Acquisitions 2011

C. Griffith Mann Chief Curator and Deputy Director 

Amy Bracken Sparks Assistant Editor, Curatorial Publications

 

In 2009, in hopes of demystifying the process of how an artwork enters the Cleveland Museum of Art’s permanent collection, we published the first of three articles about how objects are vetted and acquired for the museum. In proposing suitable acquisitions, curators draw on their scholarly expertise, knowledge of private collections, relationships with dealers, and understanding of the art market. They work closely with the museum’s director and chief curator to assess how a particular work matches the collecting priorities outlined for each part of the collection. The museum’s library and conservation staff are often enlisted to assist with research, which might include art historical study, summaries of auction records, and technical analysis conducted on selected objects to help evaluate issues like authenticity and condition. While the museum’s curators are the primary agents in collection development, the acquisition process also engages a much broader range of staff and trustees, who work in partnership as works of art are identified, researched, presented for consideration, and eventually shipped, conserved, and accessioned into the collection.

In 2010, we explored the philosophy of collecting and the challenges of building a collection that remains both internationally significant and locally relevant. Offering a selective survey of the history of art—the CMA cannot properly be called encyclopedic—the museum has historically built its collections with an overriding emphasis on the quality, rarity, and significance of individual acquisitions. Here, the character of the collection, which remains selective and small relative to our peers, continues to serve as the guiding principle of our acquisition program. In the memorable and colloquial language of former director Dr. Sherman E. Lee, the museum endeavors to seek out works that occupy the status of the “five-legged cow,” for their ability to inspire awe and wonder. While many museums have dedicated funds for collecting in specific areas, Cleveland uses a general acquisitions fund as the primary resource for art purchases. 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 have a positive impact on the collection’s overall quality. Even while pursuing extraordinary objects produced by artists from distant times and places, the museum also seeks to maintain a long-standing commitment to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of artists from the region. Though the above-mentioned criteria—quality, rarity, and significance—are applied with equal rigor to the acquisition of contemporary art, the choices we make regarding the art of our time are also guided by an understanding of the relationship of contemporary art both to the art of the past and to today’s salient issues, and by our assessment of the achievement and vision of individual artists. Taken together, these criteria comprise the essential elements encapsulated in the term “Cleveland quality,” which has helped to define the museum’s reputation as one of the great collecting institutions in the country.

In this, the final article of the series, we offer a selective survey of the works of art that entered the collection in 2011, and turn from a consideration of the process and philosophy that support our acquisition program to an examination of the various sources of museum acquisitions. Simply stated, works of art enter the collection through one of two ways: purchase or gift. Sources for purchased works of art can include auction houses, galleries, and private collections, while sources for gifts include private collectors and artists who are committed to sharing their passion and vision with our visitors. In either case, the life of an object can be very straightforward, or shrouded in mystery that requires significant research prior to acquisition. Each artwork has its own narrative, developed through successive generations of ownership and further elaborated through scholarship and technical analysis. One of the fundamental charges to our curators is to differentiate between objects that are simply survivors and objects that deserve to be celebrated because they give eloquent expression to ideas, emotions, experiences, or knowledge. Connoisseurship, research, expertise, and instinct are all brought to bear in singling out the extraordinary from the ordinary. In each case, works of art found their way to the Cleveland Museum of Art, to our city, not only because they have been considered worthy of our attention, commanded our interest, inspired our curiosity, and excited our imagination. They are also here because our curators have built lasting ties to collectors, dealers, artists, and auction houses, and because our donors have shared the conviction that this museum will ultimately distinguish itself through its collections and the scholarship that flows from them. 

 

Scholar’s Accouterments

Scholar’s Accouterments (chaekgori) late 1800s.Korea, Joseon period. Ten-panel folding screen, ink and color on silk; each panel 139 x 29 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2011.37

 

In the area of Chinese art, the museum made a single acquisition of an exceptionally rare work that was offered to Cleveland because of the relationship established with an important Japanese dealer during Dr. Lee’s directorship. Made in the late 1200s, it is composed entirely of intricately carved lacquer, a technique perfected by the Chinese and highly valued for diplomatic gifts. Round Box with Decoration of Two Birds and Peonies is an exquisite combination of geometric and figurative decoration that enhances an already stellar Asian collection. Spearheaded by Curator of Chinese Art Anita Chung, this purchase was singled out by Apollo magazine as one of the top museum acquisitions of 2011. Auctions also constituted a source for acquisitions of Asian art, and the museum was fortunate to emerge as the winning bidder for a rare 10-panel Korean screen (works of comparable quality are mainly preserved in museums in Korea) from the late 1800s. Called Scholar’s Accouterments (chaekgori), this ink on silk painting features images of the rare and luxurious objects that a wealthy 19th-century scholar would have assembled in his private study. The screen is distinctive for its combination of Eastern and Western perspectives, which express a uniquely Korean variation on screen painting.

The year 2011 also witnessed the remarkable donation of a group of Indian and Southeast Asian artworks from the collection of the late Maxeen and John Flower (see the article on page 7). Advised and encouraged by Curator Emeritus Stanislaw Czuma, in whose name the artworks were given, the Flowers acquired ten magnificent examples of bronze and stone statuary from India, Myanmar (formerly Burma), and Cambodia from the 11th and 12th centuries, as well as four important Indian paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries. In this instance, the collectors made purchases with the explicit understanding that their acquisitions would complement the museum’s existing collections. The result of a long, fruitful friendship with Dr. Czuma, works from this collection, along with other Indian objects given to the museum by Dr. Norman Zaworski, will be on view when the west wing opens in 2013 with new, expansive galleries for the Asian collection

 

Sleeping Gypsy  (Gitane Endormie)

Sleeping Gypsy (Gitane Endormie) c. 1909–12. Robert Rafailovich Falk (Russian, 1886–1958). Oil on canvas; 99.1 x 121.9 cm. Bequest of Dr. Paul J. Vignos Jr. 2011.72

 

A generous bequest from area physician Dr. Paul J. Vignos Jr. was finalized in 2011, deepening the museum’s holdings across a wide variety of European and American painting and significant works on paper. Vignos, who died at age 90 in 2010, was a vigorous collector along with his wife, the late Edith Ingalls Vignos. Although he consulted with museum curators on some purchases, Dr. Vignos bought to his own tastes and interests, stipulating that the museum could make its own selections from the portion of his collection gifted to the museum as part of his estate. In 1999 the couple endowed the position of Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, 1500 to 1800, now held by Jon Seydl. The bequest, a total of three dozen artworks, includes 12 drawings of fine quality and condition, among them works by British artist Richard Redgrave (to be part of a British drawings exhibition in 2013); American artists Eastman Johnson, Walter Launt Palmer, James Hamilton, and Albert Bloch; and two outstanding watercolors by modernist Emil Nolde. Both watercolors, Marsh Landscape and Marsh Landscape with Violet Cloud and Forms, are in excellent condition with saturated, brilliant colors typical of the artist. Nolde’s profoundly intuitive revision of the medium has exerted its influence on subsequent generations of artists throughout the 20th century. Among the prints are works by Joan Miró, Muirhead Bone, Juan Gris, James Gillray, and others. In a remarkable act of philanthropy, Dr. Vignos stipulated that works not accepted by the museum be offered to the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, with the remainder to be sold to generate proceeds for both institutions. 

With the arrival of Curator of Contemporary Art Paola Morsiani in 2008, the museum’s contemporary holdings have steadily increased, with historically weak areas of the collection, like sculpture, receiving renewed attention. Striking additions of contemporary sculpture include Stairs by Polish artist Monika Sosnowska and Bacon’s Not the Only Thing That Is Cured by Hanging from a String by Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer, both made in the past two years. Produced by Sosnowska only a few months prior to its acquisition by the museum, Stairs was purchased with assistance from avid contemporary collectors Scott Mueller (a CMA trustee) and his wife, Margaret Fulton Mueller. Farmer is one of the most important artists working today in North America, and the acquisition of Bacon’s Not the Only Thing invigorates the representation of sculpture in the contemporary collection and relates to earlier important works that also claim theater as an influence, including those by George Segal, Red Grooms, and, more recently, Tony Oursler.

Joanne and Margaret Cohen’s gift of a 1997 painting by Marcia Hafif, Late Roman Painting: Burnt Green Earth Tint, pays homage to both the recent and ancient past. Part of the so-called Radical Painting Group in New York, whose members are devoted to painting in monochrome, Hafif’s pioneering work in color and monochromatic canvases provides strong links to the collection’s holdings of works by 20th-century Minimalists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, and Agnes Martin. Hafif’s “Late Roman” paintings series consists of pigments that would have been common in Pompeii before its fall in ad 79.

Audra Skuodas’s prolific output in painting, drawing, and artist’s books is familiar to local and national audiences through numerous exhibitions held over the past four decades. Her 2010 work Merging Emerging is an example of the artist’s highest achievement, a distillation of her indefatigable research throughout the years. Born in Lithuania, Skuodas has lived in Oberlin, Ohio, since 1972. By acquiring this painting, the museum continues its tradition of collecting distinguished work produced by area artists.

In addition, the museum acquired a vibrant work on paper by local artist Dexter Davis, a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art. A collage with a wide variety of materials, Black Heads belongs to Davis’s recent series “Monsters and Ghosts,” which addresses physical and psychological conflict in personal and universal dimensions, ranging from family struggle to urban street violence and global combat. The top of the collage is framed by a fragment of Carroll Cassill’s etching and aquatint Icarus (1958), salvaged from a studio fire. In homage to his teacher, Davis incorporated the remains of Icarus into his own composition, suggesting that in the midst of chaos and destruction, art takes flight. 

One of the most fascinating and important American works to enter the collection last year has a global reach but local ties. This acquisition, discovered in a small auction house in suburban Boston, helped to advance Associate Curator of American Painting and Sculpture Mark Cole’s long-standing goal to diversify the museum’s holdings of American art. Indian Combat is a muscular marble sculpture made all the more intriguing by its maker: Edmonia Lewis was a Native American (Ojibwa) and African American woman who attended Oberlin College before moving her studio in 1866 to Rome, where she enjoyed both critical and financial success. Lewis’s most popular works were Native American subjects, and though her sculptures were acquired by Americans and Europeans alike, her work and her life suffered a period of critical and scholarly neglect. That, however, has changed. A dynamic and complex creation, Indian Combat is her masterpiece, carved from a single block of Carrara marble and featuring three figures intricately joined in seven places.

In the area of African art, a collection of 35 works of Congo sculpture from Belgian collectors René and Odette Delenne increases the museum’s African holdings by more than 10 percent, elevating the Central African collection to this country’s highest echelon. Acquired in late 2010 but not announced until last summer, the Delenne collection is the result of a congenial relationship developed between collector and curator, primarily due to the collectors’ admiration for the eye and scholarship of Curator of African Art Constantine Petridis. The Delennes collected Congolese art over the course of many years, owned a gallery in Brussels, and were knowledgeable students of artwork produced in Central Africa. Despite their reputation as collectors, very few works from their collection had ever been exhibited or published. In contact with Odette since 2001, Petridis says of the artworks: “Like any other great collection, it speaks of the personality and vision of the individuals who with patience and passion built and cherished it over many years. The Delennes were sincerely interested in the messages and meanings that lie behind the objects’ surfaces and appearances.” The collection will receive its own exhibition at the museum late next year.

Another African work that entered the collection is a horizontal helmet mask from the Bamana people of Mali. Combining animal (primarily hyena) and human traits, the mask is covered in a crusty organic substance thought to be sacrificial materials mixed with human spit and dirt—a patina that is the hallmark of two powerful men’s groups. Used in ritual masquerades, the mask would be one element of an elaborate disguise that covers its wearer’s identity.

Of the six new paintings in the European Painting and Sculpture department (1500–1800), four are portraits—and one of those is a portrait miniature, a small likeness made mostly for private use that passed out of favor when photography was born. The museum possesses one of the most significant collections of Continental and British miniatures anywhere, remarkable for its quality rather than size. Portrait of a Woman (about 1775) is a striking and unusual likeness painted by the somewhat mysterious British artist simply named “V.” Its uncompromising frankness and unexpected manner of painting (using saturated color only for the woman’s purple dress) demonstrate a unique and significant voice in late 18th-century British portraiture from an artist who was willing to move away from the period’s conventions of miniature painting.

Dating from the very early 1600s is the miniature Madonna and Child in Glory painted by French artist Isaac Oliver I, who became one of the most significant practitioners of miniature painting in the history of the medium, and a key artistic figure in the Jacobean period. This wholly unique work of art by a major practitioner is a welcome addition, purchased directly from the seller when the work was overlooked at an auction. It stands as a prime example of the museum buying against the market to enhance an area of distinction within the collection.

 

Colossal Head of Deva

Colossal Head of Deva Cambodia, Bayon style, 1177–1230. Buff sandstone; 71.3 x 50 x 47 cm. Gift of Maxeen and John Flower in honor of Dr. Stanislaw Czuma 2011.147

 

In the fall of 2011, the museum mounted an unusual exhibition in which the works selected were bound together not by theme or time period or genre, but solely by their connection to a single collector and donor. Organized by Curator of Prints Jane Glaubinger, A Passion for Prints: The John Bonebrake Donation celebrated the omnivorous collecting history of John Bonebrake, who began collecting prints in the 1960s and transformed his home into a veritable gallery of works on paper from the 1700s to the present day. The longtime friendship between Glaubinger and Bonebrake was a key factor in bringing selections from his collection of more than 1,000 works on paper to the museum after his death in early 2011. Thanks to the strength of the relationship that developed between curator and collector, the museum was able to augment its existing collections by choosing the best impressions from among the works Bonebrake assembled over a lifetime of collecting.

Among the many new prints to enter the collection as purchases in 2011 is a lithograph by French painter Théodore Géricault, Boxers (1818). Using the relatively new medium of lithography, Géricault had the freedom to experiment without inhibition, working the stone like a drawing to create effects impossible to achieve in other printing techniques such as engraving. Boxers was Géricault’s first portrayal of a black man, a subject the artist pursued as slavery emerged as one of the most burning moral and political issues of his lifetime. This is a fine impression of a very rare print, demonstrating the value of purchases made from well-connected dealers, and an important addition to the museum’s excellent collection of early lithography.

Two woodcuts, made three and a half centuries apart, allow for an interesting examination of the evolution of this technique. Mystery surrounds Italian artist Giuseppe Scolari, including much of his biography. Active about 1592 to 1607, Scolari was once celebrated for his paintings and frescoes, none of which survive today. He is now known for only nine woodcuts that have earned him a reputation as one of the technique’s virtuoso practitioners. The museum’s acquisition of Scolari’s Ecce Homo is a coup; the print is extremely rare and in fine condition. Scolari’s style is refined and elegant. The use of rich, sinuous strokes allowed the artist to achieve a fluidity and expressive force previously unknown in the woodcut medium. The composition, with some areas delineated by white lines on a black field, reveals his brilliant use of the cutter’s tools. Three hundred and fifty years later, American artist Judith Rothschild used white lines in her woodcuts in a very different way: the “white-line” technique made famous by Blanche Lazzell. Rothschild’s bold, energetic Untitled (Composition) of about 1955 makes unusual use of this technique for a geometric composition.

An early 19th-century settee by British designer Thomas Hope made an important addition to the museum’s English furniture collection in 2011. Created for Hope’s mansion in London, this neoclassical piece with an entirely gilded surface is an elegant example of “authentic” Grecian design and reflects the museum’s interest in creating links across its various collections. Indeed, the decoration of the arms echoes the treatment of Greek bronze vessels in the ancient galleries. Born in Amsterdam to a wealthy Dutch family, Hope settled in England around 1796 and became an influential designer of great vision. His 1807 publication Household Furniture and Interior Decoration was the style bible of its time. The museum also acquired an ensemble of glass table pieces by French glass master René Lalique. This work was offered to Curator of Decorative Arts Stephen Harrison thanks to the relationship he cultivated with the private collector, who served as a principal lender to the museum’s Artistic Luxury exhibition.

 

Bag with Human Head

Vessel with Litter Group

Bag with Human Head 600–1000. Andes, Wari people, Middle Horizon. Hide, pigment, human hair, coca leaf; 26.7 x 23.2 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2011.35

Vessel with Litter Group 600–1000. Andes, Wari people, Middle Horizon. Ceramic, slip; 28 x 16 x 14 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2011.36

 

A vessel from a very different place and time—the Andes of the first millennium—also came into the collection this year, in this case through auction. A rare ceramic work created by the Andean people called the Wari, the Vessel with Litter Group joins the unique and riveting Bag with Human Head as artifacts from a nearly lost civilization. The Wari people forged a cosmopolitan center that many now regard as one of the Western Hemisphere’s first empires, and are the subject of the traveling exhibition Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, conceived by Curator of Pre-Columbian and Native North American Art Sue Bergh and opening in the fall. Also from Peru but from a different time and culture, an impressive Tunic and Band from the Chimú or Chimú-Inka people gives a boost to our small but growing collection of art of the ancient Americas. The source in this instance was a private collector who sold the work directly to the museum.

Unlike the hand-woven tunic from the Andes, a new contemporary textile was woven on a computerized loom. Smoke, by American artist Pae White, is a large-scale wall hanging featuring magnified plumes of smoke that curl mysteriously in varied directions. Woven in three sections, the pieces were sewn together later, appearing to be one whole cloth. In a category of its own, this work was commissioned directly from the artist.

 

Smoke

Smoke 2011. Pae White (American, born 1963). Computerized loom fabric, cotton and polyester; 438.8 cm x 874.4 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Trust 2011.203

 

Among the many gifts and acquisitions in the Photography department are images by American artist Karl F. Struss, a pioneer in pictorial photography as well as a noted Hollywood cinematographer who worked on films directed by D. W. Griffith, F. W. Murnau, and others. One image, titled Costumed Dancer (1917), was made with the relatively rare Hess-Ives process, a three-color printing process invented by Frederick E. Ives in 1910. Also from 1917 are two Struss images from his “Female Figure” series, both untitled nudes. The Struss images are a generous gift from Dr. Stephen Nicholas.

Longtime Curator of Photography Tom Hinson retired in 2010, prompting a small museum’s worth of gifts in his honor, including a generous series of photographs by American photographer Nicholas Nixon, whose stark and personal images of his hometown of Boston—its environs and especially its marginalized people—are some of the finest social documentary images in our collection. The Nixon images are a gift by CMA trustee Mark Schwartz and his wife, Bettina Katz. Other gifts in honor of Hinson include the haunting photograph Little Blue Tree (2006) by area artist Barry Underwood and Meredith on the Couch (1987) by Canadian artist Nigel Scott, presented by Joanne and Margaret Cohen.

Curator of Photography Barbara Tannenbaum joined the staff in August 2011, and her arrival marked the advent of major gifts directed to the museum thanks to long-standing connections with major dealers and collectors of the medium. Cleveland native and national news commentator George Stephanopoulos gifted the museum an eclectic series of photographs by American photographers Ilse Bing, Joel Meyerowitz, Roger Minick, and Patrick Nagatani; Czech photographer Josef Sudek; and French photographer Pierre Edouard Léopold Verger. A group of 30 gelatin silver prints by American artist Danny Lyon is especially moving. Titled “The Destruction of Lower Manhattan” series, it was shot by Lyon in 1966–67 just as much of lower Manhattan was being cleared for new construction, primarily the World Trade Center. Nineteenth-century buildings, entire streets, and historical blocks of early Manhattan were demolished, and were all caught by Lyon just before their demise.

 

Early Spring (Peeling Bark in Rain)

Early Spring (Peeling Bark in Rain) 2008. Laura McPhee (American, born 1958). Inkjet print mounted to aluminum; each 155.1 x 197.8 cm. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred M. Rankin Jr. 2011.218.1–2

 

In a completely different vein is a large-scale digital inkjet print mounted on aluminum—Early Spring (Peeling Bark in Rain)—made in 2008 by American photographer Laura McPhee. A gift from CMA trustee Alfred M. Rankin Jr. and his wife, Viki, the work is a vibrant nature study of a burned stand of trees wet from the rain.

Also inspired by nature are several new drawings acquired by Curator of Drawings Heather Lemonedes, including The Aqueducts of Caserta (1789) by German artist Carl Ludwig Hackert, who inscribed his drawing “painted from nature.” Carl Ludwig, along with his more famous brother, Jakob Philipp Hackert, were among the first Romantic artists to adopt the practice of working en plein air in Rome. A gouache with graphite underdrawing, The Aqueducts of Caserta records a contemporary architectural achievement as it simultaneously evokes classical antiquity.

For anyone on the Grand Tour of Europe in the 19th century, Tivoli in Italy was a de rigueur stop. In 1859 British artist William Callow captured this timeless place in a watercolor titled The Temple of Vesta and the Falls at Tivoli. One of England’s most talented watercolorists, Callow retained a traditional approach to watercolor into old age, making him the last surviving link to Turner and Constable and the great age of English landscape painting. This large watercolor is in excellent condition, its color fresh and unfaded.

An important entry into the drawings collection from Papal Rome around 1600 is The Verification of the True Cross by Filippo Bellini. Born in Urbino around 1550, Bellini is known to have decorated numerous churches with altarpieces and frescoes, and yet until now his work has been neglected by art historians, partly because he worked in the “unfashionable” period between the Renaissance and Baroque, an epoch that is slowly being reassessed. The drawing depicts the relatively rare subject from the Legend of the True Cross in which a man is raised from the dead through contact with the wood. It was likely intended for one of the monumental and complex fresco cycles typical of the Counter-Reformation period.

A notable medieval sculpture, Reliquary Bust of Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, was given to the museum by area collector Albert van Stolk. Dating from the late 1300s to early 1400s, the bust is from Tuscany, possibly Siena, and made of painted wood, gesso, and gilding. Surprisingly, this work spent much of its recent life in South Euclid, Ohio, and will take its place in the late medieval galleries opening at the end of this year.

 

Portico Clock

Portico Clock c. 1780–90. French. Marble, gilt-bronze, glass; 70.5 x 58 x 20.5 cm. Gift of Harvey Buchanan in memory of Penelope Draper Buchanan and Dorothy Tuckerman Draper 2011.204

 

Jumping 600 years ahead, an iconic Dada and Surrealist work by Man Ray, Cadeau (Gift), pulls us into the modern age. Created in 1963, after a lost original of 1921, Cadeau is fully in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp: a painted hand iron mounted on a wood base and sporting a row of 14 tacks glued to the iron’s face. Man Ray made the original version for the opening of his first solo exhibition in Paris. According to the artist, he left the exhibition to have a drink with composer Erik Satie. On their way back to the gallery Man Ray spied a hand iron in a hardware store and purchased it along with tacks and glue. With Satie’s assistance, he assembled the object in the gallery and offered it as a gift that might be raffled off to a random visitor. The first version was never found again, but Man Ray recreated it 40 years later. Cadeau perfectly fulfills the Surrealist aim of tapping into the subconscious world of dreams and irrational desire. Such objects, said the artist, were “designed to amuse, annoy, bewilder, mystify, [and] inspire reflection.”

The culmination of innumerable factors—timing, relationships, expertise, a little luck—marked the newest works in the museum’s collection last year. Particularly important are the gifts from private collectors, without whom this museum could not have been born, and whose philanthropic spirit ensures its ongoing vitality.

 

 

 

Round Box with Decoration of Two Birds and Peonies

Round Box with Decoration of Two Birds and Peonies late 1200s. China, late Southern Song or early Yuan dynasty. Carved lacquer; 21 x 40.6 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2011.34.a–b

This extremely rare and precious carved lacquer box from the Song or early Yuan period is arguably one of the most monumental and significant examples of the type. It exhibits extremely fine craftsmanship. To allow for the depth of carving, numerous layers of different colored lacquer were applied to a core of wood. Each layer was allowed to set before the next was applied; constructing the lacquered body took a long time before the carving could begin.

Carved on the lid with two birds in flight against a floral ground and a band of spiral scrolls, the box is a bold manifestation of the naturalistic and abstract approaches to carved lacquer decoration. The lively depiction of the subjects combined with the sinuous scrolls expresses the flux and freedom of nature. Always a valuable product in Chinese material culture, lacquer ware was often used as a precious gift in diplomatic, religious, and economic exchanges with other countries—for example, Japan, where this box was long preserved.

 

The Verification of the True Cross

The Verification of the True Cross c. 1590. Filippo Bellini (Italian, c. 1550–1603). Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over graphite; 28.6 x 19.7 cm. Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 2011.197

Born in Urbino around 1550, Filippo Bellini was active in the Marches region of Italy, decorating numerous churches with altarpieces and fresco cycles in the canonical spirit of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. The relatively inaccessible nature of Bellini’s production accounts for his undeserved neglect among art historians.

This drawing belongs to the artist’s earlier, more extravagant, extreme style, which was gradually tempered by around 1600. Typical of Bellini’s work is the steeply receding, convoluted design with large figures cut off in the foreground and the principal drama unfolding in the upper middle ground. The tight, wiry handling and brisk execution are entirely characteristic of his graphic style. Emotion is heightened, if rhetorically presented, with dramatic outward gestures and surprised facial expressions. The low viewpoint indicates it is to be seen from far below.

The drawing appears to depict the relatively rare subject of the Verification of the True Cross (from the Legend of the True Cross) with the raising of a man from the dead through contact with the wood. Likely it was intended for one of the monumental and complex fresco cycles typical of the Counter-Reformation period. 

 

The Temple of Vesta and the Falls at Tivoli

The Temple of Vesta and the Falls at Tivoli 1859. William Callow (British, 1812–1908). Watercolor over graphite, heightened with gouache; 75.1 x 57.8 cm. Sundry Purchase Fund 2011.4

William Callow had a long career. One of the most talented watercolorists in 19th-century England, he apprenticed to a famed English watercolorist, learned the trade of engraving, and at 17 went to Paris as a professional printmaker. By 1834, Callow was exhibiting watercolors at the Salon and had built a thriving teaching practice among the French nobility, including the family of King Louis-Philippe. During this period Callow began a series of walking and sketching tours, traveling all over Europe throughout the 1830s and ’40s, and filling sketchbooks with motifs to which he referred throughout his career. 

This watercolor is based on sketches made on the spot when Callow visited Italy in 1840. A beloved site for centuries for those on the Grand Tour, Tivoli provided a model for many features in English landscape gardens, and thus would have particularly resonated with an English audience. Callow retained a traditional approach to watercolor into old age, making him the last surviving link to Turner and Constable and the great age of English landscape painting. 

Callow’s technique of laying thin washes of bright color over graphite underdrawing exploits the whiteness of the paper to provide a glittering effect. This large watercolor is in excellent condition, its color fresh and unfaded. 

 

The Aqueducts of Caserta (Les Aqueducs de Caserta)

The Aqueducts of Caserta (Les Aqueducs de Caserta) 1789. Carl Ludwig Hackert (German, 1751–1798). Gouache with graphite underdrawing on laid paper on board; 42.3 x 64.1 cm. Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund, acquired in honor of Alfred M. Rankin Jr. in recognition of his service as President of the Board of Trustees of the Cleveland Museum of Art (2006–2011) 

Carl Ludwig Hackert, brother of the most celebrated German landscape artist of the 18th century, attempted to forge an independent career, specializing in gouache. Carl Ludwig and his brother, Jakob Philipp Hackert, were among the first Romantic artists to adopt the practice of working en plein air in Rome. In his biography of Jakob Philipp, Goethe praised the brothers: “The French pensionnaires were all amazed when they saw the two Hackerts roaming the countryside with large portfolios, executing finished outline drawings in pen and ink, or, indeed, highly finished watercolors and even paintings entirely from nature.”

That The Aqueducts of Caserta was intended as an accurate view of the site is confirmed by the drawing’s inscription “painted from nature.” The aqueduct—part of a 38-kilometer water system that funneled water to the palace and park of Caserta—is 529 meters long and 56 meters high, comprising three stacked rows of arches. Hackert’s gouache records a contemporary architectural feat as it simultaneously evokes classical antiquity.

The degree of finish, meticulous detail of the vegetation and rocks in the foreground, and recession of space and treatment of light in the drawing are astonishing. For German artists of the period, painstaking attention to the smallest aspects of the natural world was a way of paying homage to the creations of God. The Aqueducts embodies the Romantic vision of nature as the gateway to spiritual knowledge. Such highly finished drawings by the artist are extremely rare; no examples can be found in U.S. collections, and very few in Europe.  Ultimately, Carl Ludwig did not find a receptive audience for his work in his lifetime, and, apparently suffering from his lack of success, he committed suicide in 1798.

  

Black Heads

Black Heads 2010. Dexter Davis (American, born 1965).Collage made with printed material: black and white woodcuts, etching and aquatint, stencil, Xerox, bull’s-eye target; direct applications of media: charcoal, marker, crayon, pastel, gesso, water-based paint; and found objects: jigsaw puzzle pieces, a penny, on a heavyweight machine-made Lenox paper; 126.5 x 96.6 cm. Dudley P. Allen Fund 2011.38

A collage with a wide variety of materials, Black Heads belongs to Cleveland artist Dexter Davis’s recent series “Monsters and Ghosts,” which addresses physical and psychological conflict in personal and universal dimensions, ranging from family struggle to urban street violence and global combat. In this complex image, a monster with a rifle target for an eye and multiple rows of bared teeth confronts the viewer, its gaping mouth emblematic of that which is inescapable. Puzzle pieces refer to things put together, echoing the medium of the collage, while Davis’s own palm is printed over one of the grasping hands being swallowed by the monster. The top of the collage is framed by a fragment of Carroll Cassill’s etching and aquatint Icarus (1958), salvaged from a studio fire. In homage to his teacher, Davis incorporated the remains of Icarusinto his own composition, suggesting that in the midst of chaos and destruction, art takes flight.

 

Indian Combat

Indian Combat (detail) 1868. Edmonia Lewis (American, 1842–1907).Marble; 76.2 x 48.3 x 36.5 cm. American Painting and Sculpture Sundry Purchase Fund and Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2011.110

A neoclassical sculptor working in Rome during the mid 19th century, Edmonia Lewis earned great renown for her highly skilled marble carvings tackling an unusually wide range of subject matter. Her studio became an important destination for scores of wealthy Americans and Europeans on their Grand Tours, many of whom became patrons. 

She holds the distinction of being the first American sculptor of color to achieve international acclaim; even today her works remain spread across collections in a number of countries including the United States, England, Scotland, and Germany. After a protracted period of critical and scholarly neglect, Lewis’s work has been recognized anew in the past two decades for its quality as well as its important contributions to both American and European art history.

Lewis studied at Oberlin College and apprenticed with a sculptor in Boston before relocating to Rome in 1866. Of Native American (Ojibwa) and African American ancestry, Lewis’s most popular works were Native American subjects. Indian Combat, a recent discovery, ranks as her most dynamic and complex creation; it is her masterpiece. 

A spiraling composition with three intertwined figures, Indian Combat is notable for the action and grace of its combatants, and for the fine variations in the surface textures Lewis used to evoke animal fur, beaded moccasins, animal claw necklaces, and hair. Although Lewis’s Native American subjects typically exist in multiple versions, this example appears to be unique. 

 

Female Torso (Tara)

Female Torso (Tara) 1000s. Eastern India, Pala period. Black chlorite; 89 x 44 x 19 cm. Gift of Maxeen and John Flower in honor of Dr. Stanislaw Czuma 2011.146

This voluptuous female torso probably represents Tara, a revered Buddhist deity. Originally a Hindu goddess, she became the embodiment of wisdom and compassion in Buddhism. Like all female representations in Indian art, she is the great mother—the source of all creation. Clothed in a diaphanous top and skirt that reveal the body underneath, she is adorned with rich jewels and her hips sway gracefully.

The sculpture represents the mature Pala style, which flourished in Eastern India, the original homeland of the Buddhist religion. The contrast between the crisp, “metallic” rendering of the rich jewelry and the softness of the flesh is characteristic of Pala images. The sculpture illustrates the high point of these endeavors and dates from about the 11th century. Such figures would have been placed in an architectural niche and were meant to be seen from the front (thus the back is not worked out carefully), yet it gives the impression of a sculpture-in-the-round. The three-dimensional sense of the Indian artist is evident here in the carving’s depth and plasticity.

 

Bacon’s Not the Only Thing That Is Cured by Hanging from a String

Bacon’s Not the Only Thing That Is Cured by Hanging from a String 2011. Geoffrey Farmer (Canadian, born 1967). Printed material, wood, metal, paint, archival tape, foam, fabric, computer-programmed LEDs; post 1: 245.1 x 45.7 x 58.4 cm; post 2: 245.1 x 45.7 x 45.7 cm.Sundry Art–Contemporary Fund 2011.33

Geoffrey Farmer is one of the most important artists working today in North America, and his inclusion in the collection satisfies part of the museum’s goal of collecting contemporary art. Farmer generally creates sculptural installations with found objects that suggest a narrative or a situation through unexpected sound, mechanized moving elements, and light effects. 

Bacon’s Not the Only Thing relates to the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder—the influential German filmmaker—especially the film In the Year of Thirteen Moons. The work’s unusual title is taken from a poem by Hugh Kingsmill, which is a parody of a poem by A. E. Housman. The title also refers to photography, as evidenced in Susan Sontag’s popular book On Photography: to hang something is to make it visible.

In this piece, cut-out images from vintage issues of Life magazine dangle, “curing” in a darkroom, inviting open-ended metaphors and narratives in the interplay with other found objects. In addition, the work’s subtle light effects emphasize another aspect of the medium of sculpture—its inherent theatrical nature. Illuminated lamp posts evoke an urban street corner where people connect, imagined here in an intimate and magical nocturnal moment.

 

Boxers

Boxers 1818. Théodore Géricault (French, 1791–1824). Lithograph; 35.2 x 41.8 cm. Dudley P. Allen Fund 2011.194

Boxers—a fine impression of a very rare print—was Géricault’s first portrayal of a black man, a subject extremely important to the artist since slavery was a burning moral and political issue throughout the early 19th century. To Géricault the struggle of the blacks reflected the struggle of all men for freedom.

Although Géricault may have considered printmaking a commercial venture, it also allowed him the freedom to experiment and to explore a medium with a lack of inhibition he never experienced with painting. He succeeded with lithography because it was a new technique without a history against which one could be measured. As a sporting subject, Boxers was probably topical. The antagonists might be the English champion Thomas Cribb and Thomas Molineaux, the African American who was defeated by Cribb in 1810 and 1811. Or the artist might have been thinking about a fight where the 55-year-old black boxer Bill Richmond beat the 29-year-old Jack Carter outside an ale house in 1818. 

 

Settee

Settee c. 1802–07. Designer: Thomas Hope (British, 1769–1831); unknown maker (London). Gilt-wood, reproduction wool upholstery; 102.2 x 113 x 71.1 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2011.3

An art collector, designer, and champion of neoclassical style, Thomas Hope designed this armchair for display in his grandiose London mansion. With its carved motifs of friezes, floral forms, a centered triangular pediment, and a gilded surface, the settee, as Hope termed it, exemplifies the continued interest in neoclassicism at the turn of the 19th century. Hope believed it was his duty to heighten the tastes of his designer colleagues, and in 1807 he published Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, detailing his interior design methodology. It featured themed rooms and furnishings from his own house, including this settee. 

  

Portrait of a Woman

Portrait of a Woman c. 1775. The Artist “V” (British, active 1770–85). Watercolor on ivory, in a gold pendant frame; 4.1 x 3.5 cm. L. E. Holden Fund 2011.39 

With disquieting bluntness, this bust-length portrait presents an unidentified woman before a plain, greenish brown background. The artist, as yet known only from his or her initial, “V,” used to sign some portraits (although not this work), employs an atypical monochrome technique for the sitter’s face, hair, and body, using saturated color only for the purple dress. The miniature is housed in a gold locket with three unidentified Chinese marks on the back. Above all, the work is a striking and unusual likeness. Its uncompromising frankness and unexpected manner of painting demonstrate a unique and significant voice in late 18th-century British portraiture by an artist who was willing to move away from the conventions of miniature painting in the period.

  

Animal Studies: Two Silver Herons

Animal Studies: Two Silver Herons 1898. Theo van Hoytema (Dutch, 1863–1917). Embossed lithograph; 70.1 x 47.4 cm. Purchase from the Karl B. Goldfield Trust 2011.200

A master printmaker, Theo van Hoytema achieved fame during his lifetime as a book illustrator, painter, and printmaker. In 1897 he made frequent trips to Amsterdam to study the animals in the city’s zoo. Two Silver Herons displays a love of nature and tremendous technical skill. The two white herons are silhouetted against a beautifully drawn background of plants printed in a medium gray. Inkless embossing subtly defines their feathers. To achieve this effect Hoytema scratched lines on the lithograph stone which then printed as lines in relief. The result is a three-dimensional texture of the birds’ plumage. The idea of silhouetting the subject and using inkless embossing is derived from Japanese woodcuts, which the artist studied carefully. 

 

Madonna and Child in Glory

Madonna and Child in Glory c. 1605–17. Isaac Oliver I (French, active England, 1556–1617). Gouache and watercolor, heightened with gum arabic, within gold framing lines, on vellum laid down on panel; 27.6 x 20.5 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2011.2

Isaac Oliver was one of the most significant practitioners of miniature painting in the history of the medium. Best known for his court portraits, he was also an accomplished draftsman who executed complex religious, mythological, and allegorical compositions. 

Madonna and Child in Glory represents a rare aspect of Oliver’s practice and demonstrates his complex and refined manner of painting; it is difficult to overstate the singularity of this work in 17th-century England. It presents a familiar Christian subject, but in a wholly unique way. Enthroned in heaven, the Madonna and child rest within billowing clouds leading back to a radiant yellow light. The Christ child offers a benediction with one hand while holding an orb in the other, alluding to the iconography of Salvator Mundi (the savior of the world). 

The CMA possesses one of the most significant collections of Continental and British miniatures anywhere, remarkable for its quality rather than size. It also owns a major portrait miniature by Oliver and two works attributed to his studio and circle. This wholly unique work of art by a major practitioner is a welcome addition.

 

Untitled (Composition)

Untitled (Composition)
 c. 1955. Judith Rothschild (American, 1921–1993). Woodcut; 24.3 x 24 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2011.201

At the outbreak of World War I many American artists living and working in Paris returned to the United States and settled in Provincetown, Massachusetts, then an inexpensive picturesque fishing village. Several of the artists made color woodcuts, and one of them, Bror Nordfeldt, developed a new technique—using one block for different colors. A groove was cut around each area of color so that when printed, the groove became a white line (the white of the paper). The blocks were printed by hand with watercolor.

The white-line or Provincetown technique was used by many artists, the most famous being Blanche Lazzell. This example by Judith Rothschild, who learned the technique from Lazzell on a trip to Provincetown in 1946, represents a very unusual use of the white-line technique to print a geometric composition. 

Rothschild’s work in the late 1940s and ’50s reflects her teacher Hans Hofmann’s ideas about activating a flat surface through contrasts of color, placement, and edge. With its bright colors and curving lines and circles, this woodcut has a lively pulsating rhythm that mimics movement and change in nature. 

  

The Brooklyn Bridge Site Seen from the Roof of the Beekman Hospital

The Brooklyn Bridge Site Seen from the Roof of the Beekman Hospital, from “The Destruction of Lower Manhattan” series 1966–67 (printed 2007). Danny Lyon(American,born 1942). Gelatin silver prints;various dimensions.Gift of George Stephanopoulos2011.236–265 

Forty-four years before September 11, 2001, dozens of acres of mostly 19th-century buildings were demolished in lower Manhattan to make way for the new World Trade Center and other development. Self-taught photographer Danny Lyon was there, documenting, recording, remembering. Published later in a book titled The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, the photographs are haunting black-and-white scenes of corner stores, curbs, doorways, and buildings that no longer exist. “Its last few occupying tenants were being evicted, and no place like it would ever be built again,” said Lyon. “The streets involved were among the oldest in New York.” 

 

Cadeau (Gift)

Cadeau (Gift) 1963, after lost original of 1921. Man Ray (American, 1890–1976). Painted hand iron, 14 tacks, wood base, 15.3 x 9 x 11.4 cm. Delia E. Holden Fund 2011.198

Cadeau, one of the most iconic works of the Dada and Surrealist movements, embodies the avant-garde volcano of art that erupted in 1916 in reaction to the chaos, destruction, and mass slaughter of World War I. Man Ray and his close friend Marcel Duchamp emerged as early leaders of the Dada movement in New York and Paris. Their strange, disturbing objects—expressing an ardent desire for absolute liberty or freedom of thought and action—were key inspirations behind the founding of the Surrealist movement in 1924. Cadeau perfectly fulfills the Surrealist aim of tapping into the subconscious world of dreams and irrational desire.

By gluing a row of tacks to the face of a hand iron, Man Ray transformed a common household tool into a nightmarish object. Deprived of its functionality and associations with domestic life, this perverse iron assumes disturbing associations with the world of irrational violence and sexual desire. Its antiart, antisocial nature completely contradicts the benign nature of a “gift.” Man Ray commented that such objects were “designed to amuse, annoy, bewilder, mystify, inspire reflection, but not to arouse admiration for any technical excellence usually sought or valued in objects classified as works of art.” 

 

Merging Emerging

Merging Emerging 2010. Audra Skuodas (American, born Lithuania, 1940). Acrylic on canvas; 182.8 x 152.4 cm. Dorothea Wright Hamilton Fund 2011.113 

Audra Skuodas’s prolific output in painting, drawing, and artist’s books is familiar to local and national audiences through numerous exhibitions over the past four decades. Skuodas embraces an array of influences—from Conceptual Art to children’s books to religion—evoking the often ambiguous sensibility of the Symbolist artists at the turn of the 19th century. Merging Emerging is an example of the artist’s highest achievement, a distillation of her indefatigable research throughout the years. 

In this painting Skuodas first traced a grid in light graphite over prepared canvas. She then drew within the grid with color pastel. This configuration was painted over with a thin layer of pale yellow acrylic, which allowed the underlying drawing to be retraced in paint. The unexpected palette, transparent surface, hand-scored geometry, and symbolic space confer upon this work a unique expressive quality. 

Born in Lithuania, Skuodas has lived in Oberlin, Ohio, since 1972. By acquiring this painting, the museum continues its tradition of collecting work of distinguished significance by local artists.

 

Stairs

Stairs 2010. Monika Sosnowska (Polish, born 1972). Steel, paint; 294.6 x 165.1 x 88.9 cm. Gift of Scott C. Mueller and Margaret Fulton Mueller and Sundry Art–Contemporary Fund 2011.1

Polish-born artist Monika Sosnowska is an active interpreter of Modernism’s utopian ideals, whose examples in Eastern Europe, however, are now in ruins. Having matured during the years when Communism declined and societies passed into a post–cold war mindset, Sosnowska has taken an active part in this transition; her generation of Polish artists has tested taboos, examined social anxieties, and created a climate of openness in Poland.

Stairs was made during the artist’s first residency in the United States. It is not a ready-made but an actual sculpture and an exact copy of a component of fire-escape stairs, made with the assistance of metal fabricators. The newly rendered stairs were carefully bent with the use of forklifts, then painted with enamel oil-base paint, giving it the surreal look of a beautiful yet useless object. The artist further transformed the work by hanging the sculpture on a wall where, notwithstanding its weight and factual creation, it can be read as a drawing, a cross, an oversized insect, and more. Stairs emphasizes architecture itself, by using an image of an accessory that is usually ignored and yet is functional and lives in plain sight. 

 


Cleveland Art, March/April 2012