ask oneself the question of how best to convey Britain’s culture of creativity at a moment when the United Kingdom is reassessing its role on the European and global stage. We are reminded that the history of British art is far from an isolated one. For centuries, London’s flourishing economy encouraged the trading of foreign luxury goods and attracted countless artists and craftsmen from abroad, many of whom will be represented in The Met’s new British Galleries. Our aim is to present British decorative arts, sculpture, and design beyond royal and country house patronage, focusing on the ways craftsmen and manufacturers had to think outside the box, how to use new technologies, and how to market themselves. The galleries’ design creates an extremely stimulating new stage for our works of art to perform to their best of abilities and an excellent platform to shed new light on British art.”

The Collaboration

To create a narrative-rich setting that befits The Met’s impressive collection, the Museum collaborated with the design firm Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors, recipient of the 2018 Sir John Soane Visionaries Award and 2014 National Design Award for Interior Design. This is the first museum project undertaken by the design firm, whose work—which ranges from homes and hotels to shops and a furniture collection—is characterized by a sensitivity to historical materials, period references, and the use of rich, layered colors. The stimulating partnership between these designers and The Met’s curators appropriately mirrors the collaborative spirit that developed between British designers, makers, and retailers.

The Narrative

From 1500 to 1900, Britain transformed itself from an isolated island nation into a dominant world power. Global trade stimulated wealth, created a cultural and economic elite beyond the aristocracy, broadened local tastes, and introduced new markets to resourceful British makers. Artists, manufacturers, and retailers—men and women—responded vigorously to these opportunities, developing new materials and technologies, adapting European and Asian styles, and taking bold, imaginative risks.

As early as the 16th century, Britain’s international trade produced a new class of professionals with luxury appetites and ready cash, exemplified in the first gallery’s carved oak paneling from Norfolk, commissioned by William Crowe, a merchant from Great Yarmouth. Foreign artisans started to arrive in England as the Protestant Crown sought to compete with the glories of papal Rome and the French courts. These foreigners had more formal training than their English peers, who still operated within the medieval guild system. Florentine Pietro Torrigiano (1472–1528) was just one of the many European artists and craftsmen who made their way across the English Channel and established themselves in Britain. His naturalistically painted terracotta bust, probably representing Cardinal John Fisher (executed for resisting Henry VIII’s Protestant Reformation), has just been conserved and greets visitors in the first gallery.

Paul de Lamerie (British, 1688–1751, active 1712–51), Silver Sugar Box, 1744/45 (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the British Empire’s expansion delivered excitement, curiosity, and ruthlessness. A gallery devoted to “Tea, Trade, and Empire” explores the period’s visual exuberance with 100 English teapots displayed in a pair of ten-foot-tall semicircular cases. Presiding over this display is a small but powerful figure of a merchant from 1719, modeled in China by the Cantonese artist Amoy Chinqua (active after 1716). Jaunty, prosperous, and proud, the East India Company entrepreneur who posed for this portrait represents the commercial interests that drove the expansion of the Empire. The goods they brought from China, India, and the West Indies included tea, sugar, coffee, and chocolate, as well as porcelain, cotton, mahogany, and ivory. Produced at great material and human cost, and then transported thousands of miles, these commodities were now affordable for a new middle class. The perimeter of this gallery examines the exploitation of both human and natural resources that accompanied that abundance.

With both the political and monetary power of British monarchs strictly curbed by Parliament, British artisans did not receive the same level of court patronage as their counterparts in Paris, Dresden, and St. Petersburg. Instead, 18th-century design in Britain was shaped by entrepreneurs who had the cleverness, technical expertise, and business acumen necessary to succeed. Nicolas Sprimont (1713–1771) founded the Chelsea Porcelain factory; James Cox (ca. 1723–1800) sold precious table ornaments, some for export to Turkey and China; Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795) perfected the production of his pioneering pottery, achieving wide distribution within Continental markets; and Matthew Boulton (1728–1809) brought engineering skills to the manufacture of elaborate metalwork. All of these businessmen employed designers in the modern sense of the word: master sculptors, painters, architects, and draftsmen of immense skill and visual sophistication.

The final section of the galleries explores the massive shifts in scale, pace, and taste brought about by the Industrial Revolution during the 19th century. Once again, aesthetic and commercial priorities adapted to an immense new world of methods and customers. A highlight of this section are works acquired specifically for the new galleries, including a stunning marble portrait bust of literary giant Mary Shelley by Camillo Pistrucci, as well as objects by the visionary designer Christopher Dresser (1834–1904) that highlight his limitless creativity and mastery of industrial manufacturing in practically any medium imaginable. Examples by the great Gothic Revival designer A.W.N. Pugin (1812–1852) reveal his impassioned assertion of a national style. Other works represent movements against industrialization, revolts against labor abuses, and the demise of pure craft.

Support

Funding for the renovation included leadership commitments from Mr. and Mrs. Richard L. Chilton, Jr., Howard and Nancy Marks, the Estate of Marion K. Morgan, the Annie Laurie Aitken Charitable Trust, Irene Roosevelt Aitken, Mercedes T. Bass, Candace K. and Frederick W. Beinecke and The Krugman Family, Drue Heinz, Alexia and David Leuschen, Annette de la Renta, Kimba Wood and Frank Richardson, Denise and Andrew Saul, and Dr. Susan Weber.

Credits

The project’s curatorial team is led by Sarah Lawrence, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Curator in Charge, and Wolf Burchard, Associate Curator, both of The Met’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. Prior to their arrival in early 2019, the project was overseen by Ellenor Alcorn (now Chair and Eloise W. Martin Curator of European Decorative Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago) and Luke Syson (now Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, United Kingdom), with the assistance of Elizabeth St George (now Assistant Curator at the Brooklyn Museum).

British Art Network (BAN) News

Posted in museums, opportunities by Editor on June 11, 2020

From the Paul Mellon Centre:

New British Art Network Convenor Appointed

The Paul Mellon Centre is delighted to announce that Dr Martin Myrone will be joining the staff at the Centre in the new role of Convenor of the British Art Network from 1 September 2020. The network, jointly led by Tate and the PMC, brings together over seven hundred specialists working on British art, including curators, researchers and academics, reflecting the combined strength of the UK’s public collections and curatorial expertise.

As Convenor, Martin will lead and develop the activities of this community in close collaboration with the British Art Network’s co-chairs Mark Hallett (Director of Studies at the Paul Mellon Centre) and Alex Farquharson (Director of Tate Britain).

Martin joins the PMC from his post as Senior Curator, Pre-1800 British Art at Tate Britain and is an art historian and curator of international standing. His many exhibitions at Tate Britain have included Gothic Nightmares in 2006, John Martin in 2011, British Folk Art in 2014, and most recently William Blake in 2019. His published work includes the 2005 monograph Bodybuilding: Reforming Masculinities in British Art 1750–1810 and the forthcoming Making the Modern Artist: Class, Culture and Art-Educational Opportunity.

British Art Networks Sub-Groups

British Art Network sub-groups focus on specific topics of British art. The programmes of activity are led and hosted by network members. Membership to the sub-groups is open to British Art Network members who have a professional research interest or specialism in the group subject area. The current sub-groups are:

• Black British Art
• British Art in Historic Houses
• British Drawings
• British Genre and Narrative Painting
• British Landscapes
• British Mural Painting, 1600–1750
• British Drawings
• British Genre and Narrative Painting
• British Landscapes
• British Mural Painting, 1600–1750
• British Women Artists, 1750–1950
• Contemporary Art in Scotland
• Group Work: Contemporary Art and Feminism
• Post-War Painting in Regional Collections
• Queer British Art

Join a Sub-Group here»

British Art Network Newsletter

The British Art Network circulates a newsletter three times a year, to keep members informed of upcoming events and opportunities relating to British art. The newsletter covers aspects of network activity alongside relevant external exhibitions and events, opportunities and scholarly articles.

Sign up here»

 

Sweden Nationalmuseum Acquires Two Drawings by Oudry

Posted in museums by Editor on May 7, 2020

Jean-Baptiste Oudry, View of the Garden in Arcueil, Facing North with the Orangery Terrace and the Peak of the Forest Park or So-Called ‘Talus Cone’, 1744–47 (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, NMH 55/2019).

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Press release (5 May 2020) from Sweden’s Nationalmuseum in Stockholm:

Nationalmuseum has acquired two drawings with views from the garden and park of Arcueil by the French Rococo master Jean-Baptiste Oudry. The drawings depict a geometrically landscaped garden with elements of a freer park in a state of picturesque decay. The artist presents both immediate visual impressions and more artfully elaborated ones. This type of landscape had previously been completely lacking from the museum’s large collection of works by Oudry.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686–1755) has become known as one of the foremost artists of the French Rococo style. He began as a portrait painter but soon came to specialise in still life painting. His close friends and clients included the Swede Carl Gustaf Tessin, which is also why National museum has so many works by the artist in its collection. Oudry’s activities as a landscape painter are somewhat less known. At times, he is even said to have used a camera obscura in the production of his views.

Starting in 1740, Oudry began to make excursions to scenic Arcueil, located in the southern suburbs of Paris. The place was famous for its beautiful garden and park, which boasted a monumental aqueduct as a backdrop. Today, most of it has vanished or been rendered unrecognisable. The garden complex, which attracted artists such as Oudry, Boucher and Natoire, was created for the Prince of Guise between 1720 and 1730 by the architect Jean-Michel Chevotet. Among Chevotet’s fellow students at the French Academy of Architecture was the Swede Carl Hårleman, and both specialised in landscape architecture. Arcueil was transformed into an intimate formal garden in the spirit of Rococo, with geometric elements such as parterres, ponds and trellis works. The differences in terrain levels on the site created movement and vistas. It was thus also necessary to construct a variety of walls, terraces and stairs, which contributed to the special and complex character of the garden. There was also a wilder and more informal section with a picturesque touch.

It is therefore hardly surprising that Oudry was fascinated by Arcueil. He rented a house that was located directly adjacent to the property, which gave him many opportunities to draw various views. Most are believed to have been executed between 1744 and 1747. Many have an immediate character, revealing that they were drawn outdoors, on site. Others appear more elaborate. Over fifty such views are known to exist, two of which have now been acquired by Nationalmuseum. Of them, the view to the north with the orangery terrace and the peak of the forest park (or so-called ‘talus cone’), is among Oudry’s finest drawings from Arcueil. The artist has worked on a beige paper (which was probably originally blue) with black and white chalk, which he then smudged with a stump (an artist’s tool made of hard rolled paper or chamois leather). Then Oudry used a brush to add highlights in white gouache. In this way he managed to create fine contrasts between sunlit areas and other shady parts of the image. The figures are considered to have been drawn by another hand, perhaps Victoire Chenu or Jacques-Philippe Le Bas, who later (1776) engraved and published this view under the title Ancienne et première vue d’Arcueil.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry, View of the Bosquet in the Garden of Arcueil with Promenade and Garden Shed, 1744–47
(Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, NMH 46/2018).

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While the view from the orangery terrace has the character of a completed drawing, or what Carl Gustaf Tessin called la manière très finie, Oudry’s second drawing is characterised by a seemingly immediate visual sensibility. It was create using chalk and faint white gouache highlights on a grey-blue paper, and reproduces a more informal part of the garden, a bosquet area with a promenade. In the background one can see a garden shed with a somewhat dilapidated fence. In this view, Oudry has depicted a pastoral scene which seems quite distant from the more formal environment of the previous drawing and thus appears to herald the parks of the late 18th century.

Nationalmuseum receives no state funding with which to acquire design, applied art, and artwork; instead, the collections are enriched through donations and gifts from private foundations and funds. The acquisitions have been made possible through a purchase using donations from the Wiros Foundation and the Hedda and Nils D. Qvist Memorial Fund.

On Television and Online | Opening Up The Soane

Posted in museums by Editor on April 19, 2020

The three episodes of Opening Up The Soane will be uploaded to museum’s website a day after each episode airs on London Live.

• Episode 1, Restoring the Recesses — 20 April (airs 19 April, 8PM)
• Episode 2, Restoring the Private Apartments — 27 April (airs 26 April, 8PM)
• Episode 3, A Triumph of Restoration — 4 May (airs 3 May, 8PM)

You can watch the series live on London Live,Freeview 8 | Sky 117 | Virgin 159 | YouView 8

In the meantime, you can read about the Opening Up The Soane project, or explore the Museum online using Explore Soane. While the Soane Museum is temporarily closed, the institution is ever more reliant on your support to protect and maintain Sir John Soane’s house and collection.

Amanda Lahikainen Named Director of OMAA

Posted in museums by Editor on April 3, 2020

Press release (2 April 2020) from the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in Maine (Lahikainen’s scholarship to date has focused on late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century print culture, including the reception and representation of paper money in Britain, ‘imitation banknotes’ during the Romantic period, and British representations of the French Revolution in graphic satire). . .

David Mallen, President of the Board of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art (OMAA) announced today that Amanda Lahikainen, PhD, has been appointed as the museum’s new Executive Director, effective May 1, 2020. The board unanimously approved the appointment on March 23, 2020.

Dr. Lahikainen is currently Chair of the Art Department and a tenured Associate Professor of Art History at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she oversees the art gallery. Mallen said, “After a nationwide search, we are delighted to have selected Amanda as our next Executive Director. She is a gifted administrator and scholar.”

Dr. Lahikainen holds a PhD in art history from Brown University and a BA from Wellesley College. She oversaw and co-curated exhibitions at her college gallery and the Bell Gallery at Brown University, and has worked with local museums in Grand Rapids including the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. She held the Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress in 2012 and has attracted grants and fellowships from the Paul Mellon Centre and the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University. She previously taught at Brown University, Rhode Island College, and Roger Williams University, and she has worked or studied in London and Athens. She is widely published and has lectured and participated on panels across the US and in Canada and Australia.

Mallen added, “Amanda’s credentials are exceptional and will further strengthen the OMAA as we aim to expand our audiences and make our museum even better known. Amanda will relocate to Maine with her family from Grand Rapids. She grew up in Salem and has a summer home in Maine, so she is eager to live year-round in a region she knows and loves.”

Dr. Lahikainen said, “I am honored to lead OMAA with its wonderful collection, its sculpture garden, and strong sense of place. The museum is an important and beloved asset of the region and has a wonderful record of recent growth and accomplishment under my predecessor Michael Mansfield. The commitment of the Board is inspiring. While I have been happy and successful at Aquinas College, this is an opportunity I could not resist when recruited. I look forward to working with the board, staff, volunteers, and the community of artists and donors in Ogunquit and beyond to lead the next exciting chapter in the museum’s life.”

Dr. Lahikainen will replace Interim Executive Director Richard D’Abate, who Mallen said, “has led the museum strongly through the transition, and we are very grateful for his service.” D’Abate was appointed following former Executive Director Michael Mansfield’s appointment as President of Maine Media Workshops and College in Rockport, Maine on December 15, 2019.

Mallen stated, “The OMAA maintains its momentum as a strong and innovative institution, and we are excited for its future. The museum recently rehung the permanent collection and continues with exhibitions, performances, and publications. Its lecture series set attendance records in 2019. The 2020 exhibition season, now tentatively scheduled to begin May 31st, is planned with exciting shows, performances and lectures, subject, of course, to the coronavirus situation.

The search committee was chaired by former board member Diana Joyner and included Board President David Mallen and board members Chris Caraviello, Ann Ramsey-Jenkins, Carol Leary, Robyn LeBuff, and Alan Shepard. The museum retained Principal Marilyn Hoffman and Senior Search Consultant Scott Stevens of Museum Search & Reference, an executive search firm in Manchester, New Hampshire and Boston to conduct the national search.

The Ogunquit Museum of American Art was founded by Lost Generation artist Henry Strater and opened in 1953. Closely tied to one of the earliest art colonies of the American modernist art movement, OMAA today houses a permanent collection of important paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, and photographs from the late 1800s to the present. The museum honors Strater’s vision to preserve and showcase American art by mounting innovative modern and contemporary exhibition programs each year from May through October. OMAA and its three-acre seaside sculpture gardens overlook Narrow Cove and the Atlantic Ocean

YCBA’s Scott Wilcox Begins Phased Retirement

Posted in museums by Editor on April 3, 2020

Press release (31 March 2020) from YCBA:

The Yale Center for British Art announced that Scott Wilcox, Deputy Director for Collections, will begin a two-year phased retirement starting April 1, 2020. Wilcox, who has worked for the Center for his entire career, will immediately take on a new position as Senior Research Scholar. His full retirement will begin on March 1, 2022, concluding a career that spans more than three decades. A search for his successor is forthcoming.

“Scott has shaped the curatorial ambitions of the Center over the past 30 years by enriching our knowledge of and appreciation for works on paper and by bringing significant examples of photography into the collection,” Director Courtney J. Martin said. “As a student at Yale in the early 2000s, I knew of Scott’s great achievements as a curator and scholar. When I returned to the Center as director, I learned that he was also a stellar colleague. Over the next two years, we will have the opportunity to learn more from him as he turns to a research role that will certainly benefit staff, visiting scholars, and visitors to our exhibitions.”

Wilcox received his PhD in the history of art from Yale University in 1985, completing his doctoral dissertation on the nineteenth-century watercolor painter David Cox. He joined the Center as Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings in 1982 and later held the positions of Associate Curator (1991), Curator (1998), Chief Curator of Art Collections, and Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings (2009).

“As I look back on nearly 38 years at the Center, I feel tremendously grateful that I’ve had such a long run in an institution with such great collections, great programs, and great colleagues,” Wilcox said. “I hope I’ve been able to make a positive contribution to what makes the Center special. At different moments I considered moving on, but I always concluded that there was no other place I’d rather be.”

From 1987 to 2014, Wilcox served as the Center’s in-house curator for photographic exhibitions and was instrumental in establishing a collection of photography within the Department of Prints and Drawings through the purchase or gift of works from Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro and the gift of works from the Joy of Giving Something, Inc.

In 2014, Wilcox was promoted to Deputy Director for Collections, expanding his curatorial role to include all the Center’s collections. In this role, one of five senior leadership positions at the Center, he has overseen the intellectual framework in which the Center’s art is interpreted, as well as the care of the art and growth of the collections. Between 2009 and 2010, Wilcox directed the creation and development of the new Department for Collections Information and Access, which catalogues the Center’s collections electronically and serves as their online platform. Wilcox co-led a team of curators to develop Britain in the World, the reinstallation of the Center’s collections that coincided with its reopening in 2016, following a major building conservation project. This ongoing exhibition offers a new interpretation of the collections that focuses on British art, history, and culture in a global context.

Wilcox’s deep knowledge of works on paper has resulted in many significant exhibitions at the Center: Victorian Landscape Watercolors (also at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) in 1992–93; Lucian Freud Etchings from the Paine Webber Art Collection (Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Seattle Art Museum; Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston; Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University; and Carnegie Museum of Art) in 1999–2000; Sun, Wind, and Rain: The Art of David Cox (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) in 2008–9; and The English Prize: The Capture of the ‘Westmorland’, an Episode of the Grand Tour (Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford) in 2012–13. These exhibitions were accompanied by major publications with scholarly essays and illustrated catalogues.

“I have known Scott Wilcox throughout his illustrious career at Yale,” said Jules D. Prown, Founding Director of the Yale Center for British Art and Professor Emeritus in the History of Art at Yale University. “Our initial acquaintance began when, as Scott’s professor, I directed his dissertation on the English artist David Cox. Since he knew a great deal about the artist and I did not, it did not require much effort on my part. When Scott applied for a position in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Center, he distinguished himself quickly from the other candidates by the accuracy of his eye in making attributions and aesthetic judgments. Scott is deeply respected by his colleagues, not only for his curatorial and administrative ability but also for his intelligent analysis, conclusions, and leadership.”

In his new role as Senior Research Scholar, Wilcox will assist in the transition to his successor and will cocurate (with Antonella Pelizzari) Photographs of Italy and the British Imagination, 1840–1914, scheduled to open at the Center in fall 2021. The exhibition will showcase the work of British photographers in Italy and consider the ways in which photography shaped the British appreciation and understanding of Italian art, culture, and politics.