News Articles Library Event Photos Contact Search

Displaying items by tag: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Many arts groups are struggling because of the sour economy, but last year the Philadelphia Museum of Art managed to raise more than $56-million, an increase of more than 55 percent.

A big reason for the museum’s success is its campaign to endow 29 staff positions—or all of its curatorial, conservation, education, and library employees.

“The great thing about this initiative is that it allows us to shine light on our staff,” says Kelly O’Brien, the museum’s executive director of development. “It helps bring the museum to life.”

The campaign seeks to raise $54-million. To inspire gifts for the drive, the Philadelphia donors Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest pledged to give up to $27-million of the goal if the money is matched dollar for dollar by other gifts. Mr. Lenfest has served as chairman of the museum’s board.

Now halfway through the five-year drive, the museum has raised $23-million, including the dollars matched so far. Thirteen of the 29 staff positions have been endowed.

Published in News

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) is universally acclaimed as the greatest master painter of the Dutch Golden Age, the 17th-century efflorescence of art in the Netherlands. Thanks to an inventory of his home and studio conducted in July 1656, we know that Rembrandt kept in his bedroom two of his own paintings called Head of Christ. A third painting—identified as a "Head of Christ, from life"—was found in a bin in Rembrandt's studio, awaiting use as a model for a New Testament composition. Today, seven paintings survive (from what was likely eight originally) that fit this description, all painted by Rembrandt and his pupils between 1643 and 1655. Bust-length portraits, they show the same young man familiar from traditional artistic conceptions of Christ, yet each figure also bears a slightly different expression. In posing an ethnographically correct model and using a human face to depict Jesus, Rembrandt overturned the entire history of Christian art, which had previously relied on rigidly copied prototypes for Christ.

This exhibition, the first Rembrandt exhibition in Philadelphia since 1932 and the first ever in the city to include paintings by the Dutch master, reunites the seven paintings of this exceedingly rare and singular series for the first time since 1656. Of these portraits, three are being seen in the United States for the first time. Complemented by more than fifty related paintings, prints, and drawings, Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus allows visitors to consider the religious, historic, and artistic significance of these works. Objects of private reflection for Rembrandt, the paintings in this exhibition bear witness to Rembrandt's iconoclasm and his search for a meditative ideal.

In addition to major paintings, many of the selected drawings in this exhibition have been rarely exhibited or lent owing to their light-sensitivity and fragility. Indeed, never before have so many of Rembrandt’s finest paintings, etchings, and drawings that depict Jesus Christ and events of his life been assembled for an exhibition.

Published in News
Approximately 190 works by self-taught artists have become promised gifts to the Philadelphia Museum of Art from Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, who have assembled over the past three decades one of the finest collections of outsider art in private hands in the United States. Their donation, which the Museum will celebrate with an exhibition and catalogue in spring of 2013, will increase the Museum’s holdings of outsider art by more than sixty percent. Sheldon Bonovitz is a member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees.

“Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz have been pathfinders in this field,” said Timothy Rub, the Museum’s George D. Widener Director and CEO. “Their dedication to the work of self-taught artists and the exceptional vision they have brought to the development of their collection will now benefit the public and enable others to understand and appreciate this important, but little known aspect of modern and contemporary art.”

The exhibition planned for 2013 will focus on American artists active between the 1930s and 1980s, many of whom are African American, and will feature works by such iconic figures as William Edmondson, Bill Traylor, and Martín Ramírez, as well as by somewhat lesser-known but widely respected artists such as James Castle, Howard Finster, William Hawkins, and Elijah Pierce.

“Self-taught artists use a wide range of inventive working methods and often employ unconventional materials, including house paint, wood scraps, roofing tin, and shirt cardboard,” said Ann Percy, Curator of Drawings. “The individuality that characterizes the work and the artists’ methods of conceiving images independently of familiar styles, trends, or movements will appeal to a diverse audience interested in exploring new terrain in the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Among the highlights of the Bonovitz collection are six works by William Edmondson (1874-1951), including the stone sculpture Horse. A retired janitor from Nashville, Tennessee, Edmondson took up carving tombstones and outdoor stone ornaments in his mid to late fifties, sometime in the early 1930s. Over the next decade and a half he filled his back yard with small figures of birds, animals, and people, which he sculpted from found chunks of limestone using an old railroad spike for a chisel. Masterful in their simplification of form, pared down to the barest essentials, minimally articulated as to surface and texture, and almost geometric in their near abstraction, these works are today considered among the finest achievements of self-taught art in the United States.

Mexican-born Martín Ramírez (1895-1963), who ranks among the most respected self-taught artists in North America, is represented by seven spectacular works in the Bonovitz collection. Working with found materials from the confines of DeWitt State Hospital, Auburn, California – diagnosed with schizophrenia, Ramírez spent the greater part of his adult life in mental institutions – he reportedly employed ad hoc substances like spit, bread, and perhaps even mashed potatoes to bind together bits and pieces of used paper into large drawing surfaces. On these irregular sheets he laid down thick, expressive crayon and graphite lines to create remarkably conceived, semi-abstracted images of trains, tunnels, Madonnas, horsemen, animals, and landscapes, often adding collaged elements from popular books or magazines. Combined with the works by Ramírez already owned by the museum, the Bonovitz gift will place Philadelphia’s holdings of this important artist among the finest in public institutions in the country.

Known for his vibrantly colored, dramatically stylized paintings, William Hawkins (1895-1990) turned to art seriously at around age 85, after a life spent working – mostly in Columbus, Ohio – at jobs such as farming, truck-driving, demolition, and steel casting. The Bonovitz collection includes six major works by this artist, who employed brightly colored semi-gloss enamel paints, often poured directly onto large pieces of plywood or Masonite and energetically mixed, swirled, and scumbled with a stubby old paintbrush. His images, dramatic in effect and whimsical in composition, were derived from newspapers, magazines, photographs, and advertisements, and he often incorporated found materials into his works. In Boffo, the animal’s head and shoulders are built up with a heavy application of a bituminous substance such as tar or asphalt.

Bill Traylor’s works consist of flattened, simplified, and silhouetted images that are drawn with great skill and ingenuity on often-irregular paper or cardboard surfaces, as seen in House with Two Men, Dog, and Bird, one of a dozen superb works by the artist in the collection. People, birds, and animals are in constant action in Traylor’s work, running, climbing, shooting, fighting, yelling, drinking, poking, chasing, pointing, or sitting, often within or on top of strange, unidentifiable geometric structures. Born a slave, Traylor (c. 1853-1949) spent most of his life as a farmhand; however, for a few years in the late 1930s and early 1940s, homeless and in his late eighties, he drew pictures in pencil, colored pencil, and poster paint on found pieces of cardboard, making his art on a sidewalk in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art began acquiring works by self-taught artists in 1993 and has organized a major traveling exhibition in this field, James Castle: A Retrospective (2008-09). The Museum currently owns approximately 300 works by more than 50 self-taught artists. It is committed to showing their work in the context of mainstream production, as it often resonates in evocative ways with major movements represented in the collection, such as Dada and Surrealism, and with many aspects of contemporary practice. This was demonstrated in an exhibition mounted in 2000, entitled When Reason Dreams: Drawings Inspired by the Visionary, the Fantastic, and the Unreal. The new promised gifts will place the Museum among the major public holdings of outsider art in the country, along with those of the American Folk Art Museum in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

“Jill and I are delighted to make this commitment of the works in our collection which have been selected by the Museum’s curators,” said Sheldon Bonovitz. “With our gift, we are helping the Museum build recognition across a wide audience for the remarkable contributions of self-taught artists. We thank the Museum for recognizing the importance of self-taught artists within the broader field of contemporary art and hope that it will encourage other donors to help us further this important mission.”
Published in News

The American West was a source of great fascination for Easterners and visitors to this country alike during the 19th century. Novelists such as James Fenimore Cooper and Charles Bird King capitalized on this fascination with books such as King’s Young Omaha, War Eagle, Little Missouri, and Pawnees, featuring descriptions of wild mountain men and Native Americans that incited the public’s imagination about life on the frontier. Exhibition open June 4, 2011 – September 18, 2011.

Alfred Jacob Miller (1810–1874) was one of the first American artists to paint the American West, producing beautiful watercolors of the remarkable landscape, exotic wildlife, and Native American peoples that he encountered during the trips he made through the Great Plains and into the Rocky Mountains during the late 1830s.

Romancing the West presents a selection of 30 rarely seen watercolors from Miller’s most important body of work: the images he created in1837 when traveling with the Scottish adventurer Captain William Drummond Stewart west from St. Louis to Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains, along what would become known as the Oregon Trail.

“As a greenhorn from the East, Miller captured life in the West with wide-eyed admiration, depicting the landscape in a captivating way,” said Kathleen A. Foster, the Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Senior Curator of American Art, and Director, Center for American Art. “He was also a vivacious and accomplished draftsman, and gave us a picture of roundups, fur trappers and hunting expeditions that blended visual journalism with the fanciful and made an important contribution to what would become a shared mythology of the West.”

Commissioned by Captain Stewart to document scenes from their travels to the annual fur-trading rendezvous in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains, Miller spent six months creating hundreds of sketches that would serve as a mine of inspiration for the next three decades. The watercolors in Romancing the West are drawn from a group of more than 1,000 works created during and after his trip. Many feature horsemen riding at breakneck speeds, hunting expeditions, colorfully-dressed fur traders, beautiful Native American women, and all of the thrills of the trail.

Driven by his patron’s agenda, the works Miller created for Stewart depict a heroic and romantic way of life, frequently starring Miller’s enterprising patron as the protagonist. Stewart leads the hunt in Elk Taking the Water, while Chase of the Grizzly Bear, Black Hills suggests the Scotsman’s prowess and bravery in pursuit of the fierce grizzly. Large-game hunting was among Stewart’s favorite leisure activities, and the theme appears in more than one-quarter of the images Miller created for him. When they returned from the trip, Stewart commissioned several large paintings in oil and watercolor from Miller’s original sketches, which were bound into an album he kept back in his castle in Perthshire, Scotland, to illustrate his dramatic tales of his American adventures.

Of different sizes and on different papers, the watercolors in the exhibition suggest works done over time and in different locations. Historical details depicted in works like Departure of the Caravan at Sunrise provide a first-hand record of the contrasts seen between white and Native American travelers and provide important cultural and historical evidence of everyday life on the frontier during the 1830s. Others are based on accounts from other travelers or are drawn from Miller’s imagination, depicting views from vantage points that Miller would never have seen, including Watching the Caravan, depicting two Native Americans peering over the edge of a cliff at a wagon train below. He also embellished certain details, giving fur trappers an air of mystique by replacing ordinary trousers and jackets with elaborate, fringed buckskin ensembles (Old Bill Burrows, a Free Trapper). These romanticized characters and invented landscapes captivated viewers back East and in Europe, many of whom fantasized about the picaresque life of the fur trappers of the Wild West.

Miller’s formal art training, first with Thomas Sully in Baltimore, and later at the École de Beaux-Arts in Paris, presented an opportunity for him to study the Old Masters and to become known as a skilled copyist. He particularly admired the work of Eugène Delacroix and of French Romantic painter Horace Vernet, whose images of horses offered a possible model for On the Warpath – Running Fight, and War Path, both part of the Bank of America collection. Snake Female Reposing, a sensual portrayal of a young woman from the Snake tribe reposing under a tree, references the paintings of Middle Eastern odalisques Miller would have seen in the galleries of the Louvre while training abroad in 1833-34.

As a result, the works in Romancing the West mix fact with fantasy, reflecting frontier life both as it was, and as it was imagined to be. The exhibition offers a glimpse of a thrillingly unknown, frequently mythologized region of the country that was intoxicating to its mid-19th-century Eastern and European viewers.

“Bank of America is committed to strengthening artistic institutions and in turn, the communities we serve,” said Tom Woodward, Bank of America Pennsylvania president. “Sharing our collection with the public through partners such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art not only makes business sense for the bank, but also helps support one of Philadelphia’s finest local cultural anchors.”

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest art museums in the United States, showcasing more than 2,000 years of exceptional human creativity in masterpieces of painting, sculpture, works on paper, decorative arts and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. An exciting addition is the newly renovated and expanded Perelman Building, which opened its doors in September 2007 with five new exhibition spaces, a soaring skylit galleria, and a café overlooking a landscaped terrace. The Museum offers a wide variety of enriching activities, including programs for children and families, lectures, concerts and films.

Published in News

Anew exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is taking a fresh look at the influence that Paris had on Marc Chagall and his fellow modernists from 1910 to 1920.

The show, "Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle," is being presented in conjunction with an international arts festival in Philadelphia that opens in April.

The exhibition "represents the Museum's contribution to this festival and will focus on the powerful influence that Paris had on Chagall and his contemporaries," museum director Timothy Rub said.

The show, located in the museum's Perelman annex, includes roughly 40 paintings and sculptures culled mainly from the museum's own collection but reconfigured in a new way. Other featured artists include Chaim Soutine, Amedeo Modigliani and Jacques Lipschitz.

Curator Michael Taylor said the show provides visitors with "a unique opportunity to reconsider the cross-fertilization that took place" when Chagall and his contemporaries lived and worked in Paris.

Published in News
Page 5 of 5