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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

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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Lorenzo Webber House #1, 2006. David Ottenstein (b. 1960). Inkjet print. New Britain Museum of American Art, Gift of the artist, 2010.45.

My photographs, first and foremost, are about beauty. In structures that most people agree are ugly, I see the opposite: surfaces rich in texture and patterns, bold forms molded by light. The translation of these objective facts into the seductive black and white tones of the photographic process is both the challenge and the excitement of creating these images. – David Ottenstein

Ottenstein was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but grew up in State College, a small town situated in central Pennsylvania. At the age of 14, he took his first photograph, which led him to pursue a degree in American Studies with a concentration in Photography from Yale University in 1982. (more…)

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Blue Prescence, 1970. Richard Pousette-Dart (1916–1992). Oil on board, 24 x 24 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, General Purchase Fund, 1971.25.

With no formal artistic training, Richard Pousette-Dart borrowed from the early efforts of the Abstract Expressionists during the 1940s and soon developed a painting technique that focused on the artist’s direct experience with materials and discouraged the use of preparatory sketches. The artist incorporated substances, such as sand, razor blades, and sandpaper, to alter the surface texture of his works and create visual radiance. A focus on the complexities of paint surfaces and a highly developed sense of color harmonies are hallmarks of his style. In Blue Presence the artist uses a Pointillist method of applying small dabs of color to interplay textures and light-generating color fields. The dominant circular image appears to be radiating outward as if it were a cosmic event while particles of paint decrease slightly in size toward the center of the canvas. (more…)

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World Skin, 1997. Maurice Benayoun. Virtual Reality Installation.

As we become a society increasingly engulfed in computer technology, there seem to be changes in the art world, specifically in regards to digitalization.  Since the 1970s, art produced digitally has risen into the fine arts realm.  For example, as opposed to manual photography which catches chemical changes on film, digital photography uses electronic sensors that record the desired image as electronic data.  A major advantage of digital photography is the ability to manipulate the image using computer programs and software.  many different effects can be utilized, increasing the tools the artist has to express their vision.  Aside from digital photography, digital art contains multiple other forms, such as photopainting, digital collage, integrated digital art, virtual reality, hollogram, fractals, and more. (more…)

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The Picture Book (alternate title: Instruction), 1903. Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934). Gravure print, 15.7 x 20.7 cm. Library of Congress. Published in Camera Work X, 1905.

The study of the female form has been a reccurring theme in artworks for millenia and many museum masterpieces focus on the exploration of a woman’s body . In the late 19th century, this theme was often explored either as the study of beauty or as a representation of motherhood. The Pictorialist photographers concentrated their attention on softly focused images of elegantly dressed women that exuded a certain kind of mystery. Unfortunately, these photographs only showed the charm and stylishness of their sitters instead of the “individual[‘s] strength of character.” An affiliated theme is that of showing women and children occupied with a leisure activity or playing in a home or garden. These types of photographs interested both female and male photographers and they subsequently created images that showed romanticized versions of informal family life. (more…)

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Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1983. Christo (b. 1935) and Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009). Mixed media and collage. New Britain Museum of American Art, Friends Purchase Fund, 1984.10.

Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1983. Christo (b. 1935) and Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009). Mixed media and collage. New Britain Museum of American Art, Friends Purchase Fund, 1984.10.

Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, born in 1935 in Gubrovo, Bulgaria is one of the most visible American artists of our time. Jeanne-Claude Marie de Guillebon was born in 1935 in Casablanca, Morocco to French parents. Their monumental conceptual works, although dramatic, are temporary, and are recorded solely by his sketches, photographs, movies, media images and people’s memories. (more…)

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Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, 1863. Edouard Manet (1832-1883). Oil on canvas, 208 x 264.5 cm. Musée d'Orsay, RF 1668.

When reading our recent post on the NBMAA’s new acquisition of a work by William T. Wiley, one is reminded of another re-interpreted painting, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe by Edouard Manet. However, the Wiley and Manet are opposites. While the Wiley is a modern reinterpretation of a masterpiece by a Northern Renaissance master, the Manet is the original from the 1860s that has inspired dozens of reinterpretations over the past 150 years. (more…)

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“Photography was an interest at first, then a passion. By chance I was even able to make some money photographing musicians. But I always photographed for myself, and I’ve never stopped.” – Linda McCartney

Mick Jagger, New York, 1966. Linda McCartney (1941-1998). Platinum photograph, 60.4 x 47 cm (23¾ x 18½ in.). James Hyman Gallery.

Linda McCartney started her career as a receptionist at Town and Country in 1966. Through this job she was able to get an invitation to a yacht on the Hudson River where The Rolling Stones were giving a press conference. (more…)

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Girl with Red Hair, 1962. Jack LeVine (b. 1925). Oil on canas, 32 x 26 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Davis, 2003.13.

We have, more or less, as an audience become used to the idealized depiction of women. Often, particularly in classical styles, they were portrayed as reclining nudes who were there for the viewer’s pleasure. With averted eyes, they touched themselves sensually, typically innocent and oblivious that there is someone painting her for all to see. When they weren’t sexual-fantasy fodder, they were servile and obedient–particularly in the 1940’s and 1950’s after the end of the strong women era of World War II. They wore their hair in perfect curls, with their perfect dresses and worked merrily away in their perfect kitchens.  In Jack Levine’s Girl with Red Hair  there is a shift away from the perfect, care-free woman that came before. Rather, nudity is embraced as an aspect of the woman’s power rather than the viewer’s object. (more…)

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Miss Mit, 1993. William Wegman (b. 1943). Color Polaroid, 24 x 20 inches. © 2005 William Wegman. Courtesy the Artist.

Who doesn’t know the cute and humorous photographs by “the guy with the dogs,”  William Wegman ?

Before Wegman started taking photographs of his dogs, he had been an accomplished conceptual artist. He earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in painting and only in the late sixties did he start creating photographs. In the seventies, he turned towards videos. His amusing and clever videos deal with more profound and thoughtful matters. But they also show a certain playfulness that tone down the satirical undertone of the work. (more…)

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