BMA Voices: She’s back in the building.

Henri Matisse. Large Seated Nude. Original model 1922‑1929; this cast 1930. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.436. © 2013 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse. Large Seated Nude. Original model 1922‑1929; this cast 1930. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.436. © 2013 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Christine Downie, Objects Conservator

One of the many interesting aspects about working at a museum are the courier trips. When an artwork is approved for loan to another institution, a BMA courier will usually accompany the piece to the host institution to make sure it is properly delivered and installed. Of course, there is much more to loaning an artwork than this. The facilities report for the loan institution has to be reviewed to make sure the object will be safe and in an appropriate environment. The object usually needs to have a special crate made so it can travel without coming to any harm. Depending on the destination a variety of methods of transport may be required with special art handling and strict procedures, and the list goes on.

I have been on numerous courier trips now and what continues to intrigue me is the way other institutions display the BMA object(s). We put restrictions on the lighting levels, relative humidity, and temperature of the galleries, as well as where the object will reside. The object cannot be handled by the public and must be handled and installed by trained art handlers wearing special gloves. Only after the host museum agrees to meet these and other requirements, can they design the exhibition as they see fit, with objects from their own collections and/or other loans. The host museum’s exhibit designer selects the colors and layout with input from the host curator. The object(s) is in completely new surroundings and can look very different.

One piece I have traveled with several times is Henri Matisse’s bronze sculpture Large Seated Nude. This piece is large and heavy. At least four strong people are required to lift it. Large Seated Nude cannot be touched by the public for fear of damaging the surface. It has been interesting to see how different host museums have protected the piece. One museum had an enormous reinforced pedestal built putting the object well out of the viewers’ reach. Two other museums produced the largest Plexiglas vitrines I have ever seen. The colors of the walls and surrounding art have varied dramatically. The following installation photos are of the Large Seated Nude in the BMA traveling exhibition Matisse: Life in Color.

Installation shot at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Oct 13th, 2013- Jan 12, 2014

Installation shot at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Oct 13th, 2013- Jan 12, 2014

Installation shot at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Feb 23, 2014 - May 18, 2014

Installation shot at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Feb 23, 2014 – May 18, 2014

Installation shot at the San Antonio Museum of Art, June 14, 2014 - Sept 7, 2014.

Installation shot at the San Antonio Museum of Art, June 14, 2014 – Sept 7, 2014.

Recently the Large Seated Nude was reinstalled in the Cone Wing at the BMA. Katy Rothkopf (Senior Curator of European Painting and Sculpture) and Karen Nielsen (Director of Installation and Exhibition Design) have taken great care to show the piece at its best. Large Seated Nude can be found in the rotunda of the building, surrounded by smaller Matisse sculptures and paintings, under the watchful eye of the BMA Security Staff.

Large Reclining Nude Nov 19, 2014

Large Seated Nude installed at the BMA Nov 19, 2014

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Reproduction, including downloading, of Henri Matisse works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

BMA Voices: Birds

Thomas Coke Ruckle. Birds. 1842. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Louise M. Carr; Gift of Edward P. Crummer; W. Clagett Emory Bequest Fund, in Memory of his Parents, William H. Emory of A and Martha B. Emory; Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch; Gift of a Group of Friends; Gift of Mrs. Oliver Iselin; Gift of E. Carolyn and Rosa E. Nicholson; Special Purchase Fund; Gift of Mme. A. W. L. Tjarda Van Starkenborgh-Stachouwer; and Gift of John Vanderbogart, BMA 1985.20

Thomas Coke Ruckle. Birds. 1842. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Louise M. Carr; Gift of Edward P. Crummer; W. Clagett Emory Bequest Fund, in Memory of his Parents, William H. Emory of A and Martha B. Emory; Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch; Gift of a Group of Friends; Gift of Mrs. Oliver Iselin; Gift of E. Carolyn and Rosa E. Nicholson; Special Purchase Fund; Gift of Mme. A. W. L. Tjarda Van Starkenborgh-Stachouwer; and Gift of John Vanderbogart, BMA 1985.20

Laura Albans, Curatorial Assistant for the departments of European Painting and Sculpture and Conservation

Although I work in the Curatorial Division at the Museum, I do not always have the opportunity to walk through the galleries and truly study the installations, as I would if I were visiting another museum. I am very fortunate to work for two departments within the Museum—European Painting and Sculpture and Conservation. Working in the European Painting and Sculpture Department allows me to fully learn a collection, while working in the Conservation Department introduces me to new works, allows me to become familiar with objects from other departments, and, most importantly, opens my mind to works or styles I may not otherwise notice.

Thomas Coke Ruckle’s small painting came into the Conservation Lab several years ago, where, as an amateur birder, it immediately caught my attention. Prior to working in the European Painting and Sculpture Department, I had worked closely with the Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture Sona Johnston, but I was not familiar with this image from the American paintings collection. The painting stayed in the Conservation lab for several months, and I was able to see it on a daily basis. It wasn’t just the bird motif that captured my interest, but rather, it was the style that intrigued me, as well. I love how Ruckle captures the identity of the birds with such detail, yet he does not give any indication to the birds’ surroundings or landscape. This simple composition, with its naïve feeling, is fastidious in a painterly manner, creating quite a beautiful little masterpiece.

I am also continually surprised at the early date of Ruckle’s composition. I have to remind myself that it was completed in the middle of the nineteenth century, and yet it looks so fresh and modern! However, this example of these familiar North American birds was painted just one year after Ruckle’s return to Baltimore after studying at the Royal Academy from 1839-1941, nine years prior to the death of John James Audubon (1785-1851), and several years after Audubon’s publication of The Birds of America (1827-1839). I am very curious to know as to whether Ruckle referenced this illustrated tome for his artistic study.

Like Audubon, Ruckle captures the birds’ identity in great detail, but in using a bit of artistic license, he places all the birds on branches of a budding and blossoming apple tree, while seemingly depicting each with individual personalities. I am happy to note that all the birds seen in this composition are common visitors to my Baltimore backyard. Illustrated from top to bottom, left to right are (all males, most likely for the use of vibrant color and immediate identification): a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, Northern Flicker, and an Eastern Bluebird.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: Strolling with Pissarro

Camille Pissarro. Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire. 1864. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The George A. Lucas  Collection, purchased with funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals,  foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community, BMA 1996.45.221

Camille Pissarro. Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire. 1864. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The George A. Lucas Collection, purchased with funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community, BMA 1996.45.221

Katy Rothkopf, Senior Curator & Dept Head of European Painting & Sculpture

When I arrived at the Museum almost 15 years ago, I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with the paintings in the collection. I was particularly intrigued by this small work by Camille Pissarro, Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire, which looked so different from the other paintings by the Impressionist artist that were much more familiar to me. The way he applied paint to the canvas, the sense of structure and form, and the clear use of light were all were very different from his more typical Impressionistic explorations of light and color. This interest led to a research project, culminating in a major exhibition, where we traced Pissarro’s evolution from a young artist, struggling to produce large paintings for the annual Salon exhibitions in Paris, to the Impressionist master that is so well known today.

In 1864, Pissarro produced this intimate view of the countryside near the Marne River east of Paris. He had arrived in Paris from his home of St. Thomas in 1855, and spent time studying in small studios, becoming friends with younger painters, such as Paul Cézanne and Claude Monet. At that time, to receive recognition from critics and the general public, artists submitted works to the annual Salon held in Paris, where a jury would carefully choose works for the show. Pissarro had modest success exhibiting in the annual Salons of the 1860s with several large landscape paintings that are similar in style to Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire, but he was soon looking for another way to express his artistic vision.

In the late 1860s, Pissarro moved to Louveciennes, a small town west of Paris. There he was able to spend more time with his Impressionist colleagues, becoming fascinated with working outdoors. In the winter of 1869-70, after a series of snowstorms, Pissarro and Monet painted the unique quality of the atmosphere and light in winter side by side. Pissarro’s works subsequently became more experimental and innovative. In 1874, the first Impressionist exhibition was held in Paris, where progressive artists could show their work without a jury, allowing new artistic freedom for the first time. The Impressionists held eight independent shows between 1874 and 1886, with Pissarro as the only artist to exhibit in all of them.

Read more about this work in A hidden Pissarro.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: The Four Disgracers

Hendrick Goltzius and After Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Phaeton. 1588. Plate 3 from the series "The Four Disgracers". The Baltimore Museum of Art: Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 2013.357

Hendrick Goltzius and After Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Phaeton. 1588. Plate 3 from the series “The Four Disgracers”. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 2013.357

Rena Hoisington, Curator & Dept Head of Prints, Drawings & Photographs

In 2013 the BMA acquired a tour-de-force engraving we had long sought for our print collection: Hendrick Goltzius’ Phaeton. The composition, and the moralizing text that elegantly encircles it, draw inspiration from Greek mythology.

Phaeton, son of the god Helios, asked his father if he might drive his sun chariot across the heavens for one day. Helios reluctantly agreed. Phaeton began his journey with eagerness and excitement, but soon lost control of the fiery steeds. The chariot veered too close to the earth, causing it to catch fire. To prevent further destruction Zeus, king of the gods, knocked Phaeton out of the sky with one of his lightning bolts.

In the background of Goltzius’ print one glimpses the plunging chariot, missing one wheel, and four horses helplessly pawing the air. Front and center is the nude figure of Phaeton plunging to his death, his curly locks pulled upwards by the winds swirling around him. The silhouette of his rippling back muscles is echoed in the sinuous lines of the clouds behind him and the billows of smoke from the burning earth below.

Goltzius executed Phaeton in 1588 as one of a series of four engravings entitled The Four Disgracers after the designs of his contemporary Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. The theme of the series is hubris: each of these characters from Greek mythology has been “disgraced” or punished for aspiring to be like the gods. And yet to experience all four of these prints together—which we can now do at the BMA, thanks to the acquisition of Phaeton—underscores that the series is first and foremost about Goltzius’ virtuosity as an artist. The free-falling figures of Tantalus, Icarus, Phaeton, and Ixion demonstrate variations on a pose shown from four different points of view. Two fall in light, two tumble through darkness. Goltzius employed a complex system of tapering and swelling lines to delineate their brawny bodies, producing sculptural effects that are amplified through dramatic contrasts of light and dark; their figures appear to plummet into our own space.

Hendrick Goltzius and After a design by Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Tantalus. 1588. Plate 1 from the series "The Four Disgracers". The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, BMA 2005.47

Hendrick Goltzius and After a design by Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Tantalus. 1588. Plate 1 from the series “The Four Disgracers”. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, BMA 2005.47

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Hendrick Goltzius and After Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Icarus. 1588. Plate 2 from the series “The Four Disgracers”. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of James and Leslie Billet, Baltimore, BMA 1983.11

Hendrick Goltzius and After Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Phaeton. 1588. Plate 3 from the series "The Four Disgracers". The Baltimore Museum of Art: Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 2013.357

Hendrick Goltzius and After Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Phaeton. 1588. Plate 3 from the series “The Four Disgracers”. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 2013.357

Hendrick Goltzius and After Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Ixion. 1588. Plate 4 from the series "The Four Disgracers". The Baltimore Museum of Art: Garrett Collection, BMA 1984.81.137

Hendrick Goltzius and After Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Ixion. 1588. Plate 4 from the series “The Four Disgracers”. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Garrett Collection, BMA 1984.81.137

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: A hidden Pissarro

Camille Pissarro. Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire. 1864. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The George A. Lucas  Collection, purchased with funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals,  foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community, BMA 1996.45.221

Camille Pissarro. Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire. 1864. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The George A. Lucas Collection, purchased with funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community, BMA 1996.45.221

Mary Sebera, The Stockman Family Foundation Senior Conservator

One particularly tantalizing aspect of artistic practice is the possibility that an initial painting might exist below a visible composition. In reality, this situation is relatively rare. Although artists often make changes while painting, the changes are generally minor ones such as altering the contour of a cheek or creating a more expansive vista by eliminating the branch of a tree. These changes can often be observed as an anomaly in the texture of the paint layer, one that is not related to the image.

A close examination of Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire by Camille Pissarro revealed some very intriguing findings. Although Pissarro is generally known as a father of Impressionism who painted light, airy scenes that often relied on the primed canvas as mid-tone, his early pictures are very different in both appearance and technique. The early paintings are much more densely painted, with brush strokes and, in some instances, palette-knife work covering the canvas completely. Pissarro used this technique when creating Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire. Over time, the sky became disrupted by a pervasive system of cracks that gap just enough to reveal a hint of color below surface level when examined with the microscope; color unrelated to the visible composition was also noticed along the edges where the painting had been lightly rubbed by past framing. The cracks, the odd coloration and the unusual thickness of the paint prompted conservators to take an x-radiograph of the painting. We know that Pissarro’s palette contained lead white, a pigment commonly used by painters in the 19th century. Lead white prevents transmission of x-rays and the subsequent exposure of film, and so areas where it is included in the paint mixture will appear white on the x-radiograph. Alternatively, paint composed of pigments with little density will appear darker; cracks that allow full transmission of the x-rays will be darker still. The x-radiograph of Strollers on a Country Road clearly shows the vertical white highlights of the slender poplars at the right center, the billowy clouds hovering above the trees, the rectangular shapes of buildings at lower right, the path that originates at lower left and winds through the center of the landscape, and the figure with the white shawl. The crackle system appears throughout as irregular dark lines. At center, it is even possible to discern the canvas pattern.

The x-radiograph of "Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire".

The x-radiograph of “Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire”.

If the x-radiograph is rotated to the right – so that it is horizontal – a farm yard scene appears. At left, a woman stands with hands at waist level; behind her are two very large buildings, one of which has a chimney. At the right side of the painting, the shapes of animals whose heads are bent for grazing may be seen; a tree with graceful branches is located behind them. Because they are covered by the visible painting, these features of this lower painting are a bit hazy, but enough detail may be discerned to suggest comparison with Farmyard painted a year earlier, which is in a private collection in Chicago. The traces of color along the edges and in cracks correlate with the scene. Pissarro appears to have abandoned the initial painting, covered it with a secondary priming layer and painted the visible composition.

The x-radiograph of "Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire", rotated to the right.

The x-radiograph of “Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire”, rotated to the right.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: “The Yellow Dress”, part three.

This is the third of four explorations into Henri Matisse’s The Yellow Dress by Jay Fisher, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs. In part one, we find out more about Matisse’s process, and discover how this dress relates to his history and life. In part two, we see some of the studies for the painting, and learn more about other related works. 

In this episode, we look at two paintings that followed The Yellow Dress, to see how Matisse’s work developed after this important piece.

Featuring:

Henri Matisse. Large Reclining Nude. 1935. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.258. © 2013 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse. Interior with Dog. 1934. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.257. © 2013 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Reproduction, including downloading of Henri Matisse works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

BMA Voices: Le Violon d’Ingres

Man Ray. Le Violon d'Ingres. 1924. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from the Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection; and partial gift of George H. Dalsheimer, Baltimore, BMA 1988.435. © Man Ray Trust / Artists  Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2014

Man Ray. Le Violon d’Ingres. 1924. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from the Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection; and partial gift of George H. Dalsheimer, Baltimore, BMA 1988.435. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2014

Thomas Primeau, Director of Conservation and Paper Conservator

In an era where technology allows for the precise reproduction of images and even 3 dimensional objects, why are we still fascinated by the idea of original works of art? In a previous blog post on Albrecht Dürer’s “Ecce Homo,” I noted that woodcut printing, a process for making multiples of the same image, has existed in the West since the early 15th-century. Other posts on the 16th-century engraver Diana Mantuana and the 19th-century lithographer Honoré Daumier, described how subsequent advances in printing technology, revolutionized the visual environment as duplicated images became increasingly sophisticated and omnipresent. When, in the 19th century, optical and chemical experiments led to practical methods of photography, artists found a new way of recording the world and improved methods for creating, reproducing, and circulating pictures. Of course, the question of whether creating a photograph, an image made using a machine, required artistic talent has haunted the medium since its inception and throughout history photographers have continually defended their work as art.

The Philadelphia-born artist Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) was perhaps responding to this challenge when he took a photograph of the model Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), posed nude and seen from the back as a classic odalisque, and manipulated it in the darkroom to make it appear as if she had f- holes cut into her torso. The photograph is compelling in itself as it plays on the similarity between the woman’s silhouette and a musical instrument, but once one understands that it is titled Le Violon d’Ingres, it becomes a humorous and pointed critique on the history of art and traditional representations of women in painting. The photograph is both a homage to and parody on the French neo-classical artist J. A. D. Ingres (1780-1867) who painted romanticized Oriental scenes populated with voluptuous nudes. (The Walters Art Museum has several paintings by Ingres including Odalisque with Slave (1842) which is exactly the type of picture that Man Ray references with his photograph.) Knowing that Ingres was also an amateur violinist and that the expression “Ingres’ violin” was used colloquially to refer to one’s “hobby,” heightens the comedy and focuses attention on the unsettling sexuality of the photograph. More than just a punch-line though, the image questions long-established concepts of what constitutes a work of art and how we see the world in an age of rapidly evolving technologies and philosophies. Man Ray made several prints of the photograph, and it became more well know when it was published in the journal Littérature (June, 1924). Today the work has been so frequently reproduced that it is instantly recognized as an icon of Dada and Surrealist art from the early 20th century.

Verifying the authenticity of a photograph such as this can be complicated: the artist continued to make prints of Le Violon d’Ingres into the 1960s and, due to the high prices that Man Ray photographs command in the art market, forgers have attempted to pass off fakes to unsuspecting collectors. In 1998, the discovery of a large group of forged Man Ray prints attracted worldwide press coverage and prompted conservators to develop new methods for authenticating vintage photographs. The provenance or record of ownership for the BMA photograph indicates that it is one of the originals prints from 1924. However, in order to verify this, the museum collaborated with Paul Messier, a photographic materials conservator, and Walter Rantanen, a forensic specialist, to study the print. They examined the paper composition of the photograph and determined that it was made of all cotton and flax fibers. Significantly, this combination of paper fibers was typical of photographic papers made around 1924. By the late 1920s, manufacturers began incorporating wood pulp into the papers and by the 1930s photographic papers were made exclusively with wood pulps.

When a photograph such as this one is so well known, and can be very easily replicated, is there still much value to seeing an original print? I would argue that when we view an original object, in the medium that it was conceived of by the artist, we gain insights into the processes that inspired the artist. The work of art holds onto its past: it shows signs of how it was made and bears subtle marks of wear from age and handling. In the presence of the original, even a relatively recent photographic print, the viewer is able to make a direct and personal connection with the time of the artworks creation.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Reproduction, including downloading of ARS licensed works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

BMA Voices: Paintings of an earlier Baltimore

Jacob Glushakow. Light Snowfall. 1939. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of the Municipal Art Society, Baltimore, BMA 1946.68

Jacob Glushakow. Light Snowfall. 1939. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of the Municipal Art Society, Baltimore, BMA 1946.68

Rob Morgan, Collections Database Administrator

Although technically not a native son (he was born on a ship carrying migrants from Europe to America) you can’t get much more Baltimore than Jacob Glushakow. Growing up in east Baltimore at Eden and Baltimore streets, Glushakow graduated from City College and studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Not surprisingly, his artwork focused on Baltimore, painting scenes that are now extinct in the city, such as the old harbor, tailor shops, and street life of the mid-20th century.

Glushakow was born in 1914 on a ship crossing the Atlantic. His parents were Russian Jews leaving Europe at the beginning of World War I. The oldest of 11 children, his father Abraham David was a clothing presser and candy maker and his mother Esther Novikov a homemaker. As a teenager, Glushakow started selling cartoons and drawings. For the next seventy years Jacob supported himself as an artist and art teacher while painting street scenes of Baltimore life, completing over a thousand works before his death in 2000.

The painting above is one of seven Glushakow paintings owned by the BMA. Dating to 1939, and entitled Light Snowfall, the work is typical of Glushakow, a scene displaying what one critic called “the melancholy peripheries of urban life.” Glushakow would begin these works by unobtrusively sitting in his car drawing a study. He’d then bring the study back to his Mt. Washington studio and complete the painting there.

Jacob Glushakow. Razing Calvert Street Station. n.d. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, 1957, BMA 1993.3

Jacob Glushakow. Razing Calvert Street Station. n.d. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, 1957, BMA 1993.3

Destruction and renewal take place on a daily basis in Baltimore (as pictured above in Razing Calvert Street Station).  The working harbor of the 20th century was a recurring theme for Glushakow (pictured below in Pier No. 5). He painted its decay before the Harborplace and the condos at Silo Point. The reborn Inner Harbor didn’t interest Glushakow – he always stated that it was more interesting to sketch decaying piers.

Jacob Glushakow. Pier No. 5. 1950. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, BMA 1957.252

Jacob Glushakow. Pier No. 5. 1950. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, BMA 1957.252

In addition to the pre-Rouse harbor as his subject matter, many of Glushakow’s paintings depicted the various markets located throughout the city. Below is his 1949 painting Lexington Market, an unmistakable Baltimore scene down to the rowhouses and shopfronts. By concentrating on the people and the streets where they shopped, worked, and lived, Glushakow shows us the potential of the commonplace.

Jacob Glushakow. Lexington Market. 1949. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, BMA 1957.254

Jacob Glushakow. Lexington Market. 1949. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, BMA 1957.254

Glushakow died in 2000 at the dawning of the 21st century. Recently, 50 of his paintings were bequeathed to the Maryland Historical Society (MHS). For those wanting to see a large group of his paintings, many are on view at MHS in the exhibition Images of a Vanished Baltimore: The Art of Jacob Glushakow.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: Puppets

Artist Unidentified. Bamana or Bozo region (Mali). Female Puppet. Mid‑20th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Barry and Toby T. Hecht, Bethesda, Maryland, BMA 1988.1411

Artist Unidentified. Bamana or Bozo region (Mali). Female Puppet. Mid‑20th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Barry and Toby T. Hecht, Bethesda, Maryland, BMA 1988.1411

Aden Weisel, Curatorial Assistant of Arts of Africa, the Americas, Asia & the Pacific Islands, investigates some brightly colored puppets within the BMA collection, and links the puppetry traditions of Mali and Baltimore.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: Mirror, Mirror

Anthony Nelme. Dressing Table Mirror. 1691/1692. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth S. Battye Fund, BMA 1982.3

Anthony Nelme. Dressing Table Mirror. 1691/1692. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth S. Battye Fund, BMA 1982.3

Dr. David Park Curry, Senior Curator, Decorative Art, American Painting & Sculpture, BMA

Ever since the Venus of Willendorf got her hair done, sometime between 28,000 and 25,000 BCE, human beings have given much thought to personal appearance. Venus’s prehistoric curls — the earliest-known conscious hair style — wouldn’t look all that much out of place in a contemporary night club, although her ample form might cause comment in an era marked by trendy concerns over sugar, butter, eggs, red meat, gluten, and so on. As Bernard Rudofsky’s classic text The Unfashionable Human Body (1971) makes clear, beauty is ever in the eye of the beholder. But we still tend to ponder who’s the fairest.

The Venus of Willendorf, 28,000 – 25,000 BCE. Limestone tinted with red ochre. H: 4.4 inches. Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna

Emblazoned with an applied gilt crest initialed JB and topped with a couple of seated amorini (cupids) flanking a somewhat formidable female bust, the museum’s imposing silver mirror once jostled for space upon the dressing table of Judith Bridgeman, daughter of Sir John Bridgeman, second baronet, of Castle Bromwich in Warwick County, England. It must have been a mighty big table. As befit Judith’s aristocratic lineage, the mirror was part of a lavish toilet service, comprising 21 silver-and-gilt pieces, including tazze (footed dishes), candlesticks, brushes, scent bottles, boxes, and even a pin cushion. In the days before zippers and velcro, a lady of rank and fashion was partially pinned into her layers of clothing. Getting dressed in the morning was something of a production number and unlike today’s private ablutions, the daily toilette was a formalized semi-public performance, attended by various chamber maids and/or intimate acquaintances.

For awhile, Judith’s baroque toilet ensemble belonged to American newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. After 1918, his mistress was the Ziegfield Follies actress Marion Davies. Backed by Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Pictures, and relentlessly publicized in the Hearst newspapers, Miss Davies eventually starred in 46 silent and talking films. In between engagements, the couple staged a glamorous social life in their 56-bedroom mansion at San Simeon, California, mixing with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. They also entertained at St. Donat’s Castle in Wales, purchased by Hearst for Davies as a present. On visiting the castle, George Bernard Shaw is said to have remarked, “This is what God would have built if he had had the money.” The resplendent silver toilet set, including the BMA’s mirror, was kept at St. Donat’s. Even when out of Hollywood, a legend of the silver screen such as Marion Davies would want her makeup always to be perfect.

Toilet set, Anthony Nelme, London, 1691/1692, now dispersed. Photograph from Catalogue of the Highly Important Collection of Old English and Foreign Silver.  The Property of William Randolph Hearst, Esq.  Removed from St. Donat’s Castle, Wales.  London, Christie, Manson & Woods, December 1938.

Toilet set, Anthony Nelme, London, 1691/1692, now dispersed. Photograph from Catalogue of the Highly Important Collection of Old English and Foreign Silver. The Property of William Randolph Hearst, Esq. Removed from St. Donat’s Castle, Wales. London, Christie, Manson & Woods, December 1938.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.