Author Archives: Rob Morgan

About Rob Morgan

Rob Morgan is Collections Database Administrator @artbma.

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: The Mad Potter of Biloxi

George Edgar Ohr. Vessel/Cream Pot. 1903 1907. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Decorative Arts Acquisitions Endowment established by the Friends of the American Wing, and purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Marianne Hiller, BMA 2003.138

George Edgar Ohr. Vessel/Cream Pot. 1903-1907. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Decorative Arts Acquisitions Endowment established by the Friends of the American Wing, and purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Marianne Hiller, BMA 2003.138

Rob Morgan, Collections Database Administrator

At the beach resort of Biloxi, Mississippi, one of the tourist attractions during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was George Ohr’s pottery shop. A few blocks from the beach was a five story pagoda with signs stating “GREATEST ART POTTER ON EARTH” and “GET A BILOXI SOUVENIR BEFORE THE POTTER DIES”. If you were courageous enough to enter the shop you encountered a man with a mustache wrapped around his cheeks and tied behind his head.Self described as the mad potter of Biloxi, George Ohr’s studio contained thousands of twisted pots with brightly colored glazes. Not surprisingly, the pots went unsold and were kept in crates until their discovery in the late 1960s.

Born in Biloxi in 1857, Ohr learned how to throw pots from a friend in New Orleans. In the early 1880s, Ohr travelled the United States learning what he could about pottery. Returning to Biloxi in 1883, Ohr built a pottery shop next to his father’s house. After a fire destroyed his shop in 1894, Ohr built a new studio dedicated to his art pots. He found the clay for these pots in the Tchoutacabouffa River north of Biloxi. The make-up of this clay, and his skill as a potter, enabled Ohr to create pots with paper thin walls and twisted, pinched shapes.

Ohr created thousands of pots after the 1894 fire, including the two pots in the collection of the BMA. The pot above is typical of his earlier work – a pinched pot with a multi-colored glaze. Ohr’s later pots lacked glazing. To Ohr, glazes became superfluous as the form became the focus. The vessel walls became thinner and the forms more twisted. The pot below, also from the collection of the BMA, is from this later period.

George Edgar Ohr. Vessel. c. 1906. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Middendorf Foundation Fund, and Charlotte B. Filbert Bequest Fund, BMA 2002.210

George Edgar Ohr. Vessel. c. 1906. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Middendorf Foundation Fund, and Charlotte B. Filbert Bequest Fund, BMA 2002.210

Ohr quit making pots in 1909 after receiving a large inheritance from his parents. He died of throat cancer in 1918 at the age of 60. The pottery shop was turned into an auto repair shop run by George’s sons. The pots were crated and stored in a garage until James W. Carpenter, an antiques dealer from New Jersey, came across them on a trip in 1968. After several years of negotiation, Carpenter purchased the lot for $50,000. Thus, the pots reentered the marketplace and the story and work of George Ohr was rediscovered.

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: André Bauchant’s “painting you can dream to.”

André Bauchant. Small Bouquet. 1927. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.187. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Rob Morgan, Collections Database Administrator

When most people refer to the Cone collection, what comes to mind are the Matisse paintings, or the works of art by Cézanne, Gauguin, Picasso, Renoir, and van Gogh. However, like most collectors, the Cones gathered a wide assortment of material including objects from Asia and Africa, local artists from Baltimore, and six paintings by the self-taught painter André Bauchant.

Bauchant was born in Tourain, France on April 24, 1873. Like many self-taught artists, he started painting and drawing later in life. A farmer and gardener by trade, he was drafted at the age of 40 to serve in the Army during WWI. It was in 1915, while stationed in Greece, that Bauchant started painting, also creating maps for the French military.

After the war, Bauchant returned to the woods of La Blutière, close to the mill where he was born. There, he continued to paint. He painted on wooden panels, cardboard, sheets, cloths – anything he could find. Bauchant painted until his death in 1958, leaving behind hundreds of paintings.

The Bauchant paintings we have at the BMA are typical of his style. He painted a lot of flowers (he was a gardener after all) including Small Bouquet (above), painted in 1927. In addition to flowers, Bauchant also referred to mythology in his paintings such as Apollo (below), painted in 1928. In addition, Bauchant is known for his historical and biblical paintings.

André Bauchant. Apollo. 1928. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.188. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

André Bauchant. Apollo. 1928. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.188. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Like many self-taught artists, Bauchant’s compositions have some unique qualities. His trees take on unusual shapes with each leaf being distinctly painted. His love of nature fed an imagination that created these otherworldly landscapes. As André Breton said of Bauchant’s paintings, “This is painting you can dream to.”

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: You spin me round like a record

John Vassos. Portable Phonograph. c. 1935. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Decorative Arts Acquisitions Endowment established by the Friends of the American Wing, and Charlotte B. Filbert Bequest Fund, BMA 2000.382

John Vassos. Portable Phonograph. c. 1935. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Decorative Arts Acquisitions Endowment established by the Friends of the American Wing, and Charlotte B. Filbert Bequest Fund, BMA 2000.382.

Rob Morgan, Collections Database Administrator

Like many municipal museums, the BMA has a large, eclectic collection. Included within it are a few objects collected for their design, including this awesome aluminum portable record player. With the recent rise in the popularity of records and portable players, it’s an interesting time to look at the RCA Victor Special.

In this era of transient technologies, it’s surprising how long records have existed (a record being a physical object that has sound waves etched into some type of material). Records were developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with a standard of 78 revolutions per minute appearing by 1925 (records that played at 33 1/3 rpm and 45 rpm were not marketed until after WWII). Unlike the vinyl records of today, records in the 1930s were pressed on shellac. This portable phonograph was built around 1935 and plays 78s.

Designed by John Vassos, famous for his 1939 World’s Fair creations such as a TV made of translucent Lucite plastic and a console that housed a television, radio, and phonograph, this record player is typical of Art Deco design. The case of the record player is aluminum, a popular material during the Great Depression. The front of the player contains two containers, one for fresh needles, and one for used needles. The record needles of this era wore out quickly (and quickly wore out the record grooves, too).   A nice touch is the mirror located on the back of the player, allowing the user to watch their record spin round and round. Notice, too, the file folders located behind the mirror. The limit for a 78 side was about 3 and a-half minutes. The folders were needed so you could store several sides/records for your trek.

Here is a link to a YouTube clip showing the RCA Victor Special in operation. Despite its reputation as portable, weighing over 20 pounds, I imagine this player was difficult to take to picnics, or on a walk. Plus, the aluminum would get pretty scratched at the beach!

John Vassos. Portable Phonograph. c. 1935. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Decorative Arts Acquisitions Endowment established by the Friends of the American Wing, and Charlotte B. Filbert Bequest Fund, BMA 2000.382

John Vassos. Portable Phonograph. c. 1935. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Decorative Arts Acquisitions Endowment established by the Friends of the American Wing, and Charlotte B. Filbert Bequest Fund, BMA 2000.382

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: May Wilson and the art of reinvention

May Wilson. Head of a Clown. 1953. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Jeffrey Davison Case and Raymond B. Case, Jr., Baltimore, BMA 1991.63

Rob Morgan, Collections Database Administrator

As the Collections Database Administrator, I have access to tens of thousands of records stored in our database. Every now and then, an object catches my eye due to its uniqueness. The first time I spotted one of May Wilson’s pieces, I knew there was a story behind it. Researching her life proved to be just as interesting as her art.

A native daughter of Baltimore, born in 1905, May Wilson didn’t start painting until 1948 at the age of 43. Married to William Wilson, himself a lawyer and state legislator, the Wilsons lived on a ten-acre farm north of Baltimore. Whilst there, Wilson took correspondence courses in painting. During the early 1950s, she exhibited and sold paintings at taverns such as the infamous Martick’s on West Mulberry Street. Head of a Clown is from this period, painted in 1953 as a Christmas present for a friend’s son.

Around 1956, Wilson began to focus more on assemblages of found objects. A decade later, with the dissolution of her marriage, she moved to the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. No longer obligated to be a housewife, she pursued art full-time. Wilson continued to make assemblages by arranging found objects, and spray-painting her final creation in a single color. An example of one of her assemblages is Untitled (twin dolls in sneakers), n.d.. By wrapping and mummifying the dolls, I get a sense of the conflict Wilson must have felt between her past obligations as a mid-20th century housewife and her artistic pursuits.

May Wilson. Untitled (twin dolls in sneaker). n.d.. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of William S. Wilson, New York, BMA 2003.115

May Wilson. Untitled (twin dolls in sneaker). n.d.. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of William S. Wilson, New York, BMA 2003.115

There was a sense of circus in much of Wilson’s work. For a series of “Ridiculous Portraits”, Wilson would walk to Times Square and take her portrait in a twenty-five cent photo booth. Bringing these portraits back to her apartment, she would superimpose her face over famous icons or works of art. Below is a work after Goya’s Dona Maria Martinez de Puga. There is a little bit of spectacle in these pieces; the absurdity of superimposing your face on a famous icon, or, creating a “Ridiculous Portrait” to comment on beauty and sexism.

May Wilson (American, 1905-1986). Untitled. n.d.. From the series 'Ridiculous Portraits'. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Betty Jane Wilson Butler and William S. Wilson, BMA 1991.312

May Wilson (American, 1905-1986). Untitled. n.d.. From the series ‘Ridiculous Portraits’. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Betty Jane Wilson Butler and William S. Wilson, BMA 1991.312

Wilson continued to create into her seventies, filling up her studio apartment in Chelsea with hundreds of portraits and assemblages. She was an incredibly unique artist – a woman over the age of 60, during the Age of Aquarius, living an artistic, bohemian life in NYC. Instead of withdrawing after the dissolution of her marriage, Wilson reinvented her life. She died in New York City in 1986.

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.