Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fauve Painting in the Permanent Collection

The National Gallery of Art will bring together its collection of fauve paintings in an exhibition to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the naming of this movement in French art. In the fall of 1905, critic Louis Vauxcelles first coined the epithet fauve, or "wild beast," to characterize what appeared to be an explosion of color in the work of a loosely knit group of young painters exhibiting at the Salon d'automne in Paris. Between roughly 1904 and 1907, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Georges Braque, Maurice de Vlaminck, and others brought a newly liberated colorism into cityscape and landscape paintings. Working with an intense, unmodulated application of pure color and the bold strokes of a loaded brush, these artists adapted the advances of postimpressionism, creating a presumably more impetuous or "anarchic" manner.

The National Gallery of Art possesses a splendid collection of fauve paintings. Highlights include Braque's The Port of La Ciotat (1907); Vlaminck's Tugboat on the Seine, Chatou (1906); and Derain's Charing Cross Bridge, London (1906). The crown jewel of the exhibition is Matisse's small but riveting Open Window, Collioure (1905), a bequest of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney. It is the central icon of the fauve movement and one of Matisse's acknowledged early masterpieces.

Two-year renovation of Museum Facility


The U.S. Department of the Interior Museum will be closing Friday, October 30th for a two-year modernization project. Throughout the project, the Museum will continue to offer public programs at other locations in the Main Interior Building on the first Wednesday of every month and the Murals Tour by appointment. For more information or to schedule a Murals Tour call Diana Ziegler (202) 208-4743.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hull Maritime Museum

Founded in 1912 the Maritime Museum moved to the old Dock Offices in 1974. The Dock Offices were formerly the home of the Hull Dock Company until 1893, when North Eastern Railway took over the running of the docks.

The shareholders' Court Room, now used for temporary exhibitions, is a highly decorated piece of Victorian architecture. The room has a frieze of cherubs displaying the coats of arms of the European cities that Hull traded with.

Hull dominated the Arctic whaling trade in the early nineteenth century and there is an outstanding collection of whaling artefacts. This includes skeletons of the whales themselves, the tools and weapons, as well as personalia, journals and logbooks. There are fine contemporary paintings of the ships and the largest collection of scrimshaw (the folk art of the whaler) on this side of the Atlantic.

The museum also tells the story of the city's involvement in fishing, initially in the North Sea and then out to Norway, Iceland and Greenland, with models ranging from small cobles and smacks to the huge modern stern trawlers.From the Middle Ages the core of Hull's trade was with the Baltic and Scandinavia. The Wilson Line, founded in 1831, began trading by importing iron ore from Sweden but by 1903 was the biggest privately-owned shipping company in the world.

The transition from sail to steam is exemplified by models and decorative arts (glass, pottery and silver). Throughout there are examples of the paintings by outstanding local marine artists such as John Ward and Henry Redmore.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Small French Paintings

In 1969 Ailsa Mellon Bruce bequeathed to the National Gallery of Art her extensive collection of French impressionist and postimpressionist paintings. She considered their small size suitable for modestly scaled modern interiors, such as her apartment in Manhattan. When the East Building opened in 1978, a series of small galleries was devoted to exhibitions from her collection. Her brother, Paul Mellon (1907–1999), one of the Gallery's most generous benefactors, admired these "small galleries that enhance the paintings' intimacy and their human appeal" (Reflections in a Silver Spoon: A Memoir, by Paul Mellon, John Baskett (Contributor), 1992). Since the original Bruce gift, Mr. and Mrs. Mellon and other donors have added many French paintings of modest scale but high quality, a selection of which is normally on view at the Gallery.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Virtue and Beauty

In a visual culture such as ours, it is hard to imagine a world nearly devoid of images of living people. But that was the case in Europe before the fifteenth century when artists devoted themselves almost exclusively to representing saints, biblical figures, and religious scenes. Secular portraiture was limited mainly to likenesses of rulers or images of donors tucked into the corners of altarpieces and other paintings of sacred themes.

In fifteenth-century Florence, portraiture expanded to encompass members of the merchant class, who appear in scores of panel paintings, on medals, and as marble busts. Almost from the outset, this development included women as well as men. Virtue and Beauty focuses on the flowering of female portraiture in Florence from c. 1440 to c. 1540; it also presents several male portraits, Northern European or courtly analogues, and works that relate specifically to Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci, one of only three female portraits painted by the master. The works of art on view illustrate the broad shift that occurred in this period from the profile portrait to the three-quarter or frontal view of the sitter. Over time the portraits of women also became larger in scale, more elaborate, and more communicative with the viewer.