October 27, 2014 | Death Becomes Her, the Costume Institute's first fall exhibition in eight years, examines American and English bereavement rituals of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Period fashions and accessories, including hats, shawls, parasols, and jewelry, along with fashion plates, satirical illustrations, and mourning pictures reveal the formal rituals of bereavement, mostly observed by women. A woman's selection of mourning clothing demonstrated her status, taste, and level of propriety. Quotes from period publications flashed along the walls of the exhibit's main gallery demonstrate the range of attitudes by and towards women and their observation of mourning, which includes the social activist Julia Ward Howe's frustration at the inconvenience of spending money on black clothes, to etiquette manual author Robert de Valcourt's description of veiled widows as alluring and seductive.
The thirty ensembles are organized chronologically and show the progression of appropri…» More
October 15, 2014 | What Egon Schiele would have achieved had he lived beyond his twenty-eighth year is a matter to keep art historians up at night. When he died of Spanish influenza in 1918 he had already accomplished an astonishing amount: some three thousand drawings as well as paintings and sculpture of sufficient merit to position him as the heir to the late Gustav Klimt as Vienna's preeminent artist. Whether Schiele would have mellowed into a grand establishment presence or continued as Vienna's delinquent wild child is open to question-and there is certainly evidence to support both suppositions.
Above: Self-portrait with Peacock Waistcoat, Standing by Egon Schiele (1890-1918), 1911. Collection of Ernst Ploil.
In 2005 the Neue Galerie staged a rich exhibition of Schiele's nudes that suggested, in its inevitable focus on his obsessive eroticism, the latter course, while its new exhibition of the artist's portraits gives us a slightly more mellow Schiele, at least in his late portraits such…» More
September 25, 2014 | There is an excellent reason why we no longer hang paintings as they have now done in an odd but worthy exhibition at the New-York Historical Society. Indeed, even at the N-YHS, that hanging would be inexcusable, were it not for the fact that the whole point of The Works: Salon Style at the New-York Historical Society, (on view through February 8, 2015) is to recreate the museum experience of nineteenth-century New York.
"Salon Style" refers to a way of exhibiting paintings that was common in the Salons of the 18th and 19th Centuries and that is antithetical to all the ingrained habits of modern museology. Rather than allowing the sacred object to be contemplated in isolation and at eye level, where its virtues can be best appreciated, the Salon Style stacks them up all the way to the ceiling.
In the great central gallery on the second floor of the New York Historical Society, that ceiling is about twenty feet high and the paintings are stacked in rows of thre…» More
September 24, 2014 | To understand the significance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's installation of Thomas Hart Benton's ten-panel America Today so many decades after it was created for the New School for Social Research in 1930 and 1931, you need to know a little about the school in those heady days. Founded in 1919, by the 1930s the New School had become the very definition of educational optimism, internationalism, and all things progressive. Its faculty included Franz Boas (anthropology), Sandor Ferenczi (psychoanalysis), Berenice Abbott (photography), Martha Graham (dance), Aaron Copland (music), and eventually W.E.B. Dubois (African-American history) among other luminous makers and doers. For its new building on West Twelfth Street it hired the Vienna-born architect Joseph Urban and commissioned murals by both José Clemente Orozco and Thomas Hart Benton. Those were the days.
Benton's ten muscular hymns to American greatness were inspired by sketches he made during his travels around t…» More
September 24, 2014 | Beeville, Texas, is not on everyone's bucket list, but a visit to the Beeville Art Museum this fall will provide a fascinating look at life in the lone star state in the last half of the nineteenth century. Made in Texas: Art, Life and Culture, 1845-1900 brings together Texas-made art and objects that reflect the lives of Texans from the state's admittance to the United States to the discovery of oil at Spindletop and the devastation of Galveston during the hurricane of 1900. Some think the history of Texas is all about cowboys, Native Americans, freedom fighters, and Texas Rangers, but the items on display in Made in Texas reflect the lives of other Texans too-immigrants, former slaves, students, parents and children, silversmiths and furniture makers, painters, and potters. The show is organized by the Beeville Art Museum in collaboration with the Bayou Bend Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and is drawn mainly from the private collections of William J. Hill (s…» More
[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi» View All