Cleveland Museum of Art Announces New Acquisitions
CLEVELAND (March 22, 2016) – Recent acquisitions by the Cleveland Museum of Art include two color woodcuts by American Modernist printmaker Arthur Wesley Dow, one a purchase and the other a gift of the artist’s estate; four woodcuts by Raoul Dufy; the largest color etching by Surrealist painter and printmaker Yves Tanguy; an oil painting by Los Angeles-based, contemporary artist Jon Pestoni; a watercolor by Robert J. Pattison; and a gift of forty-one photographs by Ben Shahn.
First Museum Acquisition for Contemporary Artist
Jon Pestoni, an artist based in Los Angeles, has been painting for the past two decades. In recent years he has emerged as a unique voice within the world of contemporary abstract painting. Replica is one of the artist’s most vivid and iconic artworks. The painting features many intriguing dualities: abstraction and figuration seem entwined in the work, and precise brushwork emerges from under seemingly haphazard brushstrokes. Replica has a pristinely smooth surface despite its dozens of layers of paint.
Unlike many contemporary abstract painters who aim to destroy or deconstruct painting, Pestoni consistently honors the longstanding traditions of oil painting within his compelling abstract paintings. His techniques include painting drybrush—a mostly dried-out paint brush applied to an already dried ground, the mixing of cold wax into oil paint to produce a unified sheen across the painting’s surface, and sanding down each layer of paint before painting the next layer.
Replica adds a bold and singular painting to the museum’s collection of contemporary art. Augmenting the holdings of the art of our time—roughly from 2000 onward—is one of the museum’s priorities, illustrating a dedication to collecting art that reflects our current day and age. Replica joins other recent acquisitions such as works by Rachel Harrison and Sarah Sze that poignantly express contemporary life through unconventional means. Replica is the first museum acquisition for the artist; the painting will be included in the upcoming exhibition organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art at the Transformer Station: Jon Pestoni: Some Years, April 23 through July 10, 2016.
Rare Watercolor by American Pre-Raphaelite Robert J. Pattison
Mountain View, the first American Pre-Raphaelite landscape to enter the museum’s collection, is a highly finished watercolor in superb condition by the American Pre-Raphaelite Robert J. Pattison. Pattison was a member of the Association for the Advancement for Truth in Art, a group organized with the intention of initiating a reform in American art based on John Ruskin’s principles of truth to nature. Pattison was mentored by the English ex-patriot Thomas Charles Farrer (1839–1891), who studied at the Working Men’s College in London from 1854–58, where Ruskin taught elementary classes and landscape painting. Philosophically, Ruskin and his American followers were well matched. Ruskin’s linking of art, nature, and morality found a receptive audience in America, where mid-century Transcendentalism encouraged reverence for nature and the conviction that good art revealed both divine order and human ethics.
Pattison’s debt to the British Pre-Raphaelites is evident in the intense plein-air observation and meticulous application of paint with which he described the evergreens, rocks, and pink blossoms in the foreground of Mountain View. Pattison exhibited View of the White Mountains and Androscoggin Valley at the Artist’s Fund Society in 1865, and White Mountains from Shelbourne at the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1867. This watercolor may be one of these two paintings, or it may be another composition focusing on the White Mountains.
The Long Road (Argilla Road) and The Old Bridge (Ipswich Bridge)
Color Woodcuts by American Modernist Borrows Japanese Printmaking Techniques
A leading figure in the Arts and Crafts revival, Arthur Wesley Dow was instrumental in reviving the color woodcut technique in America at the turn of the 20th century. Influenced by the flat, simplified compositions of Japanese color woodcuts, known as ukiyo-e, Dow favored the basic elements of Japanese design: line, form, color, and notan—the harmonious arrangement of dark and light.
Landscapes of the north shore of Boston and the picturesque fishing village of Ipswich became his subject matter. In his woodcuts, Dow recorded the changing effects of light shifting over the salt marshes. Unlike the Japanese, who printed uniform editions, Dow described varying atmospheric conditions by experimenting with color, making each impression unique.
Dow’s innovative approach to making color woodcuts is exemplified in The Long Road, a poetic evocation of a sunset. Equally interesting is The Old Bridge, which depicts Ipswich’s Choate Bridge, America’s first stone arch bridge, built in 1764. The tall, narrow format of The Old Bridge mimics the vertical format used in Japanese pillar prints, made to decorate wooden posts in Japanese homes. The purchase of The Long Road is accompanied by a gift from the artist’s estate of The Old Bridge, thus presenting a rare opportunity to add two woodcuts in pristine condition by an important American Modernist printmaker.
The Long Road or Argilla Road, about 1898. Arthur Wesley Dow (American, 1857–1922). Color woodcut on Japanese paper; image: 10.7 x 17.8 cm, sheet: 16 x 23.3 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund.
The Pleasures of Peace: Love; Fishing; Dance; Hunting
Four Large, Modernist Woodcuts by Fauvist Raoul Dufy
Raoul Dufy was member of a group of artists that included Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Maurice de Vlamnick, and André Derain, who were described by the critic Louis Vauxcelles as “Fauves” (wild beasts) in 1905 when they exhibited paintings remarkable for their bold brushwork and high-keyed, vibrant colors directly from the tube. Drawn to the woodcut’s expressive potential and its accessibility, several of the Fauves experimented with printmaking between 1904 and 1910.
Dufy in particular made great strides in reviving the medieval tradition of the woodcut. His imagery and approach were influenced by French popular prints of the 19th century, Images d’Epinal, cheaply produced and crudely colored woodcuts used as devotional images, calendars, and almanacs. Their simplicity appealed to Dufy as did the vigor of German Expressionist woodcuts, which he saw on a trip to Munich in the winter of 1909–10.
Dufy substituted the vivid colors in his Fauve paintings for bold contrasts and rich patterning in the four woodcuts that comprise the series The Pleasures of Peace. Ornamental forms of vegetation, decorative arabesques, and elegant figures describe a quintessentially modernist Arcadia that make full use of the woodcut’s expressive potential. The acquisition of The Pleasures of Peace adds four highly sophisticated woodcuts to the museum’s renowned print collection.
The Pleasure of Peace: Love, 1910. Raoul Dufy (French, 1877–1953). Woodcut; image: 30.5 x 31.3 cm, sheet: 45.5 x 57.9 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund.
The Pleasure of Peace: Fishing, 1910. Raoul Dufy (French, 1877–1953). Woodcut; image: 32 x 40.1 cm, sheet: 48.5 x 63.9 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund.
The Pleasure of Peace: Hunting, 1910. Raoul Dufy (French, 1877–1953). Woodcut; image; 21 x 64.3 cm, sheet: 54 x 73.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund.
Largest Print Created by Surrealist Yves Tanguy
The Surrealist painter and printmaker Yves Tanguy, was influenced by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who sought to expand awareness beyond the conscious to the subconscious realms of ideas, perception, and creative impulse. In his art, Tanguy conjured dreamlike forms that float in ambiguous, otherworldly expanses. His haunting, biomorphic forms were inspired by geological formations the artist saw on a trip to Africa in 1930, and by the megalithic sites of Brittany.
Throughout his career in France and New York, where he emigrated in 1937, Tanguy made 31 prints. Etched with impressive skill, the forms in Rhabdomancie are meticulously delineated. Although rhabdomancie means dowsing, or searching underground for water, Surrealist titles were not meant to explain content, but rather to create poetic allusion. The three figures in Tanguy’s print could be involved in the activity of searching, since chance encounters played an important role in the artist’s life and work.
The museum has one other important print by Tanguy, a small composition in black and white. Rhabdomancie is Tanguy’s largest print and an excellent example of his innovative use of color. The museum owns a few prints by other Surrealists such as René Magritte, André Masson, and Max Ernst, and this important acquisition augments this area of the print collection.
A Series of 41 Photographs by Ben Shahn
The important American Social Realist painter and printmaker Ben Shahn also had a significant career as a photographer in the 1930s. He had been practicing documentary and street photography for three years when, in 1935, he joined the Farm Security Administration as an artist, designer and photographer. Shahn joined his roommate Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and a select group of other photographers in surveying the impact of the Great Depression on the American people while forging a new American style of documentary photography.
The forty-one photographs being donated were made on assignment for the FSA to document the harvest in Central Ohio. Shahn shot with one of the new small cameras, a 35mm Leica. Most often he used a right-angle viewfinder, which meant that his subjects were not always aware they were being photographed, allowing him to capture people as they were rather than as they might want to be seen. His photographs constitute an invaluable, in-depth portrait of rural and small-town life that is of both historical and artistic importance.
In 1970, Shahn’s widow donated her husband’s collection of his own photographs to the Fogg Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which de-accessioned the duplicates. The duplicate prints were purchased by photography dealer Janet Lehr. A number of those are now owned by her son Samuel J. Lehr, who has donated this group of forty-one photographs to the Cleveland Museum of Art; he will give an additional fifty-nine photographs from the series in 2017–18. Ultimately, the Cleveland Museum of Art will be the only Midwest museum to own in-depth holdings of vintage prints of Shahn’s Ohio project.
Untitled, 1938. Ben Shahn (American, 1898–1969). Gelatin silver print; 16.2 x 24.3 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Samuel J. Lehr.
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