Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Decorative arts exhibitions

Two new decorative arts exhibitions to go along with the two new European art exhibitions at the Georgia Museum of Art -- New Discoveries in Georgia Painted Furniture and Selections from the Permanent Collection: Georgia Decorative Arts Highlights. Both are open now and will remain up until the end of April.

The displays are open in conjunction with the widely popular Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts. The fourth incarnation of the symposium is set to take place February 22 and 23 with the theme of "A Colorful Past: Decorative Arts of Georgia." Through this biennial symposium series the Henry D. Green Center for the Study of the Decorative Arts seeks to foster interest in, to promote discussion of and to encourage continued research into the history and material culture of Georgia. The series is named in honor of Henry D. Green (1909-2003), an early and distinguished proponent of the study of Georgia's decorative arts. Mr. Green was called an "invaluable champion of Southern decorative arts" and is known as having been a pioneer in the movement to recognize Georgia's rich legacy in the decorative arts. Information on the symposium is [here].

The Georgia Painted Furniture exhibition is the type of display we pride ourselves on at the museum. It features tons of new primary research, a nice color booklet, and 2 clear goals: to celebrate the colorful past of painted, vernacular, 19th-century furniture in Georgia and to present an opportunity to reflect on the history of painted surfaces in the state.

At the back of the exhibition booklet, curators Ashley Callahan (of the Georgia Museum of Art) and Dale Couch, Senior Archivist and Historical Research Advisor at the Georgia Archives, provide new information about a number of prominent ornamental painters in the state, and selected and abstracted newspaper advertisements for "paints and related goods" in Georgia. Object-driven research!

The exhibition itself includes 25 doors, chairs, chests, wardrobes and the like...all dating from about 1800 to 1880.

Arguably, the highlight object of the display is a chest, dated to 1839, fashioned by an unidentified maker for Mary Cronic (1823-1883) of Walton County, Georgia. The chest, made of painted yellow pine, is on loan from a private collection.

In the adjacent, larger gallery is Selections from the Permanent Collection: Georgia Decorative Arts Highlights.

This installation, as its title states, features decorative arts from Georgia and the South made in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, including several recent additions to the museum’s permanent collection: a Neoclassical Pembroke table from the lower southern Piedmont, a Victorian lawn urn by Stevens Brothers & Company made near Milledgeville (see right) and a lidded jar by contemporary Athens ceramist Ron Meyers. The selection highlights the museum’s dedication to building a significant collection of decorative arts from Georgia and illustrates the increasing breadth and ongoing quality of that collection. The display also includes the Georgia-related fine art objects (see below) and some of the museum's textile collection, including quilts (detail below).

These two exhibitions, soon to be combined with another new exhibition -- “I am in the garden . . . ”: African American Art from the Collections -- in a little over a week, means lots of Georgia- and South-related art is on display.

Friday, January 18, 2008

2 new European art displays

Thanks to Dr. Giancarlo Fiorenza, our Pierre Daura Curator of European Art, and our new associate curator, Deirdre Conneely, the Georgia Museum of Art will open (tomorrow morning...for the general public) two new displays of European art: Devotional Prints from Germany and the Netherlands and Collecting European Art.

With Ash Wednesday and the opening of Lent just a few weeks away, the exhibition of devotional prints is particularly timely. From our web site: "Over the years the Georgia Museum of Art has amassed an impressive collection of European works on paper, one of the most important in the South. Among those works is a choice selection of German and Netherlandish prints featuring religious, and specifically Christian, subject matter. This exhibition assembles for the first time selected highlights from this group of prints, ranging in date from the 15th to the 20th centuries, by such artists as Max Beckmann, Pieter Bruegel, Otto Dix, Albrecht Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius, Rembrandt van Rijn and Martin Schongauer. While a number of artists featured in this exhibition are revered as painters, the appreciation of their combined talents as printmakers is equally commendable."

Dr. Fiorenza and the museum's exhibition team have selected a nice green wall color to offset the monochromatic nature of these devotional prints.

One of the highlights is the entire Passion series, dated to the very end of the sixteenth century, by Hendrick Goltzius...all hung in chronological order like a gallery Via Dolorosa.

I have one personal favorite among the sixty or so images...

It is Jan and Lucas van Doetecum's sixteenth century Saint Jerome in the Desert done after a work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The etching with engraving on paper is really a landscape print with wonderful details. The desert here is not an arid, cacti-filled space but a wooded wilderness, and finding St. Jerome requires some close looking.

Collecting European Art is truly a chance for Dr. Fiorenza to highlight some of the new European art initiatives at the museum. It focuses on some of the collecting habits and strategies of the Georgia Museum of Art from two distinct periods: its foundation (in the 1940s) and the recent past (since the current building was constructed in 1996). Visitors have the opportunity to view works from the early history of the museum (especially as collected by the museum's founder, Alfred H. Holbrook) next to some exciting recent acquisitions. Plus, several works are on loan from area private collectors and patrons.

There are some really cool objects and paintings here. One case has three unique fifteenth- and sixteenth-century objects: (1) an Imago Pietatis (pax) from 1541, made of silver and gilt bronze by an unidentified Italian artist; (2) a boxwood relief sculpture of The Penitent Magdalene by Christoph Daniel Schenck (German, 1633-1691); and (3) Pierre Reymond's Scenes from the Life of the Virgin, painted enamel on copper set in wood from the 1500s. All three are from a private collection.

There is a small sculpture by Auguste Rodin over here...a Paul Klee watercolor there...a little landscape oil sketch by Pierre-Auguste Renoir here...a drawing by Domenichino there...and on and on.

My favorite in the display, though, is by an artist that an Americanist (like me) would claim as "American": Sigurd Skou. Skou was a Norwegian-American, and painted in a style greatly informed by French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. He was a founding member of the Grand Central Art Galleries (New York), an important "contemporary" gallery in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as a member of the Salmagundi Club, Allied Artists, the National Academy of Design, American Water Color Society, and the Palette and Chisel Club of Chicago. Skou spent much of his time in either Chicago, New York or France.

The exhibition's painting by Skou is of a French scene, likely a cottage and garden in Giverny, and dated to 1927. His impressionism uses powerful blocks of color, and then build-ups of rich impasto for a layering of textures and colors.

All that European art, plus Redefining the Modern Landscape in Europe and America, ca. 1920-1940 will be heading into its final week.

Images: Devotional Prints exhibition brochure cover; exhibition entrance in the Lamar Dodd Gallery; Jan and Lucas van Doetecum (Flemish, active 1550s), after Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Saint Jerome in the Desert, ca. 1555-56, Etching with engraving on laid paper, 12 11/16 x 16 7/8 inches, Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Friends of the Museum Purchase GMOA 1982.18; detail of the Saint Jerome; view of the Odum gallery with the Collecting exhibition case showing the three works mentioned above; Sigurd Skou (American, born Norway, 1875-1929), An Old Garden (Giverny), 1927, Oil on board, 26 x 32 inches, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. James Fleece; and detail of An Old Garden.