Tag Archives: Baltimore

BMA Voices: The Blue Eyes

Henri Matisse. The Blue Eyes. 1935. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.259. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse. The Blue Eyes. 1935. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.259. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Katy Rothkopf, Senior Curator & Dept Head of European Painting & Sculpture

Henri Matisse’s small, but powerful, painting The Blue Eyes was created in 1935. It features an intimate view of Lydia Delectorskaya, a Russian woman who met the artist when she was hired as a nurse for his wife. Lydia began to model for the French master in 1935, later becoming his studio assistant, muse, and Matisse’s companion for the rest of his life.

In 1935, when The Blue Eyes was produced, Matisse was just starting to paint again after a three-year hiatus from making oil paintings. In the late 1920s, Matisse had received some criticism for producing so many decorative paintings of women in interiors, often dressed in exotic costumes. He decided to take a break, and travelled abroad, created his first illustrated book, as well as completed a major mural project for the Barnes Foundation outside of Philadelphia. When he returned to producing oil paintings in 1934, Matisse had a new sense of energy and excitement in his work. His exploration of space and his love of texture and pattern began to emerge in new ways.

During his hiatus, Matisse came to Baltimore to pay his condolences to Etta Cone, one of his most important collectors, whose sister Claribel had died the previous year. During that visit in 1930, he saw all of the wonderful pieces the Cone sisters had purchased for their collection, including his own works that he had not seen for a long time, as well as paintings by many of his great artistic heroes. After his visit Matisse and Etta became even closer friends. When the artist returned to making oil paintings in 1934, he began to make works with the Cone Collection in mind, wanting to ensure that Etta’s collection was as strong as it could be.

The Blue Eyes is a composition that seems very spontaneous and immediate, but, in fact, the artist worked on perfecting the pose several times. Matisse was very taken by this idea of a woman seated in a casual pose, leaning on the back of a chair with her head resting on her arms. While working on a drawing with a similar pose, Matisse took photographs of the work in progress and sent them to Etta. She was so taken with the images that she could not resist purchasing the related painting from her favorite artist.

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 Henri Matisse works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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.