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Archive for the ‘Meet the Collection’ Category

Untitled (Abstract), ca. 1950s. Lillian Orlowsky (1914–2007). Oil on canvas, 32 x 25 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Gift of The Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation (2010.100)

While the idea that originality can be taught is somewhat oxymoronic, there is no denying that some of the most ground-breaking artists in history were students, at one time or another, influenced by the teachings of masters and their work. Provincetown artists were no exception, and if you had to trace the roots of Provincetown’s reputation as a leading center of innovative art, the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Art would be the first place to look. It was the pedagogy of the school’s founder, famed Modernist and Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), that inspired generations of artists to obliterate the grasp of tradition and Academic convention, each in his or her own way. Opened in 1935, the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts marked a new tide in both the art colony and American art history.

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October Landscape, 1923. Charles Webster Hawthorne (1872-1930). Oil on canvas board, 30 1/8 x 24 7/8 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Gift of Olga H. Knoepke, 1992.37

The understanding of sensation, perception, and what it meant to portray reality changed dramatically throughout the late 19th century, beginning with the Impressionist movement in France. Impressionism prioritized the individual eye over the disembodied subject of the anonymous viewing body. The theory behind the movement was all about offering a unique experience, a temporary moment, and an individual artist’s perspective. Canvases were meant to be direct translations of perceptions experienced in nature. Despite heavy initial resistance from the art establishment, Impressionist art has come to be praised for removing the burdening, dry weight of bourgeois politics in order to experience nature more directly and immediately. One was not to play into hierarchy, but rather to experience unaltered, reaction between artist and environment. Through the direct representation of the artist’s reaction, the Impressionists captured one moment of temporal, specific perception including those of the middle and lower classes of modern France.

What is often forgotten is the fact that French Impressionism, often mistaken for Impressionism at large, incorporated the beliefs, theories, and politics of one group of mostly Parisian men. Impressionism as theory and practice traveled across the Atlantic quite successfully. In the United States, it flourished among budding art colonies including Provincetown, Massachusetts, Old Lyme, Connecticut, and Shinnecock, Long Island. These art-driven townships were popular destinations and subject-settings for American Impressionists, as they boasted brilliant sunshine, luscious landscape, and sea-soaked shores.

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Gentleman with Negro Attendant, ca. 1785-88. Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Oil on Canvas. New Britain Museum of American Art. Harriet Russell Stanley Fund, 1948.06.

Upon a quick glance, the newest addition to the Colonial Gallery at the New BritainMuseum of American Art has left some visitors panic-stricken – an understandable  reaction considering the fact that the painting has two large holes cut out of it. But do not worry, the NBMAA has not been vandalized, in fact, the holes are meant to be there. The work, Jaavon and the Unknown Gentleman, was recently commissioned by the Museum from New Haven artist Titus Kaphar as part of an new project of pairing contemporary art with older works from the permanent collection. The purpose of this project, Appropriation and Inspiration, is to highlight the ways in which historical awareness has shaped the practice of many contemporary artists.  Appropriation and Inspiration is not yet a full-fledged exhibition, but rather a budding initiative that will develop into a museum-wide installation in the near future.

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Portraiture has long played an important role in American art. From early Colonial times to the present, portraiture evolved from a purely documentary art form into a means of addressing complex social and cultural issues. By taking a visit to the New Britain Museum of American Art, one can trace the evolution of this popular art form by viewing the many examples of portraiture the museum has to offer.

Lydia Lynde, ca. 1762-64. John Singleton Copley (1739-1815). Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite, 30 x 25 ¼ in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Stephen B. Lawrence Fund and through exchange, 1976.4.

Among the most formidable examples of portraiture in the Museum’s collection is the painting Lydia Lynde by John Singleton Copley. While early Colonial portraiture was painted by artists with rudimentary training, the next generation of artists (including Copley) was exposed to European artistic theories and methods. From an early age in his home in Boston, the artist experimented with engraving, drawing, while also learning a great deal from the British painters John Smibert (1688-1751) and Joseph Blackburn (1700-1765). Copley’s travels to Europe further on in his career provided him with a degree of technical expertise unparalleled by many of his contemporaries.

When Lydia Lynde commissioned her portrait from Copley in 1762, the artist had secured his position as New England’s preeminent portraitist. (more…)

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Man Ray, 1974. Andy Warhol (1928-1987). Acrylic polymer and silkscreen on canvas, 14 ¼ x 11 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Friends Purchase Fund, 1979.084.

Man Ray, 1974. Andy Warhol (1928-1987). Acrylic polymer and silkscreen on canvas, 14 ¼ x 11 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Friends Purchase Fund, 1979.084.

The last three years in the global art market have seen massive changes. The overall leaders have completely changed, with China rising from third and fourth place in the last decade to first in 2010. Meanwhile, France seems to be in a downward spiral, hard-pressed for a solution to fix its market. Their history has been prosperous in the past, but the 20th century has been less than kind. American art is still a viable commodity within the global market, however, as can be seen by Andy Warhol’s “performance” in 2010.

The taste of an art audience varies year by year, and with the 1991 crash and recovery shifting the focus from what was popular towhat sells. Fast forward to 2007, and the dominance of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Andy Warhol (1928-1987) on the art market, intermixed with a few Impressionist, as well as a massive Chinese influence-all of which helped to form the art world into a global economy that is approaching 10 billion dollars per year. Andy Warhol is at the forefront of these sales, with his revenue alone in 2010 being his all time high of $313, 535, 564. (more…)

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One of Efremoff’s artworks

Efremoff is on the forefront of New Media art. He obtained his MFA from the University of Connecticut, and has exhibited all over the United States and abroad in counties including Italy, Germany, and South Korea.

Working in this “new media” is, of course,  new and constantly in flux. New Media was pioneered in the 1960s, and modern technology has opened the door to endless possibilities. The very definition of “art” comes into question with these new parameters because of the plastic nature of the medium. (more…)

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Bryson Burroughs (1869-1934) worked as a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 28 years in the early 20th century. During his time at the Met, he was responsible for their massive increase in American art holdings, in addition to numerous other achievements including the first acquisition for a public collection of a work by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906). Burroughs’ curatorial decisions and influences were prominent in the advancement of the art market in the early 20th century. Interestingly, his ideas also had a major impact on the NBMAA’s decision to collect solely American art, with a focus on contemporary work.

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Poster for the Universelle Exposition de 1889, Paris

Poster for the Exposition Universelle de 1889, Paris

Just a few days ago, the NBMAA purcahsed a full-scale, life-sized portrait of Emeline Arnold Souther (Mrs. Edmund Charles Tarbell.) Edmund Charles Tarbell painted this masterpiece early on in their relationship, in fact it was painted in the year they were married (1888) right before he became a teacher for several decades at the Boston Museum School. Mrs. T’s elegance and poise are a pristine example of Tarbell’s early career, transitioning from magazine illustrations to portraits. This painting was featured in the notable Exposition Universelle “World’s Fair” of 1889 in Paris. (more…)

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Washington Square Park, New York City

Washington Square Park, New York City

New York City has hundreds of iconic landmarks, parks, monuments, streets, and buildings. During the early 20th century it was a bustling city, full of excitement, investment, and room for expansion and it quickly became a destination for travelers, immigrants, and artists. Art societies and academics became widely accepted and popular, and popped up all over the city. The depictions of New York increased dramatically throughout this time period. This metropolitan destination  could not be missed by any one in the art world, and many moved there to be part of the burgeoning art scene. Therefore, it is no surprise that dozens of prominent artists in the NBMAA’s collection lived and worked in New York City, and derived endless inspiration from the city. (more…)

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Christmas Boxes in Camp-Christmas 1861, 1862. Winslow Homer (1836-1910). Print from Harper’s Weekly, January 4, 1862.

150 years ago this month, the American Civil War began four years of battle that claimed almost a million lives and led to the abolition of slavery. Not surprisingly, the war impacted artists and photographers, who produced shocking images that revealed scenes that were far from romanticized. Many people disapprove of remembering such a horrible event, demonstrated by the reaction certain works received at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Lincoln bicentennial commission. Despite the silence of many American art museums, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is currently organizing a survey of the war’s effects on American art that will open in November 2012, which will include works such as Winslow Homer’s Prisoner’s From the Front. Winslow Homer’s War-inspired works cannot be ignored, as many of them made his reputation. Not only did the they allow him to develop as an artist, but also his works had a great impact on citizens across the country. The NBMAA is proud to organize an exhibition in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. (more…)

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