July 15, 2015 | What has been lost… The only thing more American than sentimentalizing the past is our habit of discarding it. And so when it comes to the dolls shown in this issue, stunning examples of an African-American folk art, questions abound: who were their makers and for whom were they made? How can they be dated and where did they originate? So much has been lost, but the dolls survive thanks to Deborah Neff, who brought them together and has sent them into the world to ask questions that need to be answered. We don’t need to ask why so much African-American material culture has been mislaid. We know the answer to that. I am aware of it every time we publish research like Alyce Perry Englund’s article on two folk art desks, one made by William Howard, a former slave, and I ponder all that is out there waiting for the light.
What has been found… Our admiration for the folk art miniaturist Mary Way is deepened by Brian Ehrlich’s discovery that one of her finest works, a signed portrai…» More
July 9, 2015 |
Venetian architect Giacomo Leoni created a magnificent Palladian residence for Thomas, the 2nd Baron Onslow, in the 1720s on the estate outside of Guildford, in Surrey, south of London, that the baron’s great-grandfather Richard Onslow, the MP for Surrey, had purchased in 1641. The dignified restraint of Leoni’s exterior hid a luxuriant interior oozing with Georgian glamour. Its most famous room, the double-storied Marble Hall, featured exuberant marble chimneypieces by Michael Rysbrack and rococo stuccowork by Giuseppe Artari and Giovanni Bagutti and was showcased in the 2008 film The Duchess, in which it appeared as the dining hall of Devonshire House.
As with so many great estates, Clandon Park became too expensive to maintain in the postwar era. In 1956 Gwendolyn, Countess Iveagh, who had grown up there, purchased the property from her nephew and donated it to the National Trust to ensure its survival. It made an especially important gift because, remarkably for a house that had been in continual use, relatively few modifications had been made to its original design.
The decorator John Fowler supervised the house’s refurbishment with loans from the National Trust collections as well as donations that allowed Clandon Park to accrue substantial holdings of furniture, porcelain, silver, tapestries, and paintings.
Top: The south façade and formal garden of Clandon Park, Surrey—designed by Giacomo Leoni, and built in the 1720s—prior to the April 29 fire. © National Trust Images/Anthony Parkinson. Left: The double-story Marble Hall at Clandon Park featured an ornate plasterwork ceiling attributed to Giuseppe Artari, and marble fireplaces with overmantel reliefs by Michael Rysbrack. © National Trust Images/ Anthony Parkinson. Right: The Marble Hall the day after the fire. © National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie.
At just after 4 pm on Wednesday, April 29 the local fire brigade received word that a fire had broken out in the basement of Clandon Park. Their response was swift. Nevertheless, unusually high winds fueled the flames more quickly than they could be fought. Units from neighboring counties and even London joined the effort, with a total of eighty firemen toiling together. But it took until 2 am to successfully extinguish the blaze.
Helen Ghosh, director general of the National Trust declared, “the house is now essentially a shell.” Nevertheless, one important stateroom, the Speakers’ Parlour, miraculously survived with relatively little damage even to its window treatments and the chimneypiece by Leoni. Supports have been erected to bolster its fragile plasterwork ceiling. Oversized portraits of the three Onslow speakers of the House of Commons that give the room its name were saved but had to be cut from their frames in order to remove them quickly.
In fact, a significant number of items from throughout the house were rescued due to the efficient enactment of an emergency plan. As news of the fire spread, colleagues from nearby National Trust properties and local residents assisted Clandon’s core staff. A primary school in the vicinity voluntarily closed to become an ad hoc storage warehouse.
Objects retrieved include a large seventeenth-century painting of an ostrich by Francis Barlow and a set of hall chairs with the Onslow crest, all from the Marble Hall. On the day after the blaze a fireman salvaged two marble busts that he found in the rubble of this same room. The salvage operation also brought important silver, furniture, books, and even an eighteenth-century board listing the rules of conduct for the servants’ hall to safety. The magnificent hangings of Clandon’s bed of state survived because they had just returned from conservation and had not yet been unpacked. Two paintings whose conservation was funded by the Royal Oak Foundation survived because they were offsite for conservation.
July 1, 2015 |
The Musée Bourdelle reopens after an eight-month renovation with a special exhibition devoted to artists’ mannequins. The show plumbs the “unsettling strangeness” of these objects with a display of rare mannequins from the eighteenth century to the present day as well as paintings, drawings, engravings, and photographs that reveal their relationships with the artists who depicted them. A catalogue has been published to accompany the exhibition, jointly organized with the Fitzwilliam Museum where it was seen earlier.
Visitors to this jewel-like museum will also enjoy the chance to visit the newly freshened house, studio, and gardens of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle.
Top: Neoclassical articulated mannequin, Italian, c. 1810. © Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Italy. Left: German mennequin, c. 1550. © Private collection, London. Right: Edison Talking Doll by Thomas A. Edison (1847-1941), c. 1890-1900. Private collection, Norway.
Mannequins: From the Artist’s Studi…» More
July 1, 2015 |
A dedicated website (magnacarta 800th.com) showcases the exhibitions, tours, and special events across the U.K. this season in celebration of the eight hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. The British Library’s exhibition provides the most penetrating inquiry into this historic document and displays the two manuscript copies of 1215 conserved there. The show places them into context with objects, art, manuscripts, and even royal remains that conjure the showdown between King John and the barons on the field of Runnymede.
It also explores the far-reaching ways that this seminal defense of the law has held through ensuing centuries. The exhibition includes a copy of the English Bill of Rights as well as Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Delaware copy of the U.S. Bill of Rights. It also features documents by Churchill, Gandhi, and Mandela that have directly referenced the Magna Carta and highlights movements such …» More
May 26, 2015 | We missed something this spring, and at this point all I can do is urge you not to miss it too. I refer to When the Curtain Never Comes Down at the American Folk Art Museum, closing July 5. There is much to say, even much to debate, about what is happening with outsider art in the museum’s galleries, and had their schedule and ours meshed there would have been many pages in this issue devoted to saying it. To be brief, the exhibition has assembled several rich examples of outsider art from the late nineteenth century to the present that merge into performance, into film, into music, and most of all into magnificent self-display. There is no catalogue yet, but there will be one eventually so that is some consolation. Many of the twenty seven artists will be unfamiliar, coming as they do from all over the globe—from Brazil, Russia, Italy, and Germany but also from Alton, Illinois, Detroit, and New Jersey. No matter. The work is beautiful, sometimes unsettling, frequently moving, …» More
by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton» View All