Editor's note: The Hudson River Museum provided source materials to Resource Library for the following article. If you have questions or comments regarding the article, or wish to purchase a copy of the exhibition catalogue, please contact the Hudson River Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:



 

Strut: The Peacock and Beauty in Art

October 11, 2014 - January 18, 2015

 

The Hudson River Museum presents Strut: The Peacock and Beauty in Art from October 11, 2014 through January 18, 2015. Organized by the Museum, it is the first scholarly survey of the peacock in art. Strut: The Peacock and Beauty in Art explores our fascination with this most glamorous of birds, a symbol of vainglory and the darling of designers and painters. (right: Jesse Arms Botke (1883-1971), Albino Peacock and Two Cockatoo, Oil on gold leaf on board, 39 x 31 1/2 inches. Collection of Deborah E. Maloy)

Strutting in its sapphire-blue and emerald-green feathers, the peacock symbolizes all things vain and beautiful in centuries of painting, sculpture, in books and myth, and on clothes that swirl and shine like the iridescent bird itself. Intrigued by the exotic art of Asia that prized and portrayed the peacock, Western artists and craftsmen chose the peacock as a multi-faceted motif for designs on canvas and for objets d'art in the home.

Paintings and decorative objects for the home present concepts of beauty symbolized by the luxurious bird and its famous fan of feathers from the 19th-century's Gilded Age and 1920s Art Nouveau and Art Deco until Modernism's ethos of "less is more, " caused a brief decline in the peacock's popularity. As the contemporary art world re-embraces beauty in a new "Gilded Age", the peacock struts its way back into the art world.

Among the highlights of The Peacock in Beauty and Art are images of women bedecked in peacock feathers, such as Robert Henri's full-length portrait of Ruth St. Denis in the Peacock Dance, 1913, William Baxter Palmer Closson's Feeding the Peacocks, 1910 and Aubrey Beardsley's The Peacock Skirt, created for Oscar Wilde's Salome. The bird itself receives its own glamorous portraits in paintings like Louis Rhead's La Femme an Paon, c. 1897, Jesse Arms, Botkes' Black Peacock, c. 1930, and sculptures like Anna Hyatt Huntington's Peacock's Fighting, 1914. Peacock feathers are extracted into beguiling geometric patterns in the lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany and gilded Crown Derby porcelains. The peacock also appears to whimsical effect in parade costumes, pictures of Elvis, strutting peacock-style, and images of silent-era Hollywood starlets ready for their close-ups.

The peacock's origins as a bird of the Indian jungles comes to the fore in Charles R. Knight's (famed for his murals at the American Museum of Natural History) fearsome Bengal Tiger and Peacock, 1928. Contemporary artists show the peacock's gift of line Ñü Laura Ball, Barbara Takenaga, and Federico Uribe find inspiration in the bird's striking feathers, brilliant coloration, and the sensuous s-curves of its body. Two Westchester based artists highlighted in the show are Tricia Wright from Irvington and Dillon Lundeen Goldschlag from Tarrytown.

The exhibition includes works from more than three dozen museums, galleries and private collections, including the Lachaise Foundation, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Bartholomew F. Bland, the Museum's Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Laura L. Vookles, Chief Curator of Collections, are co-curators for the exhibition, which is accompanied by a fully illustrated 200-page catalogue. The exhibition and the accompanying catalog have been made possible by a generous grant from the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Inc.

To view the exhibition catalogue, please click here.

 

 

(above: Robert Henri (1865-1929), Ruth St. Denis in the Peacock Dance, 1919, Oil on canvas , 85 x 49 inches. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Gift of the Sameric Corporation in memory of Eric Shapiro, Acc# 1976.1)

 

(above: Peter Paone, Peacock, circa 2013, Painting. Paone, Peter [the artist])

Resource Library editor's note

The catalogue for the exhibition was posted with the above article in Resource Library on December 6, 2014, with permission granted by the Hudson River Museum to Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) on December 5, 2014. TFAO wishes to express appreciation to Dr. Bartholomew F. Bland, Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Linda Locke, Director of Publications, Hudson River Museum, for their help concerning obtaining permission to post the catalogue.

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