Tag Archives: American Wing

Slow Art Day at the BMA

Tomorrow is Slow Art Day, a day that encourages slow, detailed looking at art. You will find that when you spend more time with a work of art, you make discoveries that you would not otherwise experience. My colleague at the BMA Katie Bachler and I came up with some suggestions for exploring art slowly at the museum.

Explore art slowly
Allow yourself to look at only 3-5 works of art during your visit. With those 3-5 works, spend longer time with each work, as if they were old friends you are happy to see, and soak in their energy. As you spend time with each work, allow yourself to notice new details, subtle colors and textures, and even the space around the art.  Being with works of art in this way can be very relaxing. Resist temptations to overthink concepts and ideas and try to spend more time with the sensual qualities in each work of art.

Here are some selected works and some slow ways to enjoy being with them.

American Wing
Find William Picknell’s large painting Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany) in the American Wing. (A Visitor Services Associate can point you to the central gallery on the east side of the Wing.)

William Lamb Picknell. Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany). 1881. Oil on canvas. W. Clagett Emory Bequest Fund, in Memory of his Parents, William H. Emory of A and Martha B. Emory. BMA2011.44

William Lamb Picknell. Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany). 1881. Oil on canvas. W. Clagett Emory Bequest Fund, in Memory of his Parents, William H. Emory of A and Martha B. Emory. BMA 2011.44

As you look at the painting, take a breath. Breathe in for 4 counts and out for 8 counts. Notice the space around the person and the cool, crisp air. Imagine the sound of the horse trotting and the smell of the wet earth.

Take a second breath. Walk closer. Notice the myriad shades of vivid colors hidden in the brown and grey tones. Take a close up photograph of your favorite hidden colors.

Take a third breath. Just be with the painting. Where does your eye go? Where does your mind go?

European Galleries
Once in this contemplative space, head over to the European galleries. Find the still life by Dutch artist Abraham Mignon, Garland of Fruit and Flowers.

Abraham Mignon. Garland of Fruit and Flowers. Late 1660s. Oil on canvas. Gift of William A. Dickey, Jr. BMA1957.32

Abraham Mignon. Garland of Fruit and Flowers. Late 1660s. Oil on canvas. Gift of William A. Dickey, Jr. BMA 1957.32

Notice the fruits and flowers brimming with life as they reach forward, out of the darkness.

Step closer. Imagine hearing the water droplets falling to the ground. Listen closely to hear the fluttering wings of the moths and the sounds of the insects eating away at the foliage.

Take a deep breath. Imagine a time lapse. What will happen in 10 minutes, 11 days, 12 weeks, 13 months, 14 years?

Contemporary Wing
Meander over to the Contemporary Wing. Find the sculpture by John McCracken, Untitled (Light Chromium Yellow Plank).

John McCracken. Untitled (Light Chromium Yellow Plank). 1980. Polyresin and fiberglass on plywood. Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund. BMA1992.6

John McCracken. Untitled (Light Chromium Yellow Plank). 1980. Polyresin and fiberglass on plywood. Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund. BMA 1992.6

Breathe in and imagine your body lengthening to the height of the piece.
Breathe out slowly and allow your body to relax. Stand comfortably like this for a little while, taking in the brilliant yellow shaft of sunlight embodied.

Take a few steps to the side of the piece and notice the gentle way it rests against the wall. Take in the subtle grey tones of the shadows that fan softly onto the wall.

Breathe in and step close to the surface of the sculpture. Breathe out and notice your reflection on the surface. Continue observing the surface and notice the space around you also reflected. Stand quietly feeling the space around you and between you and the sculpture.

These are just a few ways that you can explore the BMA slowly. Be sure to sit and relax while at the museum exploring the art. On Slow Art Day, you can also attend our 10 Chairs event. Reflect with 10 scholars on 10 iterations of the humble chair in the BMA’s collection.

Slow Art Day is April 11th, 2015. 10 Chairs is on at the BMA from 2pm-4pm.

The American Wing : An Endless Dinner Party


Take a peek at The Baltimore Museum of Art’s newly renovated American Wing with Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and American Painting & Sculpture David Park Curry. In addition to beautiful images of the galleries and one of the finest collections of American Art on the East Coast, you’ll hear the candid perspectives of students from Lakeland Elementary School who tell us that visiting the BMA is “better than staying home and watching TV.”

BMA Voices: The multi-purpose chair

Designer: Nils Holger Moormann. Manufacturer: Nils Holger Moormann GmbH. Bookinist. Designed 2007, this example 2008. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Jim Piper, Gift from the Estate of Aleeza Cerf‑Beare, and Bequest of Gertrude Rosenthal, BMA 2008.141. © Nils Holger Moormann GmbH

Designer: Nils Holger Moormann. Manufacturer: Nils Holger Moormann GmbH. Bookinist. Designed 2007, this example 2008. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Jim Piper, Gift from the Estate of Aleeza Cerf‑Beare, and Bequest of Gertrude Rosenthal, BMA 2008.141. © Nils Holger Moormann GmbH

Claire O’Brien, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Decorative Arts, Painting and Sculpture

Walking into a furniture store today, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with choice when looking at seating options. The showrooms tout impressive displays of objects devoted to leisure and relaxation. Some are straightforward and exquisitely comfortable, while others are stylish but unwelcoming. Perhaps my favorites are the ones that are utilitarian in nature, serving multiple purposes at once. Cup holders are almost mundane when looking at possibilities of built-in fridges, speakers and even massage capabilities; eliminating almost every reason for the lethargic to leave the chair’s warm embrace. This idea of multi-purpose furniture is hardly new, but it’s fascinating to see its evolution.

The recently reopened American Wing has two great examples of such chairs. Although lacking a built-in fridge, the 1835 Reading Chair is an early example that mixes comfort and utility. There’s a certain air of regality about it, which is only right as it was an imitation of a design made for the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. The handsome armchair has a walnut frame and a black tufted leather cushion, adding to an appearance which seems to demand to have kingly work done in it. By far, the most interesting aspect of the piece is the adjustable bookstand which can be moved to accommodate both those left handed and right handed. The stand provides a convenient place for writing all of those laws and is a perfect rest for particularly heavy books. All that royal work has you toiling late into the evening? Fear not, it is equipped with a candlestick for all of those all-nighters.

Reading Chair. c. 1835. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of John Beverley Riggs, BMA 1997.459 s

Reading Chair. c. 1835. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of John Beverley Riggs, BMA 1997.459

Perhaps less comfortable, but equally fascinating, is Nils Holger Moormann’s Bookinist, 2008. The quirky chair is reminiscent of a push cart, sporting a large rubber wheel front and center, creating a portable workstation. It is very much a self-contained unit, full of hidden storage and whimsical objects. An estimated 80 paperback books can be shelved in the chair. Tired of reading? Then open the compartment containing a magnifying glass, notebook, bookmarks, pencils and a pencil sharpener. Getting too dark? Simply flip the switch for the jaunty lamp. Thirsty after all that reading? Take advantage of the handy cup holder.

Designer: Nils Holger Moormann. Manufacturer: Nils Holger Moormann GmbH. Bookinist. Designed 2007, this example 2008. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Jim Piper, Gift from the Estate of Aleeza Cerf‑Beare, and Bequest of Gertrude Rosenthal, BMA 2008.141. © Nils Holger Moormann GmbH

Designer: Nils Holger Moormann. Manufacturer: Nils Holger Moormann GmbH. Bookinist. Designed 2007, this example 2008. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Gift of Jim Piper, Gift from the Estate of Aleeza Cerf‑Beare, and Bequest of Gertrude Rosenthal, BMA 2008.141. © Nils Holger Moormann GmbH

Both of these diverting chairs have made me drastically re-evaluate my expectations for furniture. I now appreciate a certain versatility in furniture’s function, wanting more than mere places of rest for the weary. It will definitely be interesting to see how the latest innovations influence future designs. Maybe we really will never have to get up – a dangerous idea indeed.

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: Beautiful frame meets serious portrait.

John Hesselius. John Hanson. c. 1760. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of Elizabeth Curzon Hoffman Wing, in Memory of Hanson Rawlings Duval, Jr., BMA 1967.30.37

John Hesselius. John Hanson. c. 1760. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of Elizabeth Curzon Hoffman Wing, in Memory of Hanson Rawlings Duval, Jr., BMA 1967.30.37

Lauren Ross, Senior Conservation Technician 

While preparing paintings for the BMA’s newly installed American Wing, I’ve come to appreciate some decorative styles in frames in which I hadn’t previously been as interested. I have a great attraction to frames from the 19th and 20th centuries, and frames made by artists, and wood frames from the 17th century in Northern Europe. Honestly, I couldn’t choose a favorite. But the beautifully refined and carved frames for some of our late 18th American portraiture have recently caught my eye, in part because I needed to treat one.

The frame for the portrait of John Hanson by John Hesselius was made c. 1760. The frame seems to be original to the painting, fits it well, and is stylistically contemporary. Prior to installing the framed work in the gallery, both the painting and its frame needed some attention. As I focus on frames primarily, that’s what I will talk about.

The frame had not been examined until recently, and it was discovered that its surface was covered with a layer of soot and grime. There were splits near the site edge of the frame at the mitres, and numerous missing pieces of ornament and losses to the gilding.

Hanson details

Before treatment photograph of the frame.

Gilding is usually topped with shellacs and tonal coatings that over time can be difficult to clean, as the dirt becomes imbedded. It’s a careful task to undertake: gold leaf is very sensitive to many solvents and also to excessive rubbing or handling. The entire frame is carved wood that’s been gilded (more than once). There are no composition ornaments which have been sculpted separately and then added on. The workmanship in the carving of the frames of this period is exquisite, with moments of angularity. This frame is actually quite delicate. There are pierce-carved center and corner cartouche ornaments with leaves. The swept top edge of the profile consists of a gentle serpentine ribbon which is burnished and water-gilded, and terminates in c-scrolls at center ornaments. The rest of the gilding scheme is matte. The site edge of the frame exhibits a gadroon pattern, which radiates directionally from the centers of the rails, drawing the viewer’s eye into the picture plane. There are three large leaves which adorn the center ornaments as well, splayed out in symmetrical fashion. The quiet areas of the profile are adorned with gentle and delicate garlands of small leaves and flowers. Another beautiful feature is the way that the pierced carved negative voids echo the oval format of the portrait on its rectangular ground.

It is a very fine example of mid to late 18th-century American frames, which closely resemble their contemporary English counterparts. Sometimes they are called American Rococo. I have seen these frames referred to as George III (although in this case, that appellation would NOT have gone over well, situated on the portrait of John Hanson. In 1781, John Hanson of Charles County of Maryland became the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled, under the Articles of Confederation and was a great patriot. Part of Maryland’s Route 50 is even named for him.)

The treatment performed consisted of dusting, consolidation of gilding, structural repairs, loss compensations and ornament casting and replication, gesso recutting, in addition to surface cleaning and ingilding.

Hanson MT detailI finished this frame with no time to spare before it needed to be installed.

HANSON no pic

After treatment photograph of the frame.

The framed painting is now hanging in “Salon style” in the newly installed Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing, in Gallery 8, along with a large group of portraits in the BMA’s collection.

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.

Create a gallery of silhouette portraits – an art activity to try at home.

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Portraits are a beloved art form that capture the unique spirit of a person in a moment in time. Many fine portraits will be on view in our beautifully renovated American Wing, reopening November 23.

One form of portraiture is the silhouette. You can make silhouettes of everyone in your family.

You’ll need: black paper, white paper, pencil, scissors, index card or wooden stick (optional)

How to make your silhouette
Choose your model. Sit so you can see their profile, or the side of their body. Practice sketching the shape of their face with white paper so it is easy to see. Start with an oval shape. About halfway down, make the indent for the eyes. (Our brains are so big that they take up about half of the skull!)  After the eye, create the curve of the nose, followed by two lips, and chin. Consider adding a fun hair style, a great hat, or a bold collar to show the personality of your sitter in the silhouette.

After practicing on white paper to get the shape you like best, redraw it on black paper and cut it out with scissors. You can glue this to your favorite paper and frame it. You could also glue it to a wooden stick and make a puppet.

Create a gallery of silhouette portraits—or make a shadow puppet show with silhouettes on wooden sticks!

Meet silhouette artist Alex Vernon at the BMA’s American Wing Reopening Celebration on November 23. He’ll be creating custom silhouettes for visitors to take home.
Images courtesy of Alex Vernon