Heather Lemonedes Brown Virginia N. and Randall J. Barbato Deputy Director and Chief Curator
The Cleveland Museum of Art’s mission is to create transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever. The encyclopedic collection—ranging from the ancient world through today, representing art created in all corners of the globe—is central to our identity. Each year we add to our holdings, sometimes building on existing strengths, sometimes bringing the work of artists, eras, or movements that are new to the collection. In the pages that follow, the museum’s curators offer a glimpse at some of the most significant objects acquired over the past year, both by purchase and through the generosity of our donors.
It was an outstanding year for collecting in the area of Asian art, especially with the acquisition of two important paintings—one Chinese, the other Korean. Chinese artist Yuan Yao worked for private clients and at court during the Qianlong period in the 1700s. Paintings produced by the artist decorated the spacious residences of Yangzhou’s wealthy salt merchants. The monumental landscape painting on silk Road to Shu—one of the largest produced by the artist—depicts the trade of goods over long distances and through treacherous terrain. Although the CMA is celebrated worldwide for its holdings of Chinese paintings, until now the collection has not represented the work of this influential artist.
Equally impactful to the museum’s collection of Asian art was the acquisition of a 14th-century Korean painting created during the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392). Paintings from this period are exceedingly rare; only about 160 such examples are known to exist. The Fourth King of Hell is from a series of ten paintings depicting the ten Buddhist kings of hell. These paintings were utilized during Buddhist rituals and sermons to promote ethical behavior. To learn more about these extraordinary paintings, you will find articles by curator Clarissa von Spee and associate curator Sooa McCormick.
Two recently acquired European paintings will help the museum more fully relay the history of Western painting. Maso da San Friano’s Holy Family with the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine is among the best-preserved 16th-century panel paintings to come on the market in many years. A masterpiece of Late Mannerist painting, the work was once owned by Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini and descended through the artist’s family until 2018. The painting is on view in gallery 118. To learn more, read associate curator Cory Korkow’s article. The museum also acquired a French painting from the late 19th century: Louis Hayet’s Banks of the Oise at Dawn. The first Pointillist painting to enter the CMA’s collection, it features a tranquil river view created with a network of tiny, delicate strokes of color, as well as complementary color contrasts combined with gray tones. Curator William Robinson discusses the painting later in this article.
Portrait of Francesca Gommi, Wife of Carlo Maratti c. 1670s–80s. Carlo Maratti (Italian, 1625–1713). Red chalk; 38.7 x 25.7 cm. Dudley P. Allen Fund, 2019.74
A group of 17 drawings by Dutch and Flemish artists active in the 17th century were acquired last year; a couple are highlighted by curator Emily Peters in this issue. This acquisition—which includes portraits, landscapes, botanicals, and genre subjects—dramatically augments the museum’s collection of Northern European drawings from the Dutch Golden Age. Another significant acquisition in the area of drawings is a portrait by Carlo Maratti, the leading painter in Rome from the 1670s until his death in 1715. In a lively, spontaneous red chalk drawing, Maratti portrayed Francesa Gommi, the artist’s model and muse, and later his wife. The portrait—surely drawn from life—depicts the young Gommi with wide eyes, a heart-shaped face, a distinctive cleft chin, and luscious curls. The drawing joins a more formal painted portrait of Gommi, also by Maratti, acquired by the museum in 2018, which is on view in gallery 217.
It was a banner year for photographs in terms of gifts as well as purchases. Generous longtime patrons Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann gave the museum 13 photographs by modern American masters, including works by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Man Ray. Former CMA curator of ancient art Arielle Kozloff Brodkey gave a group of more than 50 photographs by European, American, and Asian artists in memory of her late husband. An important purchase was a group of five photographs from the body object series by Ann Hamilton, the most influential and widely recognized artist living in Ohio. These works depict the artist’s own body serving as a site of modification or replacement: for example, a shoe replaces her nose. Curator Barbara Tannenbaum discusses these additions to the collection.
The museum has acquired its first sound installation: Emeka Ogboh’s Ties That Bind, a multichannel electronic sound composition that was installed in the gallery for African art (108) from August through November. Please keep reading to learn more about Ties That Bind as well as new acquisitions in the areas of decorative arts, Pre-Columbian art, prints, and contemporary art. We invite you to visit the galleries to discover these acquisitions and to enjoy the new and compelling juxtapositions they create.
body object series #3 • Shoe 1984–88. Ann Hamilton (American, b. 1956). Gelatin silver print; 10.3 x 10.2 cm. The Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund, 2019.238. © Ann Hamilton
Clarissa von Spee Curator of Chinese Art
Road to Shu (detail), 1743. Yuan Yao (Chinese, active mid-1700s). Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk; overall: 266 x 275 cm. John L. Severance Fund, 2019.167
Landscapes have been the primary subject matter in classical Chinese painting since the 11th century. As images of the universe, these landscapes represent an ideal world in which humans live in harmony with nature under a government that received its mandate to rule from heaven. The landscape Road to Shu was created in 18th-century Yangzhou, the country’s center for the salt administration. Yangzhou salt merchants accumulated legendary wealth and were patrons of the arts. Most of them hailed from Anhui province, known for its spectacular mountain scenery.
Road to Shu depicts dramatically rising mountain masses and towering peaks divided by deep gorges. Bridges in dwindling heights cross from one slope to another. Busy travelers lead heavily laden mules over footbridges, and mountain paths wind along steep slopes. In the middle ground, travelers enjoy a rest at an inn. This painting portrays the route of trade goods over long distances and through treacherous mountain terrain. The figural scenes are lively and the confident brushwork is swiftly executed in sweeping, curling strokes. The balanced yet dramatic composition is the work of a mature, experienced professional master.
The painting’s title, Road to Shu, alludes to a Chinese historical drama: In 755 when the An Lushan rebellion broke out, emperor Xuanzong (reigned 712–756) fled by night to Sichuan (also called Shu). On the road to Shu, the emperor’s entourage strangled his consort Yang, as she had been accused of causing the rebellion. The love story between the emperor and his beautiful consort and her tragic death became popular in painting, poetry, and drama.
Paintings from the Yuan family studios, named after their masters Yuan Jiang and Yuan Yao, often adorned the spacious residences of Yangzhou salt merchants. Painted on a single stretch of silk, Road to Shu is among the largest extant works by the Yuan studios. Late 17th-century Yangzhou artist Shitao once complained about the toil of painting a continuous composition in large scale: “If someone wants a continuous screen, it means standing on a scaffold or a bench, stretching my arm and craning my neck to reach the [top of the] painting, up and down, always moving about or standing.” Road to Shu is a pivotal work that highlights a final culmination in premodern landscape painting. This acquisition fills a crucial gap in the museum’s collection and will go on display in 2021.
Mountain Place from Series of Repetitions, 1987. Xu Bing (Chinese, born 1955). Woodcut; sheet: 66.7 x 85.2 cm. Gift of Joe and Nancy Keithley, 2019.239
Family Plots from Series of Repetitions, 1988. Xu Bing. Woodcut; sheet: 66.7 x 85.2 cm. Gift of Joe and Nancy Keithley, 2019.240
One of China’s acclaimed living artists, Xu Bing is internationally recognized for using language, Chinese characters, and symbols to challenge assumptions about human communication and its function. Book from the Sky, one of his best-known works, features an installation with long sheets of paper hanging from the ceiling printed with undecipherable characters.
As intellectuals, Xu Bing’s parents gave him access to a world of books, which Xu says predestined him to become a printmaker. The Cultural Revolution taught him the power of words and text, and in the late 1970s he began studying in the Printmaking Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.
In Series of Repetitions, created for his MFA graduate exhibition, Xu explores the woodcut process by printing an image in different stages, each time carving away a little more of the block’s surface. The first print is the darkest; the final one is the lightest, with the image being entirely effaced. The two prints acquired by the museum, Family Plots and Mountain Place, represent a stage in the process when the images were most legible. Family Plots shows Chinese characters of family names, anticipating Xu’s later “landscripts,” that is, landscapes entirely made of Chinese characters. These prints were generously gifted by Joe and Nancy Keithley to the museum, which now owns three works from the series of ten; they are on view in the Clara T. Rankin Galleries of Chinese Art (240A) through August 9.
Sooa Im McCormick Associate Curator of Korean Art
The Fourth King of Hell late 1300s. Korea, Goryeo dynasty (918–1392). Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold ink on silk; image: 63 x 45.3 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund and museum purchase from various donors by exchange, 2019.224
Among 160 rare pieces dated to Korea’s Goryeo period (918–1392), The Fourth King of Hell is from the only complete surviving suite of scrolls that depict the ten kings of hell. The practice of worshiping these kings, and their accompanying visual representation, first developed in China during the Tang dynasty (618–907). Soon after, the tradition was introduced to Korea and flourished during the Goryeo dynasty as an important component of Buddhist rituals, particularly as a blessing for the deceased’s journey to the afterlife.
Throughout a 49-day mourning period, family members made offerings to each of the ten kings of hell at proper intervals to ensure that the deceased could escape severe judicial torture. Spirits whose families failed to make proper offerings were left to endure the worst tribunals and pay fully for past sins in their next lives. Buddhist temples affiliated with the Goryeo royal house were seemingly at the heart of this practice. In Chinese envoy Xu Jing’s official report of his visit to Korea in 1123, he testified that a special hall in a Buddhist monastery affiliated with the royal family housed a painting of Ksitigarbha, the Bodhisattva of Savior, along with the ten kings of hell.
The set of ten scrolls belonged to the Japanese temple Hosho-im as late as 1961, and at some point was sold to Harry G. C. Packard, a renowned dealer and collector of Japanese art. The year after Packard’s death in 1991, the set was sold at Christie’s and was dispersed among various collections, including the CMA, Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Denver Art Museum, and National Museum of Korea.
Each hell depicts distinctive gruesome tortures. In the fourth hell, the governing king sits behind a desk, staring impassively at the sinners suffering in a giant cauldron of boiling oil, constantly pierced by a beastly guard’s burning spear. The scroll at the Sackler Museum shows sinners attacked by vicious snakes and hawks, while another in the collection of the National Museum of Korea depicts a sinner being forced to witness his past transgressions—possibly abusive behavior toward animals—through a device called a karma mirror.
Some scholars propose that ready-made Buddhist paintings created in professional ateliers in the Chinese port city of Ningbo might have served as prototypes for the iconography and style of this Korean scroll. Even so, the composition’s high degree of sophistication, the subtlety of brushstrokes and the use of colors, the design motifs—such as the continuous scrolling vine, chrysanthemum blooms, and flower roundels—and the generously applied gold highlights all reveal that the set is a rare, uniquely Korean product of the royal painting workshop of the Goryeo dynasty.
PRE-COLUMBIAN AND NATIVE NORTH AMERICAN ART
Susan E. Bergh Curator of Pre-Columbian and Native North American Art
Cup with Four Faces 600–1000. Central Andes, Wari style. Stone and shell; h. 9.5 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund, 2019.169
Since 2000 one goal of the ancient American acquisition effort has been to improve the museum’s representation of artworks from the central Andes (today mainly Peru), where settled indigenous civilizations flourished from about 3000 BC until the Spanish conquest in the early 1500s. This is because, historically, the Andean collection has been much smaller than its counterpart from Mesoamerica (today mainly Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize), despite the fact that the two regions hold equal importance in world history in terms of cultural achievement. Last year saw the addition of two impressive Andean objects to the collection: a small stone cup that dates from the time of the Wari and a large silver disk from the later Chimú.
The Wari came to power in the Peruvian highlands in about 600 and, over the next few hundred years, forged ancient South America’s first empire—a remarkable feat, particularly since the Wari, like other Andean people, did not use writing. Today, Wari arts are noted for their beauty, complexity, and technical virtuosity. They also seem to have been highly esteemed in antiquity. As far as specialists can determine, they were coveted all over the Andean region as sumptuary items that boosted their owners’ prestige via their imagery, precious materials, and fine execution, as well as their affiliation with Wari might.
The new cup, one of only four extant examples of its kind, is carved from a pale, creamy stone and inlaid with strips of purple shell probably from the Spondylus, a colorful oyster that was a form of wealth due in part to its exotic origin in Ecuador. The cup is carved with four similar wide-eyed human faces of unknown identity; they have been interpreted as the founders of important lineages, but supporting evidence for this view has not been detailed. The cup’s function is equally mysterious. It seems too small for drinking beer at the feasts the Wari sponsored to put allies and enemies in their debt. If a container for liquids, the small size implies use in an intimate context, such as making private libations to the sacred forces that animated the ancient landscape. Another possibility is that the vessel was used as a mortar for grinding special substances. Whatever the case, the cup enhances a developing collection focus on the small, precious objects that were a Wari specialty.
Disk 1000–1460s. Central Andes, Chimú people. Silver; diam. 34.4 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Trust, 2019.166
The Chimú followed the Wari, emerging in about 1000 and going on to establish their own empire before being conquered by the Inka in the 1460s. Unlike the Wari, the Chimú were a coastal people whose adobe capital city, Chan Chan, is unusual in incorporating ten enormous walled palaces (compared to the European standard of a single palace) that are surrounded by elite architecture as well as densely packed commoner quarters and artisan workshops. At its height, the city may have been home to 12,000 artists whose efforts in various media—fiber, feather work, silver and gold, shell, and wood, among others—fed the apparently voracious needs of the Chimú royal court.
The new silver disk is ornamented with four concentric bands, each featuring two alternating motifs. A small humanlike creature and a bird appear below the peaks and above the valleys of the wave that undulates along the outer edge; next are a human flanked by maize plants and an animal-like figure wearing a large crescent headdress, a Chimú signature that may refer to worldly and supernatural power; then come two geometric motifs, one filled with little birds and the other with birds and animals, including a monkey; finally, the innermost band carries two types of birds, both again wearing the crescent headdress. The disk is one of more than 20 known similar pieces, all pierced with holes for attachment to a backing, perhaps a banner or a ceremonial shield. It is the first example of Chimú metalwork to be displayed in our gallery, and it arrives as research is being conducted for a special exhibition about the Chimú, scheduled to open in a few years.
With the acquisition of these and other objects, including textiles, the ancient Andean collection has begun to hold its own against the Mesoamerican collection. The cup and the disk are now on view in gallery 232.
EUROPEAN PAINTINGS AND SCULPTURE, 1500–1800
Cory Korkow Associate Curator of European Art
Holy Family with the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine c. 1560. Tommaso d’Antonio Manzuoli, called Maso da San Friano (Italian, 1531–1571). Oil on panel; 148 x 103 cm. Purchase from the Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund, 2019.168. Gallery 118
Maso da San Friano’s Holy Family with the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine is a masterpiece of Late Mannerist painting and among the best-preserved Italian 16th-century panel paintings to come on the market in decades.
Emerging around 1520, the style of Mannerism lasted in Italy until the end of the century and defines much of 16th-century Italian art. Following Renaissance classicism, which privileged clarity, balance, and proportion, Mannerists learned those rules in order to subvert them, producing elegantly complex paintings replete with compositional tension and exaggerated forms.
Florentine Maso imbues this popular post-Reformation subject with his idiosyncratic style and saturated palette, introducing a young Saint John the Baptist and emphasizing Christ’s humanity as he symbolically weds the fourth-century virgin Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The otherworldly figure of Christ places a ring on her finger, fulfilling Catherine’s vision of dedicating herself to God and remaining a virgin instead of marrying. The work was painted around 1560 when Maso was at the height of a successful career that ended with his premature death in 1571 at age 39.
Working for the Medici court and the most illustrious ecclesiastical and private patrons of his age, Maso was renowned for his distinctive style characterized by smooth flesh tones, a rich color palette, and clearly delineated, sculptural figures. Highly fluent in the visual vocabulary of the legendary Florentine painters of the previous generation, Maso adeptly combined Mannerist proportion and elegance with High Renaissance balance and tonal clarity. He excelled at painting portraits, cabinet pictures, and large altarpieces, but this intimate subject was probably executed for the personal devotion of a private patron. Maso’s Mystic Marriage is monumental but rewards close and extended study: from Catherine’s sophisticated grace to Saint John the Baptist’s expressive, Michelangelesque musculature and the surprising naturalism of elderly Saint Joseph, who may be a likeness of someone the artist knew.
The work was first recorded in the collection of Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini before his death in 1680 and descended through the artist’s family for many generations. The painting’s exceptional state of preservation is likely due in part to its steady provenance. A beautiful period frame with strong architectural elements fittingly grounds and underscores the picture’s dramatic Mannerist proportions.
The Cleveland Museum of Art has an unfinished masterwork by High Renaissance Florentine painter Andrea del Sarto, a Mannerist portrait by Agnolo Bronzino, and celebrated Italian Baroque paintings by Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci, and Orazio Gentileschi, but until now has lacked a great Mannerist painting. The linchpin connecting strong holdings in Renaissance and Baroque painting, Maso’s Mystic Marriage is destined to become a signature work in the CMA’s collection. The work is on view now in gallery 118.
William H. Robinson Senior Curator of Modern Art
Banks of the Oise at Dawn 1888. Louis Hayet (French, 1864–1940). Oil on canvas; 51 x 71 cm. Sundry Art–Miscellaneous Fund, 2019.18. Gallery 222
Covered with small, delicate strokes of pure color, Banks of the Oise at Dawn (1888) is one of Louis Hayet’s finest paintings and a superb example of the then radical style of Neo-Impressionism, also known as Pointillism or Divisionism. Hayet was a seminal, early member of the associated movement that first came to public attention in 1886 at the eighth Impressionist exhibition, where Georges Seurat’s Neo-Impressionist masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jatte created a sensation.
The Neo-Impressionists sought to reform Impressionism by painting in a more systematic manner, which involved scientific color theory. Inspired by the writings of Michel Chevreul and Charles Henry, among others, they invented a technique of applying color in small dots or dashes, theorizing that the divided tones would optically unite into a single, powerful hue at a normal viewing distance. This new method of painting emphasizing order, clarity, luminosity, and abstract design quickly gathered adherents who contributed significantly to the development of modern art.
Born and raised in Pontoise, a small town north of Paris on the Oise River, Hayet studied drawing and design at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Having met Camille and Lucien Pissarro while painting landscapes in Pontoise, by 1885 he was exchanging studio visits and pursuing parallel artistic research with them. Hayet also began associating with Seurat and Paul Signac around this time. Signs of a Neo-Impressionist technique emerged in Hayet’s paintings as early as 1886 and it was well developed by 1888, the year he painted Banks of the Oise at Dawn.
The painting’s surface is covered with a network of small strokes of pure color, ranging from complementary contrasts of blue and orange in the foreground to whites, pinks, and blues in the sky. No mere follower of Impressionism, Hayet was deeply involved in contemporary theoretical debates and conducted his own research into color theory. He developed a color chart that incorporates gray tones, an original idea for which he received considerable critical praise. Banks of the Oise at Dawn is an outstanding example of Hayet’s method of combining complementary color contrasts with gray tones.
Emily Liebert Curator of Contemporary Art
Nadiah Fellah Associate Curator of Contemporary Art
Laments: Death came and he looked like . . . 1989. Jenny Holzer (American, born 1950). LED sign, marble; 325.1 x 24.1 x 13.3 cm; 45.7 x 61 x 137.2 cm. Purchased with funds donated by Scott Mueller, 2019.19. © Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Gallery 229C
In 2019 the Department of Contemporary Art acquired landmark sculptures by Jenny Holzer and Simone Leigh. Holzer’s Laments: Death came and he looked like . . . (1989) and Leigh’s Las Meninas (2019) bring dramatic presence to the contemporary galleries, where they are currently on view. By acquiring these sculptures, as well as a print by Kerry James Marshall and a painting by Alvin Loving, the contemporary department meaningfully expanded its holdings of art by women and African American artists.
Laments: Death came and he looked like . . . belongs to one of Jenny Holzer’s most powerful and iconic sculpture series, Laments. The work features a text written by Holzer from the imagined perspective of someone who is dying. Giving form to those words through flashing light in the LED sign and static letters etched on the surface of the sarcophagus, Holzer integrates language and sculpture to evoke the sense of life being extinguished. The poignant prose featured throughout this series is part of the artist’s response to the AIDS crisis, which was rampant at the time, and commemorates a critical turning point in American history. Holzer’s work notably combines two sculptural mediums, one old and one new: the historical tradition of memorializing the deceased through a marble sarcophagus and the use of colored LED light, often associated with advertising and popular culture.
Holzer, who was born in 1950 in Gallipolis, Ohio, is an internationally renowned contemporary artist. Her work is most celebrated for its integration of language and sculpture to address current political events. Laments: Death came and he looked like . . . is representative of the primary concerns and mediums that have been at the heart of Holzer’s influential 40-year career.
Las Meninas 2019. Simone Leigh (American, born 1967). Terracotta, steel, raffia, porcelain; overall: 182.9 x 213.4 x 152.4 cm. Purchased with funds donated by Scott Mueller, 2019.175.a. Gallery 229B
Las Meninas (2019) is a standout work in Simone Leigh’s oeuvre: it shows the artist’s mastery of materials and motifs she has honed over time, while exemplifying the power of scale she has recently begun to embrace for its capacity to endow her figures with a bold and majestic presence. As the work’s title and skirted form indicate, it was made with Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656) in mind. Indeed, the Spanish masterpiece’s enigmatic composition, raising complex questions about the relationship between artist, subject, and viewer, has long informed Leigh’s art.
While Leigh’s skirted form recalls Velázquez’s Infanta, it also refers to the Afro-Brazilian religious tradition candomblé and the architecture of Mousgoum communities in Cameroon. The skirt’s raffia material, ubiquitous throughout Leigh’s body of work, conjures traditional African masks, which have long been a visual touchstone for the artist. The white-glazed terracotta torso of Las Meninas was inspired by sacred and secular traditions of body painting, especially the use of white powder in Haitian ancestral rituals to access the dead and the use of white clay in South Africa to guard skin from the sun; as Leigh notes, she was drawn to a material that has connotations of both communication and protection. The torso leads to a faceless head, creating a balance between figuration and abstraction, which characterizes her work. Las Meninas is especially fitting for the CMA’s encyclopedic collections because it exemplifies Leigh’s use of global art traditions and culture to address issues surrounding the female body, race, beauty, and community.
Born in 1967 in Chicago to Jamaican parents, Leigh now lives and works in New York. Nearly three decades ago, the artist’s first job in New York was at an architectural ceramics firm where she reproduced tiles for the subway. Since that time, she has embraced ceramics as her primary sculptural medium, using it to explore the experiences and social histories of black women. The terracotta body of the figure in Las Meninas references Leigh’s ongoing engagement with the ceramic medium.
The Holzer and Leigh sculptures were purchased through the Sundry Contemporary Art Fund, generously donated by CMA board of trustees president Scott Mueller. Purchased through the same fund in 2019, Kerry James Marshall’s woodblock print Satisfied Man (2015) was included in the CMA’s exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Works on Paper, presented in 2018 in conjunction with FRONT International.
Another important 2019 addition to the collection was African American artist Al Loving’s Blue Rational/Irrational (1969), a generous gift from the KeyBank Collection. This painting, one of the strongest examples of his hard-edged abstract work, deepens the CMA’s capacity to tell the story of American postwar abstraction. Overall, the past year’s contemporary acquisitions have deepened the museum’s capacity to narrate the past six decades, while supporting the priority of diversifying its collection.
Emily Peters Curator of Prints and Drawings
Additions to the collection of prints and drawings represent a variety of periods, subjects, and styles, reflecting the breadth of the museum’s holdings of European and American works on paper. A major acquisition of 17 drawings from the Dutch Golden Age brought new subject matter and greater scope to the area of Northern European works.
Convolvulus and Metamorphosis of the Convolvulus Hawk Moth c. 1670–83. Maria Sibylla Merian (German, active Holland, 1647–1717). Watercolor with touches of opaque watercolor over indications in black chalk on vellum; sheet: 29 x 37.2 cm. John L. Severance Fund, 2019.9
Naturalist and miniature painter Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717), born in Frankfurt to Dutch immigrants, was trained as a painter of flowers by her stepfather, German artist Jakob Marrel. She wrote and illustrated several volumes on insects, often rearing the insects herself. Merian invented the so-called life-cycle image, which portrays on a single sheet each stage of an insect’s metamorphosis. Her groundbreaking empirical approach set her apart from other natural history painters of the period, and her illustrations were studied by entomologists for well over a century. Six species of plants, nine butterflies, and two beetles are named for Merian.
The museum’s recently acquired drawing Convolvulus and Metamorphosis of the Convolvulus Hawk Moth shows the full transformation of the European pink-spotted hawk moth (Agrius cingulata). The moth appears at the top of the sheet above the large brown-and-white caterpillar perched on its host plant, the morning glory (Convolvulus arvensis); the pupa is attached to a stem below the caterpillar, and a small green egg sac is depicted to the left of the blue flower. Pairs of smaller moths, caterpillars, and flies of different species appear elsewhere. Merian used the drawing as the basis for an engraving depicting the hawk moth’s life cycle that appeared in Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung, commonly called the Caterpillar Book, which she published in 1683.
Married with two young children, Merian separated from her husband in 1686 and, along with her mother and daughters, joined the Labadists, a Protestant religious community in the Netherlands that believed in absolute equality between the sexes. Her continued work during this period has been interpreted as a kind of devotional text, expressing a parallel between the order of insect life cycles and God’s plan for humankind. When the Labadist community dissolved in 1692, she moved with her daughters to Amsterdam, where together they sold preserved insects, watercolor paints, and, most importantly, nature studies such as this large sheet. The life of this remarkable woman included a voyage to the Dutch colony of Suriname; she remained there for two years studying its flora and fauna, which she published in 1703.
Studies of a Naked Seated Boy c. 1603. Jacques de Gheyn II (Dutch, 1565–1629). Black chalk and white chalk on gray-blue paper; sheet: 23.7 x 16.5 cm. John L. Severance Fund, 2019.2
Art made from direct observation was less common in the Netherlands in the early part of the 1600s, but one Dutch artist of this period, Jacques de Gheyn II (1565–1629), was known for his candid drawings of the people around him. De Gheyn II’s Studies of a Naked Seated Boy, made around 1603, is among the earliest nudes drawn from a live model in the Netherlands. De Gheyn depicted the young man from several different angles with his arms in various positions. Three of the figures are finished with nuanced shading and white chalk highlights. A fourth figure, less fully realized, matches the pose of the central figure, and several preliminary sketches in black chalk focus on the youth’s rib cage or hips. While de Gheyn returned to the pose of the central figure, using it for a later print design, the main purpose of the drawing was not so much preparatory as the faithful representation of a youthful male body. Sketches of the head of a young man with a similar square nose and hairstyle appear throughout de Gheyn’s oeuvre, indicating that the youth—possibly a groom of Prince Maurice of Orange—was a frequent model.
Winter Landscape with Skater 1662. Jan van Kessel (Dutch, 1641–1680). Brush and black ink and gray wash over black chalk; sheet: 17.8 x 25.8 cm. John L. Severance Fund, 2019.7
Rural landscape scenes became a specialty of Dutch artists in the 17th century, and many made drawings as finished works of art for sale. This is true of Winter Landscape with Skater by Jan van Kessel (1641–1680), which he signed and dated 1662. A follower of painter Jacob van Ruisdael, van Kessel went on walking tours and made small sketches naar het leven, a Dutch phrase meaning “from life,” which he then combined to make imaginary scenes such as this one. The scene is decidedly rustic. A run-down shack and fence perch precariously on the bank of a canal in front of a ramshackle thatched-roof cottage with smoke gently wafting from its chimney. A large, spindly tree—a specialty of the artist—fills the gray sky and provides a focal point in the center of the composition, while more buildings, including a small church, appear beyond. A sole ice skater glides underneath the overgrown stone bridge. Frozen canals in the Netherlands were a mainstay not only for entertainment but also for transportation, acting almost like roads. Such winter scenes were considered by 17th-century audiences to be indigenously Dutch.
Finally, Musical Scene by Utrecht artist Gerrit van Honthorst (1590–1656) reveals Italian influences on Dutch art in the 1620s. Van Honthorst spent seven years in Italy in the 1610s and returned to Holland profoundly influenced by the painter Caravaggio, known for his naturalistic human types and his use of a single light source coupled with dramatic shadow. Van Honthorst’s drawing reveals these influences through its closely cropped half-length figures and combination of black and brown inks, black chalk, graphite, and white heightening on gray-brown paper to create contrast and deep shadow. Perhaps made as an example to show a composition to a prospective buyer, the drawing features a seated young woman playing a lute and reading from a music book while a young man sings or keeps time. Such scenes, reminiscent of concert pictures made by Caravaggio and his predecessors in Italy, joined a long-established tradition of party scenes in Holland; they became a specialty of van Honthorst and his fellow “Utrecht Caravaggisti.” While musical subjects often had amorous connotations, this drawing focuses instead on the pleasure and camaraderie of music making.
Musical Scene 1625–55. Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1590–1656). Black ink wash over pen and brown ink and black chalk over graphite on gray-brown paper with white heightening, incised; sheet: 17.3 x 20.4 cm. John L. Severance Fund, 2019.6
Britany Salsbury Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings
At the Café 1874. Edouard Manet (French, 1832–1883). Gillotage; image: 26.3 x 33.4 cm. Gift of the Print Club of Cleveland in honor of its 100th anniversary, 2019.57
At the Café belongs to a small group of prints that Edouard Manet created while working avidly in lithography. Considered the father of Impressionism for his scenes of Parisian leisure during the late 19th century, Manet was best known for painting but also worked prolifically on paper and experimented with a variety of techniques. At the Café, for example, was made using gillotage, a photomechanical process that could be combined with text and was often used for illustrations during the late 19th century. Because of his innovation, Manet became part of an active community involved with printmaking in Paris, producing nearly 100 etchings and lithographs throughout his career.
One of the artist’s rarest prints, At the Café depicts the Café Guérbois, a gathering place for the Impressionists in the 1870s. Created during a period when Manet focused on political caricature and social critique in his prints, the seemingly benign image bears a deeper meaning. A group of men gather over glasses of absinthe as a waiter looks on beside them. Notably, a figure to the group’s right appears under a banner reading LOI, or law in French. Scholars have identified him as a spy from the Parisian police who is monitoring the scene for breach of morals—a vague but common offense at the time. Manet intended his presence to starkly contrast with the image’s setting in a café, a place that 19th-century Parisians saw as encouraging the free exchange of ideas.
Originally featured in the progressive Belgian luxury magazine L’Europe, the work is the only journal illustration that the artist created. The museum’s impression came directly from the periodical and features printed text on the verso of the sheet. It is the only such known impression; all others are printed on blank sheets. The significance of this print was realized only in 1989, when scholars discovered that all issues of the magazine containing the print had been seized and destroyed by French censors upon arriving in Paris from Brussels due to the publication’s left-leaning content. The museum’s impression is therefore unique as both a work of art and a historical object. Because of its significance, it once belonged to collector Alexis Hubert Rouart, among the earliest and most influential supporters of the Impressionists. At the Café is a generous gift of the Print Club of Cleveland in honor of the organization’s centennial anniversary.
Through an important gift from Agnes Gund, the museum also added to its collection Jacob Lawrence’s The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture. Known for capturing the daily lives and history of African Americans, Lawrence saw his art as a means of exploring shared identity. The 15 screenprints present episodes from the life of the leader of the Haitian Revolution who struggled against slavery and oppression. In 1804 L’Ouverture freed Haiti from European rule and established it as the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere. Lawrence became familiar with the revolutionary’s story as a young man in Harlem and was struck that it had been omitted from his formal education in history. From 1937 to 1938, at the age of just over 20, Lawrence produced 41 paintings that presented L’Ouverture’s life story. The series immediately drew public attention and nationally launched his artistic career.
The prints of The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture reconsider Lawrence’s paintings using screenprint, a technique that the artist favored throughout his career. Rather than straightforwardly copying his canvases, Lawrence revised their forms, composition, colors, and scale, a process that he described as “like another creative step.” He worked alongside a master printer for more than a decade, carefully considering visual and technical choices for each image. Through the collaborative process of printmaking, Lawrence was able to bring the important narrative of a foundational series of works to the broadest possible audience.
Two silkscreen prints from the series The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917–2000)
General Toussaint L’Ouverture 1986. 81.6 x 55.9 cm (left)
The Opener 1997. 47.6 x 73 cm (right)
Gift of Agnes Gund in honor of Gordon Gund, 2019.79. © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Barbara Tannenbaum Curator of Photography
The Steerage 1907. Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946). Photogravure; 32 x 25.7 cm. Gift of Diann G. Mann and Thomas A. Mann, 2019.22
Over the past year, extremely generous gifts, paired with strategic purchases, allowed the museum to greatly enrich its photographic holdings of 20th-century American work by major figures, deepen its representation of 19th-century images of India, and continue its efforts to globalize the collection.
A remarkable gift of 13 photographs by modern American masters came from longtime museum patrons Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann. The couple began collecting in the early 1970s, at the beginning of the fine art photography market. Over the intervening decades they amassed one of the most significant groupings in private hands of American Pictorialism, modernism, and the transition between the two movements.
Their donation included one of the most important works in their collection: Alfred Stieglitz’s personal copy of his earliest masterwork, The Steerage. In this photograph, shot in 1907, Stieglitz transformed a scene of impoverished immigrants returning to Europe into a study in shape and form. He felt that this image sparked his evolution from a Pictorialist to a modernist and later proclaimed The Steerage as an achievement of modern art that anticipated Cubism.
Stieglitz produced The Steerage only in photogravure. The Manns’ print is much larger and rarer than the version that he distributed in the October 1911 issue of the magazine he published, Camera Work. After the artist’s death, the print remained in the possession of his wife, Georgia O’Keeffe, for many years; the Manns acquired it in 1983. Among the other works they gifted were three key modernist images by Edward Weston and prints by Man Ray, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Curtis, Walker Evans, and Richard Avedon.
Fifty-three photographs by European, American, and Asian artists were donated by Arielle Kozloff Brodkey, who worked at the museum from 1969 to 1997, most of that time as curator of ancient art. Brodkey gave the pieces in memory of her late husband, neurosurgeon Jerald S. Brodkey. Inspired by a museum-related event, the couple began collecting fine art photography in 1975. The gift spans more than 100 years of photography, from turn-of-the-20th-century French landscapes by Eugène Atget to contemporary Japanese photographer Hiroshi Watanabe’s portraits of amateur Kabuki actors.
Salut de Schiaparelli 1934. Ilse Bing (American, 1899–1998). Gelatin silver print, solarized; image: 20.3 x 27.9 cm. Gift of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg, 2019.182. © Estate of Ilse Bing
Thanks to the generosity of several donors, over the past seven years the museum has amassed substantial holdings of works by German-born American photographer Ilse Bing. However, many hallmark images made in Paris in the 1930s were lacking. The gift from Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg of Salut de Schiaparelli (1934) helped address that lacuna just in time for a solo show of the artist’s work here at the museum.
Bing’s works bridge the worlds of commercial and avant-garde fine art photography. The decidedly Surrealist Salut de Schiaparelli was created to promote designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s perfume Salut (the name translates both as a chirpy “hi” and as “salvation”). Bing’s oddly morbid yet powerful image—apparently never used in the advertising campaign—echoes Surrealist preoccupations with the beautiful woman as passive object and the association of death with sexuality. The image is solarized, a technique used by Surrealists to evoke an otherworldly feel.
Lucknow after the Siege: Interior of the Secundra Bagh after the Slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment 1858. Felice A. Beato (British, 1830–1906). Albumen print; image: 25.4 x 30.5 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund, 2019.170.3
Purchases last year include a group of 38 images that occupy an important place in the history of the medium: views of Lucknow, India, taken during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 by Italian-born British photographer Felice Beato. They are among the earliest efforts to systematically document through photography the horrific results of armed conflict.
Due to technical constraints, early depictions of war could show only its aftermath: ruined structures and battlefields already stripped of bodies. Beato broke new iconographic and emotional ground in India by including skeletons in Interior of the Secundra Bagh after the Slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment, which may be the first war photograph to show corpses. The barren, dismembered skeletons convey the horror of the slaughter that occurred at this normally peaceful garden and villa, while underlining the completeness of British revenge and victory.
A significant event in both Indian and British history, the rebellion combined a mutiny by Indian soldiers serving in the East India Company’s army with civilian uprisings. Lucknow, the site of two lengthy sieges, became an iconic symbol of British resolve. Beato arrived in town four months after the end of the second siege. This group of works includes major battle sites, places that would have been quite familiar to audiences back home who were avidly following the rebellion in the British press. In addition to their value as reportage and editorial statements, the images provide important documentation of Indian architecture and daily life.
Another important purchase was five works from Ohio artist Ann Hamilton’s body object series. Born in Lima and based in Columbus, Hamilton has received, among many honors, the National Medal of the Arts and a MacArthur Fellowship. Internationally renowned for her large-scale installations and public commissions, she has also long been a maker of photographic images. The body object series, begun in 1984, was her first photographic project. In these images, conceived and staged by the artist, Hamilton’s body serves as a site of modification or replacement: a suit of seeds replaces her skin, a sagebrush her head. The images are surreal and absurd, and sometimes humorous, with strong roots in conceptual, performance, and installation art. The sense of touch is a prevalent theme. Hamilton’s imagery may be personal, but the images are universal in their evocation of the body as a receptor of sensation.
White Radish 1933. Edward Weston (American, 1886–1958). Gelatin silver print; 24.3 x 18.3 cm. Gift of Diann G. Mann and Thomas A. Mann, 2019.25. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Rights
DECORATIVE ART AND DESIGN
Stephen Harrison Curator of Decorative Art and Design
Figure of the Pietà c. 1761. Joseph Willems (Flemish, 1715–1766), modeler; Chelsea Porcelain Factory (Britain, 1745–1784), maker. Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels; h. 38.5 cm. Sundry Art–Decorative Arts Fund, 2019.75. Gallery 203
A stunning new addition to the British ceramics collection, the Figure of the Pietà has arrived just in time for the reinstallation of the British galleries (203a–b) this spring. This poignant version of the Madonna cradling the crucified Christ after his descent from the cross represents a rare Roman Catholic composition by the Chelsea Porcelain Factory in London, which was the greatest maker of soft-paste porcelain in England during the mid-18th century. One of only three known examples of this figural group by Chelsea, this piece is both the most complete (with its base intact) and the most decorated.
The composition was likely based on the monumental marble Pietà (c. 1712–28) by Nicolas Coustou for the high altar at Notre-Dame in Paris. The Chelsea Porcelain modeler Joseph Willems adapted Coustou’s composition so that the figures form slightly different poses, and he used the highly colorful palette of the later Rococo taste. It is a masterful work by the potters at Chelsea, not least for its large size, which made it difficult to fire without destruction in the kiln and probably accounts for the few surviving examples.
The strong Roman Catholic nature of the subject closely aligns the work with the recusant aristocratic community in England that was forced to practice Catholicism in private
because of laws forbidding it in an otherwise officially Protestant nation. As a result, great houses were sometimes modified to include private chapel spaces for visiting priests, delivering the sacraments in defiance of the laws favoring Protestant worship.
A figure of this large size and type would probably have served as an important devotional focal point within that context.
Kristen Windmuller-Luna Curator of African Arts
Ties That Bind 2019. Emeka Ogboh (Nigerian, born 1977). Multi-channel sound installation; 21:56 min. Sundry Art–Miscellaneous Fund, 2019.34
Emeka Ogboh’s Ties That Bind (2019) is a unique electronic multi-channel audio composition created to provide ambient sound for the African arts gallery. A landmark for the museum’s collections of African and contemporary art, it is the first sound installation acquired by the CMA.
Over the past decade, Enugu-born, Berlin-based Ogboh has gained international recognition as a sound and installation artist. Site specificity and the immersive sonic experience are crucial to his practice. His work considers the multisensory nature of canonical African arts, masquerade practices, and African musical traditions. The transmission of language, history, dance, and ritual is another key point of exploration. Ogboh considers Ties That Bind his most profound work to date, created in response to works in the CMA’s African collection, which counts works made by Central and Western African artists among its strengths. It is the first time a museum’s collection has directly inspired the artist’s work.
Ties That Bind consists of digitally manipulated soundscapes of flowing water, waves, a creaking boat, an mbira (thumb piano), a djembe drum, an electronic drum, and an ichaka (an Igbo rattle). Voices chant in myriad Eastern African languages and speak in the Nigerian Igbo language. Uniting the composition is the consistent strumming of the mbira, an instrument that people in several Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern African cultures use in civic, ritual, and ceremonial contexts. Both historically and today, multisensory elements and time-based performance complement the use of sculptures and masquerades in some tradition-based African societies. Structurally, the soundtrack revisits a narrative of movement and migration, two themes central to Ogboh’s work. It traces the history of the so-called Bantu dispersal, in which speakers of Bantu group languages moved across the landmass in two successive migrations. Bantu languages are a family of more than 500 languages spoken in much of the continent’s lower half. Many African Americans trace their heritage to Bantu peoples.
When installed in the CMA’s African arts gallery, Ties That Bind reminds visitors of the significance of music and dance in African societies. Its contemporary aural textures lend an animated presence to the historical objects on view. Site-specific, this ambient soundscape also functions as a remedy to past museum uses of sound in African arts galleries, which could often exoticize or generalize the displayed works.
Cleveland Art, March/April 2020