Archive for October, 2011

Friday Photos: Eerie Images

October is my favorite month.  It brings the transition from summer to fall, never-ending sweets, and Halloween: a hair-raising holiday that demands a sugar rush, costumes, and scaring people.  To pay homage to my favorite holiday, today’s Friday Photos feature eerie images found in our collection.  Remember, what is considered spooky is in the eye of the beholder; many of the objects listed here also represent significant cultural beliefs. 

 

Don’t forget to come search for other spine-chilling subjects in the Museum on October 30th, the last day of Art in October (and it’s free!).

 Masks are always appropriate for Halloween.

The coffin does not bother me, it’s what could be inside…

Coffin of Horankh, c. 700 B.C., Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund

 

 I’m pretty sure his eyes follow me when I walk by.

Captain John Pratt (1753-1824)

Ralph Earl, Captain John Pratt (1753-1824), 1792, Gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation

 

Wishing you all a safe, yet thrilling Halloween,

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits

Kids Say the Darndest Things!

I spy with my little eye…children at the museum!

On any given day, there are always programs being offered for our younger museum visitors. During the week, you can often spot them in lively school groups engaging in interactive docent tours. And don’t be surprised if their enthusiasm can be heard from the hallways as they participate in exciting art activities in the Center for Creative Connections. Our programs also go beyond the museum and into the community, bringing art to the classroom with Go van Gogh. These are just a few examples of the many ways the folks here at the DMA are facilitating fun learning experiences that encourage participation and self-expression. But don’t take it from me! Our young participants really say it best. Below are some of their candid comments from the 2011 – 2012 school year.

Docent Tours

  • “These paintings look weird to me,” a puzzled 4th-grade girl commented while walking through the Impressionist gallery.
  • “Wouldn’t you like to drink out of these amazing cups?” a docent asked about a group of gold Peruvian mugs. “Uh, if I cleaned them first,” replied a 4th-grade boy.
  • A 4th-grade boy noticed a Peruvian Mask with copper covered eye holes and mused, “I wonder how many times the guy wearing that ran into the wall?”
  • “Even if you are a leader, you still need help,” reasoned a 4th-grade boy when asked to interpret the proverb expressed by an African sculpture.
  • After an hour long tour, these 4th-graders still wanted more, as expressed by this excited girl who asked, “What else are we going to see? Are we going to see the really really really big artworks now?!” Referring to the Mark Bradford work they had passed by on the way in.

Center for Creative Connections

  • “They always make us paint with crazy things!” said a young girl in reaction to painting with kitchen tools in an Arturo’s Art & Me class.
  • “I thought it was going to be a person, but it turned out to be a ballerina,” explained an eight-year-old girl about her finished artwork.
  • A nine-year-old girl titled her art piece Man Gives Flowers and reflected that, while she made it, she thought of “romantic love.”

Go van Gogh Classroom Programs

  • “Hi, I am from the Dallas Museum of Art!” announced the volunteer. “Really?! Yessss. I LOVE art!!” exclaimed an enthusiastic 2nd-grade girl.
  • “Make the minutes last! Make the next two minutes an hour!” declared a 5th-grade boy after being told that only five minutes remained.
  • “Wow,” a 4th-grade boy said of the hat he was making, “mine is turning out reeeeally neat.”
  • “I have no idea what I am doing. I just went wild on it,” laughed a 4th-grade boy about his art project.

If you have any memorable museum moments with kids, please share them in the comments section!

Hannah Burney

McDermott Education Intern for Teaching Programs and Partnerships

French Twist: An Intern Abroad

The Dallas Museum of Art offers a variety of internships throughout the year in various departments. This past July, Amandine Marchal joined the Development Department. Marchal hails from Montbéliard, in Franche-Comté (eastern France) and is currently studying business at the French School, HEC Paris. We tracked her down to discuss her experience at the DMA.

Describe your internship in fifty words or less?
I am a Development intern at the DMA and occasionally I assist other departments (such as Marketing and Education). I am mainly working on the Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition. I keep some of the special events’ invitation lists and help organize those events.

What might an average day entail?
Every day is really different. Some days I add people to the invitation lists, other days I add information about the DMA’s works of art online, order linens and flowers for lunches, and make reservations for group tours of our collection. It is very varied!

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
The best part of this internship is that I work with so many people and do so many different things. It’s also quite a challenge because it requires a good deal of organization! But I really wanted to have a good overview of how a museum works, and I feel like I have a better understanding after interning at the DMA.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Has interning at the DMA changed your career path in any way?
I started with business studies in France and saw myself working in publishing houses. Last year, I began taking art history courses (or lessons in history of art, as we say in France). My internship at the DMA has really made me reconsider my career path. I will certainly keep learning about art and consider any museum job opportunities when I finish my studies.

What is your favorite work in the Museum’s collection?
It’s hard to choose. I would say it is Edward Hopper’s Lighthouse Hill. He is one of the first American painters that I discovered, and I love his paintings’ atmosphere. But I love to hang around the European floor and see the incredible Monet, Vernet, and Courbet paintings; they remind me of France.

How did you find out about an internship at the Dallas Museum of Art?

I wanted to find an internship in the United States, and in a cultural field. I learned that one of my fellow students at HEC (Adrien Lenoir) was doing an internship at the DMA, and I applied too. I really wanted to go to Dallas because it seemed so unusual for a French student to have an internship here! And Adrien was so enthusiastic about his own internship and the kindness of the people at the DMA that I didn’t hesitate.

What advice would you give to other students looking for an international internship?
I would tell them not to fear the “language barrier”; they will get used to talking in English. People are very patient and nice about our mistakes. An international internship is actually an incredible experience, and a way to meet extraordinary people. So don’t hesitate!

What has been your favorite Dallas experience thus far?
I was amazed by the 4th of July parades! In France people don’t celebrate Bastille Day this way. It was a very fun and unusual thing to see for me. Now I am looking forward to seeing some Halloween parties!

Decorative Dining

Everyone needs to eat, right?

We spend plenty of time thinking about what we are going to have for dinner every day, but how often do you think about the objects that contain, serve or cut your food? In the age of the microwave and the drive-thru, it may seem crazy to think about breaking out your finest silver pieces to serve dinner. To wealthy and upper middle-class Americans during the Victorian era (or more specifially, The Gilded Age) the practice of dining was an art, and fine silver was a key component.

Let’s start with an example of how Mrs. Maria Dewing suggests a proper dinner table should be set in her helpful guide, Beauty in the Household, published in 1882.

Image from Maria Richards Dewing’s Beauty in the Household (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), page 72.

As you can see, even a small gathering without servants (gasp!) called for a very specific placement of dishes. It is, then, no surprise that such great care was taken in the appearance of the serving utensils and dishes. Not only was there a specific placement of the pieces, but they were also often decorated and designed in accordance with their function.

Here are a few flatware examples from one of the largest (it totaled about 1,250 pieces) and grandest (it was made from a half ton of silver) dinner and dessert service that Tiffany & Co. made in the 1870s:

Egg Spoons

Oyster forks

Grape scissors

Asparagus tongs

Salt spoons

Marrow spoons

Melon knives

Berry spoons

We feel stressed today if we use the wrong fork for our salad — can you imagine being forced to choose between an egg spoon and a berry spoon? Well-bred Victorians would have known the difference.

Luckily, if they had a moment of doubt, the silver designers often provided hints as to how the item may be used. The DMA’s Decorative Arts collection has some wonderful examples of these types of silverware.

Sometimes, specific foods were incorporated into the designs.

Gorham Manufacturing Company, Ice Bowl (with spoon), c.1871, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

George W. Shiebler and Company, "Grass" Pattern Sardine Server, c. 1880-1890, Dallas Museum of Art, The V. Stephan Vaughan Collection, gift of the 1991 Silver Supper

Others may subtly hint at the type of food for which they were used.

R. Wallace and Sons Manufacturing Company, Ice Cream Slice, c. 1880-1890, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Dale Bennett

John R. Wendt & Company, Cheese Knife, c. 1870, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Dale Bennett

On the other hand, designers did not always give such helpful hints. Instead, they creatively designed an item using influences from non-food related objects.

Both of the items below have very specific uses; what do you think they are? Leave your ideas in a comment and I will provide the answers in the comment section next week!

Left: Gorham Manufacturing Company, c.1880, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Dale Bennett Right: B.D. Beiderhase & Co., 1872, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Dale Bennett

While most Victorian families may not have purchased such whimsical silver pieces as these, the widespread market for silver gave designers the freedom to create wonderfully dynamic works of art that we can marvel over today at the DMA.

Bon Appétit!

Jessica Kennedy

McDermott Intern for Gallery Teaching

Seldom Scene: Two Hundred Years Later, Together Again

After a two-hundred-year separation, two Claude-Joseph Vernet landscapes are reunited at the Dallas Museum of Art. Commissioned in 1774 at the height of Vernet’s career by famous English collector Lord Lansdowne, the two large-scale paintings depict the complementary scenes of unruly rustic landscape and tranquil seaport. The duo, A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm and A Grand View of the Sea Shore, hung together in the collector’s home, Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London, until his death, when the paintings were sold to separate private collections in 1806. See the works in person in the Museum’s European Art Galleries on Level 2 through December 11, 2011. To read more about the reunion, click here.

Join Dr. Heather MacDonald, The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art, DMA, for a gallery talk on Vernet’s Lansdowne Landscapes on Wednesday, November 2, at 12:15 p.m.

Friday Photos: Reunited, and It Feels So Good

Earlier this month, a beloved DMA painting was reunited with its pendant, the work of art that was meant to hang next to it.  These two paintings have been separated since 1806, when they were sold into two private collections.  I have heard about this mysterious pendant painting to A Mountain Landscape with Approaching Storm for years, but its location was unknown.  That all changed earlier this year, and A Grand View of the Sea Shore is hanging in the DMA’s European galleries until December 11.  I hope you’ll stop by and admire  it next time you’re at the Museum.

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Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

The Art of Astronomy

Nicolaus Copernicus was a cleric, a physician, a mathematician—a real renaissance man. Literally. But the true passion that drove him was astronomy. Throughout his life, he took every opportunity to observe the sky and the stars, making meticulous calculations of their positions at a time before the telescope had even been invented. With this detailed data, Copernicus formulated a new theory placing the sun at the center of the universe—an idea that helped to ignite the Scientific Revolution.

Like Copernicus, the Maya were astronomically-minded. Without the benefit of telescopes and other modern advances, they built monumental structures at sites like Chichén Itzá in perfect alignment with the sun during important days of equinox and solstice. Their calendars were also based on the movements of the sun and moon. Their myths and rituals share this cosmological focus, which permeated their entire culture. Even their artworks reflect their celestial mindset.

Eccentric flint depicting a crocodile canoe with passengers, Mexico or Guatemala, southern Maya lowlands, Maya, c. A.D. 600-900, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., in honor of Mrs. Alex Spence.

This flint, shaped like a crocodile canoe carrying its passengers in profile, captures a scene from the Maya creation story. The Maya believed the soul of the First Father was paddled in just such a canoe to the underworld, after which he was reborn as the Maize God, the ancestor of all humans. Contemporary archaeologists have dated this event to August 13, 3114 B.C., based on the Maya calendar. This event was reflected in the heavens each year on August 13, when the Milky Way could be seen floating across the sky from east to west until midnight, when it shifted downward, north to south, plunging into the underworld.

Lidded tetrapod bowl with paddler and peccaries, Mexico or Guatemala, southern Maya lowlands, Maya, c. A.D. 250-550, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund.

Atop this lidded bowl sits the Maya sun god, Kinich Ahau, also in a canoe. As he paddles through the underworld each night, his path takes him through the constellations, one of which is represented by the pig-like mammals incised into the bowl’s legs.

Next Monday, October 24, Arts & Letters Live will welcome author Dava Sobel, whose new book A More Perfect Heaven recounts the revolutionary life and work of Nicolaus Copernicus. Had he been around to observe the skies of ancient America with the Maya, I think they might have found some common ground.

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives


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