Archive for June, 2017

Friday Photos: Sending a Message

For the past several years, the DMA has collaborated with the South Dallas Cultural Center during Summer at the Center, a multi-week summer camp where students learn about African history through the arts. The teens at the center visited the DMA twice this summer. Together, we traced the Middle Passage and the Atlantic Slave Trade through art in Visions of America: Three Centuries of Prints from the National Gallery of Art, unpacking responses to this period of cruelty and injustice with artists like Kara Walker, Charles White, and Elizabeth Catlett. We also explored our Arts of Africa collection, where we investigated cultures that had a visible impact on American culture.

Because artists, and print-makers especially, use their work to spread ideas and messages through their art, we made prints about things that are important to us that we would like to share with the world. Here are a few highlights from the prints we made today, representing everything from music to community!

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Our summer partnership with the South Dallas Cultural Center is one of the highlights of our year. As an educator, it’s amazing to work with a group of students that are so knowledgeable about history – especially parts of the world that I’m still learning new things about. I think they end up teaching me a lot more than I teach them!

See all of you next summer!

Jessica Thompson
Manager of Teen Programs

Starting with a Blank Canvas: Preparing Steichen’s Rare Murals for Display

If you have wandered past the Barrel Vault Quadrant Galleries during the initial stages of the Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowers conservation project, you likely saw a lot of beige—new stretchers, plain cotton-duck fabric, and backsides of paintings—and five women hammering, measuring, and stapling away. A handful of visitors have asked us what we are doing or if we are the artists, so we thought we should explain a bit about the initial and necessary steps in the conservation of these magnificent murals. While the most glamorous parts of conservation treatments are usually the final steps like inpainting and varnishing, the beginning of a project often includes a lot of preparatory work and a healthy amount of elbow grease, and it is just as important that we are precise in these first stages of treatment as we are in the final steps.

The seven large paintings that make up Steichen’s In Exaltation of Flowers were commissioned by Agnes and Eugene Meyer for their townhouse in Manhattan. Due to financial difficulties, however, the murals were never hung in their intended environment (read more of the history here). The paintings were shown as a set only once, in 1915 at the Knoedler Gallery in New York City, and have not been shown in a series since. Records indicate that two or three of the paintings were shown individually in exhibitions between 1915 and the present, and one painting arrived at the DMA already stretched. Aside from this, the paintings were stored rolled before coming to the DMA, accumulating dirt and dust for over 100 years.

Keara Teeter using a soft brush and vacuum attachment to remove dirt and dust from the reverse of a painting.

In order to help remove a century’s worth of grime, we vacuumed the reverse sides of each unstretched painting. This process is likely not what you are picturing; we don’t take the Dyson out of the closet and roll it over the canvas, wheels and all. Instead, we use a soft-bristle brush to sweep particulates into a vacuum attachment nozzle, with the vacuum on a low setting. When the painting is unstretched and on the (clean, paper-covered) floor, as these are, vacuuming can involve a bit of body contortion and a lot of ab muscles to ensure the nozzle and brush reach all areas of the canvas while the motor of the vacuum and our knees do not.

Six out of the seven paintings came to the DMA unstretched, and with their original stretchers nowhere to be found. Shiny new stretcher bars were ordered from Simon Liu, Inc. in New York, and it took all of our project interns to assemble six of these massive supports for the paintings.

Diana Hartman and Keara Teeter assembling a stretcher.

Once the stretchers were assembled, we created what is known as a loose lining. This involves attaching plain cotton-duck fabric to each stretcher, using canvas pliers and arm muscles to make sure each one is taut, and securing each one with staples. Later in the project, we will stretch Steichen’s paintings over these loose-lined stretchers, and the first layer of cotton-duck fabric will serve as a sort of bed for the paintings. Even though the canvases are in very good condition for being centenarians, they are somewhat weak where they have been folded over stretchers in the past, and the fibers have aged and become more brittle. The loose lining provides support and protection for the original canvas, and ensures that we do not have to pull hard on the original canvases to achieve planarity when they are stretched.

The next steps in our treatment will involve attaching edge linings to the original canvases, stretching the paintings over the loose linings, and performing some analysis with X-Ray Fluorescence in order to determine what elements are present. Stay tuned to learn more about these processes!

Pamela Johnson is a Conservation Intern at the DMA.

 

 

 

What Not to Wear: The Frida Kahlo Edition

You may have heard that the DMA and the Latino Center for Leadership Development are trying to make history by setting the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as Frida Kahlo in one space on Thursday, July 6. Months ago, we submitted our application to Guinness World Records and received the green light to make our attempt. Guinness World Records, which has been documenting interesting and unique achievements and extremes since 1955, provided a list of costume rules that must be followed in order for the DMA and the LatinoCLD to set the record. Below are a few helpful guidelines when planning your record-setting outfit. The record attempt is all inclusive and open to everyone, see you on Thursday, July 6!

Prints Charming

With the opening of Visions of America: Three Centuries of Prints from the National Gallery of Art, we’re completely and utterly in love with a new Prints Charming—the art of printmaking! Printmaking is an artform that is easily accessible to even the youngest children. All you need is paper, some kind of ink or paint, and a surface that “holds onto” your print.

Here are some of our favorite ideas you can try at home!

Monoprinting

We tried monoprinting with the Toddler Art class, and the kids loved the “magic” that appeared before their eyes as their prints were lifted off the inked surface. All you need at home is a cookie sheet or even a piece of waxed paper taped to the table. Completely cover the cookie sheet or waxed paper with a layer of paint, and then have your child “draw” a design in the paint using a Q-tip. Gently press a piece of paper on top of the painted drawing, and watch the image transfer from the cookie sheet to the paper. Then do it all again!

Styrofoam Printing

Styrofoam printing allows you to make multiple prints from a single image. For this process, any Styrofoam will do–a plate (with the ribbed edge trimmed off to create a flat surface), a recycled foam tray from a grocery purchase, or a sheet of foam purchased at a craft store. Children can draw their image into the foam using a dull pencil. Special Note: if they add any letters, numbers, or symbols into their drawings, they’ll need to write them backwards, as their image will be reversed when printed. Once the drawing is complete, cover the entire surface of the foam with ink or paint, then press the inked surface onto a piece of paper. For an extra challenge, older children can try to print layered images by drawing and printing in one color, then drawing additional details on a second sheet of foam, covering the sheet in a different color, and then printing onto the original piece of paper.

veggie printmaking

Fruit & Veggie Printing

This is one of my most favorite printmaking projects to do with kids! Many children have probably done the classic stamping-with-an-apple project. But have you tried printing with celery, okra, or onions? Fruits and veggies have beautiful hidden patterns that make for really fun (and smelly!) printmaking. For this one, cut up fruits and veggies and have your child dip them into paint and then stamp onto paper. I experimented with cutting several of the produce–particularly apples, oranges, onions and bell peppers–both lengthwise and widthwise so that we could create different patterns with each.

For even more fun printmaking ideas, check out these posts on some of my favorite blogs:

Happy creating!

Leah Hanson
Manager of Family and Early Learning Programs

 

Museum Menagerie

Over the years, a variety of animals have visited the DMA, so, to continue the animals-in-the-archives-themed posts, here are a few of the wildest critters that have been seen around the Museum.

A young elephant named Baby Star made an appearance on Ross Avenue Plaza in the fall of 1984. Unfortunately, the reason for the visit is unknown.

A cougar was spotted in the Museum’s Ceremonial Court in 1990. The cat was here to film a commercial.

A snake attended Nancy Hamon’s Masquerade Ball on May 23, 1997. No costume was required.

This adorable African penguin from the Dallas Zoo’s Animal Adventure Program was a guest at the November 19, 2010, Late Night, to the delight of many.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

Friday Photos: Viva Frida!

Throughout the run of the México 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde, we’ve seen lots of visitors take inspiration from one of the most famous female artists of the 20th century. We’re hosting two exciting upcoming events where you can continue to celebrate the fabulous Frida Kahlo!

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Do you want to learn more about Frida? Hayden Herrera, her biographer, will be speaking at the DMA Wednesday, June 28.

Do you want to be Frida? Celebrate her 110th birthday with us!

We hope to see you soon–unibrows and flowers optional!

Madeleine Fitzgerald
Audience Relations Coordinator

Edward Steichen and His Seven Rare Mural Paintings: A History of “In Exaltation of Flowers”

Seven murals painted by Edward Steichen are undergoing conservation treatment this summer in the DMA’s Cindy and Howard Rachofsky Quadrant Gallery. After treatment is completed, the rare and exquisite murals will be on view September 5, 2017, through May 28, 2018, as part of the exhibition Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowers (1910-1914), overseen by the Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the DMA, Sue Canterbury.

Coleus – The Florence Meyer Poppy being unrolled from a travel tube

Edward Steichen, born Eduard Jean Steichen in 1879, was an American artist who was both a painter and photographer during his lifetime. Most of his paintings and photographs were produced for the American art market while he was living in the United States or France. He stayed in Paris for about a year in 1901 and then returned to Paris a second time in 1906; it was then that he joined the New Society of American Artists. One of his friends in Paris was an American student at the Sorbonne named Agnes Ernst, and she later played a large role in Steichen’s commission for In Exaltation of Flowers. In 1908, Steichen moved from Paris to his villa, L’Oiseu Bleu, in Voulangis, France. There, he cultivated a garden and built a small studio with a skylight.

In 1910 Agnes Ernst married Eugene Meyer and the couple traveled to L’Oiseu Bleu during their honeymoon. The three friends likely discussed the commission for In Exaltation of Flowers during that visit. This commission would include seven 10-foot-tall murals designed for a foyer in the Meyers’ new townhouse at 71st Street and Park Avenue, which the Meyers acquired in 1911. The commission was $15,000 and these artworks became Steichen’s most ambitious undertaking.

As Steichen worked on the Meyers’ commission from 1910 to 1914, many of their American friends visited Voulangis, including Arthur Carles, Mercedes de Cordoba, Katharine Rhoades , Marion Beckett, and Isadora Duncan. Some of these visitors identified with specific floral personifications, which became incorporated into Steichen’s tempera and gold leaf compositions. The In Exaltation of Flowers series consists of the following seven panels:

    1. Gloxinia – Delphinium: a kneeling woman (likely Isadora Duncan) with Gloxinia, Delphinium, and Caladium flowers
    2. Clivia – Fuchsia – Hilium – Henryi: one woman sitting (possibly Isadora Duncan or Marion Beckett) and another woman standing (likely Katharine Rhoades) with Clivia, Fuchsia, and Henry Lily flowers
    3. Coleus – The Florence Meyer Poppy: Florence Meyer (first child of Eugene and Agnes Meyer) with a butterfly and poppies
    4. Petunia – Begonia – The Freer Bronze: a Zhou Dynasty bronze (symbolizing Charles Lang Freer, a collector of Asian art and benefactor of the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC) with Petunia and Begonia flowers
    5. Rose – Geranium: Katharine Rhoades with a fruit-bearing tree, roses, and geraniums
    6. Petunia – Caladium – Budleya: two standing women (Marion Beckett and an unidentified woman in the background), with Petunia, Iris, Caladium, and Budleya (other spelling variants include Buddleia and Buddleja) flowers
    7. Golden Banded Lily – Violets: a standing woman (likely Agnes Meyer) with Golden Banded Lily and Violet (also identified as Begonia rex) flowers

Coleus – The Florence Meyer Poppy in the DMA’s Cindy and Howard Rachofsky Quadrant Gallery

Even before receiving the Meyers’ commission, Steichen had been painting and photographing women and flowers; however, his depiction of the subject matter and use of gold leaf in In Exaltation of Flowers alludes to influences from French couture designer Paul Poiret and Art Nouveau painters Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, Pierre Bonnard, and Maurice Denis.

All seven murals in In Exaltation of Flowers were completed by 1914. Even though they had originally been commissioned for the townhouse on 71st Street and Park Avenue, the paintings were never displayed in that building. Due to financial hardship, the Meyers had to sell their townhouse earlier in 1914, and Steichen’s intended sequence for the murals remains unknown today. The order listed above is based on a 1915 checklist from their presentation at the Knoedler Galleries in New York. Two of the murals were later displayed at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1921 and 1996, and at least one mural was displayed at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in 1988. The DMA’s presentation this fall of the murals, which are part of a private collection, will mark the first time the seven panels have been exhibited together since their debut at the Knoedler Galleries 102 years ago.

Rose – Geranium in the DMA’s Cindy and Howard Rachofsky Quadrant Gallery

References
Murphy, Jessica. Portraiture and Feminine Identity in the Stieglitz Circle: Agnes Ernst Meyer, Katharine Rhoades, and Marion Beckett. Dissertation. University of Delaware, 2009.
Goley, Mary Anne and Barbara Ann Boese Wolanin. From Tonalism to Modernism: The Paintings of Eduard J. Steichen, October 4–December 9, 1988.  Washington, DC: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 1988.
Haskell, Barbara. Edward Steichen. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2000.
Pusey, Merlo J.  Eugene Meyer.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974.

Keara Teeter is a Conservation Intern at the DMA.

 


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