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Saturday, 21 January 2012 03:51

Top 20: Curators Pick Their Favorite Acquisitions of 2011

Antiques & Fine Art has selected twenty works of fine and decorative arts that museums acquired in 2011. We are pleased to highlight the generosity of donors and those supporting museums, which continue in their the vital role of presenting great works to the public. We thank those who have made such purchases possible, the continued commitment of museums to acquire the products of our many cultures, and the dealer and auction communities that have located the material; all important symbiotic relationships. We hope you will make a point to support museums and see the selected objects in person, and to visit dealers, shows, and auction houses to learn from and acquire antiques and art that will enrich your lives.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925–2008), Short Circuit (Combine Painting), 1955. Oil, fabric, and paper on wood supports and cabinet with two hinged doors containing a painting by Susan Weil (American, b. 1930) and a reproduction of Jasper Johns (American, b. 1930) Flag paintings by Sturtevant (American, 1930). 41½ x 38¼ x 4½ inches.

Contemporary collection (Modern Wing). Acquired from the artist’s estate through the Gagosian Gallery, NYC (Grant J. Pick Purchase Fund).

The first major Rauschenberg Combine to enter the permanent collection of the Art Institute, Short Circuit encapsulates themes that Rauschenberg would pursue for decades and that make him one of the most important artists of our time. James Cuno, president of the Art Insitute, stated that the piece “will truly be a cornerstone of the collection.”

Baltimore Museum of Art

William Lamb Picknell (American, 1853–1987), Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany), 1881. Oil on canvas, 52¾ x 79? inches. Department of American Painting, Sculpture & Decorative Arts. Acquired from Thomas Colville Fine Art, Gilford, Connecticut (W. Clagett Emory Bequest Fund, in Memory of his Parents, William H. Emory of A, and Martha B. Emory BMA 2011.44).

Picknell’s landscape represents French-influenced American modernist painting at a key point, when the dark “Old-Masterish” canvases of the Munich School were giving way to light effects most famously initiated by French Impressionists during the 1870s and early 1880s. Shown in the 1881 Paris Salon, a reviewer for the avant-garde journal Gil praised Paysage as “one of the most remarkable pictures in the exhibition.” A year earlier, Picknell had become the first American ever to receive honorable mention as a landscape painter at the Paris Salon.

Carnegie Museum of Art

Bakewell, Page and Bakewell (American, 1813–1827) water decanter (1818–1819). Glass, H. 11½, D. 5 in. (with stopper); H. 9½ in. (without stopper). Department of Decorative Arts and Design. Acquired from Christopher Rebollo, Mechanicsville, Pa.

The Bakewell decanter and its mate are the earliest known cut and engraved glass water decanters made in America. These decanters were almost certainly part of the immense service made in 1818 and 1819 for President James Monroe, pieces of which have eluded scholars and collectors until now. The clarity of the glass and the quality of the cut and engraved decoration is second to none.

Cincinnati Art Museum

Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988) Mill Hand’s Lunch Bucket (Pittsburgh Memories), 1978. Collage of cut paper and fabric with watercolor, graphite pencil, gouache, and felt-tip pen on masonite. Collection ofAmerican Paintings and Sculptures. Acquired from DC Moore Gallery, NYC, to whom it was consigned by the Romare Bearden Foundation (The Edwin and Virginia Irwin Memorial and the John J. Emery Endowment, 2011.7).

Romare Bearden was among the most inventive American artists of his time, particularly in his collages of the 1960s and 70s, which have an unparalleled freshness and energy. Here he created an evocative reminiscence of time he spent during his youth at a boarding house in Pittsburgh run by his maternal grandmother and his step-grandfather. The playwright August Wilson was so moved by this collage when he saw it reproduced in a magazine that it became the basis for his play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.

Corning Museum of Glass

Emile Gallé (French, 1846–1904), Victor Prouvé (French, 1858–1943), Cristallerie d’Emile Gallé Les Hommes Noirs (The Dark Men), Nancy, France, 1900. Glass, copper, stain, H. 38.1 cm, D. 32. 1 cm, D. (rim) 16.8 cm, D. (base) 13.9 cm; Handle: W. 30.8 cm, H. 45 cm, D. 41.5 cm. Dated and signed by both artists. Department of Modern Glass. Acquired from Diva Fine Art, Paris (Purchased in part with funds from the Houghton Endowment Fund; James B. Flaws and Marcia D. Weber; Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and The Greenberg Foundation in honor of Natalie G. and Ben W. Heineman Sr.; James R. and Maisie Houghton; Ben W. Heineman Sr. Family; E. Marie McKee and Robert Cole Jr.; Elizabeth S. and Carl H. Pforzheimer III; and Wendell P. Weeks and Kim Frock Weeks. 2011.3.1).

Les Hommes Noirs remained in the possession of French glass manufacturer Emile Gallé’s family until 2009. The vase was designed by the Symbolist painter and Gallé’s childhood friend, Victor Prouvé. It was made by Gallé as a testament to the sanctity of civil rights, justice, and in the defense of the unjustly accused. It was featured at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris.

Crocker Art Museum

Stanton Macdonald-Wright (American, 1890–1973) Subjective Time, 1958. Oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches. Collection of California Art. Acquired from Peyton Wright Gallery Inc., Santa Fe.

Stanton Macdonald-Wright was one of America’s leading modernist painters and a pioneer of abstract art. In 1912, together with Morgan Russell, he co-founded the painting movement Synchromism, which produced swirling compositions in a rich chromatic palette. Macdonald-Wright’s Neo-Synchromist works from the mid 1950s surpassed the artist’s earlier paintings by way of a heightened luminosity and deeper spirituality. Subjective Time is one of the finest of these works.

Denver Art Museum

Alexander Phimister Proctor (American, 1860–1950), Q Street Bridge Buffalo, 1912. Bronze. H. 13¼, L. 18, D. 9½ in. Collection of the Petrie Institute of West American Art. Acquired from James Graham & Sons, NYC (Funds from the Harry I. and Edith Smookler Memorial Endowment, Estelle Wolf, and the Flower Foundation. 2011. 276).

In 1911, when the Fine Arts Commission of Washington, D.C., decided to build the Dumbarton (or Q Street Bridge) they chose Proctor, who was already acclaimed for his public sculpture, to decorate it with two massive buffalo. These sculptures are Proctor’s most celebrated large-scale works. In addition to the life-size bronzes Proctor produced a 13½-inch tall “Q Street Bridge Buffalo.” Proctor is recognized as one of America’s foremost sculptors of animals and Native American subjects, especially at the monumental scale.

Des Moines Art Center

Yoshitomo Nara (Japanese, b. 1959) White Ghost, 2010. Painted stainless steel and fiberglass, 12 x 12 feet. Contemporary Art. Acquired from Marianne Boesky Gallery, NYC (Purchased with funds from John and Mary Pappajohn).

Yoshitomo Nara’s White Ghost, was sited previously on Park Avenue in Manhattan in conjunction with the artist’s major retrospective at the Asian Society. The sculpture now occupies a prominent site in the new John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines. This large-scale work of fiberglass and steel illustrates the artist’s use of Japanese animation and its concept of cuteness. Here, a cute young girl presents the innocence of childhood as well as its impertinence and defiance.

Detroit Institute of Arts

The Waring Family American Gothic Center Table, ca. 1846–1851, New York. Rosewood, H. 30¼, W. 40½, D. 35¾ in. Collection of American Art. Acquired from Neal Auction Company,
New Orleans. Image courtesy of Neal Auction Company.

An icon of the Gothic Revival in the United Sates, this hexagonal table was almost certainly based on a design by Alexander Jackson Davis (1803–1892), the most influential American architect to work in the Gothic style. Only ten examples of the table are known to survive. All were likely made in New York City, probably in the shop of Alexander Roux or Charles Baudouine. This is one of only two examples of the table to have a reliable provenance back to the mid-nineteenth century. The table was originally purchased for the Mobile, Alabama, home of Moses Waring.

J. Paul Getty Museum

Francesco Primaticcio (Italian, 1504–1570) Double Head, about 1543. Bronze, H. 153/16, W. 13¾, D. 7? in. Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts. Acquired
from J. Kugel Gallery, The Netherlands.

Created in France, Double Head is closely related to the head of the so-called Cesi Juno, one of the most famous antique marble statues in sixteenth-century Rome. The piece was most likely conceived as an independent work of art and is closely related to the series of Bronze casts that French king Francois I commissioned Primaticcio to make. The bronze remained in private collections through the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1976 it became part of Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent collection.

High Museum of Art

Minnie Evans (American, 1892–1987) Untitled, 1946/51/68. Collage, pencil, ink, crayon, oil on paperboard, Image/Plate: 20 x 24 inches (without frame). Folk Art Collection. Acquired from Luise Ross Gallery, NYC.

The High already holds five of Evans’ paintings in their permanent collection, but this work is the first example of her most fully realized creations in which she completely covered the surface with the arabesques, plant forms, and mask-like faces typical of her later designs. Evans is among the most highly regarded of self-taught artists. Her drawings were inspired by the dreams and visions that came to her night and day. She layered nature and spirit, plant and animal, human and divine in symmetrical compositions of swirling intricacy.

Historic New Orleans Collection

Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin (1770–1852) Portrait of Thomas Bolling Robertson, 1808. Chalk on pink paper mounted on later paper and framed under eglomized glass, 22? x 16¾ inches (with frame: 26? x 20¾ inches). The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2011.0408. Acquired from William Reese Company, New Haven, Conn.

On the occasion of the bicentennial of Louisiana statehood, The Historic New Orleans Collection has acquired an evocative silhouette of an early statesman. Thomas Bolling Robertson (1773–1828) left his native Virginia for Louisiana in 1808, having been appointed territorial secretary by Thomas Jefferson. Robertson served the territory, and later the state, in numerous capacities: as federal land commissioner, attorney general, first congressman after statehood, third elected governor, and federal district judge. Before leaving Virginia he sat for a portrait by Saint-Mémin, a French-born artist best known for his use of the physiognotrace?—?an instrument that traced a sitter’s physiognomy, to which outline Saint-Mémin added delicate facial and clothing features.

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla Body in Flight (Delta), 2011. Carved and stained wood. Contemporary collection. Acquired from the Gladstone Gallery, NYC (Purchase made possible through support of several donors and IMA purchase funds).

Commissioned by the IMA for the U.S. Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia, the 54th International Art Exhibition, the sculpture is a full-scale reproduction of a state-of-the-art business class airline seat that is activated through a performance by a female gymnast. The IMA will present the work with scheduled performances in its Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion March 8, 2012, through April 22, 2012.

Michener Art Museum

Phillip Lloyd Powell (1919–2008) carved and painted pine door and surround,
ca. 1975–1980. 142 x 66 x 18 in. Acquired from David Rago Auction House, Lambertville, NJ (Funds provided by Sharon B. and Sydney F. Martin).

Elaborately carved and painted pine door and surround, created for Powell’s New Hope, Pennsylvania, residence. Powell’s signature deep chip-carving technique is evident in the carved bands of geometric configurations on its surface. A reflection of Powell’s own pure creative impulses and the inspiration he received from the carvings and decorative elements of furnishings and architectural elements he encountered during his travels in Spain, Portugal, England, Sicily, Morocco, and India in the late nineteen sixties and seventies.

Milwaukee Art Museum

John Singleton Copley (American, 1738–1815) Portrait of Alice Hooper, 1763. Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 inches. Collection of American Art. Acquired from Hirschl & Adler Galleries, NYC (Funds from the Leonard and Bebe LeVine Art Acquisition Fund, the Virginia Booth Vogel Acquisition Fund, with funds in memory of Betty Croasdaile and John E. Julien, and gift by exchange of Chapellier Galleries, the Samuel O. Buckner Collection, and the Max E. Friedmann Bequest, M2011.15).

Alice Hooper was the daughter of Robert “King” Hooper, one of the wealthiest men in eastern Massachusetts. The portrait was commissioned by King Hooper on the occasion of Alice’s engagement to Jacob Fowle, Jr.

Minneapolis Institute of the Arts

Possible Dakota Woodland Shirts, North America, US, Great Lakes/Woodland Region, 1720–1750. Animal hide (possible antelope), pigments, cotton thread, sinew, 39¼ x 63? in. Arts of Africa and the Americas, Native American Art Collection. Acquired from Christie’s, NYC (The Robert J. Ulrich Works of Art Purchase Fund).

This unique shirt was created in the eighteenth century by Native Americans living in the Great Lakes region and was acquired for a French eighteenth-century kunstkammer. During the French Revolution many of these objects—including this shirt—were dispersed throughout Europe. Fewer than 35 objects from the early 1700s, decorated with abstract painting from the Great Lakes and/or Eastern Plains regions, survive in European collections. In acquiring the garment, the MIA has brought the shirt back to its region of origin.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 43 photographs from the East 100th Street series, 1966–1968. Gelatin silver prints. Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. Acquired directly from the artist through his dealer, Howard Greenberg Gallery (Purchase with funds donated by Haluk and Elisa Soykan and the Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow
Fund © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos, photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

In 1967 New York photographer Bruce Davidson set out to record the gritty reality of life on the block of East 100th Street between First and Second Avenue, an area describedin the 1950s as the most dangerous in the entire city. The acquired images comprise the resulting groundbreaking East 100th Street exhibition at MoMA (1970); many consider these to be among his most important works.

Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

Yinka Shonibare (British-Nigerian, b. 1926), Planets in My Head, 2010. Mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton, leather, and fiberglass. H. 42, W. 26?, D. 19? in. Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art. Acquired from the James Cohan Gallery, NYC/Shanghai (Through the generosity of G. Kenneth Baum in honor of Ann Baum, on the occasion of her birthday. Copyright of the artist).

Planets in My Head celebrates the mystery of the night sky and the thrill of discovery. Additional works in Shonibare’s Planets in My Head series include arts and literature.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

John Carlin (American, 1813–1891) Portrait Miniature of a Young Boy, ca. 1850. H. 2? inches. Department of American Paintings. Acquired from Elle Shushan, Philadelphia, Pa.

John Carlin was a deaf-mute born into poverty in Philadelphia. His talent was noticed by Philadelphia’s star portrait painter of the period, John Neagle (1796–1865), who took the young Carlin as an apprentice. Carlin later left for Paris to study with master Paul Delaroche (1797–1856) before returning to America. He established a highly successful studio in New York City, exhibiting at the National Academy from 1847–1886.

Saint Louis Art Museum

Tiffany Studios, Jack-in-the-Pulpit Vase, ca. 1905. Glazed earthenware, H. 11¼, W. 4¾, D. 4½ in. Department of Decorative Arts and Design. Acquired from Lillian Nassau, NYC (Marjorie Wyman Endowment Fund, the Reuben and Gladys Flora Grant Charitable Trust, the Lopata Endowment Fund; and the Decorative Arts Society, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harvard Hecker, and bequest of Richard Brumbaugh, by exchange, 12:2011).

Tiffany’s first public exhibition of three pieces of Favrile Pottery occurred in St. Louis in 1904. One of Tiffany’s most original ceramic designs is a tall, cylindrical vase modeled on jack-in-the-pulpit plants. Though examples of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit Vase are quite rare today, Tiffany records indicate that the firm frequently published and exhibited this design.