Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

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.

 

Artist Interview: Christopher Blay

This spring in the Center for Creative Connections, we invited C3 Visiting Artist Christopher Blay to work with us on a new design for our in-gallery activities. We hope you agree that our time was very well spent. Meet Christopher here and learn more about these imaginative and reflective activities designed for visitors of all ages.

Tell us about yourself in 50 words or less.
I am an artist, and I curate exhibitions at Tarrant County College. I also review art locally. I enjoy the process of making, and create installations that reflect a sense of place. I see value in art that meets both the artist and their audience where they live.

What motivated you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project?
I thought it would be an interesting way to share my ideas with audiences, outside of a curated exhibition. This was about creating a space for reflection, and saying the things left unsaid, in that moment of reflection.

Tell us about the activities you’ve created in C3.
I created three rounds of participatory activities under the project name Machines for Intangible Communications for the Visiting Artist Project (sketches above). They all revolved around the idea that some of the things we want to say can no longer be heard by the people we hope are listening. Part A presented visitors with a desk, a typewriter, some writing materials, and a mailbox. Part B had walkie-talkies and satellites to relay what was spoken. Part C is a phone booth and a Morse code machine for dialing and relaying messages into the void. In each iteration of this project, visitors could reach out and say the things they wish they’d said to themselves, or others. It was a way of expressing the thoughts and words we’ve always wanted to express.

Do you have any favorite visitor responses you’d like to share?
I do. There was a man from Turkey who lost his grandfather when he was about a year old. He told me that it was difficult to speak into the walkie-talkie because he was suddenly at a loss for words; however, when he did speak, he thanked his grandfather for the gift of life, and wished that he was present to see his current life. It was a beautiful moment that I was happy to share with a stranger.

What did you enjoy most about this experience?
I enjoyed being able to make a gesture in a space for art that reflected real experiences. I was inspired to build these machines out of a sense of longing and personal loss, and from stories about loss. This is a human experience and one that I hope connects with visitors. I wanted to build an impossible bridge that maybe a whisper could cross.

Visitor responses from Machines for Intangible Communications Part A.

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Join C3 Visiting Artist Christopher Blay for the Teen Workshop Revolutionary Prints on Saturday, June 24, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The workshop is for ages 13-19; all materials are provided, and no prior experience is necessary. The cost is $8 for the public and $5 for DMA Members.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

Last Friday, with storms lending the appropriate atmosphere, over 650 super sleuths helped us solve the unfortunate murder of Marcus Aurelius during our annual Museum Murder Mystery Game.

With their great detective work, we found out that it was Mademoiselle d’Orleans with the candelabrum of nine lights in the Ancient Art of the Americas galleries.

We documented the night’s events to make sure there was no cry of foul play:

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services

Nesting

This week, we open the new and improved Arturo’s Nest in our Center for Creative Connections (C3)! The old play areas and design were so well loved that it was time to refresh and re-imagine this beloved play-learning space for our youngest visitors. The Exhibitions team and I had the pleasure of collaborating with the Education Department to come up with a fresh design that harmonizes with the updated Young Learner’s Gallery just around the corner in C3.

Some of the changes we made include installing new carpet (with giant polka-dots) to help with ambient sound, and applying a brand-new landscape to the walls, courtesy of our Exhibitions Graphic Designer, Kevin Parmer. We’ve added a nightscape to a previously plain wall, which adds to the calming and enveloping charm of this space. For our design team, this project was a playful departure from the many ongoing exhibition design projects in the Museum galleries.

Material samples used in the Arturo’s Nest redesign

There will be a new “nest” structure (coming soon) that will also function as a reading nook, and the daytime landscape will be dotted with interactives that engage our youngest visitors’ budding aesthetic sensibilities. We invite you to explore Arturo’s Nest upon its reopening!

Arturo’s Nest space before

Arturo’s Nest space after

Skye Malish-Olson is the Exhibition Designer at the DMA.

Finding Yourself at the DMA

As an art museum educator, I live for the tales of visitors who have had meaningful, inspirational, life-changing experiences in museums—perhaps because it was exactly this kind of personal experience that propelled me down the career path I’ve taken. Working in the Center for Creative Connections (C3), a participatory educational space for visitors of all ages, I have the privilege of hearing these kinds of statements often; however, a few months back I was surprised to hear from a visitor who literally found herself in a photograph by Geoff Winningham currently on view in the C3.

Geoff Winningham (artist), The Cronin Gallery (publisher), U.T. Cheerleaders, negative 1972, print 1976, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Prestonwood National Bank 1981.36.6

During a Late Night event, Laura was walking through C3 with her husband when they both stopped dead in their tracks as they walked by the photograph. “I think that’s you,” her husband stated. “I know it’s me!” Laura exclaimed.

I had so many questions for her. What was it like seeing yourself in a work of art in a museum? Did you know this photograph existed or that you were being photographed at the time? Can you recall the other cheerleaders in the photograph? Luckily, Laura was happy to meet up to discuss her experience.

As you might imagine, Laura was quite surprised to see a photo of her college-age self in the Museum. As a University of Texas cheerleader, she was aware they were photographed in action from time to time—once her image ended up as part of the opening montage of ABC’s Wide World of Sports for a full year—but she never imagined she would make it into a work of art in the DMA’s collection. Laura is uniquely well versed in the DMA collection, but until recently she had never seen this photograph before. Not only is Laura a DMA Member, but she was also part of the PM Docent class for five years, starting with the charter class under the leadership of Gail Davitt.

Both the University of Texas and the Dallas Museum of Art have loomed large in Laura’s life, but she never imagined that the two worlds would collide. In fact, UT Cheer isn’t just a distant memory as Laura regularly attends the Cheer Reunions and keeps in touch with fellow cheerleaders, including some of those captured alongside her in Winningham’s photograph. In the image below, the woman on the far right is the same woman on the far left of the UT Cheerleaders photograph by Winningham.

Now that Laura knows of the existence of this photograph, she comes back to visit it from time to time. She was also keen to meet the photographer, Geoff Winningham, and looked him up immediately to learn more about him and his work. Fortunately, Winningham was at the DMA in April to lead a Gallery Talk about the series this photograph is part of—A Texas Dozen.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

Picture Yourself

Self-portraits are compelling images because they appear to show us the person behind the artwork, offering us a special peek into who the artist was. We hope that by looking at the self-portrait, we can learn something about the subject. Yet, much like the selfies we post on social media, the artists were presenting themselves how they wished to be seen.

Just as selfies allow our friends and family to feel like they’re sharing in our daily lives, they are ultimately the result of our own conscious decisions, just like a self-portrait. The self-portraits we see in museums are images that exist somewhere between how we see the artist and how the artist wanted us to see him or her.

My upcoming exhibition Multiple Selves: Portraits from Rembrandt to Rivera, opening this weekend in the Museum’s European Galleries on Level 2,  focuses on this play between how we want to be seen and how we are seen. The majority of the images are self-portraits, ranging from the 17th to the 20th centuries in a variety of media, including etching, lithography, and drawing.

Just as we use objects and clothing in our selfies to identify ourselves (think college t-shirts to mark us as alums or pictures in front of tourist landmarks to show where we’ve been), artists in these self-portraits use different objects and costumes to help us identify the person we see in the portrait as an artist.

Koloman Sokol, Self-Portrait, mid-20th century, wood engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift, 1949.11

In many of the works, these objects are tools of the trade, or items that are specific to an artist’s working life. This includes palettes, canvases, mahl sticks (used by artists to keep their painting hand steady), drawing implements, and jewelry, which historically marked an artist’s inclusion in a professional guild or within a royal court.

One work in particular offers an intriguing example of this complex dynamic. Self-Portrait by Koloman Sokol is this type of double self-portrait. Sokol, a Slovakian artist by birth who worked extensively in Mexico and the United States, probably created this self-portrait sometime in his 30s. In it, we see not only the completed self-portrait but also the artist caught in the act of creating a self-portrait. At the bottom of the print, the outlines of this second self-portrait take shape. This second self-portrait is being created just as the first one was, through a printmaking process known as wood engraving. To help us identify the work he is doing, he includes his tools—the wood block he is carving on and a burin, a tool used in printmaking to cut into the metal plate or wood block.

Detail of Self-Portrait

In the works that feature artist tools, like Sokol’s, the artists are manipulating their own image to ensure that we as an audience recognize the duality of their self-portrait, that we recognize the artist as an artist through both the self-portrait as a work of art and through the artist’s self-presentation as an artist.

For more about self-portraits, join me for a free Gallery Talk on Wednesday, May 3, at 12:15 p.m. in the exhibition. For another type of double self-portrait, be sure to visit The Two Fridas, now on view in the exhibition México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde, on view only at the DMA.

Amy Wojciechowski is the Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Graduate Intern for European Art.

The Mondrian Brand

The abstract paintings of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian have become ubiquitous in pop culture, from architecture to designer fashions. In a sense his geometric, primary-colored compositions have become a brand. This proliferation and appropriation of an artistic style begs the question, what shapes an artist’s legacy? Why do some works of art become so intertwined with pop culture that they become icons instantly recognizable to mass audiences? Join us on Thursday, April 27 at 7:00 p.m. for The Mondrian Brand and hear from Dr. Nancy Troy, Victoria and Roger Sant Professor in Art at Stanford University and author of The Afterlife of Piet Mondrian.

Piet Mondrian, Place de la Concorde, 1938–1943, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation 1982.22.FA

To contemplate Mondrian’s pop culture legacy in my own way I thought it was finally time to attempt the complex and beautiful Mondrian Cake made famous by Caitlin Freeman in her book Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art.

The first three lines of the recipe are just a taste of what goes into this chocolate-soaked masterpiece:
Makes one 16 by 3 by 3-inch cake, serving 15
Hands-on time: 6 hours
From start to finish: 2 days


To begin, I had to make four velvety cakes: one white, one blue, one red, and one yellow. Freeman uses a delicious recipe with a shocking butter content (I made two trips to the store). As you might imagine, I ended up with a rainbow of leftover cake that I was too lazy to repurpose into another dessert.

After precisely cutting each section of the Mondrianesque composition I glued them together with 24 oz of bittersweet chocolate ganache and finished the cake with a shower of ganache. With two days of cake construction behind me I was impatient to see the finished product and did not let it set up in the fridge for the recommended three hours. Each slice revealed a mini Mondrian, if only slightly wonky and Easter-egg colored. We’ll never know if Mondrian would have approved of this culinary counterfeit, but I was certainly satisfied with my effort.

Jessie Frazier is the Manager of Adult Programming 


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