Category Archives: Works of Art

Top 20 #HeartsForArt Picks

This year, we celebrated Valentine’s Day by joining museums across the country to spread love for #HeartsForArt. This is the fourth year visitors, staff, and volunteers wandered the galleries, leaving colorful paper hearts in front of their favorite works of art. More than 1,600 hearts were distributed and nearly 400 works received some love.

The votes are in! Here are this year’s top 20 picks:

  1. Tomás Saraceno, Entangled Orbits
  2. Phaan Howng, The Succession of Nature
  3. Tomás Saraceno, 80SW iridescent/Flying Garden/Air Port City
  4. Tomás Saraceno, Hybrid solitary semi social semi social SAO 90734 built by: a solo Nephila senegalensis one week, a duet of Cyrtophora citricola three weeks, a quartet Cyrtophora citricola juvenile two weeks
  5. Auguste Rodin, The Thinker
  6. Water-Moon Guanyin (Shuiyue Guanyin)Hebei province, China,
  7. Al Loving, Barbara in Spiral Heaven
  8. Jack Whitten, 9.11.01
  9. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dwell: Aso Ebi
  10. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dwell: Me, We
  11. Elizabeth Catlett, My right is a future of equality with other Americans
  12. Dave Eggers, Issue 16
  13. Eugene Kupjack, Domestic Interior in a Shaker Community, 1820-1860
  14. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled” (Water
  15. Auguste Rodin, The Kiss
  16. Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, Head of Medusa (Door Knocker)
  17. Annet Couwenberg, Heritage
  18. Annet Couwenberg, Backstitch
  19. Olafur Eliasson, Flower Observatory
  20. Sam Gilliam, Blue Edge

Thanks for playing along!

Timelapse video shows Tomás Saraceno’s Entangled Orbits

Watch as the brilliant colors in “Tomás Saraceno: Entangled Orbits” transform our East Lobby throughout the day in this time-lapse video captured by Mitro Hood. These iridescent-paneled modules suspended by a net of strings reminiscent of a spider web will be on view at the BMA through July 8, 2018.

Have you seen Entangled Orbits yet?

Explore the beauty of birds in Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art

Need an art break? Take a quick tour of the new exhibition, Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art with Associate Curator of African Art Kevin Tervala.

Watch Below:

Beyond Flight presents approximately 20 works from sub-Saharan artists who drew inspiration from the birds that occupied their world. This exhibition explores the varied roles of birds across 19th and 20th-century African states, societies, and cultures. From the largest ostrich to the smallest warbler, the works on view highlight the symbolic meaning and aesthetic appreciation of birds in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Uganda.

Which work is your favorite?

Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art is on view at the BMA through June 17, 2018.

Los Tres Grandes on view in Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints

A new exhibition opened this fall at The Baltimore Museum of Art, highlighting our rarely shown collection of prints and drawings by renowned Mexican artists from the 1930s to the 1940s.

Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints features 30 works on paper by artists such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, known as “Los Tres Grandes,” or the Three Great Ones, as well as images by Elizabeth Catlett. The works on view document the political, social, and cultural shifts that took place in the years following the Mexican Revolution.

Take a quick tour of the exhibition in this short clip with Senior Curator Rena Hoisington:

Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints is on view through March 11, 2018.

WATCH: Njideka Akunyili Crosby discusses new exhibition at The Baltimore Museum of Art

Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby invited art enthusiasts inside her creative process the same day her new exhibition, Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby | Counterparts, opened at The Baltimore Museum of Art.

On the heels of being named a 2017 MacArthur Award winner, Crosby sat down with BMA Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman at The Maryland Institute College of Art to discuss culture, technique, and the beauty of breaking the rules.


Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby | Counterparts is on view through March 18, 2018. 

[Photo: Mitro Hood]

Top 6 Prints, Drawings, Photographs at The Baltimore Museum of Art

BMA Curatorial Assistant Morgan Dowty took over our Instagram feed this week to showcase some of her favorite images in our renowned Prints, Drawings & Photographs Collection.

In case you missed it, here’s a roundup of her top six picks from the BMA’s collection of 65,000 works on paper:

  1. Morgan Dowty, BMA Curatorial Assistant, signing on from the Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs to bring you some of my favorite works on paper this week. With 65,000+ works on paper in the collection, there are plenty to choose from! I’ll begin with a favorite suite of engravings by Wenceslaus Hollar, “Diversa insectorum aligerorum,” c. 1646.

[Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian, 1607-1677) “Diversae insectorum aligerorum,” c. 1646. Eight etchings. Each approximately: 115 × 180 mm. (4 1/2 × 7 1/16 in.) Garrett Collection. BMA 1946.112.2413-20]

2. Tantalus, Icarus, Phaeton, and Ixion are four mythological figures whose hubris caused them to fall from Mount Olympia. In this suite of the “Four Disgracers,” Hendrick Golzius, master engraver of the 16th century, captures the falling body from all angles.

[Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558-1617) after Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (Dutch, 1562-1638). “The Four Disgracers,”1588. Four engravings. Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, BMA 2005.47 / Gift of James and Leslie Billet, Baltimore, BMA 1983.11 / Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 2013.357 / Garrett Collection, BMA 1984.81.137]

3. This album by Charles Norman Sladen is a new one of my favorites. On each page, Sladen includes photographs from a family vacation in 1916 to Great Chebeague Island, which he expands through imaginative pen and ink drawings. Scroll right to see some detail shots!

[Charles Norman Sladen (American, 1858-1949). “Great Chebeague Island, Maine,” 1916. Album of black ink drawings and gelatin silver print collages, bound with leather and fabric cover. The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund. BMA 2001.289]

4. In this self-portrait, Käthe Kollwitz captures her own likeness in just a few precise marks.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.

[Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945). “Self-portrait,” 1924. Woodcut. Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 1956.176]

5. Printmakers often pull working proofs, or test prints, as they develop an image to track their progress. Swipe to compare these two states of Felix Bracquemond’s portrait of the French literary critic Edmond de Goncourt.

[Félix Bracquemond (French, 1833-1914). “Edmond de Goncourt,” 1879-1882. Etching. Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Fenwick Keyser, Reisterstown, Maryland, BMA 1997.19 / Purchased as the gift of the Print & Drawing Society, BMA 1983.76]

6. It’s been a treat to share a few of my favorites this week! If you’re interested in exploring more works on paper, consider making an appointment to visit the Samuel H. Kress Foundation Study Room of Prints, Drawings & Photographs by emailing

[Arthur Wesley Dow (American, 1857-1922) “Group of Buildings, Dow’s Compound, Ipswich,” /”Garden, Dow’s Home, Ipswich,” / “City Island, New York,” c. 1885-1897. Three cyanotypes. Gift of Susan Ehrens, Oakland, California, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, BMA 2015.343-345]

Which image is your favorite? Follow us on Instagram at @BaltimoreMuseumOfArt.

Fairy Tale Etchings by David Hockney


David Hockney. “The Older Rapunzel” from “Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm,” 1969. Etching Edition of 100 Portfolio and 100 Book-C. 17 3/4 x 16 1/4″ © David Hockney

In the spring of 2016, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs Rena Hoisington taught the course “Paper Museums: Exhibiting Artists’ Books” to 11 students in Johns Hopkins University’s Program in Museums and Society. The students’ work resulted in Off the Shelf: Modern & Contemporary Artists’ Books, now open.

The exhibition presents more than 130 artists’ books—artworks conceived of and produced in book form—and prints by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Kiki Smith, David Hockney, and Ed Ruscha. Stephen King, Frank O’Hara, and Robert Creeley are among the 30+ authors represented. More than half of the artists’ books and related prints in the exhibition have never before been on view at the BMA.

In addition to determining the exhibition’s checklist and organization, Rena’s students wrote descriptions of the artworks featured for wall labels as well as blog posts that explore individual artworks featured in Off the Shelf. The first in the blog series is by Julia Raphael on David Hockney’s etchings:

In 1970, Petersburg Press published Six Fairy Tales, a collection of stories by the Brothers Grimm with etchings by David Hockney. The six stories that Hockney chose to include are: The Little Sea Hare, Fundevogel, Rapunzel, The Boy Who Left Home to Learn Fear, Old Rinkrank, and Rumpelstilzchen.  Upon first viewing Six Fairy Tales, I was immediately struck by what a distinctly different and innovative approach Hockney took to illustrating the tales contained in this book. I, and I might venture to say most readers, have become accustomed to encountering publications of fairy tales that are elaborately illustrated in bright colors with fantastic ornamentation. We’ve developed this conception from many of the other illustrated versions that exist of these same stories and even from the popular Disney films based on tales by the Brothers Grimm.

It is well known that Hockney has a great affinity for the Brothers Grimm’s work, having read more than 200 of their folktales. Regarding their tales Hockney said that, “They’re fascinating little stories, told in a very, very simple, direct and straightforward language and style; it was their simplicity that attracted me. They cover quite a strange range of experience from the magical to the moral.”[1]  His etchings reflect much of what Hockney himself said he admires most about the stories.

Each story is accompanied by a number of illustrations – as few as four and as many as 11. Interestingly, when illustrating the stories, Hockney did not always choose to illustrate the passages that were the most dramatic or significant for the advancement of the plot. Instead, he chose those parts of the text that most inspired his imagination or presented artistic challenges. For example, Hockney chose to illustrate the glass mountain from Old Rinkrank because it was not immediately clear how one would go about drawing such a mountain and he wanted to explore that graphic dilemma.  He chose to include “The Boy Who Left Home to Learn Fear” because it is such a strange, imaginative story that presented a breadth of artistic opportunities. [2]

Additionally, Hockney chose to portray a much less idealized version of the stories in which even the princesses are not strikingly beautiful, as is shown above in his etching “The Older Rapunzel.”  This unusual presentation challenges the viewer to think about the tales in a different light and emphasizes some of the darker themes present in the stories.

Hockney’s etchings—simple in composition, yet incredible detailed—offer the reader a different way of engaging with these popular fairy tales, effectively leaving their creative interpretation up to the reader.

[1] Robert Flynn Johnson, “David Hockney and the Brothers Grimm,” David Hockney: Six Fairy Tales, Landau Traveling Exhibitions, 2010.

[2] “David Hockney: Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm,” Christies,

Spitting Images

For all of the spectators at the BMA and online who got a glimpse of last Saturday’s Areas for Action event with artist Oliver Herring, here is an interview with two of the participants, Lulu Bao and Kel Millionie, who share what the experience was like for them:

What inspired you to participate in this art event?

Lulu Bao - half-way through her Areas for Action experience

Lulu Bao – half-way through her Areas for Action experience

LULU: It was the email I received from BMA Volunteer Coordinator Rachel Sanchez mentioning the wall painting with Oliver Herring. The image of being part of the art project came in to my mind suddenly, then I thought I couldn’t miss the chance to have this unique life experience. I wanted to step a bit out of my comfort zone and embrace something I have never done before.

KEL: I’ve been an admirer of Oliver Herring’s work since before we acquired his Areas forAction portfolio of videos and portraits in 2011. I wanted to experience his art from the perspective of a participant vs. a spectator or viewer.

Were you surprised by how often you were directed to spit on each other? How would you describe that experience?

LULU: I was not very surprised because I watched some videos of Areas for Action on YouTube before the event. I think the experience created an intimate connection between us as volunteers, as well as with the artist and the audience. Some key words in my mind to describe my experience would be: excited, open-minded, and emotional.

KEL: I was not surprised at how many times I was spat upon or spat onto others.

Kellan Johnson (l) and Kel Millionie (r) in Areas for Action.

Kellan Johnson (l) and Kel Millionie (r) in Areas for Action.

I’ve watched many of Oliver Herring’s videos and they show this as part of the process. Regarding being spat upon: at first it is quite jarring, cold, and shocking to be spat upon so forcefully.  Many people have said they find it “gross” or “unsanitary,” but I did not feel it was either.

How has participating in the event as a volunteer change the experience for you?

LULU: Becoming part of the art performance gave me a chance to understand the artist’s thoughts from a different angle. By transferring my identity from an art viewer to a member in the performance, I felt more involved. I asked the artist about his thinking of controlling and losing control during the process because for most of the time we were trying to do the things as he wanted, but at some points we were able to choose colors or areas that we wanted to spray. There was some certainty and some uncertainty of this event outcome and I don’t think I would have considered that if I hadn’t been part of the experience.

KEL:  I find his process of directing volunteers to create his art familiar because I am a theater director and designer and often tell performers how to move and behave in controlled spaces.


Artist Oliver Herring directing Areas for Action volunteers.

What was your favorite moment?

LULU: I love the moment when I was asked to climb to someone’s shoulder, because at that moment I had to trust someone I just met.  I memorized the feeling of holding his hands and trusting the artist and my partner so well even several days after the event.

KEL: Looking in the mirror after the four-hour experience was over.

Do you have any advice for future Areas for Action volunteers?

LULU: I would suggest future volunteers to go to restrooms right before the performance and get ready for not going there for hours (like a half-day). 🙂  Also, it is necessary to get used to bare feet because wet socks won’t feel good if you have to step into the colored water. Trying not to laugh while having water in your mouth is important, otherwise, you may choke, which can be a bit unpleasant.

KEL: Give in!

Dressing Degas’ Little Dancer



One of the most popular works in the BMA’s collection is Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen by French artist Edgar Degas. The BMA recently received a query about her attire and we are delighted to share BMA Senior Registrar Melanie Harwood’s answers to these questions.

How frequently are the skirt and ribbon changed?
Only when necessary. It’s occurred twice for the skirt and once for the ribbon since the work entered the collection. The skirt that came with the figure in 1943 (presumably the original from the 20’s) deteriorated over time and was augmented with more fabric, cotton wadding and wire in an attempt to keep it somewhat tutu-like. The decision was made in 1979 to replace it entirely and to replace the ribbon which the BMA cast had been missing for some time. The fabric and color of skirt was matched as closely as possible to the remains of the original. The use of a green ribbon is based on a contemporary description of the wax original which refers to the color as “leek green.” Time has caused the green to change to more of a golden hue.  The only change was to lengthen the skirt to more closely resemble Degas’ sketches and the common tutus of the time. Classic short tutus were an invention of the 1880s and not commonly in use when Degas sculpted the figure in 1881. 
The skirt was replaced again in 1998 due to deterioration but the ribbon was not.

Where does the fabric come from?
The fabric is a cotton “tarlatan” (gauze) dyed to a greenish brown and the ribbon is silk. The tarlatan is generally available through theatrical suppliers.

Do all Degas “Little Dancers” have skirts and ribbons?
All Degas “Little Dancers” have skirts, but not all have ribbons. In 1979 I conducted an informal survey of the “Little Dancers”. Out of eleven institutions contacted, four had the original skirts (in deteriorated condition, short, and augmented with cotton and wiring) and six had ribbons of varying colors. The only ribbon that was thought to be original was described as “yellowish” (also interesting as ours has faded from green to “yellowish).

 Who changes the skirt and ribbon?
In 1979 the museum did not have a conservator of sculpture so the designer and I took on the project with the oversight of the curators. The second change was handled by the conservators and they would direct any future re-dressings as well.

 Are there specifications regarding the way the skirt hangs or the ribbon is tied?
The bronzes were cast from the original wax (now in the collection of the National Gallery in Washington) after Degas’ death and Mlle Jean Fevre, the niece of the artist, dressed the figures in skirts to resemble those on the wax. I’ve never seen images or a contemporary description of these skirts and ribbons.  By this time the wax figure was forty years old and I’ve always wondered if the skirt Mlle. Le Fevre was imitating was shortened by age. It’s an interesting exercise as Degas never saw the bronze, but our aim has always been to maintain an appearance as close to the original wax of 1881 and his other dance images as possible.

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

Rarely Shown Aaron Douglas Watercolor Now On View

Aaron Douglas. Study for Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery through Reconstruction. 1934. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased with exchange funds from The Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection, BMA 2004.179 © Heirs of Aaron Douglas/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Aaron Douglas. Study for Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery through Reconstruction. 1934. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased with exchange funds from The Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection, BMA 2004.179. © Heirs of Aaron Douglas/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

The BMA’s stunning Aaron Douglas opaque watercolor, Study for Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery Through Reconstruction, is now on view at the Museum for the first time in nearly a decade. This extraordinary work is being presented in conjunction with the Maryland Humanities 2016 “One Maryland One Book” All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. The young adult novel has a character named Rashad who is a high school student inspired by Aaron Douglas’ art:

“Let me describe what his work looks like. Imagine The Lion King. But all the lions are people. Black people. So Simba and Mufasa, are, let’s say, a black king and a prince. Now, imagine that you’re looking at them through the thickest fog ever. So thick that you can’t make out any actual feature on their bodies, but you can still see their silhouettes. So it could be any king. Or any prince. But you can still tell they’re black. That’s Aaron Douglas’s work. And the first time Mrs. Caperdeen [Rashad’s teacher] showed us a slide from his series Aspects of Negro Life, I knew the kind of art I wanted to start making.” (All American Boys, pp. 143-144)

Aaron Douglas (1899-1979) was a pioneering African-American artist whose style contains a multitude of influences: Art Deco and Cubism, African and Egyptian art, spirituals, and jazz. Hailing from Topeka, Kansas with a fine arts degree from the University of Nebraska, Douglas made his way to New York in 1925. There he fell in with the artists, poets, and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance, designing jacket covers and illustrations for publications by the likes of James Weldon Johnson and his good friend (and fellow Kansan) Langston Hughes. Douglas’s striking work led to mural painting—first for private and then for public spaces.

In 1934, Douglas received a commission—the most important of his career—from the Public Works of Art Project, a new federal program, to paint a mural cycle for the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library, now known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Douglas’s four-part mural cycle, completed by the year’s end, numbered among 1,400 murals depicting “the American scene” that were created under this New Deal initiative for public spaces throughout the United States. Douglas embraced the challenge. Entitled Aspects of Negro Life, Douglas’s four oil paintings depict an ambitious narrative of black progress, encompassing slavery, Reconstruction, the Great Migration, and the Depression while contending with issues of black identity, the search for freedom, and the power of education.

In 2004, the BMA acquired an extraordinary study for the second mural in this cycle, From Slavery through Reconstruction. Although Douglas made several changes between this drawing and the final painting—a more complex composition with twice as many figures—the narrative arc of rising up from oppression and suffering remains the same.

The frieze-like composition of silhouetted, stylized figures is bookended by scenes of horror and sadness: to the left are shackled, toiling slaves; to the right is a family grieving the loss of a loved one to lynching. These groups frame scenes of emancipatory struggle: at center left, we see a woman with broken shackles and a rifle in hand, none other than Harriet Tubman, conductor of the Underground Railroad; at center right marches a group of helmeted Union soldiers with bayonets over their shoulders, an allusion to the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry, one of the first African-American regiments. At the work’s luminous center, a man stands holding a book and pointing to a mountaintop vision with twin symbols of modernity: a skyscraper and a smoke-spewing factory. The entire composition is overlaid with an abstract pattern of translucent, concentric circles, the centermost focusing the eye on the pointing man’s confident stance and gesture.

In his powerful treatment of historical, political, and racial themes, Douglas looked back in time, and also cast his gaze at the Depression-era world around him. Some eight decades later, his work—giving visual form to the hardships and aspirations of African-Americans—still speaks to us with its indelible passion and hope.

Due to the light-sensitive nature of works on paper, Study for Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery Through Reconstruction will be on view for a limited time in the BMA’s Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing 20th-century gallery. Stop by and see it through December 4, 2016.