Thursday, September 29, 2016

Guided Mini-Tour: “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects”

On your way to view the newly arranged permanent collection, be sure to stop in the Dorothy Alexander Roush and Martha Thompson Dinos Galleries. They’ll be easy to spot because they’re the ones painted verdant green. They feature highlights drawn from an extensive collection of 2,217 objects on extended loan to the museum and make up “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects,” on display through December 31. The exhibition illuminates a culture of gift-giving in the Russian Empire, where rulers could maintain their benevolent image and their subjects could appease those in power.

Vasilii, F. Timm (1820–1895) [Georg Wilhelm Timm], chromolithograph. From the coronation album of
Alexander II: Alexander II receiving felicitations from the Cossacks in Saint Andrew Hall
of the Great Palace in the Moscow Kremlin

With just over 140 objects ranging from miniscule medals to towering trophies, it’s easy to feel lost in the grandeur, so we’ve put together this guided mini-tour to help you make the most of your visit. As you first enter the Roush Gallery, take in the presence of the silver trophy from a distance, then begin to notice the masterful craftsmanship in its details. It is topped with the doubled-headed eagle, an important feature in the Russian coat of arms; its two heads represent the Russian Empire as the great bridge between East and West. You might recognize it multiple times throughout the exhibition. In this case, the double-headed eagle was used to call attention to the valor of a commander during the Crimean War.

Breastplate with the imperial
double-headed eagle, ca. 1900
In the middle of the room sits a large, wooden cigar box covered in miniatures to represent the empire’s territories. It was given to Alexander II at his coronation to commemorate a specific moment in which the tsar and his people blessed and prayed for one another. Opening the box was like reliving the experience.

Presentation cigar box with a coronation scene and coats of arms, 1856

Now, turn toward the doorway where you entered to view a silver snuffbox with a portrait of Alexander I. The relief depicts him wearing the traditional laurels of victory in reference to his triumph over Napoleon’s forces. His profile sits atop a pedestal surrounded by weapons, armor and imagery resembling the Ark of the Covenant. As you move back toward the entrance, notice a painting of a little boy. This 1827 portrait was a previously unknown and undocumented work created by the famed painter Aleksei Venetsianov, and it shows a delicate sensitivity for the vibrancy of youth. It demonstrates the power of portraiture, and its placement in the exhibition shows the diverse use of portraits in 19th-century Russia. To the right, a pair of luminous objects feathered with gold will surely catch your attention. The first, a triptych, was presented to the Lifeguard Volinsky Regiment by the last imperial couple in 1907. It shows gratitude for the unit’s safeguard, complemented by the prayers of protection written on the outside. The other object showcases the opposite direction of giving gifts. It was presented by a monastery to the court of Saint Petersburg, and it speaks praises and prayers for the ruling family through the select use of Christian saints. In the corner opposite to the icons is a document of particular importance, a Charter of Ennoblement signed by Alexander I. It was gifted to a civil servant whose dedication in service progressed him to a status of nobility; the charter includes his new coat of arms, verified by the emperor’s seal and signature.

Making your way into the second gallery, you’ll see a vast array of jaw-dropping, brilliant medals and orders made with the highest degree of precision and beauty. Each object displays exacting craftsmanship with precious metals, enamel, and guilloché (a mechanical decoration technique that engraves patterns into materials such as metal). Every one is superb on its own, but imagine the men decorated with a mass of them as seen in the portrait of Alexander II in the first gallery. Last, three ribbon-shaped decorations known as cockades sit next to the helmets on the corner pedestal. They were placed on the front of helmets to reward exceptionality in battle, and they represented the divine in subtle ways. The ribbon suggests the iconography angels, and the ephemeral tips were meant to invoke the Holy Spirit.

This selection represents highlights in the exhibition, but there is much more for all to see and learn. An accompanying catalogue, published by the museum, will be available for purchase in the Museum Shop or by phone at 706.542.0450.

Benjamin Thrash
Publications Intern

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Living Color: Gary Hudson in the 1970s"

Gary Hudson, Pi Kuan, 1970
This exhibition, now showing through January 8, 2017, showcases the 1970s work of painter Gary Hudson, who was associated with the lyrical abstraction movement. Hudson received a master’s of fine art degree from Yale University in the 1960s and studied there with famed artist and teacher Hans Hofmann. In the late 1970s, Hudson created works of lyrical abstraction. In contrast to minimalism, the lyrical abstractionists took a looser, more painterly approach to abstract art. Hudson experimented with the importance of color and line in composition. Sometimes he soaked cloth with paint, then pulled it across a canvas, allowing color to saturate the surface randomly. Hudson's works are in public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the San Diego Museum of Fine Arts as well as in many private collections.

Gary Hudson, Silver Plaque, ca. 1971
Sarah Kate Gillespie, curator of the exhibition, said, “This exhibition offers us the opportunity to appreciate and examine a pivotal moment in Hudson’s career. With these works, we can clearly see the legacy of both abstract expressionism and minimalism, but also how the artist took these movements and reshaped them in new ways in the 1970s.”

Related events include:

• Family Day: Express Yourself
September 17, 10 a.m. to noon

• Teen Studio: Abstract Expressionism
November 3, 5:30–8:30 p.m. (free but registration required via 706-542-8863 or email

• Tour at Two
November 16 at 2 p.m.

All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

“Icon of Modernism: Representing the Brooklyn Bridge, 1883–1950”

William Louis Sonntag Jr., Brooklyn Bridge, ca. 1895

Opening this Saturday and on view through December 11, “Icon of Modernism: Representing the Brooklyn Bridge, 1883–1950” is a rich survey of paintings, watercolors, works on paper and photographs that all take the Brooklyn Bridge as a subject and were created between the completion of the bridge (1883) and the mid-20th century. “Icon of Modernism” aims to show how artistic representations of the structure evolved over time even as it symbolized modernity for different generations. From American impressionism to abstract expressionism, the details of how artists presented the bridge may have changed, but its ability to stand for the modern era remained.

“Icon of Modernism” features 42 works of art, including from painters Joseph Stella, John Marin, Yun Gee, Georgia O’Keeffe and Reginald Marsh and photographers Edward Steichen, Walker Evans, Weegee and Consuelo Kanaga. Four works in the exhibition come from the museum’s own collection, but the remainder are on loan from museums, corporate collections and private collections across the country.

Glenn O. Coleman, Bridge Tower, 1929
“When it opened, the Brooklyn Bridge was a phenomenon, and many commemorative objects featuring the bridge were produced. Other museums have shown the wide variety of these objects, but we decided to focus on the aesthetic portion alone,” explains Sarah Kate Gillespie, the museum’s curator of American art, chose Gillespie, who was tasked with organizing the exhibition when the museum hired her in 2014.

Many of our visitors and readers will be surprised to hear of the connection between a structure so tied to New York City and Athens, Georgia. As it turns out, direct descendants of John A. Roebling, who designed the bridge, lived in Athens for many years, and portraits of Roebling's son and daughter-in-law, Ferdinand William and Margaret Allison Roebling, have been on view in the museum’s permanent collection galleries.

In addition, the museum’s collection overlaps strongly with the span of time the exhibition covers; an exhibition of related works that shows the city in the same time period from that collection, titled “Man’s Canyons: New York City on Paper,” will be on view through December 31 in the adjoining Boone and George-Ann Knox Gallery I. An illustrated catalogue, published by the museum and available at the Museum Shop, accompanies “Icon of Modernism,” with scholarly essays by Gillespie, Janice Simon (Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Art History in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, UGA), Meredith Ward and Kimberly Orcutt, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art of the Brooklyn Museum.

Related programs include:

• 90 Carlton: Autumn, the museum’s quarterly reception (free for members of the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art, $5 nonmembers)
Friday, September 16, 5:30–8:30 p.m.

• Brooklyn Bridge Film Series: 'Neath Brooklyn Bridge”
Thursday, October 6, 7 p.m.

• Tour at Two: public tour with curator Sarah Kate Gillespie
Wednesday, October 12, 2 p.m.

• Gallery talk by curator Sarah Kate Gillespie and Stephan Durham, associate professor in the UGA College of Engineering
Thursday, October 13, 5:30 p.m.

• Brooklyn Bridge Film Series: It Happened in Brooklyn”
Thursday, October 13, 7 p.m.

• Brooklyn Bridge Film Series: “Brooklyn Bridge”
Thursday, October 20, 7 p.m.

• Emerging Scholars Symposium, co-organized with UGA’s Association of Graduate Art Students, October 21 and 22, with Richard Haw as the keynote speaker on Friday, October 21, 5:30 p.m.

• Brooklyn Bridge Film Series: “Kate and Leopold”
Thursday, October 27, 7 p.m.

• Family Day: Building Bridges
Saturday, November 5, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (as part of UGA’s Spotlight on the Arts festival).

All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

New Acquisitions: "Die Gänsemagd" (The Goose Girl) by Paula Modersohn-Becker

A pioneer of European modern art, Paula Modersohn-Becker was an influential participant in the artistic community in Worpswede, in northern Germany, at the start of the 20th century. Trained in Berlin, she became acquainted with the formal innovations of post-impressionists like Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin during a trip to Paris in 1900. Her paintings are often discussed in the scholarship on the period as important precursors to the German expressionist style.

Paula Modernsohn-Becker, Die Gänsemagd (The Goose Girl), ca. 1900

Artists of the Worpswede community sought escape from the industrialization of German cities, often romanticizing rural life in their images. Modersohn-Becker usually selected local children, old women or farmers’ wives as models for her portraits and figure studies, while emphasizing abstract patterns within the forms. Her subject for "Die Gänsemagd" is based on a German fairy tale of the same name from the Brothers Grimm. The exaggerated limbs and contours of her figures recall storybook illustrations and also point to the expressive distortion of forms found in later expressionistic styles. Modersohn-Becker’s career was cut short when she died of an embolism in 1907 at the age of 31. The poet Ranier Maria Rilke, also in Worpswede at this time, wrote “Requiem for a Friend” in her memory in 1908.

"Die Gänsemagd" is currently on display through October 9 in the exhibition "Recent: Acquisitions."

Lynn Boland
Pierre Daura Curator of European Art

Thursday, September 01, 2016

"Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects"

Beginning this Saturday through December 31, 2016, visitors to the Georgia Museum of Art will have the chance to see objects of Russian art never before shown in public. “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects” highlights a collection on long-term loan to the museum that is also a promised gift. Assembled by a single private collector, the collection has been virtually unknown for decades. Curator Asen Kirin, professor of art history at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, has selected nearly 200 objects to introduce the collection and its presence at the museum, which will promote its study in years to come.

“It is truly remarkable that a collection like this was formed in the United States in the midst of the Cold War and is now made public through the generosity of a private collector,” said Kirin. “This is only the first step in a long-term process of research that will result in the thorough publication of the entire set of 1,226 objects. Even at this initial step we plan to unwrap the many layers of meaning they convey.”

Cigar box with enamel miniatures celebrating the coronation of Alexander II, 1856

Kirin has already been studying many of the objects. With the help of UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine, he used an x-ray machine to look more closely at a portrait by Russian court painter Alexey Venetsianov, to help authenticate its signature. A fully illustrated catalogue, published by the museum, accompanies the exhibition and includes details of Kirin’s discoveries so far.

Among the objects are military decorations such as medals, badges and awards from the Russian Imperial Orders of Chivalry. Many of these insignia, beautifully rendered in gold, translucent enamel and jewels, were presented by the tsars in recognition of military service. Also showcased are ceremonial swords including a diamond-encrusted sword awarded by Alexander I, armor, helmets topped with double-headed eagles and an intricately designed silver trophy from the Crimean War. The House of Romanov ruled imperial Russia for 300 years, until the Russian Revolution, in 1917, which replaced the tsars with a Communist government. The court created elaborate gifts for military leaders, attendants, noble families and others, as part of a system of patronage that helped it maintain its power. Those gifts make up this display, which includes such treasures as the personal cigar box of Alexander II commemorating his coronation (which features individually painted miniatures covering its top), a miniature Fabergé rendition of Peter the Great’s boat, diamond-encrusted brooches worn by ladies of the court, the 1802 Charter of Ennoblement, a luxurious folio volume presented to Lord Durham by Tsar Nicholas I, portraits, statues, photographs of the Romanov family and silver icons.

Plan your next trip to the Georgia Museum of Art with programs related to “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects.”

Tour at Two: “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects” with curator Asen Kirin. Wednesday, September 7, 2 p.m.

90 Carlton: Autumn. Friday, September 16, 5:30–8:30 p.m.

Shouky Shaheen Lecture: Suzanne Massie. Friday, September 23, 5:30–6:30 p.m.

International Scholarly Symposium: “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects”. Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, 8 a.m.

Lecture: “The Russian Imperial Awards and their Recipients” with Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm. Tuesday, November 1, 5:30–6:30 p.m.

Family Day: Royal Treasure. Saturday, December 3, 10 a.m.–noon

Tour at Two: “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects” with curator Asen Kirin, Wednesday, December 7, 2 p.m.