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On Saturday, May 11, 2013, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art In Bentonville, Arkansas launched two exhibitions dedicated to American genre painting. Genre painting, which became popular during the mid-19th century, involved the depiction ordinary scenes of everyday life. As religious artworks waned in prevalence, genre painting struck a chord with the public as they could easily relate to the narratives, which spanned various races, regions, and classes.

American Encounters: Genre Painting and Everyday Life presents five paintings by a handful of the most well known artists from the movement including George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), and Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905). Between Bingham, who painted scenes of life on the American frontier, Johnson, who captured the true spirits of the people of New England, the western frontier, the slavery-ridden south, and prominent Americans, and Tait, whose subject of choice was wildlife, the three artists come together to communicate a varied and comprehensive American experience.

The works in American Encounters are accompanied by two paintings from the Louvre – one is from the Dutch genre painting school and another from the English interpretation of the movement. American Encounters is also complemented b the exhibition Genre Scenes on Paper from Crystal Bridges’ Permanent Collection.

Genre Scenes on Paper provides a sampling of the museum’s 19th century watercolors and drawings, many of which have never been on public view. The exhibition explores themes of work and leisure in the city and country and features works by Winslow Homer (1836-1910), Thomas Waterman Wood (1823-1903), and John Lewis Krimmel (1786-1821). Just as the paintings in American Encounters, these works come together to show how a variety of artists interpreted daily life in a young country still coming into its own.

American Encounters and Genre Scenes on Paper will be on view at the Crystal Bridges Museum through August 12, 2013. American Encounters, which is the second exhibition in a four-year partnership between Crystal Bridges, the Louvre and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, will then travel to the High where it will be on view from September 14, 2013 through January 14, 2014.

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Two years ago, the Folk Art Museum in New York City was on the brink of closure due to its poor financial standing. Most of the museum’s troubles stemmed from a $32 million construction project that placed a flagship building next door to the Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd Street in Manhattan. After the project drew to a close in 2001, the Folk Art Museum struggled to pay off their debt to the Trust for Cultural Resources and in 2009 the institution defaulted on its payments. Desperate, the Folk Art Museum sold their flagship building and moved into a smaller space and drastically reduced its budget.

Now, after some major sacrifices, it appears that the Folk Art Museum has regained its footing. Attendance is expected to reach 80,000 this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2013; last year the Folk Art Museum welcomed 66,000 patrons. A number of major donors are back on board with the museum including the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, which recently gifted $25,000 to the institution. The Folk Art Museum will also participate in this summer’s highly anticipated Venice Biennale by sending an artwork from its collection to the show.

The Folk Art Museum has been strengthening its relationships with other institutions through collaborative exhibitions. The museum is currently hosting an exhibition of William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) oil paintings titled Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed (on view through May 26, 2013), which was organized by the Fenimore Art Museum is Cooperstown, NY. The exhibition Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, which features a range of works by the self-taught artist, Bill Traylor (1854-1949), will open on June 11 and run through September 22, 2013.

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Atlanta’s High Museum of Art has joined forces with the Art Gallery of Ontario to present the exhibition Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting. The show, which features approximately 140 works by the Mexican modernists Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and Diego Rivera (1996-1957), includes works from Mexico’s Museo Dolores Olmedo, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art, and the Galeria Arvil. The works are presented in pairs based on chronology and theme including Mexican identity, maternity, and portraiture.

Kahlo and Rivera, who married in 1929, were known for their tumultuous relationship as well as their involvement in Mexican politics and culture. Frida & Diego aims to take the focus off of the personal lives and explore the ways in which they influenced each other as artists.

Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting will be on view through May 12, 2013. The High Museum of Art is the only museum in the U.S. to host the exhibition, which is the largest presentation of the couple’s art ever to appear together.


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Considered one of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s (1632-1675) masterworks, Girl With a Pearl Earring has spent over a century at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague. Sometimes referred to as the “Dutch Mona Lisa,” the painting, which is not dated, features a wide-eyed young girl whose gaze has been captivating audiences for hundreds of years.

Girl With a Pearl Earring is one of 15 paintings heading to the Frick Collection in New York from the Netherlands. Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting From the Mauritshuis opens on October 22, 2013 and runs through January 19, 2014. Because of the high level of interest in the enigmatic work, chief curator at the Frick, Colin Bailey, decided to give Girl With a Pearl Earring its own space in the museum’s Oval Room. The rest of the exhibition will be on display in the Frick’s East Gallery.

The Mauritshuis is currently undergoing renovations, which is why part of its collection has been sent out for exhibition. In addition to the Frick, the works will appear in Japan (through January 6, 2013), San Francisco’s de Young Museum (January 26, 2013-June 2, 2013), and Atlanta’s High Museum of Art (June 22, 2013-September 29, 2013). The rest of the Mauritshuis’ collection will remain in the Netherlands and will be exhibited at The Hague’s Gemeentemuseum until the renovations are completed.

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Tuesday, 13 November 2012 18:54

Four Major Museums Including the Louvre Team Up

For the second time in two years, Paris' musee du Louvre, Atlanta's High Museum of Art, Bentonville, Arkanas' Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Chicago's Terra Foundation will join forces to promote American art history education. The collaboration, which launched last year, was conceived in 2007 after the High's exhibition Louvre Atlanta, the product of a collection-sharing agreement with the French institution.

This installation of the four-year collaboration will focus on American genre painting of the 19th century, specifically how artists associated with the movement depicted day-to-day life at a time when America was still coming into its own. The exhibition, titled American Encounters: Genre Painting and Everyday Life, will open at the Louvre on January 17, 2013 and travel to the Crystal Bridges Museum in May and then to the High Museum in September. Featured paintings include Arthur Fitzwilliam Tate's The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix (1856) from Crystal Bridges, Eastman Johnson's Negro Life at the South (circa 1870) from the High Museum, and George Caleb Bingham's The Jolly Flatboatmen (1877-78) from the Terra Foundation. The Louvre's contributions, a painting by the Dutch artist Jan Steen and one by Englishman William Mulready, will explore the European influence on American genre painting.

Last year's inaugural exhibition focused on American landscape painting and featured works by Asher B. Durand and Thomas Cole. It is currently wrapping up its run at the High Museum ending January 6, 2013.

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When Gudmund Vigtel was named the High Museum of Art’s director in 1963, it was a sensitive time for Atlanta’s art world. More than 100 members of the Atlanta Arts Association and their family members had died the year before in a tragic plane crash. The city’s civic leaders hoped that Vigtel could turn the museum into a living monument of sorts.

Vigtel came to the High Museum from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington where he served as the assistant director. Civic leaders turned to Vigtel to spearhead the fund-raising campaign they started with hopes of remaking the museum. As it turns out, they chose the right man for the job.

During his 28 years at the High Museum, Vigtel transformed it from an unsuspecting, modest institution to one of the U.S.’s most renowned art museums. Vigtel oversaw the museum’s move from a small brick building to an architecturally groundbreaking 135,000-square-foot postmodern structure designed by Richard Meier. While the relocation happened in 1983, Vigtel began fund-raising and seeking out an architect in the mid-1970s.

Vigtel tripled the size of the High’s permanent collection and implemented an art appreciation program for children. He also started one of the country’s first African-American art collections. The decorative arts collection he opened at the museum has gone on to become one of the finest in the country. After acquiring hundreds of works by 19th- and 20th-century American and European artists, Vigtel left the High Museum with a $15 million endowment, which has since grown.

Vigtel died at his home in Atlanta at the age of 87. His wife, two daughters, four grandchildren, and a profound legacy survive him.

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