Archive for April, 2015

Master of Monsters

One of the annual projects for the McDermott Curatorial Intern for European Art is to develop and curate a small exhibition pulled from the DMA’s works on paper collection. Of the pieces within the European collection (which includes over 1,500 works!), I was immediately drawn to ones by old masters (artists working before 1800), like Rembrandt van Rijn, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and Francisco de Goya. I found the work by German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) to be particularly fascinating, and I chose fourteen of his prints for the exhibition Saints and Monsters: Prints by Albrecht Dürer, which focuses on Dürer’s depiction of both the religious and the monstrous.

Dürer was a prolific artist working in the Northern Renaissance who revolutionized the field of printmaking through his original iconographic models, dynamic compositions, and skill in capturing details. Today he is widely hailed as one of the greatest printmakers of all time; however, since these prints are so tiny (those included in the exhibition measure only about 3 x 5 inches), it can be difficult to appreciate Dürer’s printmaking prowess in the galleries alone. To supplement your gallery experience, I thought I might share a few details from one of my favorite works in the exhibition, St. George on Foot.

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot, c. 1502 - c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot, c. 1502-c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

This engraving portrays St. George, a 3rd century military saint and martyr associated with his mythical slaying of a terrorizing dragon, the moment of which is depicted here. With a closer look, we can find some of the finer details that may otherwise be difficult to see in the gallery.

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot (detail), c. 1502 - c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot (detail), c. 1502-c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

Here we see St. George’s sensitively rendered expression as he looks off into the distance. Tendrils of hair escape his hairnet, evidence of the recent struggle between man and beast, while his beard and mustache are made of distinct curls. Framing St. George’s face is a spontaneously sketched halo, designating his holiness. Notice how Dürer was able to capture the volume and texture of the saint’s suit of armor through hatching and crosshatching, representing his remarkable ability to represent the metallic qualities of armor.

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot (detail), c. 1502 - c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot (detail), c. 1502-c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

The defeated dragon lies belly-up at St. George’s feet. This position makes the dragon appear especially grotesque with its open eyes, bared teeth, sharpened claws, pointed nose, and spiked wings. The monster’s neck and tail are marked with wounds created by St. George’s sword. During the 16th century, many Europeans believed dragons were real, so Dürer’s dragon both emphasizes St. George’s courage in fighting the beast while also instilling fear of the evil and unknown into viewers.

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot (detail), c. 1502 - c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot (detail), c. 1502-c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

Behind St. George, Dürer renders a village and harbor, which reminds us of the people George protected by slaying the dragon. The trees and buildings in a sinuous line appear as if they are floating on the water’s surface. The divide between land and water is ambiguous, and Dürer only implies land, shadow, water, and wave through simple hatch and crosshatch lines.

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot (detail), c. 1502 - c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

Albrecht Dürer, St. George on Foot (detail), c. 1502-c. 1503, engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Calvin J. Holmes

Following his victory, St. George cast off his helmet, which holds an elaborate arrangement of lush feathers. The extravagant plumes contrast with the metallic gleam of the saint’s armor and the coarseness of the dragon’s flesh. In the lower left corner is Dürer’s distinctive signature of his initials, “A.D.”  With a careful eye, you can find Dürer signatures in each of the prints included in Saints and Monsters.

I hope that with this closer look you will better be able to appreciate Dürer’s virtuosity in the print medium and ability to utilize shadow, texture, and form to convey drama and emotion. Come see this work and more in Saints and Monsters: Prints by Albrecht Dürer, currently on view in the European Works on Paper Gallery, located on Level 2 and included in the Museum’s free general admission.

Laura Sevelis is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for European Art at the DMA.

Pulling At Our Heart Strings

When a Museum acquires a new work of art, it can be a very quick process or it can take months—or sometimes years! The latter was the case with The Harp Lesson, a monumental triple portrait by the French neoclassical painter Jean Antoine Théodore Giroust (1753–1817).

We first became aware of the painting’s availability in 2010, but the circumstances to purchase it were not quite right. When it came up for auction at Christie’s Old Masters sale in New York on January 28 of this year, we were ready to spring into action. So Olivier Meslay, the DMA’s Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art, headed to New York, hoping that the weatherman’s forecast for twelve to eighteen inches of snow there would not thwart our chance to bid on the painting. The morning of the auction, several of us excitedly watched the sale live online from our offices in Dallas. The bidding went quite fast; it seemed to be over in the blink of an eye! Then, after the auctioneer said “sold!” with a thwack of his hammer, we had to endure several anxious minutes before we learned that the DMA was the high bidder.

This month, the monumental painting went on view in the European Galleries. Including the frame, it measures just shy of ten feet tall. While installing it was no minor undertaking, these pictures are proof that no challenge is too insurmountable for the DMA’s expert art preparators!

Completed in 1791, this large triple portrait depicts the fourteen-year-old Louise Marie Adelaïde Eugénie d’Orléans (1777–1847) and her governess, Stéphanie Félicité du Crest de Saint-Aubin, Comtesse de Genlis (1746–1830), each playing a large, beautiful harp. Leaning on the music stand before them is Mademoiselle Paméla (c. 1773–1831), who had been adopted by Madame de Genlis and raised as a companion to the d’Orléans children.

This remarkable life-size triple portrait is sure to create a sensation in our galleries just as it did when it debuted at the 1791 Salon in Paris.

installed

Martha MacLeod is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant in the European and American Art Department at the DMA.

Friday Photos: All in a Day’s Work

Thursday, April 23, was National Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day.  This year, I observed the day by bringing my daughter Julia to the Museum. She had the opportunity to help with daily tasks, attend meetings, attend a workshop, and participate in a Star Wars themed photo shoot… All in a day’s work at the DMA!

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

We’re Turning Five

This Saturday, April 25, we are celebrating the 5th anniversary of the DMA Autism Awareness Family Celebration. The first program took place in April 2010, tied to Autism Awareness Month, with research beginning in the summer of 2009. A frequent DMA visitor with a son on the autism spectrum sparked my interest in creating an event in which families with children on the spectrum felt welcomed and comfortable at the DMA. I found there weren’t many museums that offered programming for this audience. After discussions with special education parent groups, I discovered that very few families had ever visited the DMA with their children on the spectrum due to the uncertainty of how their child might behave when here. It became apparent that the key element for hosting a program for this audience should include the following: an event that was private for families who had kids with autism, working with an autism specialist to plan activities to meet the specific needs of children on the spectrum, and providing resources to parents about the DMA.

For our pilot program in April 2010, I worked with an autism specialist to schedule the morning’s events, connected with a music therapist specializing in working with children with autism for a performance, and created a social story so that parents registered for the event could review and plan in advance with their child. The response for the first event was overwhelming! It was important to keep the attendance relatively low, so as not to overwhelm the children—and the waiting list grew to be just as long as the list of attendees. We received supportive affirmations from grateful parents both during and after the event.

Five years later, these events are still robust and constantly adjusting to accommodate community needs. When we piloted this program, the prevalence of autism was 1 in 110 children. Since 2009, the frequency of autism has increased to 1 in 88, and more recently 1 in 68. The DMA program has evolved over the years to include themes for each event, the creation of a quiet-sensory space with the help of the School of Occupational Therapy at Texas Women’s University, and tours for teens on the spectrum.

We have learned a great deal from visitors over the years at our Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, including how important the experience is for the siblings. Annie, age 11, told us that she “like[s] coming here because no one stares at my brother.” It’s feedback like this that helps us improve the program, and we love hearing the impact the event has on our participants:

Angie and her son during an Autism Awareness Family Celebration

“Our family has a 6-year-old nonverbal son with autism, and a 3-year-old son that is typically developing. We are an active family that loves to enjoy what DFW has to offer. We’ve been going to the DMA Autism Awareness Family Celebration events for the last few years, and we absolutely love them! Having been to many other family events and museums in the area, we have never found anything like what the DMA offers. It is exciting and refreshing that the Museum provides a safe and fun sensory-friendly event for kids on the spectrum, as well as for siblings. It is good for my youngest to see other families similar to ours. We struggle with finding activities that both of my boys can enjoy. From the interactive music program to art activities and sensory toys, the DMA has thought of everything. We love watching them play and interact together! Thank you!” —Angie G.

Rachel's son attending Hands-On Summer Art Camp for Children with Autism at the DMA

Rachel’s son attending Hands-On Art Summer Camp for Children with Autism at the DMA

“Our family is so thankful for the DMA’s outreach to the autism community. From the beginning, the DMA educators have provided programming very thoughtfully organized with the input of autism specialists and parents. Programs such as the Autism Awareness Days and their Summer Camp have opened up a new avenue for families with special needs children to explore and learn in the art museum. My son has attended the Hands-On Art Summer Camp for the past four years, and I’ve been so impressed with the camp preparation, the camp curriculum, and the trained educators and volunteers who have connected children with autism to the DMA’s art collection. My son feels very welcome at the DMA and always wants to return, which is such a blessing in light of the lack of educational public programming designed for children on the autism spectrum. The DMA has found their niche offering high-quality educational opportunities for special needs populations.” —Rachel S.

As we continue to learn more about the needs of children with autism, the definition of best practices in museums programming for this audience will continue to evolve. Society’s awareness of autism is fast-growing and, hopefully, more and more public institutions will begin to offer specialized experiences for kids on the spectrum and their families. It is important that nonprofits work together to share resources and help families with children on the spectrum feel comfortable visiting museums. Whether it is offering a summer camp just for children with autism (check out this year’s Hands-On Art Summer Camp at the DMA), creating a quiet corner in a museum gallery, or making a sensory-focused guide of your institution, we want all kids to have opportunities to learn, play, and have cultural experiences with their families.

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Learn more about all of the access programs the DMA offers at DMA.org.

 Amanda Blake is the Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences at the DMA.

Access Docents to the Rescue!

Our docent corps is a group of over 100 dedicated volunteers who are responsible for touring thousands of visitors through the Museum each year. DMA docents have a deep knowledge of the collection and work to craft their tours based on the interests and ages of their audience. And this past year we initiated our first group of DMA Access Docents–volunteers who expressed an interest in helping with DMA Access Programs, in addition to the groups they were already touring!

 

We began the program by meeting with a group of eight Access Docents each month to discuss access programming best practices and learn successful communication and teaching strategies for visitors with special needs. We welcomed a guest from the Alzheimer’s Association to share general information about Alzheimer’s and an autism specialist from TWU to speak about autism.

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This year, our training was more hands-on and consisted of observation and team teaching. The Access Docents primarily help with our Meaningful Moments for Groups and All Access Art programs. Many of the docents volunteered with these programs throughout the year and got to know several of the regular participants.

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We’ve found that offering Access Program opportunities to our docents is a great way to share teaching responsibilities, which allows us to schedule more programs than we’d be able to if we only relied on staff. It is also a wonderful chance for staff to get to know the docents better and learn from them. We meet often throughout the year to touch base, brainstorm upcoming program themes, and share teaching strategies.

 

Access Docents have shared with us the joy they feel when forming relationships and interacting with people from the same groups each month. Many of them have also mentioned that their access work has enriched their school tours: they re-purpose information and gallery games and incorporate them into tours. Since school tours generally don’t include a studio activity, many of the Access Docents have enjoyed the chance to use hands-on materials, integrating art-making into the Museum experience.


We are thrilled to have such a passionate group of specialized volunteers helping us to teach our Access Programs!

Amanda Blake
Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences

Mr. Turner: They Say It’s Your Birthday

This week we will celebrate Joseph Mallord William “J. M. W.” Turner’s 240th birthday! The pioneering English artist always claimed that his birthday was April 23, 1775, but in fact the precise date of his birth is a bit of a mystery. Turner was a prolific artist. By the end of his celebrated career, he had produced more than 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolors, and 30,000 works on paper. You may recall many of his works from the DMA’s popular 2008 exhibition J. M. W. Turner.

But you don’t have to wait for another blockbuster exhibition to see paintings by Turner at the DMA. Wend your way to the European Galleries on Level 2 to see his 1803 landscape Bonneville, Savoy. In this painting, Turner describes the gentle landscape of the foothills of the Alps, dotted with signs of human habitation, but in the distance he includes a glimpse of Mont Blanc’s forbidding snow-capped peak.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Bonneville, Savoy, 1803, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Nancy Hamon in memory of Jake L. Hamon with additional donations from Mrs. Eugene D. McDermott, Mrs. James H. Clark, Mrs. Edward Marcus and the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc. 1985.97.FA

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Bonneville, Savoy, 1803, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Nancy Hamon in memory of Jake L. Hamon with additional donations from Mrs. Eugene D. McDermott, Mrs. James H. Clark, Mrs. Edward Marcus and the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc., 1985.97.FA

Later in Turner’s career, his palette became brighter and more transparent, ultimately resulting in compositions that were almost pure shimmering color and light, making the objects he depicted practically unrecognizable. This mature style placed his works in the vanguard of European painting that greatly influenced the next generation of artists. In fact, the French impressionist Claude Monet closely studied Turner’s techniques.

To learn more about this important British artist, watch the 2014 film Mr. Turner. It includes a scene in which he reportedly strapped himself to the mast of a ship so that he could paint a snowstorm. Or even better, stop by the DMA’s Museum Store and purchase a copy of Turner: Life and Landscape by our own Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs, Olivier Meslay. The (obviously) well-written book 😉 includes rich illustrations and is a wealth of information about our birthday boy, Mr. Turner.

Martha Macleod is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant for the European and American Art Department at the DMA.

Friday Photos: High School Film Day

On April 10, the DMA hosted hundreds of high school students and teachers from all over the Metroplex for High School Film Day, part of the Dallas International Film Festival hosted by the Dallas Film Society each year during the month of April. Students were given the opportunity to learn from filmmakers and other professionals about the film industry by listening to panel discussions and completing hands-on workshops in the Museum’s galleries to perfect their filming techniques and improve their acting skills. Below are a few images from the day!

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Looking forward to next year!

Madeleine Fitzgerald
Audience Relations Coordinator for Programming


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