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A well-known folk art object, a whirligig is a wind-powered creation that spins and and swirls. Vollis Simpson (1919-2013), a North Carolina-based folk artist, was celebrated for his whirligigs, which he made from recycled heating and air conditioning systems and reflective materials. The unconventional artist, whose work was featured in museums, backyards, and the 1996 Olympics, passed away on Friday, May 31, 2013 at the age of 94.

Simpson’s hulking masterpieces, which he built near his machine shop in Lucama, NC, stand as high as 50 feet and weigh as much as 3 tons. Many of his whirligigs were on public display in town until a restoration effort was started. The process is about halfway complete and the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park is slated to open in November 2013 in Wilson, NC, about 10 miles from the artist’s home.

Known for their whimsical quality, Simpson’s whirligigs tell stories of a community and bygone eras. He built his first whirligig while he was overseas during World War II. Upon returning to the United States, Simpson farmed and worked as a mover before opening the machine shop that would become his whirligig studio. In the 1980s, Simpson kicked his whirligig making into high gear and spent 10 years building his captivating, large-scale creations.

Simpson’s works are part of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

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Two permanent galleries dedicated to the work of the English sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986) opened on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at the Tate Britain in London. The museum presents a collection of approximately 30 works including film, photographs, maquettes, drawings, and large-scale sculptures. Moore’s Recumbent Figure (1938), which was the first of the artist’s works to join the Tate’s collection, is also on view.

Moore, who served as a trustee of the Tate for two terms from 1941-1956, worked closely with the institution. The first gallery of his works explores the artist’s relationship to the museum and how the Tate amassed its Moore collection. The artist made a number of generous donations to the institution during his life including a set of prints, which he gave to the Tate in 1976 and 36 sculptures, which he bequeathed to the museum in 1978. The Tate currently owns over 600 of Moore’s works ranging in date from 1921-1984.

The Tate’s second gallery focuses on Moore’s array of public commissions and the process he used to create them. During the 1950s and 1960s, Moore worked almost entirely in plaster, which was then cast in bronze. Most of his works from this period are figurative or centered on the landscape and the natural world. Moore’s large-scale sculptures set in a wide-ranging array of settings from this time are some of his best-known works. The sculptures in this gallery are complemented by drawings and maquettes as well as films and photographs of Moore at work in his studio.

A highly successful sculptor, Moore used the money he made from his work to endow the Henry Moore Foundation, which continues to support education and the promotion of the arts.

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Henri Matisse: La Gerbe is currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and highlights the artist’s final commissioned work. Henri Matisse (1869-1954) created La Gerbe (The Sheaf), a 2,000 lb., 18 x 20-foot ceramic piece, in 1952 for the home of Los Angeles-based philanthropists Sidney and Frances Brody. Mrs. Brody promised the work to LACMA in honor of the museum’s 25th anniversary and donated it to the institution in 2010. This event marks the first time that La Gerbe has been displayed alongside its full-scale maquette, which is on loan from the University of California’s Hammer Museum.  

Late in his career, Matisse developed his cut-out technique, which involved cutting organic shapes out of colored paper and arranging them on his studio’s walls. Giving the artist a renewed sense of freedom, Matisse lauded the technique for its immediacy and simplicity, which he believed helped him express his artistic urgencies more completely.

When he received the commission from the Brody’s, Matisse created a full-scale paper cut-out of his design, which he showed the couple during their visit to his studio in Nice, France. The Brody’s rejected the first design but accepted a second full-scale cut-out, which is the maquette included in LACMA’s exhibition. The final La Gerbe was executed in ceramic and consisted of 15 sections, which were shipped to Los Angeles in 1954 following the artist’s death. The work was installed on the Body’s patio wall where it remained until Frances’ death in 2009. The work was permanently installed at LACMA in 2010.

LACMA’s exhibition includes other major works from Matisse’s cut-out period including Madame de Pompadour (1951) and Jazz (1947), a historic book of 20 prints, which is considered the artists’ first major project using the cut-out technique.

The La Gerbe exhibition will be on view at LACMA through September 8, 2013.

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Maine Sublime: Frederic Edwin Church’s Landscapes of Mount Desert and Mount Katahdin will open on June 9, 2013 at Olana in Hudson, NY. Olana State Historic Site was the home of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), a major figure in the Hudson River School, and includes the artist’s studio. The villa is a mixture of Victorian, Persian, and Moorish styles and overlooks the Hudson River valley, the Catskill Mountains, and the Taconic Ridge.

The upcoming exhibition focuses on the 50-year period during which Church traveled and painted landscapes of Maine. Maine Sublime presents 10 oil and 13 pencil sketches from Olana’s collection and many of works will be on public view for the first time. The show will include loans from the Portland Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and two private collections.

Church first visited Maine in 1850 and spent six weeks on Mount Desert. In 1852, Church explored the Mount Katahdin region and in the coming decades he would continue to visit and be captivated by Maine’s natural beauty. The plein-air sketch Wood Interior Near Mount Katahdin (circa 1877) is one of the works that has never been on public view but will be part of the upcoming exhibition.

Maine Sublime will be on view at Olana through October 31, 2013. The exhibition will then be on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art through the summer of 2014.

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A rare and early reclining armchair designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is currently on view at the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH. A pioneer of modern architecture, Wright designed the chair between 1902 and 1903 and it features the minimal aesthetic and linear design that he is best known for. The chair was originally designed for his prairie style Francis W. Little House in Peoria, IL but he used different variations of the chair over the course of the next decade, including in his own studio in Chicago’s Oak Park.  

The presentation of the chair coincides with the reopening of the Currier’s Isadore J. and Lucille Zimmerman House (1950), which Wright designed. Along with the exterior, Wright devised the House’s interiors, furniture, gardens, and even its mailbox. The Zimmermans left the house to the Currier in 1988 and it opened for public tours in 1990. Besides being able to view a Wright masterpiece, visitors are offered a glimpse of the Zimmermans’ personal collection of modern art, pottery, and sculpture. The Zimmerman House is the only Wright home open to the public in New England. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Tours of the Zimmerman House are offered ten times a week and require a reservation.

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Andrew Wyeth’s ‘Ides of March:’ The Making of a Masterpiece is currently on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA. The exhibition is part of a five-year sequence of events that will culminate in 2017 with a centennial celebration of the realist painter Andew Wyeth (1917-2009), including a major retrospective of the artist’s work. A native of Chadds Ford, Wyeth was a prominent force in the art world during the mid-20th century.

The privately owned Ides of March (1974), which is rarely exhibited, will be presented alongside more than 30 of Wyeth’s preliminary studies for the tempera painting. The exhibition offers viewers a rare glimpse into Wyeth’s painstaking approach to composition and his renowned use of evocative imagery.

Organizers hope that The Making of a Masterpiece and the museum’s future events will introduce Wyeth as well as his family members to a new crop of art enthusiasts. Wyeth’s father, N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), was a celebrated American artist and illustrator and his son, Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946), is a well-known realist painter and heir to the Brandywine School of painters, which was created by his grandfather and father.

The Making of a Masterpiece will be on view at the Brandywine River Museum through May 19, 2013. Visitors of the museum can also take a tour of Wyeth’s studio now through November 19, 2013.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012 14:08

Two Exhibitions Focus on Winslow Homer’s Maine

Winslow Homer (1836–1910), one of the foremost figures in American art, is well known for his sea scenes and marine paintings. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Homer was an avid traveler and spent time living and working in New York City, Paris, and England, among other places. However, during his years in Prout’s Neck, Maine, Homer produced some of his most defining masterpieces.

Homer moved to Maine in 1883 and spent most of his time working in his studio, a former carriage house, just 75 feet from the ocean. Homer remained in Prout’s Neck on his family’s property until his death in 1910. Homer’s paintings from this period are defined by their crashing waves, rocky coasts, and his expert use of light; they are also the subjects of two current exhibitions.

The Portland Museum of Art’s show, Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine, focuses on Homer’s connection with his Prout’s Neck studio, which the museum now owns. The paintings on display feature the ocean views Homer saw from his home as well as the burly fishermen and statuesque women he often focused on. The exhibition’s range of paintings illustrates Homer’s transition from more populated works to stripped-down paintings that include just sea and land; Homer’s personal life followed a similar evolution.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is also hosting an exhibition of Homer’s work titled, Shipwreck! Winslow Homer and ‘The Life Line. The show is based around the museum’s own painting and Homer’s greatest success, The Life Line (1884), which features a woman being saved from the tumultuous sea by an anonymous hero. Shipwreck! Focuses on Homer’s changing relationship with the sea and includes tranquil marine paintings as well as bleaker scenes.

Weatherbeaten will be on view at the Portland Museum of art through December 30. Shipwreck! ends up its run at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on January 1, 2013.

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Best known for his dynamic and powerful seascapes, painter Winslow Homer (1836–1910) spent the last twenty-seven years of his life working diligently in a studio in Prout’s Neck, Maine. It was here, isolated on the craggy coast, that Winslow’s work matured and he created some of his most admired paintings. While in Maine, Homer became fascinated with the untold power of the natural world and often explored the theme in scenes of man versus nature, particularly the ocean.

Beginning September 25th, after a multi-year, $2.8 million restoration by the Portland Museum of Art, Homer’s studio will be open for public tours. After Homer’s death, the studio was passed down from family member to family member and ultimately landed in the hands of his great-grandnephew, Charles “Chip” Homer Willauer. Willauer, now 74, spent many summers living in his great-granduncle’s studio and began to worry about the future of the building. Hoping to preserve the significant piece of American art history, Willauer sold the studio to the Portland Museum of Art in 2006 for $1.8 million.

The Museum took the undertaking very seriously and went to work on renovations. The foundation was stabilized, the balcony and windows were replaced, the chimney was restored, and the exterior returned to its original green hue with brown trim. The museum ultimately raised $10.6 million to pay for the purchase and renovation of Homer’s studio as well as an endowment and educational programs and exhibitions.

To celebrate the renovation and opening, the museum will present the exhibition “Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine,” featuring 38 oil paintings, watercolors and etchings that Homer created in his secluded studio. “Weatherbeaten” will run through December 30th.

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