American Stories at the Met

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 21, 2009

From the Met’s press release:

American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 12 October 2009 – 24 January 2010

Ralph Earl, "Elijah Boardman," 1789 (NY: Met)

From the decade before the Revolution to the eve of World War I, many of America’s most acclaimed painters captured in their finest works the temperament of their respective eras. They recorded and defined the emerging character of Americans as individuals, citizens, and members of ever-widening communities. American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915 brings together for the first time more than 100 of these iconic pictures that tell compelling stories of life’s tasks and pleasures. The first overview of the subject in more than 35 years, the exhibition includes loans from leading museums and private lenders—and many paintings from the Metropolitan’s own distinguished collection. American Stories features masterpieces by John Singleton Copley, Charles Willson Peale, William Sidney Mount, George Caleb Bingham, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, John Sloan, and George Bellows, and notable works by some of their key colleagues.

The exhibition examines stories based on familiar experience and the means by which painters told their stories through their choices of settings, players, action, and various narrative devices. The artists’ responses to foreign prototypes, travel and training, changing exhibition venues, and audience expectations are examined, as are their evolving styles and standards of storytelling in relation to the themes of childhood, marriage, the family, and the community; the production and reinforcement of citizenship; attitudes towards race; the frontier as reality and myth; and the process and meaning of art making.

The exhibition is arranged in four chronological sections. The first—Inventing American Stories, 1765–1830—begins with artists who told stories through portraits. Serving their sitters’ self-conscious interest in how they appeared in the eyes of others, American portraitists often emulated British compositions. Although these artists focused on individuals and particular locales and relationships, the cleverest of them responded to broader narrative agendas and to the natural impulse to tell stories. In his portrait of his colleague Paul Revere (1768, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), John Singleton Copley embedded subtle narrative into a traditional single-figure format, with the silversmith’s gestures and gaze conveying volumes about the time in which he lived. As their patrons learned to read portraits for more than likeness and to appreciate artistic license, portraitists began to gratify their sitters by telling subtle personal stories in increasingly elaborate compositions. In his ingenious double-likeness of Benjamin and Eleanor Ridgely Laming (1788, National Gallery of Art, Washington), for instance, Charles Willson Peale implied the sexual bond that defined the Lamings’ marriage. Later in this period, some painters told grand stories in pictures produced for public exhibition, rather than purely for private enjoyment. In Gallery of the Louvre (1831–33, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago), Samuel F. B. Morse proposed that his compatriots must achieve cultural independence from Europe even while they learned from the Old World’s greatest artistic achievements.

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In addition to the materials contained at the Met’s website, there is an exhibition blog that’s updated regularly. The November 2009 issue of The Magazine Antiques includes an instructive article by Carrie Barratt and H. Barbara Weinberg, “American Artists as They Saw Themselves.”

Vienna Porcelain at the Met: Exhibition and Symposium

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on September 19, 2009

Press release from the Met:

Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 22 September 2009 – 21 March 2010


Vase, ca. 1730, Austrian; Vienna, du Paquier period, hard-paste porcelain, 6 x 8 inches (NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art); inscription reads (in translation): "China, you will not have called your arts unknown any longer; in Europe, you will triumph through the skill of Vienna."

The Du Paquier ceramic manufactory, founded by Claudius Innocentius du Paquier in Vienna in 1718, was only the second factory in Europe able to make true porcelain in the manner of the Chinese. This small porcelain enterprise developed a highly distinctive style that remained Baroque in inspiration throughout the history of the factory, which was taken over by the State in 1744. Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44 charts the history of the development of the Du Paquier factory, setting its production within the historic and cultural context of Vienna in the first half of the eighteenth century. The exhibition features more than 100 works, half drawn from the Metropolitan Museum’s superb collection, and half from the premier private collection of this material.

With the increase in trade with China in the seventeenth century, Westerners developed a passion for Chinese and Japanese porcelain. The demand grew so great that Europeans began experiments to replicate the Chinese hard-paste porcelain, or “white gold,” and create their own production. Germany was the first to produce true porcelain in 1708, leading to the founding of the Meissen factory in 1710. Soon after, Claudius Innocentius du Paquier enlisted a worker from the Meissen factory to help him produce porcelain in Vienna. Although it shared a number of forms with Meissen porcelain, the Vienna factory distinguished itself by developing its own distinctive and whimsical style of painted decoration. Du Paquier produced a range of tablewares, decorative vases, and small-scale sculpture that found great popularity with the Hapsburg court and Austrian nobility.

The works will be installed according to the functions they served – drinking vessels, wares for dining, decorative vases – in the refined life of the eighteenth-century Viennese aristocracy for which they were created. The exhibition includes the recreation in the gallery of an extravagant table that was set for the Holy Roman Empress. In addition to the porcelain, elaborate table decorations and pyramids of fruit sculpted from sugar, specially made for the exhibition, will adorn the table.

Another of the many highlights in the exhibition is a tulip vase from the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. Depicting a scene of a man (thought to be du Paquier) seated at a tea table with a display of porcelain on a buffet, it includes an inscription around the scene that reads: “China, you will not have called your arts unknown any longer; in Europe, you will triumph through the skill of Vienna.” Calling attention to Vienna’s great success in making porcelain, the vase is a very unusual, yet highly significant, piece from the Du Paquier manufactory, documenting its place in the history of porcelain production.

Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44 is organized at the Metropolitan Museum by Jeffrey Munger, Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and co-curator Meredith Chilton, an independent ceramic historian.

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Du Paquier Symposium: Friday, 25 September 2009

Morning Session, 10:00am – 12:30pm

  • ‘Welcome’ – Ian Wardropper, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • ‘Opening Remarks’ – Jeffrey Munger, Curator, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • ‘Fired by Passion: Vienna Baroque Porcelain of Claudius Innocentius du Paquier’ – Meredith Chilton, Ceramic Historian, Lac-Brome, Quebec
  • ‘The Triumph of Baroque Vienna’ – Johann Kräftner, Director, Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna
  • ‘Roses and Dragons: The Fascinating Story of the Du Paquier Manufactory and Its Baroque Porcelain’ – Meredith Chilton, Ceramic Historian, Lac-Brome, Quebec
  • ‘Du Paquier’s Porcelain: Artistic Expression and Technological Mastery, A Scientific Evaluation of the Materials’ – Francesca Casadio, Andrew W. Mellon Senior Conservation Scientist, Art Institute of Chicago

Afternoon Session, 2:00 – 4:45pm

  • ‘The World of Refinement: Du Paquier Porcelain in Everyday Court Life’ – Claudia Lehner-Jobst, Independent Art Historian and Curator, Vienna
  • ‘Gifts, Diplomacy, and Foreign Trade: Du Paquier Porcelain Abroad’ – Ghenete Zelleke, Samuel and M. Patricia Grober Curator of European Decorative Arts, Art Institute of Chicago
  • ‘Dressed Up in Porcelain: The Du Paquier Porcelain Room in the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna’ – Samuel Wittwer, Director, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg
  • Discussion Panel – Jeffrey Munger, Moderator, Curator, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Katharina Hantschmann, Curator, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich and Ernst Schneider Bequest at Lustheim Castle; Sebastian Kuhn, Senior Specialist, Bonhams, London; Johanna Lessmann, Ceramic Historian, Hamburg; Melinda and Paul Sullivan, collectors

The symposium is free with museum admission. For more details, see the Met’s website.

N.B. It would be lovely to have a report on the proceedings from a HECAA member. Any takers?

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