Monday, August 29, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
[above: Philip Evergood (American, 1901-1973), My Forebears Were Pioneers, 1939. Oil on canvas, 50 x 36 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; University purchase. GMOA 1974.3190]
An excerpt [ed: links, obviously, not in the original] from 100 American Paintings, our book on the permanent collection:
Philip Evergood’s My Forebears Were Pioneers was on display in the Contemporary American Art Exhibition of the New York World’s Fair in 1939. In her review, noting that “American art and artists have come into their own,” Elizabeth McCausland described the painting in some detail:
In the background is a macabre Victorian Gothic dwelling; across the front yard lies an uprooted tree; in a fantastic rocking chair sits an old women, of the character typified by the phrase ‘D.A.R.’ The compositional integration of these elements and the final unification by a brilliantly bizarre palette of acrid purples, greens, and yellows would suggest that this is an invention of the painter’s fancy. Actually Evergood saw this subject in real life soon after the New England hurricane and through creative imagination transmuted the observed fact into mordant comment.In many of his paintings, including My Forebears Were Pioneers, Evergood made use of actual events, often layering the image with symbols and allegory that intentionally transcended the precise happening. Ostensibly, the backdrop event for the painting was The Great New England Hurricane, also called The Long Island Express, of 1938 which struck the northeastern United States in late September and resulted in 564 deaths, 15,000 damaged homes, and 3,300 damaged boats. Evergood writes:
We were driving from Cape Cod to New York, going through a little village with all the trees blown down, lying on the lawns, and there was a beautiful, austere old lady—beautiful because she was so ramrod straight—sitting in her chair with an old dog at her feet and a Bible on her knee calmly looking out at the cars going by with the complete destruction of her house and trees lying all over the beautiful lawn. I was impressed by the way that old lady of pioneer stock was unperturbed by anything. Her grandfathers had fought Indians and come over on the Mayflower, and there she was with her Bible, not changed by all that turmoil of nature.Discussing his reasons for the symbolic and allegorical tiering of meaning, Evergood continues:
Julian Levi, the painter, gave the picture its title. He and [fellow artist] Bruce Mitchell came into my studio while I was struggling with it, and one of them said, ‘It’s funny, Phil, how you seem to deal with topical subjects. I don’t see things that way.’ And I said, ‘Well, it is topical now because we’ve had a hurricane and I saw the old lady sitting there on her lawn, but I don’t like to feel that it will always be topical. I don’t paint to put over topical ideas. I feel very conscious when I develop a theme that it must have universal connotations before I want to put it down in paint.’Those collective subtexts were noticed by critics when My Forebears Were Pioneers went on display in the late 1930s and 1940s. For example, McCausland, cited above, notes the “D.A.R.,” in this case a specific reference to Grant Wood’s Daughters of Revolution (1932; Cincinnati Art Museum) and the critical understanding of that painting as a populist but satirical comment on the absurdity of xenophobia in a nation of immigrants. Oliver Larkin, in an essay for A.C.A. Gallery’s 1946 show of Evergood’s paintings contrasts My Forebears Were Pioneers with “the crisp immediacy of Hopper” and “the warmly felt picturesqueness of Burchfield.” Larkin asks whether the woman and the scene remain one “of bleak pride, or refined decay,” with the house having “the same battered dignity as the lady” or “something quite different?” Perhaps, Larkin argues, the painting serves as a comment upon “contrast between pioneers to whom trees meant something to be cleared away” and their descendants for whom an old home means “respectable privacy.” Lastly, Larkin notes that perhaps Evergood “has felt and expressed the tragic-comedy” of averting complete destruction for man, but just “by the skin of his teeth.” Herman Baron contended that the painting contained “as much poignancy and social philosophy as is to be found in Chekov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard.’”
Evergood's painting is currently on display in the Nalley (North) Gallery in the new permanent collection wing at the Georgia Museum of Art.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
[Above: Edmund Lewandowski, American, 1914-1998, "Gas Company." Watercolor, 1937. Collection of the Racine Art
Museum, Works Progress Administration, Wisconsin Federal Art Project. 16 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches]
The exhibition "Edmund Lewandowski: Precisionism and Beyond" will open at the Georgia Museum of Art (GMOA) at the University of Georgia on Sept. 10 and will run through Dec. 4. Organized by the Flint Institute of Arts in Flint, Mich., this retrospective is the first ever of the artist's work. The exhibition will examine all aspects of Lewandowski's oeuvre, which investigated a wide array of subjects in varied styles and media.
Lewandowski identified himself as a precisionist, a movement that emerged in the United States and reached its peak after World War I. Known for its precise, sharply defined geometrical shapes, precisionism combined cubism and realism and addressed themes, including American industrialization and modernization. Valerie Ann Leeds, Ph.D., who organized this exhibition, quotes Lewandowski as saying, "Our machines are as representative of our culture as temples and sculpture were of the Greeks. They are classically beautiful and represent physically the material progress that the nation has made."
Lewandowski also was an experimental artist, and the exhibition showcases his range, from representational to nonobjective, in his interpretations of subject matter. On display will be "Dynamo," an oil on canvas that combines the strong geometric lines of precisionism with the abstractions reminiscent of cubism. Also in the galleries will be more literal works, such as "Rock Hill Textile Plant" and "Milwaukee Brewery." Leeds also quotes Lewandowski as saying, "Rather than present reality, I try to treat these observations with personal honesty and distill these impressions to visual order."
In addition to industrial-themed imagery, this exhibition also showcases Lewandowski's more vernacular scenes and marine themes. "Marina II" shows a distinct interest in nautical life, gained from his childhood days on the shores of Lake Michigan.
This exhibition is a rare showcase of Lewandowski's work and its critical reception during his lifetime. Although Lewandowski identified himself with precisionism, his work went back and forth between styles throughout the course of his lifetime. His deep interest in industrial imagery was due to an "overwhelming desire through the years" to record "the beauty of man-made objects and [the] energy of American Industry." This exhibition will not only display his works, but also his career as a whole and his impact as a painter and educator. It will be sponsored by Katie and Ian Walker, the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Above: Pierre Daura (Catalan-American, 1896-1976), Farm cart, ca. 1940, pen and ink on paper
This installment of the Digging Daura series comes from one of our summer interns, Paul Blakeslee, a senior at Sewanne:
I’ll be honest: cataloging Pierre Daura’s sketches for GMOA has been a startling experience. I like to think that I’m somewhat familiar with 20th-century art. It is, after all, my concentration as an art history major at Sewanee. Before showing up to my first day of work at GMOA, I had had a nagging suspicion that the usual “Gorky begat Hofman begat Pollock begat Rothko begat Motherwell” storyline couldn’t have been the only art being made in the 1940s and ‘50s, but honestly, it makes for a compelling narrative to study.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I realized that my summer would be spent working with works from an artist of whom I had never heard a single word. In first looking through the drawings and paintings I would be cataloguing, I tried to imagine them being shown as slides alongside pieces by Joan Miró or Francis Picabia in a Sewanee seminar room.
As I started working through the objects, studying them for signs of damage and also, from sheer curiosity, trying to figure out Daura’s style, I ended up discovering something entirely different from what I expected. The thing about Pollock’s “Autumn Rhythm” or a Warhol soup can is its permanence and autonomy as an image. The works that are taught in art history classrooms exist in a state of semi-independence from their creators. Each work is at least as important as the person who made it. To a large extent, this seems to come from the artist’s efforts; the works that become famous are finished, polished, and intended to be viewed as art objects.
Pierre Daura’s sketches, on the other hand, are quick pen-and-ink or pencil sketches. Several were obviously drawn on whatever paper Daura had lying around the house. I flipped one piece over and found a picture his daughter had drawn on the back as a toddler. That moment, in particular, left me unsettled. I felt voyeuristic. Here I was, someone only recently introduced to Pierre Daura’s work, pawing through drawings he clearly never intended to display for an audience beyond his family. This wasn’t Art, that monolithic notion of human cultural achievement that I had learned about in the isolation of a college classroom in Tennessee; this was Pierre Daura drawing life as he encountered it, often probably for no other purpose than his own enjoyment.
My feelings of intrusion only intensified when I came across a sketchbook that Daura had filled with sketches of his daughter Martha as an infant. Almost every page bore a caption in imperfect English describing the Daura household from Martha’s point of view. Each picture also bore a date; most of the fifty-four sheets had been filled in the space of two weeks before Christmas of one year. A tangible sense of glee runs through the entire sketchbook.
A biography I read about Daura made it clear that he consciously withdrew from the European art world before World War Two to settle into family life in Lynchburg, Virginia. I live less than an hour from Lynchburg and, I’ll be honest, I think it’s kind of a boring place. I live in northern Virginia, within spitting distance of Washington, D.C., so I’ve always thought of the rest of Virginia as kind of a backwater. Pierre Daura’s landscapes of the countryside around Lynchburg, however, have changed my view. Everything he drew, from haystacks to headstones, is shot through with joy and contentment. Trying to title his landscapes is murderous, though; he often drew nearly identical scenes from nearly identical perspectives. I ended up nearly exhausting every combination of the words “Rockbridge Baths,” “cows,” “barn,” and “pasture” imaginable. However, it became clear as I saw more and more that the works had very little to do with the actual scene being drawn. Instead, the important aspect is the works’ almost transparent transmutation of Pierre Daura’s happiness into a landscape scene. After cataloging almost three hundred drawings, I feel confident in inferring that Pierre Daura had few, if any, regrets about uprooting his life and replanting it in rural Virginia.
My work at GMOA has given me a whole new perspective on art history in general. Studying one man’s unfiltered artistic output has been truly eye opening, and an experience that would have been impossible in a classroom setting.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Join us for "Family Day: Abstract Adventures" this Saturday, Aug. 13, from 10 am to noon.
What is abstract art? Visit GMOA’s permanent collection to see some of the museum’s abstract paintings, then head to the first-floor classroom to make an abstract work of your own.
Family Day programs are sponsored by Heyward Allen Motor Co., Inc., Heyward Allen Toyota, YellowBook USA and the Friends of Georgia Museum of Art and are free and open to the public.
Friday, August 05, 2011
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
A 47 million pound renovation, a full-scale replica of a T-Rex, and 8,000 artifacts on display. Good gracious, what could we be talking about? Why the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland, of course! After a three-year revamping, the museum has been taken back to its original Victorian glory. It first opened in 1866 with cutting-edge architecture at the time, but over the years most of its artifacts were tucked away to gather dust in cramped storage spaces. The renovation has changed this, though, said curator Alex Hayward, stating, “We just assembled objects because they were surprising, or beautiful, or thought-provoking.” The full restoration will be completed by 2020, though only small projects remain.