Works by Romare Bearden, Jasper Johns and William Christenberry Among 2013-2014 High Museum of Art Acquisition Highlights
Major acquisitions strengthen holdings of seminal works by Southern artists
Museum becomes largest institutional repository of Christenberry’s work in the U.S.
ATLANTA, Sept. 10, 2014 – The High Museum of Art continued to expand its collection in 2013-2014 with the addition of more than 600 works of art, including major acquisitions of works by renowned Southern-born artists Romare Bearden, Jasper Johnsand William Christenberry. These acquisitions further strengthen the Museum’s robust holdings of works by artists from the Southeastern U.S., an area of collecting to which the High remains dedicated as the leading art museum in the region.
“We have made a longstanding investment in collecting works by Southern artists across our curatorial departments, and I am particularly excited to bring such an important group of acquisitions into the collection this year, all of which reflect the rich artistic legacy of the region,” said David Brenneman, director of collections and exhibitions for the High. “Giving these works a home in the Southeast is very important to the Museum as a major cultural steward of the area, and we look forward to engaging our visitors with these important works as well as preserving them for future generations to enjoy.”
Among the notable works acquired by the High in 2013-2014 are:
Romare Bearden, “Profile/Part II, The Thirties: Artist with Painting and Model,” 1981
Collage on fiberboard
44 × 56 inches
Purchase with funds from Alfred Austell Thornton in memory of Leila Austell Thornton and Albert Edward Thornton, Sr., and Sarah Miller Venable and William Hoyt Venable, Margaret and Terry Stent Endowment for the Acquisition of American Art, David C. Driskell African American Art Acquisition Fund, Spray Foundation, Inc., Dr. Henrie M. Treadwell, Margaret and Scotty Greene, Sarah Kenan Kennedy, Howard and Helen Elkins, Alton Adams, and gift to honor Howard Elkins from the Docents of the High Museum of Art
Joining eight other works by Bearden in the High’s collection of American Art is “Profile/Part II, The Thirties: Artist with Painting and Model” (1981), the artist’s only known self-portrait. Co-founder of Spiral, the Civil Rights era collective of African-American artists, Bearden infused his work with themes central to the Black experience. This late-career collage is a retrospective work in which Bearden brings together important memories and spiritual influences from his youth in the South with broader art historical themes that guided his career for more than four decades. “Artist with Painting and Model” is the culminating work of Bearden’s “Profile” series, a two-part collection of collages based on Bearden’s memories of the 1930s and 40s, and it is Bearden’s only work that directly references his role as an artist.
In the collage, Bearden depicts himself in his studio holding a brush with his arm draped over a painting. This “painting within the painting” is a rendition of “The Visitation” (1941), a tempura on paper that Bearden considered to be among his key works. Elsewhere in the studio are motifs that allude to his art historical sources and artistic training, contributing to the painting’s powerful narrative of personal history that also recognizes the legacy of past and present masters of Western art. The High will display “Profile/Part II, The Thirties: Artist with Painting and Model” as the centerpiece of a focused exhibition of works by Bearden from the Museum’s collection, which will go on view in 2015.
The addition of “Artist with Painting and Model” holds relevance across the Museum’s collecting areas. In recent years the High has made several landmark acquisitions in the area of modern and contemporary art, with works by such internationally celebrated artists as Julie Mehretu, Alex Katz, Kiki Smith and Anish Kapoor. As Bearden’s self-described career summation, “Artist with Painting and Model” further bolsters the High’s holdings of works by 20th and 21st century masters, as well as the Museum’s collection of works by African American artists, including Bearden’s peers Norman Lewis, Hale Woodruff and Elizabeth Catlett – and those he inspired, such as Radcliffe Bailey.
Jasper Johns, “Untitled,” 2010
Graphite on paper
30 5/16 × 22 7/16 inches
Purchase with funds from Anne Cox Chambers, Sarah Kenan Kennedy, Dr. Lurton Massee Jr. Endowment for Contemporary Art, Blonder Family Acquisition Endowment Fund, Robert O. Breitling, Jr. Acquisition Endowment Fund, Gudmund Vigtel Memorial Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, Roya and Bahman Irvani, Dr. Diane Wisebram, Helen C. Griffith, Sara and Paul Steinfeld, Barbara and Bertram Levy, Joel S. Knox and Joan Marmo, and through prior acquisitions
The first drawing by Augusta, Ga., native Jasper Johns to enter the Museum’s collection of Modern and Contemporary Art, “Untitled” (2010) complements seven prints by Johns in the High’s permanent collection. The graphite drawing is from a recent series in which the artist revisits a set of images that first appeared together almost 30 years ago in his cycle of paintings titled “The Seasons” (1985-86).
When this imagery first appeared in the mid-’80s as a frontispiece for a book of Wallace Stevens poems, it provided yet another enigmatic facet to the iconography of Johns’ late career, populated by cryptic image puzzles, thematic ciphers related to the history of painting, and Johns’ autobiography. The subject of the “Seasons” paintings, to which Johns alludes in this drawing, is in fact an allegory of the artist’s life, synthesizing a dreamlike reflection on more than 60 years of his career. This new acquisition is currently on view at the High in the exhibition “Top Drawer: Select Drawings from the High’s Collection.”
The acquisition of “Untitled” complements the High’s efforts to strengthen its collection of modern and contemporary drawings and prints from 1945 to the present, which now features more than 1,800 works.
William Christenberry – 109 photographs, 1964-2001
Various processes and dimensions
Purchase with funds from Robert Yellowlees and gift of the artist
Utilizing a recently established fund for collecting bodies of work by Southern photographers, the High also recently acquired a group of more than 100 vintage color prints by Tuscaloosa, Ala., native William Christenberry, making the Museum the most significant institutional repository of Christenberry’s work in the U.S.
Christenberry has made a career of exploring Southern heritage through a variety of media, including photography, drawing, painting and sculpture. His work addresses issues of time, memory and change in the Southern landscape, and Christenberry is particularly well-known for systematically recording the evolution of vernacular architecture over the course of decades. The High was given the extraordinary opportunity to select from among the very best examples of Christenberry’s long career from the artist’s archives in Washington, D.C., and the photographs acquired will join 26 prints by Christenberry already in the Museum’s holdings. These newly acquired prints bolster the High’s noteworthy collection of photographs by Southern artists including Clarence John Laughlin, Emmet Gowin and William Eggleston.
The High Museum of Art is home to the most robust photography program in the American Southeast, and today photography is the largest and fastest growing collection at the Museum. With more than 5,800 prints, the collection’s holdings focus on American work of the 20th and 21st centuries, with special strengths in modernist traditions, documentary genre and contemporary photography.
In addition to these works by artists from the Southeast, 89 works by 29 Atlanta-based artists, including Susan Cofer, Gyun Hur and Philip Moultrop, were also recently added to the collection.
Below is a summary of additional acquisition highlights across the Museum’s curatorial departments from May 2013 to May 2014.
The American Art department expanded its holdings by both women and African-American artists, as well as strengthened its collection of historical and contemporary works.
- Apple Blossoms, gouache on paper (ca. 1885) by Fidelia Bridges. This elegant gouache is the second work by Bridges to enter the High’s collection and adds to the growing list of works by women artists in the Museum’s historical holdings.
- Reclining Nude, an oil on paper (ca. 1945) by Leon Kroll. This is the first work by Kroll to enter the High’s collection, and it augments the department’s holdings of early 20th artists such as Robert Henri, George Luks, and Ernest Lawson. The painting features a female with fair skin, an oval face, curvaceous features and dark hair, a look that ultimately became known as the “Kroll type.”
Modern and Contemporary Art:
Recent acquisitions in the Modern and Contemporary Art department include a range of works that expand traditional parameters of painting and drawing. These works incorporate an unexpected variety of materials, jarring juxtapositions, and (sometimes humorous) historical references, resulting in a group of works that provide an overview of contemporary artistic practice and its characteristic plurality of approaches, as well as a deepening of the Museum’s holdings of work by significant 20th century artists.
- January Series (1992), one of 17 chalk and charcoal cartoons gifted to the High by Alex Katz (making the High’s holdings of Katz’s cartoons the largest in the U.S.). Cartoons have been an important aspect of Katz’s painting process, and these works join later landscapes by the artist to more fully represent Katz’s career arc and artistic practice in the High’s collection.
- Untitled (2013), a painting by American artist Laura Owens (one of 12 large-scale works from her recent solo exhibition). Owens combines traditions of classical modernism with references to popular culture in her work. In “Untitled,” she embeds an image of a cat drawn in a lively, stylized manner that evokes the graphic style of both Henri Matisse and Andy Warhol.
- Daisy (2007), a painting by Brooklyn-based artist Joyce Pensato based on the cartoon character Daisy Duck. The enamel and metallic paint on linen work is indicative of Pensato’s aggressive, painterly handling of materials and joins numerous other recent gifts from the Alex Katz Foundation (including the Owens work), which reinterpret historic painting conventions.
- Bat Parts (1994), a pencil drawing by Al Taylor that joins a growing number of works by the artist in the High’s collection. Part of a series of drawings and sculptures, Bat Parts demonstrates the artist’s blurring of boundaries between two dimensional drawings and three dimensional constructions – which he once referred to as “drawings in space” or “drawing instruments.”
Decorative Arts and Design:
This department boasts strong holdings in historic American decorative arts, as well as an impressive, growing contemporary international design collection. Recent acquisitions enhance both areas and explore a range of ideas.
- Physic Garden (2014), a two-story tall, hand-painted “plate painting” by contemporary ceramic designer Molly Hatch. Commissioned by the High, the work is comprised of 475 plates featuring an original design inspired by two ca. 1755 Chelsea plates from the High’s Frances and Emory Cocke Collection of English Ceramics. It is the largest installation of Hatch’s career.
- Centipede III Bench (2009) by Héctor Esrawe. The High adds depth to its international collection with this lively, dynamic work by one of Mexico’s best contemporary designers.
- A rare oak and leather chair (1905-07) from Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops. As one of Stickley’s most favored designs, this piece by one of the predominant American contributors to the Arts and Craft movement enhances the historic collection’s holdings from this period.
- A large-scale wooden bowl made of red leopard maple by Atlanta-based artisan Philip Moulthrop (2013). This substantial acquisition builds upon the High’s continued support of local and regional artists and enhances the contemporary craft collection. The work joins a substantial range of his father Edward Moulthrop’s work in the Museum’s holdings and is the second piece by Philip Moulthrop added to the collection.
European Art continues to strengthen its growing collection of prints and drawings, with a specific focus on significant 18th- and 19-century artists such as Édouard Manet, Adolph Menzel and Jean Baptiste Claude Chatelain.
- Jean Baptiste Claude Chatelain was a French-born English landscape artist considered by many to be a precursor to Thomas Gainsborough, the leading landscape painter in England in the latter half of the 18th century. A Classical Landscape (ca.1750) is an exemplary drawing by Chatelain, and it is the first work by the artist to enter the High’s collection. The work enhances the Museum’s British drawing collection, which has been steadily building.
- Lola Melea, known on stage as Lola de Valence, was a member of a dance troupe from Madrid that appeared at the Hippodrome in Paris during the late summer and fall of 1862. Her magnificent, glittering costume made an ideal subject for Édouard Manet, and he convinced the dancer to pose for a portrait. Manet later translated the painting in print, gradually completing the composition over a series of states. The High’s recently acquired print, Lola de Valence (1863), is in the rare sixth state of eight. This will be the sixth and finest Manet print to enter the Museum’s collection.
- Mountainous Landscape (ca. 1885) by Adolph Menzel is the second drawing by the artist to enter the High’s collection. Menzel, perhaps the greatest German exponent of 19th century realism, visited Interlaken, Switzerland, in the summer of 1885, and this sojourn provided him with subjects for numerous drawings.
- Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux was one of the leading sculptors of 19-century France. Favored by the exiled imperial family, Carpeaux was summoned to England to sculpt a bust of the dying emperor. Carpeaux’s Bust of Napoleon III (1873) is a candid portrait of a war-weary emperor fallen from glory and is the first work by the artist to enter the High’s collection.
Recent acquisitions of photography at the High include more than 380 prints, increasing the depth of the Museum’s monographic holdings by some of the 20th century’s most noteworthy photographers.
- Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia (2013), a large-scale, chromogenic print by Thomas Struth taken inside the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. This work adds greater depth to the High’s Struth holdings, which are among the most significant in the nation.
- 19 works by Abelardo Morell, including 10 photographs commissioned by the High in 2014 for its “Picturing the South” series, which asks noted photographers to turn their lenses toward the American South. With this acquisition, the High holds a representative cross-section of Morell’s career to date and remains one of the top institutional collections of his work.
- 26 prints by Brett Weston, the second son of influential, early 20th century photographer Edward Weston. This acquisition complements the High’s strong holdings of post-war American work, including prints by Weston’s colleagues Harry Callahan and Wynn Bullock.
- A group of 48 prints by influential French photographer Eugène Atget, making the High among the primary repositories of his work in the U.S. With this gift, the High’s Atget collection now exceeds 300 prints.
Featuring works from ancient to contemporary times and from disparate regions throughout the continent, the High’s recent African Art acquisitions provide important insights into African cultural heritage from the past to the present day and feature a diverse range of artistic expressions.
- Finial from a dance staff for the Yoruba diety Eshu Elegba (20th century) by Bamgboye of Odò Owá, a Nigerian artist. Due to lack of documentation, many of the sculptures in the High’s African collection are by unidentified artists. This wooden sculpture is unique among the High’s holdings of works attributed to a particular artist and also adds depth to the High’s strong collection of Yoruba art.
- Also adding strength and a historical dimension to the High’s Yoruba art collection is an ivory and coconut shell rattle (ca. 15th-16th century) by an Owo artist (Nigeria). The city of Owo flourished as the capital of one of the most important Yoruba city-states and was famous for its ivory carvers.
- 20th century wooden ceremonial spoon (or ladle) by a Dan artist represents a classic West African art form that until now was not represented in the High’s collection. Such spoons are prestige objects considered portraits of the women they honor.
High Museum of Art
The High is the leading art museum in the Southeastern U.S. With more than 14,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography, folk art and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists. For more information visit high.org.
The Woodruff Arts Center
The Woodruff Arts Center is one of the largest arts centers in the world, home to the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art and Arts for Learning. Each year, these arts organizations play host to over 1.2 million patrons at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Midtown Atlanta location, one of the only arts centers in the U.S. to host both visual and performing arts on a single campus. Through its work with educators and schools, the Woodruff Arts Center serves over 300,000 students annually and is the largest arts educator in Georgia.
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