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Things Wondrous & Humble: American Still Life
August 10 - December 8, 2013
Still life paintings make us think about the objects we love, and an exhibition at Reynolda House Museum of American Art invites visitors to look more closely at what those objects say about us. "Things Wondrous & Humble: American Still Life" opened August 10, 2013 at the museum, and features treasures from the Reynolda House collection accompanied by key loans from museums and private collections across the state. The exhibition closes December 8, 2013. (right: Claes Oldenburg, Spoon Pier, 1975, Etching on paper, 12 1/2 x 10 1/4 inches. Gift of Barbara B. Millhouse, 1983.2.26. Copyright 1975 Claes Oldenburg)
"The objects you see in a still life are often the same types of objects we collect as souvenirs in daily life," says Allison Slaby, curator at the museum. "The treasures we arrange on our coffee tables and in curio cabinets are signposts of our travels, avowals of friendships, mementos of life experiences."
A still life depicts a purposefully arranged group of objects, often embedded with hidden meaning about history, culture, or identity. Still lifes often include flowers, fruit, or man-made objects like books and jewelry. While visitors will see stunning examples of traditional still life paintings, they will also be invited to explore non-traditional works of art and decorative arts from the historic house collection of Reynolda House.
Works by artists like William Michael Harnett, Childe Hassam, and James Peale will be viewed alongside the rose-engraved silver punchbowl given to Katharine Reynolds by her husband, R.J., on their fourth wedding anniversary. Prints by Jasper Johns and Claes Oldenburg will be mounted alongside historic, etched-crystal basket vases, and an iconic work by John James Audubon will lend perspective to a porcelain hummingbird sculpture by Dorothy Doughty.
Slaby says the museum chose some unconventional objects for "Things Wondrous & Humble" as an interesting juxtaposition to the traditional still lifes and to further explore our fascination with symbolism.
"This exhibition is not only visually compelling and rich with meaning, but I think visitors will enjoy discovering the secrets that these objects tell," she says. "What do our objects say about our personality, our history, and what is important to us?"
A series of public programs accompany the exhibition including "A Bouquet of Music," a performance by The Carolina Summer Music Festival held on August 18; a gallery talk by exhibition curator and American art scholar Martha Severens on August 25; and an after-hours Harvest Moon Festival on September 19. The museum will host artist Julie Heffernan for a special artist talk on November 21. Heffernan's painting "Self Portrait as Explosion" is included in the exhibition.
"Things Wondrous & Humble: American Still Life" is organized by Reynolda House Museum of American Art. The museum is grateful for the generous support for the exhibition from major sponsor PNC Bank, and exhibition partners Dee LeRoy, Macy's and Charles and Lamar Taft.
Wall texts from the exhibition
(above: Severin Roesen, Flowers in a Glass Pitcher with Bird's Nest and Fruit, circa 1867, Oil on canvas, 50 3/8 x 36 1/8 inches. Gift of Barbara B. Millhouse, 1992.2.1)
(above: William Michael Harnett, Job Lot Cheap, 1878, Oil on canvas, 18 x 36 inches. Original purchase fund from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, ARCA, and Anne Cannon Forsyth, 1966.2.10)
(above: Martin Johnson Heade, Orchid with Two Hummingbirds,
1871, Oil on panel, 14 7/8 x 19 inches. Original Purchase Fund from the
Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, ARCA, and
Anne Cannon Forsyth, 1976.2.8)
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