Category Archives: Campaign For Art

Engraving the Master Engravers

Stanley William Hayter. Untitled. 1936. From the portfolio "Fraternity". The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Sidney Hollander, Baltimore, BMA 1996.8.3. © Estate of Stanley William Hayter / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Stanley William Hayter. Untitled. 1936. From the portfolio “Fraternity”. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Sidney Hollander, Baltimore, BMA 1996.8.3. © Estate of Stanley William Hayter / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

One of my current projects is a large-scale exhibition focused on twentieth-century intaglio printmaker Stanley William Hayter (English, 1901-1988) and his print workshop called the Atelier 17. The exhibition is scheduled to be on view at the BMA in the winter/spring of 2018. Several artworks slated for inclusion in the Hayter exhibition would have been great fits for New Arrivals: Gifts of Art for a New Century (February 7 – May 8, 2016)—an exhibition highlighting recent gifts to the Museum paired with objects already in the collection—but issues of light exposure prevent inclusion in both projects. In the spirit of pairings that are not in New Arrivals, we want to highlight a few favorites.

Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 was a nexus of printmaking in its three iterations. It was founded in Paris in 1927 and remained there until Hayter fled German-occupied Paris in 1939. Hayter set up the workshop in New York City by 1940 where it flourished until 1955. By 1950 Hayter returned to Paris, leaving the New York shop in the hands of several directors, and reopened a branch of the Atelier there, where it still exists today as the Atelier Contrepoint some 27 years after Hayter’s death. Between 1926 and now, thousands of printmakers have worked at the studio and many in turn have founded university printmaking departments and print workshops across the United States, and around the world. Members of the Hayter artistic family tree are everywhere.**

The Atelier 17 is remarkable for three technical advances in intaglio printmaking. Hayter revived the arcane art form of copper engraving, formerly used as a formulaic means of reproducing paintings by famous artists, and used it to express deep emotions in swirling, taut lines. The studio developed a technique called softground etching in which fabrics, netting, paper, and other objects are pressed into a soft, waxy ground on the copper plate, leaving behind their texture that gets etched into the copper producing interesting tones and patterns. Lastly, Hayter and a group of artists developed a method of printing in colors using a single plate (traditional color etchings require a separate copper plate for each color) called simultaneous color printing or multi-viscosity printing.

Whereas some artists adopted simultaneous color printing as their own, or the use of fabrics pressed into softground to create textures, others embraced Hayter’s first love, engraving. Evan Lindquist is a contemporary artist using engraving as his medium of choice. His tie to Hayter is through Lindquist’s graduate studies at the University of Iowa, where Mauricio Lasansky had founded the printmaking department in the late 1940s (Lasansky worked with Hayter at the New York Atelier 17 in the early 1940s). Lindquist has created a series of elegantly engraved portraits of art history’s well-known engravers like Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer, Hendrik Goltzius, William Blake, Hayter, and others. In his engraving, SW Hayter Engraves War, Lindquist portrays Hayter as an intense, powerful figure out of whose burin (his engraving tool) come motifs referring to the Spanish Civil War.

That Lindquist portrays this titan of printmaking creating a print in support of victims of a crazy war, and not as a teacher, is telling. Hayter and a group of artists created two portfolios, Solidarity (1938) and Fraternity (1939), that were fundraisers for the child victims of the Spanish Civil War. The Museum is fortunate to have the complete portfolio of Fraternity, which contains prints by Hayter along with John Buckland Wright, Dalla Husband, Josef Hecht, Wassily Kandinsky, Roderick Mead, Joan Miró, Dolf Reiser, and Luis Vargas. In Hayter’s plate, a nude male stands at a doorway while an airplane flies overhead. One can’t help but think of Guernica, the small Spanish village that was bombed in April 1937, killing vast numbers of civilian men, women, and children.

Occurrences like Guernica motivated many artists to create work in protest, mostly famously Picasso, and Hayter was no different. He was a passionate humanist who used art to express his profound discomfort with the darkness that befell humanity during the first half of the twentieth century. That the symbols and marks of the war are spitting out vigorously from Hayter’s burin in Lindquist’s portrait is a perfect homage.

Evan Lindquist. SW Hayter Engraves War. 2015. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of an Anonymous Donor, BMA 2015.173. © 2015, Evan Lindquist / VAGA, NY

Evan Lindquist. SW Hayter Engraves War. 2015. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of an Anonymous Donor, BMA 2015.173. © 2015, Evan Lindquist / VAGA, NY

**As part of the BMA’s exhibition, we are creating an online Hayter family tree. Artists will be encouraged to trace their connection back to Hayter, add themselves to the lineage, and establish their “H” number.

A local icon

When I first moved to Baltimore from Chicago, the questions most often posed by friends were regarding John Waters and the depiction of Baltimore in his films. At the time, the references were lost on me, but it didn’t take long for me to discover that the renowned director, celebrated for campy and at times raunchy films set in his hometown, is synonymous with the city.

Prior to the BMA’s Campaign for Art, the Museum’s collection included just one work by Waters. Dorothy Malone’s Collar, a photomontage from 1996, is a quintessential example of Waters’ early foray into appropriation art. The work, which resembles a horizontal photo strip, begins with an image of an eponymous title screen followed by nine stills of actress Dorothy Malone sporting her signature upturned collar. The artist obtained each image by scouring hours of film, pausing the movie, and taking a picture of the frozen scene on his television screen. The format proved a natural means for Waters to share his sharp observation, wit, and love of film with an expanded audience.

John Waters. John Jr.. 2009. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, BMA 2010.13. © John Waters, Courtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery

John Waters. John Jr.. 2009. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, BMA 2010.13. © John Waters, Courtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery

In 2010, contemporary photography collectors Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker gave the Museum John Jr., 2009. Once again, Waters found inspiration in another artist’s work. The source is a pastel portrait by a respected Baltimore portraitist who was commissioned by Waters’ parents to capture the artist as a boy. Waters took a picture of the pastel and manipulated it ever so slightly by using Photoshop to add a hint of the trademark pencil mustache that he has worn for most of his adult life. Through this simple gesture the artist unites his juvenile and mature selves. Considering the resulting image, it is just as easy to imagine that Waters was a precocious child as it is to see that the child in him lives on.

John Waters. Kiddie Flamingos. 2014. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund; gift of the Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art; Alice and Franklin Cooley Fund; and purchased as the gift of an Anonymous Donor, BMA 2015.85. © John Waters, Courtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery

John Waters. Kiddie Flamingos. 2014. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund; gift of the Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art; Alice and Franklin Cooley Fund; and purchased as the gift of an Anonymous Donor, BMA 2015.85. © John Waters, Courtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery

In 2015 a donation from the BMA’s Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art facilitated the acquisition of one of Waters’ most recent works, Kiddie Flamingos, 2014. Like Dorothy Malone’s Collar and John Jr., the work grew out of another artwork—the artist’s notorious film Pink Flamingos, 1972. The movie, which put Waters on the map as “The Pope of Trash,” quickly became a cult classic and continues to shock viewers. In Kiddie Flamingos, children perform a table reading of Waters’ adaptation of Pink Flamingos for a general audience. Seated in front of a backdrop featuring a trailer home, the kids wear clothing, wigs, and accessories that evoke the unforgettable characters of the original film. Waters’ distinctive voice delivers stage directions off camera while the children earnestly perform their roles in this remake of the battle for the title of “the filthiest people alive.” Those who have seen the original film will recognize that, though purged of its obscenity, the new script artfully alludes to the indelible scenes that make Pink Flamingos scandalous to this day.

John Waters’ reputation precedes him and in many circles he is regarded as the face of Baltimore. It is a fitting tribute to the local icon that two of his works joined the BMA’s collection through the Museum’s Campaign for Art.

John Jr. is on view through May 8, 2016 in New Arrivals: Maryland Artists.
Kiddie Flamingos will be running on a continuous loop in the Museum’s Black Box from September 21, 2016 to January 22, 2017.

 

An evolution in embroidery

Abraham Banishing Hagar and Ishmael. c. 1650. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Mrs. A. Taylor Bragonier; Gift of Mrs. H.P. Bray; Gift of Mrs. Charles Collier; Gift of Mrs. Symington Dorsey; Gift of Mrs. J. Edward Duker; Gift of Maria Lovell Eaton and Mrs. Charles R. Weld, from the Estate of Mary M. Eaton; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Manuel L. Hendler; Gift of Mrs. Gerald W. Johnson; Gift of Mrs. F.A. Korff; Gift of Ruth Young Lachman; Gift of Eleanor B. Leitch; Gift of Sara B. Lipscomb; Gift of Cornelius Ruxton Love, Jr.; Gift of Henry A. Ludwig; Gift of Fanny Lyon; Gift of Mrs. Florence Milliken; Gift of Mrs. Frank Primrose; Gift of Mrs. Jesse Rider; Gift of Mrs. Ralph K. Robertson; Gift of Mrs. C. Rogulih; Gift of Mrs. Dudley Shoemaker; and Gift of Louisa Gilmore Riach Wade, BMA 1998.528

Abraham Banishing Hagar and Ishmael. c. 1650. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Mrs. A. Taylor Bragonier; Gift of Mrs. H.P. Bray; Gift of Mrs. Charles Collier; Gift of Mrs. Symington Dorsey; Gift of Mrs. J. Edward Duker; Gift of Maria Lovell Eaton and Mrs. Charles R. Weld, from the Estate of Mary M. Eaton; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Manuel L. Hendler; Gift of Mrs. Gerald W. Johnson; Gift of Mrs. F.A. Korff; Gift of Ruth Young Lachman; Gift of Eleanor B. Leitch; Gift of Sara B. Lipscomb; Gift of Cornelius Ruxton Love, Jr.; Gift of Henry A. Ludwig; Gift of Fanny Lyon; Gift of Mrs. Florence Milliken; Gift of Mrs. Frank Primrose; Gift of Mrs. Jesse Rider; Gift of Mrs. Ralph K. Robertson; Gift of Mrs. C. Rogulih; Gift of Mrs. Dudley Shoemaker; and Gift of Louisa Gilmore Riach Wade, BMA 1998.528

From the Renaissance through the early 19th century and beyond, young women of high social position in England were well schooled in the needle arts. From a very young age they began making marking samplers—stitching simple letters in cross stitch on linen–progressing to increasingly elaborate work as they aged. With large houses to furnish, high born women often turned their embroidery skills toward the production of domestic articles such as book covers, pillows, boxes, and cushions. Biblical stories frequently provided the subject matter for these endeavors. This cushion cover, a rare surviving example of exceptional quality and condition from the 17th century, features the story of Abraham banishing his son Ishmael along with his mother Hagar.

Hagar, the handmaiden of Abraham’s seemingly barren wife Sarah, bore Abraham a son, Ishmael, as Sarah’s proxy. After Sarah herself gave birth to a son, Isaac, she required that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away in order to secure her son’s position as Abraham’s sole heir. The needlework portrays Abraham bidding farewell to Hagar and Ishmael as Sarah and Isaac look on from a tent. In a secondary scene Hagar and Ishmael are about to perish from thirst when an angel appears to show her a source of water and promise deliverance.

The design of the cushion cover was derived from a printed source–an engraving in Gerard de Jode’s Thesaurus Sacrarum Historiarum Veteris Testamenti published in Antwerp in 1585. While the subject is disturbing, the addition of numerous plants and animals in the background, rendered with characteristic disregard to scale, creates a naïve, whimsical landscape that belies the dark nature of the story. The excellence of this embroidery is shown in the exquisite fineness of the tent stitching, the skill exhibited in the use of multicolored silk threads for shading, and the fluidity of line achieved.  The original silver and gold metallic bobbin lace provides an elegant and expensive finish.

Artist unknown. Needlework Picture: The Sacrifice of Isaac. Early 19th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Textile Acquisition Fund, BMA 2009.140

Artist unknown. Needlework Picture: The Sacrifice of Isaac. Early 19th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Textile Acquisition Fund, BMA 2009.140

Abraham and his son Isaac were also the subject of girlhood embroideries in the late 18th and early 19th century as seen in this excellent example, “The Sacrifice of Isaac,” which is also probably English. Characteristic of these fashionable silk pictures, this example was worked in silk threads on a silk ground with painted hands, faces, and background. Here, Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac as a burnt offering. He prepares to do so, but is prevented at the last minute by an angel, who tells him that God has relented and Isaac may live.

This beautifully conceived, expertly painted, and expertly embroidered scene may have been drafted by a professional artist for the embroiderer. The needlework in this piece shows a variety of stitches and materials used to achieve textural diversity: straight stitches in silk threads used to present the costume of Abraham with fringe, knotted stitches in silk depict the tress, and stitches in wool render the ram’s wooly fleece.

Comparing the two embroideries reveals great contrast between 17th and early 19th century norms. One shows an unrealistic landscape crowded with flora and fauna in varying scale, with characters dressed in contemporary garb and no interest in realism; the other portrays a realistic landscape with emphasis on the individuals, the action, and the detail of the costume.

Embroidery of such scenes provided an opportunity to teach moral precepts to young women along with needle skills. One wonders, however, what moral or message the embroiderer took from these stories. Did she feel the injustice of Hagar’s position? Did she find Abraham’s decision to favor Isaac over Ishmael and expel him into the wilderness cruel? Did she believe Sarah’s ruthless demands against Hagar and Ishmael were justified because they were made in defense of her own son’s interests? Was she shocked at the intention of Abraham to kill his own son? If she were faced in the future with the choice of protecting her child or her husband, which would she choose? How well equipped were the young women stitching these stories to put them into a context that would prove meaningful to their own lives?

 

Considering the “Fold” with Tauba Auerbach and John Singleton Copley

 

Tauba Auerbach. Plate Distortion II. 2011. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Print, Drawing & Photograph Society Fund, with proceeds derived from the 2012 Contemporary Print Fair, BMA 2012.198. © Tauba Auerbach

Tauba Auerbach. Plate Distortion II. 2011. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Print, Drawing & Photograph Society Fund, with proceeds derived from the 2012 Contemporary Print Fair, BMA 2012.198. © Tauba Auerbach

Tauba Auerbach’s Plate Distortion II came in to the BMA collection in 2012, and it captured my attention on my very first visit to the Museum, when it was on view in On Paper: Spin, Crinkle, Pluck. Its abstract folds reminded me of an art student’s favorite still life exercise: piles on piles of dramatically lit fabric.

Throughout her work, Auerbach nods to many technical and historical themes, and in Plate Distortion II she references a centuries-long tradition of western portraiture in which clothing and drapery are rendered in marvelous detail in order to fulfill the sitter’s desire to appear wealthy and fashionable and the artist’s desire to show off technical ability. John Singleton Copley’s Mrs. Joseph Hooper (1770-1771) is an apt example of this tradition.

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Joseph Hooper. 1770‑1771. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Dr. Morton K. Blaustein, Barbara B. Hirschhorn, and Elizabeth B. Roswell, in Memory of Jacob and Hilda K. Blaustein, BMA 1981.74

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Joseph Hooper. 1770‑1771. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Dr. Morton K. Blaustein, Barbara B. Hirschhorn, and Elizabeth B. Roswell, in Memory of Jacob and Hilda K. Blaustein, BMA 1981.74

Studying Mrs. Joseph Hooper closely, my eyes bounce from her fair skin, dark braid and the flow of her dress dropping back to the cloth draped behind her all carefully rendered in space using perspective. Copley was a prominent portrait painter working in the American colonies during the 18th century. While working in America, Copley’s career benefited from having access to prints, particularly reproductions of old masters and 18th century English portraits. These references provided Copley with the poses and motifs to help cater to the aspirations of his American patrons.

Much as Copley’s study of prints—including the depiction of drapery—helped him to formulate his distinctive style, Auerbach’s work with the printers of Paulson-Bott Press in Berkley, CA, prompted her to explore—and push the boundaries of—the technical possibilities of printmaking. Plate Distortion II doesn’t just represent the idea of “fold”, but the work is created by the physical impression of a folded object. Auerbach worked with Paulson-Bott Press to etch copper foil, which had been crumpled by the artist. When etched and flattened the foil holds a record of its folded shape. (For more on the process used to make this print, check out Ben Levy’s video on Plate Distortion II.)

Auerbach’s work sits in the space just between the peaks and valley’s of the etched copper and the flatness of the paper. Plate Distortion II takes all of this surface speculation into account, as Auerbach considers the shift of modern and contemporary artists to investigate the image surface over the 20th and 21st centuries.

Introducing The Campaign for Art blog series

The 100th anniversary of The Baltimore Museum of Art in 2014 was cause for celebration on numerous counts including the re-opening of the original entrance to the Museum, the reinstallation of several parts of the collection, and the publication of a new highlights catalogue.  To further honor this centennial, the Museum was fortunate to receive 4000 works of art through the Campaign for Art over the course of the past decade.  These gifts, promised gifts, bequests, and purchases made with recently donated funds would have been unattainable without the extraordinary generosity of many donors who chose to contribute so meaningfully to the Museum.

The acquisition of these works has prompted us to contemplate how the collection, now encompassing 95,000 works of art, has grown and evolved over time.  Because only a selection of these works may be shown in the New Arrivals exhibitions and in the collection galleries, we thought it would be exciting to feature a series of blog posts that demonstrate how some of these new acquisitions build and offer new perspectives on the Museum’s collection.  We hope that you will enjoy reading these posts written by our curatorial staff.

Jay Fisher, Interim Co-Director
Rena Hoisington, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs