Rembrandt Peale’s iconic portrait of George Washington realized a new world record for a porthole portrait by the artist when it sold for $662,500- a record for a porthole portrait by the artist-to lead Heritage Auctions’ recent American art events in Dallas. Peale’s portrait of Washington was presented with his equally iconic portrait of Martha Washington, which reached $158,500. It followed other important offerings including John McCrady’s Steamboat ‘Round the Bend, a mammoth tribute — both figuratively and literally — to Southern regional art. At 14-feet wide, the 1946 commission for Delmonico’s Restaurant in New Orleans is recognized as McCrady’s most famous mural, helping it realize $542,500 — a new world record for the artist. Jerome Thompson’s 1865 oil on canvas titled Riverbank in Bloom sold for $512,500 to shatter its $8,000+ pre-auction estimate and set the new record for this artist.
Senior Curator of European and American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, Oliver Meslay told a crowd of docents assembled at the museum Monday that it wasn’t the easiest exhibit to put together, nor the most obvious.
Rather the need for Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy took some convincing. First, it’s difficult to talk about the Kennedy’s in Dallas. The art, put together just a few days before the president’s arrival at the hotel suite, might seem on the surface a mish-mash.
Organizers, who included Ruth Carter Stevenson (then Ruth Carter Johnson), chose art that would appeal to the tastes of the room’s important occupants. The Master Bedroom, which was designated as Jacqueline Kennedy’s bedroom, was adorned with impressionist masterworks, per her well-known affinity for the genre. Other works related to Massachusetts. And the assemblage provides an interesting overview of the work that was in Fort Worth at the time.
The President and Mrs Kennedy arrived late, and likely didn’t notice until morning the art on the walls was anything other than the usual bad paintings found in hotels. It’s then they spotted a pamphlet on the desk which lists works by sixteen artists including Thomas Eakins, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Claude Monet, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and others. One account says Mrs Kennedy was so pleased she personally phoned Mrs. Johnson and said she would like to spend the day in the room.
Of the pieces in suite 850 at the Hotel Texas, three could not be located for the exhibition. None were refused. One of those is Portrait of the Artist’s Grandaughter by Claude Monet, then in the collection of Mrs. J. Lee Johnson, III. While in the hotel suite, it was set in the Suite Parlor with Angry Owl by Pablo Picasso, then owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ted Weiner.
One Western work, Meeting in a Blizzard by Charles M. Russell was included, then owned by the Amon Carter Museum. Lesser known however is the fact that the hotel suite of Vice President Lyndon Johnson was also decorated, and featured exclusively Western art.
While the hotel is existent (now the Hilton), the suite is gone. That’s nothing to be bothered about, however. The time and place will surely come alive in the exhibition. And as much as the exhibit is less about the history, the fact remains that this contains the components of the last exhibit the President and Mrs Kennedy- who were huge supporters of the arts, saw together.
Meslay ended with a quote from Kennedy.
“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. There is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society–in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”
Click to hear the remarks: http://www.arts.gov/about/Kennedy.html
Grant Wood’s sketchbook containing images related to a 24-foot stained glass window in Cedar Rapids will be auctioned May 12 at Leslie Hindman in Chicago.
The 24-foot tall window in the Veterans Memorial Building in Grant Wood’s hometown was the largest in the United States in 1929. It features a central figure of a Lady in Mourning, modeled after the artist’s sister and sitter for the iconic painting, American Gothic, Nan Wood. The figure is flanked by life-size soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War and the First World War. It is the only known stained-glass window designed by Wood.
The 48-page sketchbook embellished with over 70 preparatory drawings and studies for the window has signed the cover of the small journal and an inscription from the artist’s sister, signed and dated May 1, 1946, confirms: “This book was the property of Grant Wood. It contains sketches and ideas for the stained glass memorial window he designed for the memorial building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The sketches were made in 1929.”
There are no known sketchbooks attributed to Wood in institutional or private collections, and the auction house is confident it will exceed its $40,000-60,000 presale estimate.
A major painting by 19th-century landscape artist Robert Seldon Duncanson (1821–1872), the first African-American artist to achieve international acclaim, has been purchased by Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Painted in 1869, the work titled The Caves was originally owned by Cincinnati Abolitionist Richard Sutton Rust (1815–1906), and it remained in his family until the museum purchased it in late 2012.
Because it has been in a private collection for nearly 150 years, the painting will be accessible to the public for the first time beginning May 4, when it is displayed in the Amon Carter’s galleries.
“Duncanson is an immensely important figure in American art,” says Andrew J. Walker, director of the Amon Carter. “He was a self-taught, black artist from Cincinnati and a leading landscape painter of his time, which was a monumental accomplishment during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Owning a work by this esteemed artist greatly enriches our collection.”
Impressive in scale, the painting is approximately three feet tall and depicts an intimate view of the wilderness, with unusual geographic features of steep ravines and sandstone cliffs perforated by a canopy of evergreens and a trio of caverns.
Duncanson’s paintings seldom overtly depict the political and cultural issues of the years surrounding the Civil War, such as slavery and discrimination, according to Margi Conrads, deputy director of art and research. Instead, the artist may have included subtle cues in his landscapes that conveyed his anti-slavery position.
“His depiction of caves poses intriguing questions about whether the painting includes references to the abolitionist movement or the role of African-Americans in everyday society,” says Conrads. “Caves were among the safe havens for runaway slaves through the Civil War. Additionally, both before and after the War, African-Americans guided tourists through caves, and it’s possible Duncanson is referencing this in his painting through the figure at the cavern’s mouth.”
Four watercolors from the museum’s permanent collection by Adrien Mayers (1801?–1833) will be exhibited near the Duncanson painting through September 4. The watercolors portray an early view of Cincinnati, Duncanson’s adopted hometown and the place that nurtured his career.
Eight landscapes by George Inness given to the Clark by Frank and Katherine Martucci will go on display June 9 with two Inness paintings collected by the museum’s founders. The exhibition examines the artist’s late work when Inness had moved away from plein-air painting and naturalistic portrayals of landscapes towards a more conceptual approach to capturing mood and the actions of light and shadow.
“The focused nature of this collection of ten works is an ideal way in which to consider George Inness at a point in his career in which his personal beliefs were imbuing his artistry in fascinating ways,” says Michael Conforti, director of the Clark.
Wanting to do more than simply mirror and record nature, Inness developed an approach that blended realism with a visionary expression of spiritual meaning. He experimented with color, composition, and painterly technique to present a vision of the natural world beyond its physical appearance.
Grounded in reality, many of the works were inspired by the countryside near the artist’s home in Montclair, New Jersey. Yet in them Inness sought to go beyond the limits of appearance to express the spiritual essence of the natural world. In Home at Montclair, Inness used thinly applied paint to capture a balance between naturalism and abstraction. Various painterly techniques—quick touches of the brush, areas of pigment wiped with a rag, and scoring wet paint with the reverse end of the artist’s brush—soften the contours of New Jersey Landscape. This blurring of forms evokes a sense of the metaphysical quality of the natural world.
George Inness: Gifts from Frank and Katherine Martucci, is on view at the Clark June 9 through September 8.
Presented by The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, curators say a new exhibit called Painters and Paintings in the Early American South is the first exhibition of its kind that explores the scope of this region of early American art while bringing new vitality, excitement and scholarship to the forefront. “Nothing like this has been done before,” says Carolyn Weekley, Colonial Williamsburg’s Juli Grainger Curator, ”having all these wonderful examples in one place at the same time.
“Most importantly, the exhibition will illustrate the myriad connections between art centers of the early South, New England, the Middle Atlantic and Europe.”
Included more than 80 portraits, landscapes, seascapes and other artworks pertinent to the Atlantic coast states from Maryland southward and the upper coast of the Gulf of Mexico. All were created in or for the South between 1735 and 1800. Participating institutions include The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Charleston Museum, The Corcoran Gallery of Art,The Dallas Museum of Art, The Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum and others.
A second and similar exhibition featuring works dating prior to 1735 is planned for a 2015 opening in Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth will present an installation of Texas paintings that curators say captures a pivotal moment in the state’s cultural history. In the 1930s, a group of young artists—including Jerry Bywaters, Alexandre Hogue, William Lester, Thomas Stell, Harry Carnohan and Coreen Spellman, among others—gained national recognition for their scenic and ideological interpretations of the local environment. Although they depicted the people and landscapes of Texas in identifiable and representational manners, each artist possessed their own style, often combining realism with modernist influences ranging from Cubism to Surrealism. These evocative paintings provide a poignant glimpse of life and art in Texas during the era of the Great Depression. The exhibit opensApril 30.
About three years ago, I attended my first antiques show after moving to Texas — the Dolly Johnson Show. Although the show had gone more mid-century and industrial than in previous years, the show stopper then was the Susanna Fuller White trunk, from the Mayflower. Americana was still the heart and soul of the show.
The current owner, Jan Orr-Harter, had the vision of broadening the scope and appeal when she bought the show from JJ Frambes in 2009. Only three years into the show, she has successfully transformed the show into an eclectic market that goes beyond antiques and art. That is prominently reflected by the change in the show’s name: Fort Worth Show of Antiques and Art. Its website is even simpler: FortWorthShow.com.
Broadening the scope and appeal has been a trend among antiques shows. The Philadelphia Antiques Show has adopted a more flexible standard by setting different time windows for different types of objects. For artwork, modernism is welcome as long as the artist is deceased. The Metro Show, which replaced the former American Antiques Show two years ago, took a totally different turn by dropping off its pursuit of patina to incorporate a wider range of objects- the name itself doesn’t convey “antique” at all.
To some extent, the current Fort Worth Show has some characteristics of its predecessor – a penchant for folk art and country craftsmanship. Yet through mixing objects of anti-urbane, un-common or untamed by unconventional training, it has achieved an eccentric sophistication that may shock some long-time patrons but can excite a younger crowd. When we were there on Friday afternoon, the traffic was steady.
This year Ken Weber of Vintage Martini, a clothing retailer, participated in the show for the first time. Together with another first timer, Adrienne Astrologo of Ladybag International from Philadelphia, they represent a desired demographic shift from the show promoter. Risking being called a sexiest, I would argue more or less that men collect, women shop. Collecting American furniture or art is methodological and fastidious. You would trust the voice of Wendell Garrett or the hand-touch of Leigh Keno. Shopping vintage on the other hand is fun, impromptu, and spontaneous. In that case, you would be happy to tag along with Martha Stewart, who visited the Brooklyn Flea a few years ago.
Of course clothing, jewelry and accessories can be collectible but first and foremost on the consumers mind is whether it fits and looks good.
Thus it is the emphasis on the shopping experience (mostly targeted to a female audience) that these vendors would contribute. Given the long history of the Dolly Johnson Show, a more complete transformation, if there is to be one, may not happen this year or next. But the equilibrium will be matched once more vintage dealers settle in.
Yet, even within the spacious Will Rogers Memorial Center, the show is not as big as those super markets such as Scott Market, Brimfield or Marburger. The great advantage of “there is something for everyone” also means that, after dividing the limited space by the extraordinary range of selection, a die-hard collector could find fewer items of interest. Variety vs. homogeneity has always been a conundrum for show promoters. The smaller the show (and while not the largest in the region, this one is on the large side), the bigger the problem.
Dealers have taken the cue themselves in anticipating the shifting interests of patrons. Gordon Harrison of Harrison Gallery, who also exhibited at the Heart of the Country show in Nashville, seemed to bring more affordable art here with modern and regionalism-looking works. They offer unique decorative value without depleting one’s wallet.
In contrast Jane Christian of Art, brought paintings of Dallas Nine and Fort Worth Circle. Otis Dozier’s work has been recently sold at David Dike Auction for more than $30,000. Although not everyone can afford a large painting by Dozier, the presence of paintings with local interest helps educate Martha Stewart followers who may just browse between vintage Coke signs or Fort Worth hotel memorabilia, and perhaps ignite their interest for, in the words of Amon Carter who founded the museum not far away from the show, higher attributes of life.
Albany is one of those small towns of Texas- by the time you read its name from a road sign, it’s almost behind you. Its museum has an unassuming name – the Old Jail Art Center. You would expect to be surrounded by bluebonnets or longhorns paintings, and be ready to associate with it the quirkiness and idiosyncrasy of all things Texas, until you walk in. The wonderful art treasure trove should not be a secret kept by the two thousand local residents, but to be known and enjoyed in Texas and beyond.
The museum was founded in 1980 by Reilly Nail and his cousin Texas artist Bill Bomar, who combined their collections with their mothers ( on Asian Art) to form the core collection. Through years, it has been expanded through key donations such as William O. Gross, Jr. Collection of pre-Columbia art, furnishings from Watt Matthew’s Lambshead Ranch, Marshall Young Jr’s fund for the outdoor sculpture garden and European art, and most recently a gift from DMA/MFA Houston‘s Barrett Collection.
Often, smaller museums that grow out of individual collections more or less reflect eccentric and peculiar tastes of its founders. In the case of the Old Jail Art Center, Bill Bomer, who was the leading artist of the Fort Worth Circle, left the collection a penchant for abstract and simplified forms, bridging archaic and Oriental objects with European and American modernism. Bomar, born in a wealthy family, was an avid collector throughout his life. In 2011, the museum mounted an exhibition featuring the extensive cross collection of the artist.
I was told by many collector friends that the museum’s holdings in Fort Worth Circle is strong. Yet even with the greatly expanded gallery space (added in 2009) besides the original two-story stone-walled jail building, the breadth of the collection makes it hard to showcase its deep root in Texas homegrown abstract and surrealist art. A few can be found in the works-on-paper gallery. “The Entertainers” by Bror Utter abstracted figurative movement into distinct angular shapes of playful colors. A landscape water -color by Bill Bomar flattens the distance with weighty repetitive patterns of emerald green.
Unlike Bror Utter who carried a distinctive artistic style through his life, Bomar had worked in many modes, often taking the risk of venturing into directions untrecked.
Thus it is an extremely rare opportunity to learn about the artist through his gifts displayed in the permanent collection. It is not only interesting to see what the artist had collected during his life time, but also tempting to ponder how those personal collections are related to various styles of his own.
The elongated feature can be found both at Modigliani’s Young Girl with Braids and some small Asian and African statuettes. They echo some of Bomar’s early abstract works. For example, The Virgin Future, sold at Heritage Auctions last year, has attenuated anthropomorphic forms with distinct sculptural mass. Paul Klee’s Der Weg ins Blaue, another master piece from his collection, gives a special dull sheen through the use of hot wax mixed with dry pigments. Its naïve simplistic forms recall many of his 50’s paintings, such as Squares Gathered by the Sea, which inject two-dimensional elements like squares and lines, through dry brush strokes, into pictorial space.
At the first floor of the Jail building, I was surprised to see Asian art display, mostly from the collection of Jewel Nail Bomar, the artist’s mother. (Like any other works of art on display, their labels lack the details about when Bomar family acquired them.) It would be interesting to know what motivated her to collect tomb figurines from Wei, Sui and Tang Dynasty. The figurines created in this period have unprecedented liveliness. The sinuous forms with swaying arms or tilted toes capture dynamic moments in happy afterlife. Yet Chinese art is mostly strung by its restrained emotions — Despite some degree of exaggeration in favor of sensual expressiveness, all these figurines keep a sense of balance and fluidity. Considering the varieties of the collection and many heritages from which Bomar could draw inspiration, it occurr to me that the collection manifests Bomar’s openness to the unlimited boundaries of art and his astute readiness in pushing new ideas. What is unchanged is his unyielding belief in the transformative power of art.
At the Sculpture Courtyard, Texas sculptor Jesús Moroles’ Granite Sun greets visitors with its grand gesture. Bill Bomar recognized his talent early on and commissioned him to make this monumental sculpture for the museum. Alternating between unhewed raw surface and the polished one with warm sheen, it stuns viewers with its glorious sun disk, up in the air. The consummate craftsmanship is magnified by the fact that despite of its proportion, it was cut, hewed and sanded on one piece of pink granite. Given the tendency that Bomar often dramatized subjects with basic elements, it could be that he saw in Morole’s sculpture, a medium he could not command, luminosity, texture and abstraction folded in larger-than-life ambition, like his own.
A controversial exhibition of modern American art, assembled to show the world America’s artistic coming of age, was instead deemed un-American by members of the U.S. Congress and President Harry S. Truman. Reassembled by the Jule Collins Smith Museum at Auburn University, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma as Art Interrupted: Advancing American Art and the Politics of Cultural Diplomacy, the exhibit draws from the permanent collections of 10 museums, private collectors and other public institutions. “We are afforded an incredible opportunity to collaborate with other U.S. museums and organizations to reunite this powerful exhibition of American works,” said Ghislain d’Humières, the Wylodean and Bill Saxon Director of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. “Visitors will recognize works from the Fred Jones’ State Department Collection, as well as many other significant paintings from other collections that have made this important exhibition possible.” Represented are works by artists from Romare Bearden to Ben Shahn, Stuart Davis, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Loren MacIver, Jacob Lawrence, Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove. Auburn University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art served as the premiere venue for the traveling exhibition Sept. 8, 2012, through Jan. 5, 2013. After its display at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art through June 9, the exhibition will travel to the Indiana University Art Museum, in Bloomington, Ind. Sept. 13–Dec. 15, 2013, and the Georgia Museum of Art, in Athens, Ga. Jan. 25–April 30, 2014.
Anton Refregier (U.S., b. Russia, 1905-1979)
End of the Conference, 1945
Oil on canvas, 32 x 15 ½ in.
Purchase, U.S. State Department Collection, 1948