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Archive for the ‘Meet the Collection’ Category

This post comes to us from Alexandra Torbick, Curatorial Intern.

West Rock Branches, 2012. Valerie Hegarty (b. 1967). Wood, wire, epoxy, archival print on canvas, acrylic paint, gel mediums, sand, glue, hardware. 65 x 48 x 11 in. Paul W. Zimmerman Purchase Fund.

Appropriation, the act of direct duplication, copying or incorporation of an image (painting, photograph, etc) by another artist[1], has been endogenous within the art world since antiquity, especially in the times of the Roman Empire. Using Greek bronze sculptures as their guide, the Romans took figures and recreated them, appropriating the Greek deities’ images as their own gods and goddesses. This reconstruction of meaning is what truly defines “appropriation.” Represented in a different context, the signification of the original image is altered, thereby initiating a flurry of questions revolving around the ideas of originality and authenticity. 1

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This post comes to us from Lacy Gillette, former curatorial intern and current visitor services assistant supervisor.

Searching the Horizon: The Real American West 1830-1920 (Art from the Bank of America Collection) is on view in the McKernan Gallery until March 4, 2012 and has already drawn large crowds to the exhibition devoted to the American West, its landscape and its people. Divided into four thematic sections –  Settlement, Landscape, Native Americans, and Urbanization and Industry – the exhibition features over 100 artworks and objects to offer the viewer a range of interpretations of the American West. While the exhibition provides a rich historical account of the changing face of the American West, it is also elucidates the fact that painters’ and photographers’ portrayals of Western culture were often romanticized depictions of “a long-lost era” that influenced and reinforced “Eastern” perception of the people of the 19th and 20th century American West.

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Backstreet, Provincetown, 2011. John Dowd (b. 1960). Oil on canvas, 23 7/8 x 35 7/8 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Gift of Stephen Borkowski in honor of John and Julie Dowd (2011.20).

Over the past two years, in preparation for the exhibition The Tides of Provincetown: Pivotal Years in America’s Oldest Continuous Art Colony 1899-2011 now on view at the New Britain Museum of American Art, we have compiled a list of online interactives and research materials that are both entertaining and educational. The games, videos, and additional resources pertaining to the Provincetown art colony are listed here and provide information related to the community and its artists. Enjoy!

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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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