Acquisitions 2010

C. Griffith Mann Deputy Director and Chief Curator

 

Conceived as a resource for the entire community and committed to maintaining free admission to its permanent collections, the Cleveland Museum of Art is a place where visitors can explore both the art of their time and the cultural achievements of distant times and places. Looking back on 2010, we celebrate the third chapter in the sequence of openings that have marked the return of the museum’s permanent collection to refurbished galleries, in this case on the first level of the 1916 building. As familiar works of art returned to public view in new spaces, the addition of new objects to the collection testified to the museum’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its holdings across four millennia of art history. The expansion of the collection through significant purchases and gifts remains a fundamental expression of the museum’s mission and reaffirms the primacy of collecting in the life of the institution. Selective acquisition of works of art attests to the values of excellence, rarity, and quality that are an essential part of the museum’s legacy and reputation. The museum’s permanent collection is its core asset, the source of its personality, the engine of its visitor experience, and the source of many of its programs, exhibitions, and publications.

In the overview of 2009 acquisitions published in this magazine one year ago, we considered the process by which newly acquired objects enter the collection. In reviewing notable acquisitions of 2010, we shift to a broader consideration of the philosophy that guides the collection’s development, and examine the challenges of building a collection that remains both internationally significant and locally relevant.

Although founded as a general art museum, with collections stretching from Asia to the Americas and spanning ancient to contemporary, the Cleveland Museum of Art cannot properly be called an encyclopedic museum. Rather, it offers a selective survey of the history of art, with an emphasis on works of the highest aesthetic quality and historical significance. Over the course of the past several decades, especially as the art market exploded, the museum sought to build on its traditional strengths rather than begin to collect in entirely new or significantly underrepresented areas. The fields in which the museum presently collects are already supported by its library, conservation, and curatorial resources, and the days when the museum could expect to launch new collections that match the quality of its current holdings are likely past. By combining collection strengths with core research and preservation competencies, the museum can expect to capitalize on the specialized knowledge, professional networks, and market experience that are critical to securing noteworthy acquisitions. In deciding to focus acquisition resources toward building on the current strengths of the collection, the museum also acknowledges an ongoing obligation to use special exhibitions as a means of covering those historic periods, geographic areas, or media that are absent from or not adequately represented in the collection.

Considerations of aesthetic quality, historical significance, and typological importance are paramount. In addition, the museum remains committed to developing a broad and representative survey of the history of art. This has historically included a commitment to the art of the region as well as art from distant times and places. The character of the collection, which remains selective and small relative to that of our peers, continues to serve as the guiding principle of our acquisition program. Additions to the collection should also feed the museum’s exhibition, research, and publication efforts, which collectively help to advance the museum’s reputation as one of the great collecting institutions in the country.

Although we continue a long-standing practice of collecting broadly across a range of world cultures and art historical periods, we also aspire to make a significant and sustained commitment to expanding our holdings of contemporary art, defined as work produced after 1960. Even as we accept that there are major gaps in this part of the collection, the growth of the contemporary holdings should ideally mirror the geographic scope of the collection as a whole. Consequently, the acquisition of contemporary art should not be limited—as it has been in the past—largely to works of European and American origin, but rather be much broader in scope, encompassing East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Islamic world. Our efforts in these areas increasingly demand an engaged, creative dialogue between our contemporary and “historic” collections.

While the criteria of aesthetic quality, historic significance, and typological importance should be applied with equal rigor to decisions about the acquisition of contemporary art, we recognize that the considerations used for judging such art may sometimes differ considerably from those outlined for other parts of the collection. Indeed, the strategies employed by artists working today often defy categorization according to traditional terms. The choices we make regarding contemporary acquisitions are guided by an understanding of contemporary art’s relationship to the art of the past, its relationship to the salient issues of our time, and our assessment of the achievement and vision of individual artists. The criteria used in the selection of contemporary art for the collection are also guided by a sense of the “future’s past,” which means that it is essential to anticipate the historical significance of the art of our time. Broadly speaking, this means that we should be willing to acquire works by emerging and mid-career artists and not limit ourselves to established “blue chip” artists. This approach entails greater risk, but also ensures we actively collect in areas of the market where prices could expand beyond our reach as emerging and mid-career artists gain status. For this reason, the museum’s collecting activities in contemporary art are generally governed by the assumption that the museum should review the collection on a regular basis and be prepared to deaccession those works that fail to meet the test of time.

Given our continued emphasis on artistic excellence and the increased competition for significant acquisitions, purchase funds could well be concentrated on a relatively small number of objects, especially in those areas where prices are set by the rarity of works available on the market. The museum should also be willing to collect against the grain of market trends and to seek acquisitions at auction, especially if significant economies can be achieved. This requires us to act decisively when such opportunities arise, which is why strategic alignment between staff and trustees on major acquisition priorities is so essential.

While many museums have dedicated funds for collecting in specific areas, Cleveland has always used a general acquisitions fund as the primary resource for the purchase of works of art. This philosophy is based on the assumption that competition among acquisitions proposed by curators and the ability to allocate a significant portion of the museum’s acquisition endowment to the purchase of a relatively small number of objects has had a positive impact on the quality of the collection and will continue to do so in the future. With purchasing power limited by market prices, relationships with private collectors are also increasingly important. Indeed, the knowledge that significant gifts will eventually come to the museum allows the curatorial staff to concentrate attention on areas where collectors have been less active. The cultivation and stewardship of collectors capable of making significant gifts to the museum is especially important now, as the museum enters the final stage of its capital campaign and approaches the celebration of its centennial in 2016.

 

Prints and Drawings Galleries

The new galleries of ancient art and new prints and drawings galleries bring more of the permanent collection back to public view.

 

Looking back on 2010, the major benchmark for the permanent collection was the opening of the museum’s ancient, medieval, and African collections in refurbished galleries in the 1916 building. At the same time, the museum inaugurated a pair of galleries dedicated to rotating exhibitions of prints and drawings. To mark the return of these collections to public view, the search for new acquisitions in 2010 took advantage of significant opportunities to add to the collections of Byzantine and African art. Curators in these areas recommended for purchase key objects that responded to established collecting goals. These efforts were prompted by the realization that there is no better time to concentrate on the development of specific collecting areas—and certainly no time when significant gaps in our collection are more evident—than during a period when institutional and public attention is focused on the presentation of these collections in new galleries.

Like many general art museums in America, the museum’s permanent collection of African art largely consists of objects from the sub-Saharan regions of West and Central Africa, areas renowned for the production of masks and figural sculptures. Recognizing that the vast regions of eastern and southern Africa are hardly represented in the collection, Constantine Petridis, curator of African art, proposed acquiring a group of 15 works produced on the continent’s southern tip. By collecting against the grain of conventional tastes, this strategy not only expanded the geographic scope of the museum’s African holdings, but also took advantage of a younger, less developed collecting market for material outside of canonical collecting areas. Here, in an area that encompasses present-day South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, highly talented artists from different pastoral cultures created a wide range of personal and domestic objects from the mid 19th through the mid 20th century. Whether figurative or abstract, naturalistic or geometric, carved from wood, ivory, or horn, or made of cloth, glass beads, or clay, these works were much more than exquisitely designed functional objects.

 

 

Knobkerrie

Knobkerrie (detail) 1800s–1900s. Swaziland, Swazi people. Wood; h. 66 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2010.203 

 

The 15 works acquired by the museum constitute a representative sample of a variety of types or genres in the most diverse materials made by both male and female artists. Some are related to the home, others to the person. They include both abstract and figurative works. All reveal the importance of cattle in both social and religious terms and of communication with the ancestral world. Together they offer an excellent window into the artistic legacy of southern Africa, elucidating its stunning formal diversity and its deep cultural meanings. The ubiquitous southern African headrest, represented in this ensemble by one exquisite example shaped to evoke a cow or ox, not only serves as a pillow that protects a complicated hairstyle during sleep, but also acts as a “dream machine” that helps contact the ancestors. The two staffs and two scepters—all virtuoso pieces of carving—typically serve as objects of status and rank in addition to their function of walking aid and weapon. 

The southern African region is especially famous for its diverse beadwork traditions. Produced by women and reflecting cross-cultural contact, beadwork occupies a pre-eminent position in the arts of southern Africa. The addition of beaded southern African objects to the collection also resonated with the museum’s 2009 acquisition of a work of contemporary sculpture, Continuous Mile, produced in Durban, South Africa, by Liza Lou. Together, these works demonstrate the potential for dialogue between the museum’s “historical” and contemporary holdings, and reflect the global orientation of contemporary artistic practice.

Each work in the group of 15 objects represents a masterpiece of its type or genre. As a result, this purchase not only expanded the geographic scope of the museum’s African art collection but also established Cleveland as one of the very few art museums in the United States to possess a representative collection of southern African art of the highest quality. All 15 objects will be showcased in The Art of Daily Life: Portable Objects from Southeast Africa, a loan exhibition on view in the east wing’s design gallery from April 17 to February 26, 2012. This exhibition, accompanied by a catalogue, demonstrates the museum’s efforts to ensure that major acquisitions are translated into opportunities for research, display, and public programs.

In the department of Medieval Art, Stephen Fliegel capitalized on the opportunity of the reinstallation to add an important devotional icon to the museum’s collection of Byzantine art. The monumental icon, from a private European collection, is attributed to the Cretan icon painter Angelos Akotantos. Akotantos has been the subject of intense research by numerous specialist scholars over the past 15 to 20 years. He signed as many as 30 of his icons and an additional 20 are reliably attributed to his hand. Akotantos had a workshop in Candia, the capital of Crete, from which he supplied icons to Greek churches and monasteries on Crete, Patmos, and Rhodes at a time when the Byzantine Empire was increasingly pressed by the Ottomans, who captured Constantinople in 1453. The icon’s large size suggests its original placement on a templon in an Orthodox church. Akotantos is known to have traveled to Constantinople, and he is now thought to represent the dominant artistic personality in Cretan icon painting of the 15th century.

No phenomenon is more characteristic of Byzantine art than the painted icon, which derives its distinctive formal aesthetic from a complex theology that assigned the devotional image a central place in Christian worship. Despite the fact that icons were (and remain) an essential element of the devotional culture of Orthodox Christianity, the museum’s Byzantine collection has always lacked a major painted icon. Although several icons have been considered for purchase over the years, the museum elected to eliminate them from consideration because they failed to meet the standards of excellence established by its Byzantine collection.

The newly acquired painting, executed in tempera on panel, meets or exceeds the quality of other icons by Akotantos, such as his signed icon of the Virgin Kardiotissa (Byzantine Museum, Athens). The treatment of the faces and draperies is handled with great fluency and skill, revealing Akotantos to be a painter of great talent. The icon appears to date to his period of greatest activity, 1425–50. This acquisition not only places the museum firmly on the map in an international arena—few museums have recently succeeded in acquiring icons of similar importance and significance—but also establishes a strong connection to northeast Ohio’s Orthodox Christians, who are familiar with the powerful visual language represented by this tradition. In achieving these two objectives, the icon strikes the perfect balance between international significance and local relevance.

While the museum’s holdings grew in those areas of the collection slated for reinstallation, 2010 also brought some surprising opportunities in other areas. Stephen Harrison, curator of decorative arts and design, was fortunate to acquire an extremely rare pair of neoclassical candelabra produced in Tula, a center for arms manufacture in Russia established by Peter the Great in 1705. Their acquisition offers a shining example of the serendipitous alignment of curatorial expertise and a dealer’s eagerness to place a significant treasure in an important public collection. The Tula candelabra significantly enhance the museum’s renowned collection of neoclassical decorative arts by adding masterworks from Russia, a seminal center of production and commission in the late 18th century. Catherine the Great, during whose reign these candelabra were produced, was so enamored of the virtuoso displays of cut steel, gilt bronze, silver, and gold showcased by Tula craftsmen that she bestowed these wares as diplomatic gifts, thereby conveying her pride in their distinctively Russian contribution to metalworking.

The most recognizable characteristic of Tula is the use of multifaceted cabochons and beads of steel that replicated faceted diamonds and crystals. No other region surpassed the brilliance of this technique in cut steel. Works produced in Tula primarily remain in the former imperial collections in Russia or in select museums in northern Europe as the result of diplomatic provenance, and rarely appear on the art market. In the United States, only the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Legion of Honor in San Francisco own single examples from this seminal period in Tula production. Most works in Tula steel that left Russia were small precious objects such as inkstands, bobbin holders, buttons, footstools, or single candlesticks. The acquisition of the small table at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was especially noteworthy in 2001 because it was the most significant piece of Tula known to exist in private hands outside of Russia. Compared with the table in New York, Cleveland’s candelabra are packed with finely wrought details and have survived in remarkably pristine condition. 

In addition to developing the collection through acquisitions from private collections and dealers, the museum successfully strengthened its noted collection of European painting by winning a stunning portrait miniature at public auction in November 2010. This painting, executed by the British landscape painter John Linnell, was spotted by Jon Seydl, Paul and Edith Vignos Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, in collaboration with Cory Korkow, a postdoctoral fellow working on a catalogue of the museum’s portrait miniature collection. Painted on ivory, the creamy surface of which provides a warm base tone for the sitter’s flesh, this work is at once monumental and intimate. The museum took a special interest in this work because Linnell was the artist responsible for the museum’s monumental landscape Noah: The Eve of the Deluge, perhaps one of the greatest works by the painter in a North American collection. Linnell’s portrait combines the painter’s innovative style with his early study of old masters, which he was diligently copying during this period. The sitter herself was a colorful character whose renowned beauty was painted by Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Lawrence, and George Hayter. The strength of the likeness, the rarity of miniatures by the artist, the fresh condition, and the idiosyncratic technique make this a wonderful addition to the museum’s holdings of British art.

 

View of the Port of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme

View of the Port of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme 1891. Eugène Boudin (French, 1824–1898). Oil on canvas; 45.2 x 64 cm. Bequest of Muriel Butkin 2010.23 

 

In 2010, the bequest of Muriel Butkin continued to ensure that important gifts added depth to the museum’s renowned holdings of European easel paintings. Eugène Boudin’s View of the Port of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, which was researched and recommended as a gift by William Robinson, curator of modern European painting and sculpture, depicts Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, located in Picardy at the mouth of the Somme where the river empties into the English Channel. Boudin was an important landscape painter and a major influence on Claude Monet and the Impressionists.During his early years, Monet painted with Boudin along the Normandy coast and credited Boudin with teaching him to observe nature closely.The view looks north toward the sea, which can be seen along the distant horizon. Sailboats, one of Boudin’s favorite subjects, are docked along the east bank of the river with their sails rolled up. The opposite side of the river is deserted except for rocks, grass, and trees. The sky is heavy with gray clouds, and a strip of sunlight in the distance illuminates a slice of the east riverbank, suggesting late afternoon. The museum currently has an interesting collection of five oil paintings by Boudin, including two early scenes of figures on the beach dating from the 1860s, a large view of Bordeaux harbor from 1874, and a late view of Deauville harbor from 1891. As a group, these paintings provide an important context for understanding the development of plein-air painting in 19th-century France.

In American art, 2010 was a year for significant additions to the collection of works by artists with ties to Cleveland. The establishment in the east wing of a dedicated gallery for art produced in Cleveland marked the museum’s commitment to a regular rhythm of exhibitions and installations featuring the work of local artists, both current and past. Especially notable was the purchase of a remarkable narrative sculpture by Viktor Schreckengost as well as a major painting by Edwin Mieczkowski, both recommended by Mark Cole, associate curator of American painting and sculpture. The Mieczkowski, entitled Blue Bloc, will be featured in a forthcoming exhibition of Op Art painting drawn from the permanent collection and the holdings of local collectors (see Cole’s article for more details). Admired by specialists as one of Mieczkowski’s greatest works, this painting signals the museum’s heightened ambition to view exhibitions as opportunities for making significant acquisitions.

 

White Form

White Form 1990s. Toshiko Takaezu (American, born 1922). Ceramic; 85 x 40 cm. Gift of John Paul Miller 2010.236

 

Several gifts by Cleveland artists were precipitated by the museum’s decision to stage an installation in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Cleveland Arts Prize, featuring works by winners of the prize drawn from the museum’s permanent collection. Gifts of important works by Chris Pekoc, Brent Kee Young, Laurence Channing, and Tashiko Takaezu were especially welcome additions to the collection.

While many new acquisitions were featured in exhibitions and permanent collection galleries during 2010, other notable acquisitions will take their place in installations slated to debut in the museum’s north galleries. Over the course of 2010, Sue Bergh, curator of Pre-Columbian and Native North American art, continued her efforts to expand the museum’s holdings of works of art from the Central Andes. The museum’s Pre-Columbian collection is one of the most refined and comprehensive of its size outside of Latin America, but its Central Andean holdings, where many of the hemisphere’s most complex cultures took root, is small in relation to regional importance and artistic production.

 

Mother-and-Child (?) Vessel

Mother-and-Child (?) Vessel 100 bc–ad 700. Central Andes, Peru, North Coast, Recuay people. Ceramic, slip, pigment; 20.4 x 15.3 x 15.3 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2010.210

 

The Recuay, a people of Peru’s northern highlands, developed one of the most distinctive Andean traditions in ceramic, their principal artistic medium. The purchase of an effigy vessel depicting a plump, seated female who holds a small human figure, perhaps a child, in her hands adds depth to the museum’s holdings of ceramics from the Andes. Figural effigies that hold or carry various objects are relatively common in Recuay art; the mother-and-child is a well-defined if small subset. In keeping with the museum’s emphasis on quality, this example is finer than others in its more harmonious proportions, clearer articulation of the “child,” and the fineness and preservation of its surface. The color scheme is typical of Recuay ceramics. The effigy is covered with a layer of creamy white slip with details picked out in red slip. After firing, a resist application of organic black pigment was used to create patterns on the head scarf, belt, and elsewhere. Because the collection has only three Recuay objects, the effigy serves to establish a range of ceramic types that can be showcased in forthcoming Pre-Columbian installations.

 

Rho I

Rho I 1977. Jack Whitten (American, born 1939). Acrylic on canvas; 182.8 x 213.2 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2010.1

 

During 2010, Paola Morsiani, curator of contemporary art, pursued acquisitions by established artists not represented in the museum’s holdings. Selected acquisitions were made directly from artists in the wake of studio visits. Early last year, the museum was fortunate to be offered a painting by Jack Whitten, who began exploring painting as a visual field in the 1960s. Interested in articulating space and rendering painting as an actual, tangible presence, Whitten devised a very personal way to apply paint with a solution that, in his words, would “expand the gesture while taking my hand out of it” and make it impersonal, as opposed to dramatic abstract expressionist brushwork. Rho I is part of Whitten’s “Greek Alphabet” series consisting primarily of black-and-white paintings, and its purchase strengthened the museum’s ability to offer visitors a more in-depth consideration of the role of abstraction in contemporary painting. In Rho I, the canvas was first painted in white and stapled to a platform on the floor. Thin objects, such as cotton strings, were thrown on and adhered to the canvas. A layer of acrylic gray paint, obtained by mixing black with graphite and silica, was then poured over the entire canvas. Finally, Whitten ran a long metal rod notched at eighth-inch intervals across the length of the canvas, which exposed the underlying white paint. This intricate process confers an unusual vibrancy of the painting’s overall surface, where the pure order of the dense linear pattern plays with the traces embedded under the gray layer created purely by chance. Rho I embodies a unique blend of sensual physicality and cool formal composition.

The opportunity to acquire elements of a historically significant installation by Tony Oursler took advantage of the museum’s practice of collecting works that represent important touchstones in the careers of major artists, and demonstrated the different aesthetic criteria that can sometimes govern considerations of works by contemporary artists. The sculptures acquired by the museum were featured at Documenta IX in 1992, a seminal survey of contemporary art held in Kassel, Germany. In this setting, Oursler mounted a large installation entitled The Watching. He developed its many components independently but around the shared notion that Hollywood manipulates the popular imagination with its fixation on violence and sex. Instant Dummies, Model Release Form, and Sex Plotter were all staged as elements of this broader installation. Sex Plotter is a motionless, puppet-like figure on the floor, its blank head providing a screen for the projection of a woman’s head reciting movie plots of love stories that, although imaginary, nevertheless seem familiar to viewers and TV consumers. (The performer is renowned artist and writer Constance DeJong, who was born in Canton, Ohio, in 1950.) Instant Dummies consists of blown-glass capsules representing imaginary pills that dissolve in water and turn into full-size synthetic humans. Model Release Form is based on an actual release form provided to actors that authorizes the use of their features to movie producers. Reprinted in a dazibao format on a large sheet of fabric, its words gain an eerie resonance as reminders of how the film industry alters identities of both performers and viewers. Since their first appearance in 1992, Instant Dummies, Model Release Form, and Sex Plotter have become pivotal pieces in Oursler’s career. Now historical, these artworks embody the influential contribution that post–Helter-Skelter Los Angeles made to the art of today’s generations.

With the presentation of new work by the Korean artist Kim Beom in the photography galleries in 2010, the museum elected to purchase a work of contemporary art produced close to the moment of acquisition. Collecting in the present is a strategy that the museum historically has resisted, preferring instead to acquire works that have withstood the test of time. However, the decision to acquire works from shows generated by the museum is one way to keep our contemporary collection alive and updated: it creates a dialogue between classical or canonical contemporary art; it diversifies the costs of purchasing work, as younger artists’ work is less expensive than historicized work; and it can be supported by a vigorous exhibition program.

 

A Rock That Was Taught It Was a Bird

A Rock That Was Taught It Was a Bird 2010. Kim Beom (Korean, born 1963). Stone, wood, wooden table, single channel video on 12-inch flat monitor (1 hr., 27 min., 30 sec.); approx. 146.8 x 220.5 x 127.7 cm (overall). Louis D. Kacalieff, MD Fund 2010.263. © Kim Beom

 

With an expressive vocabulary that relies on deadpan humor, absurdist enunciation, poetry, and childlike imagery, Kim Beom—one of Korea’s most prominent living artists—investigates our perception of the world by bringing reality and imagination closer together. Developed around illusionism, Kim’s art references animistic notions that individual works possess a spiritual core, and it alludes to the 20th-century avant-gardes who mined the human subconscious and practiced a kind of social awareness. A Rock That Was Taught It Was a Bird, included in the museum’s installation of Kim’s work, features a large stone that appears to perch on a truncated tree branch that, in turn, is supported by a handmade wooden base located on top of a handmade table. On an adjacent monitor, viewers follow several lessons imparted to the stone on the physics of flying (in Korean, subtitled in English). During various practice sessions the teacher facilitates the stone’s movement from one tree branch to the next, and the final image is of the stone perched high in a tree. The lessons were held at Kim’s studio and directed to the stone now featured in the sculpture. The addition of A Rock That Was Taught It Was a Bird enriches the representation of recent achievements in conceptually based sculpture and supports the museum’s efforts to represent international artists.

The year 2010 also brought the addition of a number of important works on paper, recommended for purchase by the museum’s curator of drawings, Heather Lemonedes. Remarkable among these was a stunning exhibition watercolor by William Turner of Oxford, A View from Moel Cynwich: Looking over the Vale of Afon Mawddach and toward Cader Idris. William Turner was born in rural Oxfordshire. His artistic ability manifested itself early, and in 1804 he was sent to London to take lessons with the watercolorist John Varley. In 1808, at age 18, Turner was elected an associate of the Society of Painters in Watercolor, making him the group’s youngest member. Turner’s early promise was commented on that year by a critic who observed that two of his watercolors displayed “the wide range of a veteran landscape painter.” Like works by many of his contemporaries, Turner’s large, highly finished exhibition watercolors were typically derived from studies made during summer sketching tours. He traveled to Wales in 1817, and in later years to Scotland, the Wye Valley, the Lake District, and Derbyshire. Turner’s range extended beyond the conventionally picturesque to include many detailed panoramic views, remarkable for their breadth and delicacy. By his 1838 visit to Scotland, the mystery and power of the uncultivated landscape had become a theme in his work. His time in Scotland may have prompted Turner to return to Wales as a subject late in his career. A View from Moel Cynwich describes the dramatic mountain scenery of northern Wales. The view in this drawing is seen from the steep slopes of Moel Cynwich, along what is now known as the Precipice Walk, overlooking the River Mawddach. The Cader Idris, a famous mountain in Snowdonia, and Barmouth Bay can be seen in the far distance. The close-up view of the hillside and sheep in the left foreground with its details of ferns and foliage juxtaposed with the sweeping vista of the background invites a comparison of the minute with the infinite. The inclusion of the shepherd by the dead fir trees calls up feelings of awe and infinity: the result is a meditative sense of man’s insignificance in the face of the vast world. Indeed, this drawing will hold its own among Cleveland’s most prized British watercolors by artists such as John Robert Cozens, John Martin, J. M. W. Turner, and Samuel Palmer.

 

Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau 1936–c. 1940s. George Platt Lynes (American, 1907–1955). Gelatin silver print; 23.5 x 19.1 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2010.214

 

Last year marked the end of a long and illustrious career for Tom E. Hinson, the museum’s curator of photography, who retired in December.Thanks to the 2009 debut of new galleries in the east wing devoted to showcasing the museum’s photography collection, exhibitions afforded the opportunity to acquire works through gift and purchase. Additions to the collection made in the wake of the French landscapes and Zig Jackson exhibitions covered the full scope of the medium from its origins in the mid 19th century to the present day. Works purchased in anticipation of future exhibitions included notable photographs by Gabriel Orozco, Kenneth Josephson, Mark Ruwedel, and John Pfahl. The collection also grew through the selected purchase of early work, which added to the museum’s historic strengths in 19th-century photography. Especially noteworthy were rare and remarkable prints by Édouard Baldus and Félix Teynard. Major photographers of the 20th century whose work entered the collection include Robert Bergman and Sharon Core. Perhaps the most impressive testimony to the contributions Hinson made over the course of his long career emerged in the form of the many gifts presented to the museum in his honor by collectors, photographers, and dealers.

 

The Lovers (after the Housebook  Master)

The Lovers (after the Housebook Master) c. 1490. Wenzel von Olmütz (Bohemian, active 1481–1497). Engraving; 16.9 x 11.3 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2010.262

 

Among the numerous prints acquired during 2010, one stands out as an especially significant addition to the holdings of old master works on paper. One of the strengths of the museum’s print collection is the fine group of 15th-century Italian and German engravings and woodcuts that represent the beginning of printmaking in Europe. The acquisition of Wenzel von Olmütz’s The Lovers built on these holdings, which are rapidly achieving rarefied status as fewer and fewer prints of this quality are available on the market. Olmütz was a Bohemian engraver (Olmütz is a city in what is now the Czech Republic) whose 91 prints are careful copies of the work of other masters, especially Martin Schongauer, the Housebook Master, and the young Albrecht Dürer. The Lovers is one of the Housebook Master’s most captivating prints, where the tender feeling of the couple finds expression in the intimacy of the representation: the young woman has a lapdog, symbol of faithfulness, and gently covers the young man’s hand on her knee with her own hand. Only two mediocre impressions are known, in the Veste Coburg and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Wenzel’s copy is faithful to his model and preserves the original’s charm and delicacy of mood, its subtle psychology of love and devotion. Only five impressions of The Lovers are extant, and only one of them, in the Albertina in Vienna, is as fine as Cleveland’s. A beautiful impression in excellent condition, The Lovers further enhances the museum’s superb group of rare 15th-century prints.

In 2010, the museum’s collection of textiles benefited from an unexpected gift brokered by Louise Mackie, curator of textiles and Islamic art. Two monumental tapestries by the renowned fiber artist Helena Hernmarck, Poppies and Bluebonnets, were offered to the museum in the wake of a smaller gift, a study for Poppies, accepted last year. The addition of these works dramatically testifies to the impressive revival of a historic art form by a contemporary artist. The two spectacular tapestries feature Texas wildflowers rendered on a grand scale in a semi-photorealistic style in 1978 and 1979. They were designed as complementary images rather than as a pair and display a radiance rarely seen since 16th-century European tapestries. Hernmarck is one of the most prominent and successful artists working in the United States in the field of fiber during the past 50 years, during which time textiles developed into a new art form. She is known for corporate commissions of public textiles designed and woven on a grand scale.

 

Poppies
 
Poppies 1978. Helena Hernmarck (Swedish, born 1941). Tapestry weave with weft-bundle floats; wool, silk, and metal thread; 389.9 x 594.4 cm. Gift of the Trammell Crow Family 2010.186

 

Henry N. Cobb, a partner in I. M. Pei & Partners, commissioned Hernmarck to create these two tapestries for One Dallas Center, a new office and hotel complex built in Dallas in the late 1970s by real estate developer Vincent A. Carrozza. There were three requirements: the tapestries should be large and visible from the street, even at night when the lobby was illuminated; they should convey “a warm, human experience” against the tile floor; and the imagery should be “something like Monet’s water lilies, but with Texan vegetation.” Bluebonnets are the Texas state flower, and this type and color of poppy, Eschscholzia mexicana, only grows wild in Texas.

A photograph of poppies in and out of focus that Hernmarck had received as a Christmas card became the model for one tapestry. She asked the same photographer, John Simle, to photograph bluebonnets with her; she ultimately cut up and rearranged the images so that they were somewhat similar to the poppy image. These two tapestries are outstanding additions that enrich the museum’s small but distinguished 15th- to 18th-century European tapestry collection, but can equally hold their own in the contemporary galleries.

The growth of the collections across the full scope of the museum’s holdings serves as a vital reminder that the current capital project is about much more than creating a state-of-the-art building. It is fundamentally driven by the broader ambition of creating a museum that aspires to the marriage of international significance and local relevance, and thus serves as a source of inspiration for the city and the region. 

 

 

 

Icon of the Mother of God and Infant Christ (Virgin Eleousa)

Icon of the Mother of God and Infant Christ (Virgin Eleousa) c. 1425–50. Attributed to Angelos Akotantos (Greek, died c. 1450). Crete, Byzantine period. Tempera and gold on wood (cypress) panel; 96 x 70 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2010.154

This painted icon represents an important Marian subject, an iconographic type known as the “Virgin Eleousa” (Virgin of Tenderness) characterized by the touching cheeks of mother and child, capturing an emotive and loving moment. Signifying the Christian doctrine of the incarnation—Christ born of human flesh and destined to suffer and die for the sake of humankind—this large icon communicates a core religious belief in a deeply spiritual and powerful way. Marian images were the dominant subject matter of Byzantine art.  

 

Pair of Candelabra

Pair of Candelabra c. 1790–95. Russia, Tula. Cut and polished steel with gold and silvered decoration; 40.7 x 24.8 cm (overall). Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2010.2.1–2

This extraordinary pair of candelabra was made in late 18th-century Russia by the artisans of Tula, a small arms and armory town southwest of Moscow near the Swedish border. Founded in 1705 by Peter the Great, the armory at Tula emerged as a center of Russian metalworking, especially in arms manufacturing. Later in the 1770s and 1780s, Catherine the Great took a keen interest in the work produced there, sending several of the most proficient craftsmen to England to study the decorative application of steel under way in Sheffield and London. Subsequently, the Tula craftsmen surpassed the metalworkers in Britain and elsewhere in pockets on the Continent by producing decorative wares that were as precious and precise as their brilliantly embellished firearms. 

 

Dubia Fortuna (Battle Scene)

Dubia Fortuna (Battle Scene) c. 1505. Moderno (Italian, 1467–1528) and workshop. Bronze; diam. 5.3 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2010.264

Plaquettes, small-scale reliefs usually in bronze, are a distinctive Renaissance art form. Moderno is the most significant Italian Renaissance maker of plaquettes, his compositions known for their visual impact and variety and their complex humanistic content. This work—attributed alternatively to the artist himself or the studio under his supervision—is a strong example of this art form. The inscription, dubia fortuna, is generally translated as “doubtful fortune,” and the ancient battle, with horsemen trampling soldiers on foot, speaks to the vagaries of war. While the model is fairly common, found in more than 20 casts, this example is unusual in its freshness and early date.

 

Albert Wolff in His Study

Albert Wolff in His Study 1881. Jules Bastien-Lepage (French 1848–1884). Oil on panel; 32 x 27 cm. Bequest of Muriel Butkin 2010.22 

This oil painting on panel depicts Albert Wolff (1835–1891), the principal art critic for Le Figaro. Wolff was a conservative critic who opposed the Impressionists and admired Jules Bastien-Lepage’s depictions of rural peasants painted in an academic-realist technique. The painting shows Wolff seated at a desk and looking directly at the viewer. The writing instruments on the table allude to his profession, and the drawings and sculpture in the background even more specifically to his role as an art critic. Although an important figure in 19th-century French art, Bastien-Lepage was formerly represented in the collection only by a small etching of a peasant in landscape. Modest in size, this recent acquisition is a fine example of a type of painting that first brought Bastien-Lepage critical acclaim: intimate portraits of friends and colleagues depicted informally in their natural, everyday environment.

 

Blue Bloc

Blue Bloc c. 1967. Edwin Mieczkowski (American, active Cleveland, born 1929). Acrylic on canvas mounted to board; 121.9 x 121.9 cm. Anonymous Gift, by Exchange 2010.261 

An important figure in the Cleveland art scene for more than three decades, Ed Mieczkowski attained national and international renown for his groundbreaking Op Art creations. While teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art (his alma mater), he co-founded the Anonima Group, the only collaborative in the United States devoted to the Op movement. His achievements helped make Cleveland a vital center for the global Op scene that arose during the 1960s, a time when the city operated as both training ground and residence to some of the most significant and successful Op artists. Generously scaled, dazzlingly hued, and boldly designed, Mieczkowski’s Blue Bloc ranks among the most visually dynamic and appropriately eye-popping Op paintings.

 

Jonah

Jonah 1937. Viktor Schreckengost (American, active Cleveland, 1906–2008). Glazed earthenware; 29.1 x 18.8 x 28 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2010.3 

Viktor Schreckengost’s narrative subjects are his most complex and highly regarded sculptures. These works, like Jonah, often depict mythical or religious figures and represent his most innovative forays in ceramic, extending the medium to iconographic and expressive potentials outside its more traditional decorative and functional realms. This acquisition represents the first narrative sculpture by the artist to enter the collection. 

 

A View from Moel Cynwich: Looking over the Vale of Afon Mawddach and toward Cader Idris

A View from Moel Cynwich: Looking over the Vale of Afon Mawddach and toward Cader Idris c. 1850. William Turner of Oxford (British, 1789–1862). Watercolor with scratching out, heightened with white; 48.9 x 70.3 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2010.147 

This spectacular exhibition watercolor depicts the dramatic mountain scenery of North Wales along what is now known as the Precipice Walk, overlooking the River Mawddach. The drawing joins prized British watercolors by artists such as John Robert Cozens, John Martin, J. M. W. Turner, and Samuel Palmer in the Cleveland collection. A late 18th-century oil by Richard Wilson, on view in gallery 203, depicts the same mountain in Snowdonia, North Wales. 

 

Portrait of Anne Law (née Towry), 1st Lady Ellenborough (1760–1843)

Portrait of Anne Law (née Towry), 1st Lady Ellenborough (1760–1843) c. 1815. John Linnell (British, 1792–1882). Unsigned watercolor on ivory in gilt metal frame; h. 11 cm. Dudley P. Allen Fund 2010.461

Though primarily known for his landscapes, John Linnell was also a celebrated portraitist and executed miniatures during the first two decades of his career. Miniatures by Linnell are rare, with a handful of examples found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, British Royal Collection, and National Portrait Gallery in London. They are especially rare outside of Britain and appear on the market infrequently. Linnell’s stipple technique of painting miniatures is distinctive and presages the brilliantly colored and minutely detailed painting style of the Pre-Raphaelites, who considered Linnell a model.

 

White Form

White Form 1990s. Toshiko Takaezu (American, born 1922). Ceramic; 85 x 40 cm. Gift of John Paul Miller 2010.236 (in photo as part of a 2009 east wing installation)

This work adds another dimension to the body of work in the permanent collection by Toshiko Takaezu. With its soft, ethereal palette of creams, greens, and shades of pink, it stands in contrast to the many other glaze palettes of a darker mode already represented in the museum’s Toshiko collection. It was selected by the artist to be given eventually to the CMA through the generosity of her good friend and fellow Cleveland artist, John Paul Miller, who instead offered the gift in 2010.

  

Deserted Throne

Deserted Throne 1990. Stanislav Libenský (Czech Republic, 1921–2002) and Jaroslava Brychtová (Czech Republic, born 1924). Cast glass; 84.6 x 71.1 x 35.6 cm. Gift of Helen Kangesser 2010.17  

Libenský and Brychtová are among the most influential glass studio artists of the second half of the 20th century. Their signature work firmly established the technique of glass casting within the studio movement. A fascination with color and light marks this object from the mature phase of their work.

 

Two Women Sketching a Sculpture

Two Women Sketching a Sculpture 1878. Gabriel von Hackl (German, 1843–1926). Pen and black ink; 40.5 x 32.2 cm. Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 2010.148

The artist Gabriel von Hackl acquired a thorough knowledge of anatomy under the tutelage of his physician father and went on to study art at the Munich Academy, where he served as professor of drawing from 1880 to 1919. Known as a rigorous teacher, he taught drawing from antique casts and insisted on anatomical accuracy. Giorgio De Chirico numbered among his students. This drawing depicts two women in a makeshift studio amid numerous props and artist’s materials. The woman seated in the foreground draws on a lap easel from a classical plaster bust. With its careful arrangement, wealth of details, and specificity of line and texture, the drawing is executed with consummate skill. The drawing’s subject matter is remarkable. Women typically were subjects of art during the 19th century but were rarely recognized as makers of art. 

 

Give Away, Little Shell (Mandan/ Hidatsa/Arikara)

Give Away, Little Shell (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara) 1988. Zig Jackson (American, born 1957). Gelatin silver print; 35.8 x 49.3 cm. Gift of the artist 2010.256. © Zig Jackson 

Reimagining the famous early 20th-century portfolios of Edward S. Curtis that depicted romanticized visions of Native Americans, contemporary photographer Zig Jackson, raised on a reservation in North Dakota, is in the midst of a project to document the experience of American Indians today. His work was featured in an exhibition with that of Curtis in the spring of 2010, and Jackson visited the museum to participate in a compelling lecture-discussion. This image is characteristic of his project in that it depicts a respectful but decidedly unromanticized view of life on the reservation.

  

Exit to Ashland

Exit to Ashland 1994. Laurence Channing (American, born 1942). Charcoal on paper; 101.6 x 127 cm (framed). Gift of Wilbur Markstrom in honor of the artist 2010.176

Laurence Channing is one of the most talented and accomplished artists working in Cleveland today. Exit to Ashland is typical of Channing’s gritty, somewhat desolate urban subjects. It depicts the exit off Interstate 71 heading to Ashland, Ohio. A stream of anonymous cars disappears into the distance of the highway at the left. The drawing’s focus is on a dense outcropping of bare trees by the side of the road, a blurred network of slim trunks and branches with snow glimpsed on the hillside behind. The drawing’s inky blacks are juxtaposed with blinding whites, with a subtle range of grays in between. This hushed landscape recalls Channing’s description of Cleveland as “an essentially monochrome environment.” 

 

Six Stairs

Six Stairs 1995. Rachel Whiteread (British, born 1963). Ink and correction fluid on graph paper; 59.5 x 84 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2010.212. © Rachel Whiteread

The first woman to win the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize (1993), Rachel Whiteread is an internationally recognized sculptor. She has been categorized as among the Young British Artists, a group who attracted the attention of critics, the media, and collectors in London from the 1980s to the late 1990s. Whiteread’s monumental sculpture House (1993), a life-size replica of the interior of a condemned terraced house in London’s East End, made by applying liquid concrete into the building’s empty shell before its external walls were removed, caused a succès de scandale.

  

Pulpo

Pulpo 1991. Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, born 1962). Cibachrome, edition 3/5; 47.4 x 31.9 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2010.266 

The conceptual artist Gabriel Orozco’s evocative photographs are a distinctive aspect of his oeuvre, which also includes sculpture, installations, drawing, and videos. His photographs are characterized by formal restraint and understatement, and by a keen eye for hue and the interplay of forms. In addition to their formal poetic qualities, Orozco’s compositions convincingly combine often disparate elements to create a haunting strangeness. His photographs document chance sightings or impromptu interventions in a range of environments.

 

Early American, Melon and Pitcher

Early American, Melon and Pitcher 2009. Sharon Core (American, born 1965). Chromogenic process color print, edition 2/17; 45.6 x 59.4 cm. Jo Hershey Shelden Fund 2010.12

Initially trained as a painter, Sharon Core turned to photography in graduate school at Yale University in the late 1990s. She is fascinated by the idea of mimicking paintings. Her current series, “Early American,”begun in 2007, is inspired by the small, stunning still-life paintings Raphaelle Peale (1774–1825) created in Philadelphia between 1812 and 1824. In this series, Core does not try to copy an existing painting but produces a new composition that honors Peale’s intimate, illusionistic style. In the case of this beautiful, appealing depiction of a sliced watermelon, grapes, and a glass pitcher, she probably studied a color reproduction of his compelling painting Melons and Morning Glories (1813).

 

Corporate Music

Corporate Music c. 1986. Michael Clegg (Irish, born 1957) and Martin Guttmann (Israeli, born 1957). Chromogenic process color prints; 709.6 x 200.2 cm. Gift of Diane and Arthur Stupay 2010.177 

This imposing diptych, exhibited in the 1987 Whitney Biennial, is an outstanding example of the early conceptual photography-based work that Clegg and Guttmann produced to re-examine formal portraiture. They looked to 17th-century Dutch portrait painting for inspiration in their life-size compositions, where actors or prominent people assume time-honored poses and gestures. The artists carefully controlled backdrop, lighting, pose, clothes, and props. The result was a distanced and artificial examination of the “powerful” playing themselves. In the early 1980s, Clegg and Guttmann were part of a generation of artists interested in critiquing contemporary culture and the ideas of originality, specialness, and genius. This is the first work by the two collaborators to enter the collection.

 

Game of Bowls (Jeu de Boules)

Game of Bowls (Jeu de Boules)1934. Lill Tschudi (Swiss, 1911–2004). Linocut on Japanese paper; 25.6 x 36.9 cm. Dudley P. Allen Fund 2010.13

After taking courses at the Grosvenor School of Art, Lill Tschudi spent 1931–33 in Paris, where she studied with the cubist André Lhote, the painter, sculptor, and filmmaker Ferdinand Léger, and the Italian futurist Gino Severini. Tschudi made 65 linocuts between 1930 and 1939. Game of Bowls is a splendid example of her colorful renditions of contemporary society. Printed from three blocks—green, dark brown, and light reddish brown—the artist achieves a variety of tones by overprinting them in various combinations and skillfully incorporating the white of the paper as positive elements in the composition. 

 


Cleveland Art, March/April 2011