Introduction to the BMA Archives

LS1.2sThe Baltimore Museum of Art, from the south, circa 1940.

Everywhere you look at the BMA, there are connections to history—from the architecture of the John Russell Pope building to the re-creation of Claribel Cone and Etta Cone’s apartments. The Museum’s Archives is reflective of this, with a rich array of materials documenting the history of the BMA, as well as the art collectors and other people who have helped shape it from 1914 to the present. Whether you have a scholarly research question or are just curious about the BMA’s past, helpful resources can be found in the Archives.

What’s in the Archives?
The Archives’ collection comprises approximately 1,400 linear feet or almost four football fields of primary source material such as letters, diaries, meeting minutes, photographs, films, audio recordings, architectural plans, research notes, and financial documents.  These are divided into two distinct parts: institutional records and manuscripts. The former are records of the activities of the Museum’s staff, volunteers, and trustees. For example, the Prints, Drawings and Photographs Department Records include curators’ research for exhibitions, correspondence about purchasing works of art, and logistical documents for the Print Fairs.  Manuscripts, on the other hand, are the personal papers of art collectors and others with a connection to the Museum. Claribel Cone and Etta Cone’s papers include account books listing their purchases while traveling in Europe, letters from Claribel to Etta describing life in Germany during World War I, and photographs of their apartments in Baltimore.

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Front room, Claribel Cone’s apartment (8B), Marlborough Apartments, Baltimore, Maryland

How do I find resources and materials?
To learn more about the materials in the Archives, start by reviewing the finding aids, which are easily keyword searchable with your browser’s find function (Ctrl+f). Because of the volume of material inside each box listed in the finding aids (often hundreds of items), you will find general descriptions of categories of materials called series or sub-series—correspondence, financial records, research, etc. When the significance of the materials warrants more information, detailed folder or item descriptions may also be included.

If you spot something that seems helpful to your research, please contact us. You don’t need to be a BMA member to visit the Archives. All researchers are welcome, by appointment, Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.  To make an appointment, call (443) 573-1778 or email bmalibrary@artbma.org.       

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Letter from Samuel Putnam Avery to George A. Lucas, August 25, 1895

The BMA acquires Magritte’s ‘Delusions of Grandeur’, 1967.

René Magritte. Delusions of Grandeur. 1967. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Sylvia de Cuevas, New York. BMA 2014.139

René Magritte. Delusions of Grandeur. 1967. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Sylvia de Cuevas, New York. BMA 2014.139

While we’re always excited to acquire new works of art, some additions to the collection are particularly meaningful. Today, we’re very pleased to share the news that René Magritte’s 1967 sculpture Delusions of Grandeur was recently added to our collection of modern art.

The work came to the BMA as a gift of National Trustee Sylvia de Cuevas, and is the first sculpture by Magritte to enter the collection. The Belgian artist created this monumental bronze during the last year of his life and there are very few casts of it. It will be displayed, beginning this week, in a gallery with works by Magritte’s contemporaries: Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, André Masson, and Joan Miró.

We are thrilled to welcome this remarkable sculpture into the BMA’s celebrated collection of modern art. This imaginative artwork so well represents Magritte’s unique vision and is sure to become one of the most memorable artworks on view here.
BMA Director Doreen Bolger

René Magritte (Belgian, 1898-1967) is best known for his surrealist paintings, which place ordinary objects in unusual contexts, often giving new meanings to familiar things. Delusions of Grandeur is one of a series of large bronzes that Magritte produced at the end of his life with the encouragement of his friend and dealer Alexander Iolas, who was the uncle of de Cuevas.

Much like his 1962 painting on the same theme, the work appears as a classical torso of a female figure emerging as though in telescopic form, or like a Russian matryoshka doll, each of the three segments nestled within one another. He has incorporated the theme of enlargement and reduction in this bronze with more of the figure seen in the smallest segment and less in the largest, creating a strong image of the female form.

Earlier this week, the Guardian published a piece on Magritte to mark the anniversary of his birth. Describing the artist as a “surrealist comic”, it explores the humor found in Magritte’s work. Does Delusions of Grandeur carry on this comedic tradition? You’ll have to come in and see for yourself.

Delusions of Grandeur is on display now at the BMA.

The Broken Jug (After William Merritt Chase)

William Merritt Chase. Broken Jug. c. 1876. Oil on canvas, 61 1/16 x 25 in. (155.1 x 63.5 cm.) Given by Dr. and Mrs. Donald Houghton Hooker, in Loving Memory of Dr. and Mrs. Donald Russell Hooker

William Merritt Chase. Broken Jug. c. 1876. Oil on canvas, 61 1/16 x 25 in. (155.1 x 63.5 cm.) Given by Dr. and Mrs. Donald Houghton Hooker, in Loving Memory of Dr. and Mrs. Donald Russell Hooker

The Broken Jug
After William Merritt Chase

Look, sweet one, how she is obeying
a bargain not to be still life

How she’s been posed on the verge of speaking
yet kept silent; I don’t wish this for you.

Look, here the artist abandoned alabaster
for an earthen jug, simple clay, the color of us,

and the hills behind nearly bruised to black
set on horizon as if in the past

we must remember. Knuckle on knuckle,
that’s not the grasp of prayer. Her broken heirloom

that midwifed milk, wine watered down, whatever
drowns thirst, left on the road like a baby

doll after a war. Look, little one, how she will not
look at us. Unease on wooden shoes painted

a potato’s yellow. She’s never heard the word bastard
until a moment before dropping her jug. I imagine

her peeling potatoes down to white
while her father scrapes black ice

tobacco from his pipe, her mother dying
this scrap cloth a dull yellow

to wrap her newly womaned waist.
That wisp of a headband more red than watermelon flesh.


Steven Levya

Steven Leyva was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Houston, Texas. His poems have appeared in The Fiddleback, The Light Ekphrastic, The Cobalt Review, and Little Patuxent Review. He is a Cave Canem fellow, the winner of the 2012 Cobalt Review Poetry Prize, editor of the Little Patuxent Review, and author of the chapbook Low Parish. Steven holds a MFA from the University of Baltimore, where he teaches in the undergraduate writing program.

This poem by Baltimore-based poet Steven Leyva was written in response to William Merritt Chase’ Broken Jug, c. 1876. We welcome guest writers to our online discussions of art of the modern era, from the 19th century to the present. If you are a local creative writer who has been inspired by a work of art in the BMA’s collection, and would like the opportunity to be published on the BMA Blog, email BMASocial@artbma.org.

We heart art!

Auguste Rodin. The Thinker. Original model 1880; this cast 1904‑1917. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Jacob Epstein Collection, BMA 1930.25.1

Auguste Rodin. The Thinker. Original model 1880; this cast 1904‑1917. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Jacob Epstein Collection, BMA 1930.25.1

Last weekend, we celebrated Valentine’s Day at the BMA by asking visitors to share their love for art, and place a paper heart on the floor in front of an artwork crush. We had a great time watching people decide which works of art deserved their love. One couple wandered around the BMA for hours, hearts clutched in their hands, debating which work was their favorite. Dozens of children ran up to the Welcome Desk multiple times, unable to choose only one work of art to love.

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In three days, there were 1705 hearts placed next to the works of art. From that, your most loved works were:

61 hearts Auguste Rodin The Thinker Original model 1880; this cast 1904-1917
48 hearts Edgar Degas Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen Original model 1881; this cast 1919-1921.
29 hearts Nick Cave Soundsuit 2013
28 hearts Louis Comfort Tiffany Window: Baptism of Christ c. 1897
23 hearts Henri Matisse Purple Robe and Anemones 1937
23 hearts Pablo Picasso Mother and Child 1922
20 hearts Auguste Rodin The Kiss Original model c. 1880-1881; this cast before 1923
20 hearts Dario Robleto American Seabed 2014
19 hearts Hugh Finlay Center Table 1820-1830
18 hearts Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot Thatched Village (Flesselles, near Amiens) 1864

Visitors were also invited to photograph their heart and favorite work of art, and post to Instagram or Twitter, tagged with #artbma #heartsforart for a chance to win a BMA Catalogue. We are pleased to announce that @draloysius (Twitter) was the winner. We’ll be in touch to discuss how you can collect your prize.

Thank you everyone who participated in #heartsforart. We loved seeing what you love. It made our week!

Our Visitor Services team loved being part of #heartsforart.

Our Visitor Services team loved being part of #heartsforart.

Much love for Nick Cave. Soundsuit. 2013. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund, and Ellen W. P. Wasserman Acquisitions Endowment, BMA 2013.325. © Nick Cave. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Much love for Nick Cave. Soundsuit. 2013. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund, and Ellen W. P. Wasserman Acquisitions Endowment, BMA 2013.325. © Nick Cave. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Olafur Eliasson. Flower observatory. 2004. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund, and Collectors Circle Fund, BMA 2003.233. © Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson. Flower observatory. 2004. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund, and Collectors Circle Fund, BMA 2003.233. © Olafur Eliasson

Edgar Degas. Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. Original model 1881; this cast 1919‑1921. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Alice Morawetz Bequest Fund, BMA 1943.1

Edgar Degas. Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. Original model 1881; this cast 1919‑1921. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Alice Morawetz Bequest Fund, BMA 1943.1

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Inspire your heart with art this weekend

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Sir Anthony Van Dyck. Rinaldo and Armida. 1629. Oil on canvas, 93 x 90 in. (235.3 x 228.7 cm) The Jacob Epstein Collection, BMA 1951.103

 

This Valentine’s weekend, share your love for art with #HeartsforArt. Museums all over the country are inviting visitors to show their love for a favorite work of art by placing a paper heart on the floor in front of an artwork crush. Spread the love by photographing your heart and favorite work, and posting to Twitter or Instagram using #artbma #heartsforart.

How it works:
Step 1: Pick up a paper heart at the Welcome Desk.
Step 2: Place the heart on the floor in front of a work of art you love.
Step 3: Photograph your heart and favorite work of art, and post to Instagram or Twitter, tagged with #artbma #heartsforart for a chance to win a BMA Catalogue.

We’ll announce the winner next week on Instagram and Twitter.

Follow the hearts throughout the museum to see what brings others to say “I do”, or see what art-lovers across America are passionate about by following the #heartsforart hashtag on social media.

Will you play hard to get and visit all of the galleries before choosing your favorite or be direct and go right to ‘the one’? We can’t want to see what you fall in love with.

Thanks to our museum friends at the Oakland Museum of California and Columbus Museum of Art who initiated the #heartsforart program, and invited the BMA to be involved.  

The BMA Outpost in Reservoir Hill

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The BMA Outpost in Reservoir Hill.

The BMA Outpost is a portable museum that is taking up temporary residence in a variety of communities throughout Baltimore City, led by the BMA’s Amy and Marc Meadows Education Fellow Katie Bachler.

I spent October and November of 2014 in Reservoir Hill at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center – an old house turned church turned community center and after school program. The center hosts 43 students every day, and they work on projects and school work in rooms that were once bedrooms, with old fireplaces, and carved wood decorations. This was a home for the Outpost, our folding museum set up by the bus stop at the corner of Linden and Whitelock Streets, with reproductions of The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz and A Quick Nap by Walter Williams displayed in the sun. People from the neighborhood stopped by every day to chat, to share a story, to add to the map of what matters to them in the neighborhood. The kids were happy to see me every day, saying “art, art, art!” as they walked by or got off the bus. This corner became a home, and residents became familiar with me as a bit of extra street architecture and a source of conversation.

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Visitors to the Outpost create maps of what matters to them in the neighborhood.

This neighborhood was once home to wealthy business owners, who lived in three story brick homes, with marble staircases, decorative windows, and iconic spired roofs that glowed in the sunlight at the end of the day. These were and are grand homes, some with gutter systems that would bring rainwater into the kitchen for washing dishes.

Reservoir Hill was known as Jonestown, the original site along the Jones Falls where the Englishman David Jones claimed land, and built along the water, like people tend to do all over the world – growth happens around water. The land was filled with oaks, and small streams, in a time when Baltimore was growing, and land was available to claim. Druid Hill Park was once rural land outside of the city of Baltimore, whose northernmost boundary was North Avenue. Sheep grazed near untouched forests. Everyone put Druid Hill Lake on his or her map; it is the anchor of the neighborhood, a place to relax and walk and think and breathe.

There was a perfectly circular reservoir known as the Mt Royal Reservoir that brought water to half of the city’s residents in the 1850s, at the old entrance to Druid Hill Park, the remains of which are still flanked by two large marble posts. The city was growing then. The Jones Falls was a source of clean water, helping Baltimore to become a booming industrial town, immigrants flowing in to help create and alter the economic conditions of the city.  Water was home.

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Hand-painted map of resident’s favorite places by Katie Bachler, handed back to participants who contributed locations.

The past is remembered in places, in the height and material reality of buildings, and what was cared about and what was given weight, given names, given space, like the gardens along Linden Avenue, which was once known as the Garden Path, and was manicured, and existed as an entrance to Druid Hill Park.

The stories I hear from residents now are still about home—about family, about eating dinner, about hanging out on the corner, and how the roofs of the neighborhood houses look so cool. I spoke with Juanita, who lives on a short street behind the St. Francis Neighborhood Center where there used to be the garden, as she walked past the Outpost. She remarked, “you have to smile at people, it makes it a place here, it makes it home.” Juanita’s little dog Sammy walks beside her. They are connected.

The BMA Outpost will be located at the Govans Branch of the Enoch Pratt library from  mid-January through mid-February. You can join us to experience art in public, and map your own journey to home.

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People’s Choice Award: No. 1

Edgar Degas. Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. Original model 1881; this cast 1919‑1921. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Alice Morawetz Bequest Fund, BMA 1943.1

Edgar Degas. Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. Original model 1881; this cast 1919‑1921. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Alice Morawetz Bequest Fund, BMA 1943.1

Over the past 100 days, we’ve taken you on an insider’s exploration of the BMA’s collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. We’ve seen objects from all over the world, including Mali, Japan, Italy, and America; we’ve looked at paintings and prints, record players, decomposing fruit skins, and delicate textiles. The project has highlighted some of our favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Now it’s time to discover your favorite pieces in the BMA collection. To celebrate our 100th Anniversary, we invited everyone to vote for their favorite artwork from a group of 100 selected by the Museum’s chief curator, with voting closing on December 21.

From December 22, we’ve been counting down the top 10 works of art on social media, one each day until the end of the year. Today, we reveal the number 1 work of art in our collection according to you.

So, what do you love? Your favorite works of art are:

  1. Edgar Degas. Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. Original model 1881; this cast 1919‑1921.
  2. Auguste Rodin. The Thinker. Original model 1880; this cast 1904‑1917.
  3. Striding Lion. Syria (present-day Turkey). 5th century.
  4. Henri Matisse. Interior with Dog. 1934.
  5. Paul Cézanne. Mont Sainte‑Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry. c. 1897.
  6. Dan Flavin. Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”). 1993‑1994.
  7. Georgia O’Keeffe. Pink Tulip. 1926.
  8. Paul Gauguin. Vahine no te vi (Woman of the Mango). 1892.
  9. John Frederick Kensett. View on the Hudson. 1865.
  10. Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Princess Anna Alexandrovna Galitzin. c. 1797.
The People's Choice top 10 works, shown in order.

The People’s Choice top 10 works, shown in order.

People’s Choice Award: No. 2

Auguste Rodin. The Thinker. Original model 1880; this cast 1904‑1917. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Jacob Epstein Collection, BMA 1930.25.1

Auguste Rodin. The Thinker. Original model 1880; this cast 1904‑1917. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Jacob Epstein Collection, BMA 1930.25.1

To celebrate our 100th Anniversary, we invited everyone to vote for their favorite artwork from a group of 100 selected by the Museum’s chief curator. Your 2nd favorite work in the BMA collection is Auguste Rodin. The Thinker. Original model 1880; this cast 1904‑1917.

BMA Voices: Using art to explore language

Bruce Nauman. Violins Violence Silence (Exterior Version). 1981 1982. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Leo Castelli Gallery, New  York, and Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery, New York, BMA 1984.2. ©  Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Bruce Nauman. Violins Violence Silence (Exterior Version). 1981 1982. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, and Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery, New York, BMA 1984.2. © Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Lauren Ross, Senior Conservation Technician

This artwork is compelling and it confuses me. I like crossword puzzles, cryptograms, brainteasers in general, etymology, and games of language manipulation. It seems obvious that playing with language is a significant part of Bruce Nauman’s artistic practice. Our Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman recently wrote:

In addition to provoking viewers to consider the aesthetic dimensions of a format associated with advertising, Nauman called attention to the idea that visual art can be a means for exploring language.

Especially in his language-based work, Bruce Nauman is SERIOUSLY funny. But he’s serious, too.

It’s easy enough to grasp the progression (spelling and rhyming) of the words in the title. How did he come to those particular words though? Which one came first? Or was it just an immediate kind of thing where the words mentally landed one after the next? I’ve wondered if you’re intended to think of the sad cliché of violins playing? It’s easy then to think of something that might really be sad. VIOLENCE and SILENCE together = what? It could be death. Is the word SILENCE intended to get you to think about the silent nature of the neon itself, flashing in the dark? Or is SILENCE to make you think about VIOLENCE being under-reported or ignored? Could it just be that Nauman heard a great piece of violin music that had a violent crescendo and then got really quiet? Or, maybe the cadence of the words has a natural incline and decline as you think them or say them. But I doubt it’s that simple.

What about the colors? The sequence of words goes like this:  VVSand then the same words, only completely backwards:

SEE
Do the specific individual colors or their transitions make you feel the ideas of the words differently? I think they must. I’m not sure it’s fair to say it, but maybe Nauman assigned the specific colors to each word for a specific conceptual reason, manipulating the gases as if using physics to harness synesthetics. Nauman studied mathematics and physics in college, so I assume his use of the noble gases is pretty well-informed. The sequencing of the words, too, is another aspect entirely that is mathematically specific.

When I moved here in 1989 as a young art student, I first saw this piece and was absolutely astounded by it. I hadn’t seen any of Nauman’s work before then, and it introduced to a whole new genre of artwork. Everything I’ve seen of his since has moved me.

Now that I’ve lived here for 25 years, the way I experience this work is slightly different. I think it’s because it’s located in Baltimore. It’s not pleasant to admit that Baltimore has a reputation for violent crime. Maybe any city where it was installed would summon up the same ideas. Yet there is an impact or echo of a city’s identity on a work of public art. Language manipulated in this way is suggestive politically. Figuring out the suggestion is part of the intellectual challenge in looking at Nauman.

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.

People’s Choice Award: No. 3

Striding Lion. Syria (present-day Turkey). 5th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Antioch Subscription Fund, BMA 1937.139

Striding Lion. Syria (present-day Turkey). 5th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Antioch Subscription Fund, BMA 1937.139

To celebrate our 100th Anniversary, we invited everyone to vote for their favorite artwork from a group of 100 selected by the Museum’s chief curator.

Your 3rd favorite work in the BMA collection is Striding Lion. Syria (present-day Turkey). 5th century.