(above: Grant Wood, Return from Bohemia, 1935, crayon, gouache, pencil on paper, 23 1/2 x 20 inches)


Transcript of audio tour Module #22 - Grant Wood, Return from Bohemia, 1935:

The artist dominates the front and center of this work. He paints from his palette with a furrowed brow and seems deep in concentration. The somber people around him cast their eyes downward.  They do not look at the artist and  almost appear asleep! Return from Bohemia is Grant Wood's self-portrait originally intended it to illustrate his never-completed autobiography. 
Wood painted this work following his return to the Midwest after studying painting in Europe. This painting reflects the artist's mixed feelings about the Midwest. On one hand, Wood was proud of his Iowan roots. He often wore overalls while painting, and once said that :  "all the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow." But Wood was also discouraged that his fellow Midwesterners did not appreciate the skills he learned while abroad. He told a reporter about his plans for this self portrait: "The background will be the usual loafing by-standers who find time to watch an artist sketching faces with contempt, scorn and an I-know-I-could-do-it-better-than-you look."  
Please turn to the opposite wall to the painting of a window with a landscape and listen to module #23


Transcripts of Modules 2 - 25:


Module #2 - Introduction to this tour.

When walk into the galleries, you'll see the orange iPod symbol on the wall.
Each number corresponds to a stop on this tour.
When you enter a new gallery, the next numbered iPod symbol corresponds to the curator's introduction to that room.
After this general overview, subsequent stops correspond to specific works of art in that gallery.
In between each module you will hear a brief interlude of period music from the 1920s to the 1940s.
This music allows you time to proceed to the next stop on the tour.
If at any time during the tour you wish to have more time to walk around the gallery, please press the bottom pause/play arrow.
When you wish to resume, please press it again.
Now, please go into the first gallery and listen to a welcome by Dennis Szakacs, the museum's director.  
Please go into the first gallery to and look for the wall with the title American Moderns and a photograph of a large house. After a brief musical interlude you will hear module #3. 


Module #3 - Director's Welcome

Hello, I'm Dennis Szakacs, the director of the Orange County Museum of Art. I'd like to welcome you to the museum and to Villa America.This wonderful exhibition focuses on American artists who studied or worked for a time in Europe during the first half of the 20th century.
It offers the opportunity to explore the evolution of modern art through the work of these pioneering artists.  
Villa America is curated from one of the country's most important private collections of American art assembled by Myron Kunin.  This remarkable collection of over 600 paintings and sculptures includes the finest examples by the most significant artists who worked in the U.S.between the 1910 and 1950.  
Villa America provides a complex, diverse, and extraordinarily fresh look at this exciting period of American art. Today, you will see landmark examples of abstraction, artist's portraits and self-portraits, figurative works and paintings of the "American Scene." Many are on display in a museum for the first time. I hope you enjoy your tour and thanks for visiting the Orange County Museum of Art.  After a brief pause, you will hear module #4 


Module #4 - Curator's Introduction to "American Moderns"

As you take a look around, you will see a variety of paintings in this room: portraits, landscapes and abstractions. Myron Kunin has collected works by artists known as the "American Modernists." 
Many of these American artists worked abroad in the first part of the century.They embraced the experiments of the modern European avant-garde art, such as the nearly abstract, multi-faceted forms of cubism or the lively colors of expressionism.
However, even though they absorbed what they learned from Europe, the American Moderns develop their own unique styles and subjects.
After the musical interlude you'll hear an introduction to Villa America, module #5


Module #5 - Curator's Introduction to Villa America 

Hello, I'm Elizabeth Armstrong, the curator of Villa America.
I'm sure you must be wondering: What exactly is Villa America?
And why is it the title for this exhibition?
The answer lies in the photograph of this lovely home.
The time was the 1920's. The place was the South of France.
The name of the house was Villa America and it belonged to the American artist Gerald Murphy and his elegant wife Sara.
Villa America was the gathering place for many of the most creative luminaries of America and Europe during the early 20th century.  
Gerald and Sara were wealthy expatriate Americans, legendary hosts and pivotal members of the so-called "Lost Generation."
This group of literary and artistic figures dwelled in France during the jazz age of the 1920s. The Murphy's opened their fourteen-room house to guests including writers F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, composer Cole Porter and artist Pablo Picasso.  
Please look to your right where you'll see a red and blue painting with stripes and with the words "Villa America." After the music, you will hear module #6 


Module #6 - Gerald Murphy, Villa America, 1922

Does this painting appear like a sign or an advertisement?  Murphy painted this work to mark the driveway of the home, Villa America, that he shared with his family on the French Riviera.
This deceptively simple painting tells us quite a lot about the artist who made it.  Murphy used Stars and Stripes and red, white, and blue as a patriotic testament to the American flag. But these colors are also those of the flag of France ­ Murphy's adopted country in the 1920's.
Notice how the artist broke the letters of VILLA AMERICA into V-I-L A-M-E on the left and L-A R-I-C-A  on the right. In French, vil ame translates as "vile soul," and in Spanish, la rica means "the rich one." Murphy seems to poke fun at his own extravagant, party-filled lifestyle. In fact, Murphy was the model for Dick Diver, the high living hero of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, Tender is the Night.  
Now turn around where you will see a multi-hued painting with overlapping geometric forms and please listen to module #7.  


Module #7 -  Morgan Russell, Synchromy in Blue Violet, 1913 

This vibrant work was made by the American Modernist, Morgan Russell. Notice how the lines and planes converge at different angles into a whirlwind of color. This geometric style, known as Synchromism, is considered to be one of the first abstract forms of American art. Russell developed this dynamic style with Stanton Macdonald Wright, another young American artist, when they studied art together in Paris.        
The repeated colored shapes suggest rhythmic patterns. Russell once explained that his paintings were "like a piece of music, within a span of time." Russell's work was part of the Armory Show in 1913. This  ground breaking exhibition shocked and thrilled New York as it introduced modern art to America.
Many of the other artists in this gallery also participated in the Armory Show including Stuart Davis, who you will hear about next.
Please continue to the left and look for a warm-toned landscape on the wall and listen to module #8 


Module #8 - Stuart Davis, Ebb Tide, Provincetown (Man on the Beach) 1913

In this painting a lonely figure walks along the tidal sand flats near Provincetown,Massachusetts.  Stuart Davis painted this haunting landscape in 1913.  The Cape Cod dunes you see here were often the subjects of cheerful picture post cards, however, Davis created a darker vision of the Atlantic coast. Although the colors are warm, the atmosphere is melancholic. Davis' vibrant hues evoke a moody windblown atmosphere and hint at turbulent emotions.  This boldly painted scene reflecting inner psychological landscapes was a technique used by European expressionist painters.   
Like other early American modernists, Davis spent the early years of his career exploring a range of stylistic innovations in Europe. But Davis does not merely copy the styles and techniques of modern European painting; he transposes them to a uniquely American landscape. Davis was among the youngest of the American modernist painters to participate in the landmark Armory Show of American and European modern art in 1913. 
Please turn to your right where you'll see a vertical green and black abstract painting then listen to module #9   


Module #9 - Georgia O'Keeffe, Green-Gray Abstraction, 1931

In Georgia O'Keeffe's bold painting light, thin layers of yellow and olive paint on the edges are in stark contrast to the center of the work.
The dark green draws the eye into a space that appears immense, suggesting a deep abyss. This abstract painting is created from shapes, color and line. It does not suggest any particular object or setting. As you spend time looking at the painting it may begin to suggest feelings or emotional states. O'Keeffe always insisted her works were formal meditations, "I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say in any other way - things I had no words for."       
Like many of the other American Modernists, O'Keeffe was concerned with expressing an essential American character.  She said, "One cannot be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work." In many paintings, like Green-Gray Abstraction, O'Keeffe tried to tap into the organic colors and forms of the American landscape. 
If you wish to take some time to see more of the works in the gallery, press the bottom arrow to pause. When you are ready to continue, press the bottom arrow again and proceed into next gallery to hear module #10  


Module #10 - Curator's Introduction to "The Artist's Portrait"

Take a moment to walk around this room.  All of the paintings here are either portraits or self-portraits by artists.  During the last 30 years, Myron Kunin has developed an interest in artist's portraits. The work in this gallery reflects the wide range of styles of American portraiture.       
Throughout art history, the elusive effort to capture the essence of self on canvas has attracted many artists. Self-portraits are the most personal, intimate story that any artist can tell. The individual subjects of these paintings are vastly different.  Some are highly personal and psychological self-portraits, while others are more straightforward and even confrontational.    
Please look to the wall located to the left as you entered the gallery, proceed towards a bright blue and red portrait of a man and listen to module #11 


Module #11 - Oscar Bluemner, Self-Portrait, 1933 

In this self-portrait artist Oscar Bluemner (Bloom-ner) surrounds himself with an intense red.  Bluemner believed deeply in the power of colors to communicate specific emotions. He felt that red stood for vitality, energy, and life. Bluemner was often called the "Vermillionaire" because of his love for vermilions, a particularly brilliant hue of red.  
Influenced by 19th century theories on color, Bluemner was primarily a landscape painter. This idiosyncratic painting, his only known self-portrait, reveals how he sought to find the balance of colors to create a particular mood. Notice the shades of blue bordering the painting. The artist included this color as a contrast to the energetic effects of red. For him blue represented coolness and space.
Bluemner was known for his intensity and eccentric appearance. As art critic Paul Rosenfeld described him:
He was shaggy in baggy clothes. Between the wings of his open collars [a] gilt button invariably protruded above his negligently knotted poor cheap ties. The atmosphere of a rank bohême as well as an unregenerate masculinity hung about his entire person; his tongue was racy."  
Please turn around and look towards the opposite wall where you'll see a portrait of a man holding a seashell, then listen to module #12


Module #12  - George Tooker, Self Portrait, 1947

George Tooker's Self-Portrait of the Artist is a series of circles, from his round blue eyes and smooth curve of his head to the wood frame and spiral of the polished shell that he holds up to the viewer. This circular format,was inspired by the artist's purchase of a round, black frame.
Tooker said of his work: "I like the shapes to fit together neatly and that takes time. I work slowly and I think slowly." He worked so methodically that he often produced no more than two paintings a year. This piece is one of only three self-portraits he painted in his lifetime.
Observe the care he takes with his highly realistic draftsmanship: the sharply cropped hair, the detailed folds of skin in his neck and the straightforward gaze. Tooker's intense stare shows how seriously he took his artistic task.  
Rather than embracing the experiments of the European avant-garde, Tooker looked to earlier centuries for inspiration.  His exquisitely detailed paintings, painted in tempera, reveal the influence of Renaissance portraits and 17th century Dutch Masters. 
If you wish to take some time to see more of the works in the gallery, press the bottom arrow to pause. When you are ready to continue, press the bottom arrow again and proceed into next gallery to hear module #13  


Module #13 - Curator's Introduction to "In the Studio"

As you look around this gallery you will see various interpretations of the human figure. The paintings range from the highly realistic to the semi-abstract. Whether clothed or in the nude, these frank portrayals of the human form are as varied as the individuals who painted them. These often surprising works reflect Myron Kunin's strong affinity for intimate, penetrating, and often unnerving work. Whatever their particular style or subject, these paintings reveal both a sense of humanity and honesty in representing the figure.  
Please proceed to the wall opposite the windows, look for the painting of a nude female figure with red hair and listen to module #14 


Module #14 - Robert Henri (hen-rye), Edna Smith, 1915

With one elbow on the armoire and the other hand firmly on her hip, the model, Edna Smith, appears casual and confident. Notice how the artist used rapid brush strokes to make her auburn hair look casual and loose. Her rosy complexion is depicted with thick creamy applications of paint.  She smiles slightly, looking off to the side, as if she is waiting for the artist to signal to her that he is ready to begin.  
Robert Henri wanted to achieve a sense of action and spontaneity in his paintings. He believed an artist should paint very quickly and without much detail to capture the true impression of a moment.
Henri wrote: "Work quickly. Don't stop for anything but the essential. Keep the flow going. Don't have islands of 'things.' I never had any ambition to paint 'things.' It's the spirit of the thing that counts." 
Henri originally taught in Philadelphia and later relocated to New York where he became an influential teacher and writer. His book, The Art Spirit, is still an important resource for art students today.  
Please go to the left to the portrait of a circus performer and listen to module #15   


Module #15 -  Walt Kuhn (koon), Roberto, 1946

In this penetrating painting of a circus performer, Walt Kuhn emphasizes his model's eyes, lips, and chiseled cheekbones with strong highlights. By obscuring the background, the artist draws our attention to the clown's face and mood. He contrasts the performer's somber expression with his whitened face and light costume. The yellow tones of his skin also contrast with the rosy tones of his leotards. His sturdy, masculine physique is modeled in colorful, detailed brushstrokes. Yet, his eyes remain serious. Is this man contemplating an upcoming performance or something more profound?  
Kuhn often painted descriptive, straightforward portraits of entertainers like this one. He was associated with an influential group of realist painters in New York, known as "The Eight" or the "Ash Can School" because they often recorded their impressions of the common, gritty aspects of urban life. This late painting reflects the artist's substantial and growing talent for over half the century. 
Please continue to the left to the portrait of a man with a deep red background and listen to module #16  


Module #16  - Marsden Hartley, Mandawaska-Acadian Light-Heavy, 1940

Marsden Hartley uses deep rich colors to accentuate the robust health of his young subject. The title Mandawaska-Acadian Light-Heavy tells us that the muscular young man is a boxer from the Northern region of Maine. Notice how light shines from the left of the painting and illuminates the strong contours of the man's chest, neck, and arms. Hartley also outlines the boxer's body with heavy black lines. This makes his form pop out from the fiery red background. Hartley uses these techniques to create his ideal portrait of youthful masculinity. Though Hartley portrays this boxer as strong and innocent, he also carries an erotic tone.  The artist once said:"Painting is a medium for passion, it is essentially a paroxysm of intelligence coupled with orgiastic deliverance."  
Hartley divided his time between Europe and America for most of his adult life and painted this work at the end of his long career. When he returned to his home state of Maine he took up the subjects of local lobstermen, sunbathers and boxers such as the one in this painting. 
If you wish to take some time to see more of the works in the gallery, press the bottom arrow to pause. When you are ready to continue, press the bottom arrow again and proceed into next gallery to hear module #17  


Module #17 - Curator's Introduction to "The American Scene"

As you look around this gallery you will see paintings of many aspects of American life during the 1930s and 1940s. The 1929 stock market crash brought on the Great Depression. With this economic catastrophe, America left the high living Roaring '20s behind. Along with the rest of the country, artists adapted to changing times.
The works in this gallery,with their powerful images of everyday life, are often referred to as "American Scene" paintings. Many artists turned away from avant-garde experimentation in favor of realistic painting and drawing. Some artists, known as "Social Realists" embraced social commentary and believed in expressing the reality of life in hard times.  
Please proceed to a vertical canvas of a burlesque dancer and listen to module #18   


Module #18 - Reginald Marsh, Star Burlesque, 1933

In this sizzling painting Reginald Marsh balances the gaudy excess of a burlesque show with a clever touch of art history. He made the dancer's body resemble the form of a classical Greek statue. Marsh bathed her strong, Venus-like curves in light and invested her with magic and energy. This illuminated woman provides a stark contrast to the shadowed men in the audience below. Their faces are stained with disenchantment and cold reserve. Works like this reveal the artist's fascination with the exhibitionist underside of the city: the muscle men at Coney Island, the homeless in the Bowery, and sassy burlesque queens like this.   
In the early twentieth century, Marsh worked as a cartoonist for many magazines, including The New Yorker. For one publication he wrote a daily review of local burlesque shows. The bawdy theme of burlesque was an important subject for many American painters. With paintings such as this, American scene painters broke away from the prudish Victorian values of the recent past.  
Please continue to the left to the next wall where you'll see a horizontal painting with figures in a street scene and listen to module #19   


Module  #19 - Paul Cadmus, Aspects of Suburban Life (Main Street), 1937

Paul Cadmus depicts people of different ages, races, and classes converging in the midst of a hectic public street. Notice the loitering group of men, a woman walking her dog,  a policeman directing traffic, and a man fixing his car. Then and now, suburbs were considered antidotes to the strife of big cities, but Cadmus shows here that even they did not escape hectic urban turmoil. In 1937, Cadmus was commissioned to paint this piece as one of four murals for a post office in Port Washington, an affluent Long Island suburb. He chose to apply his style of social satire to the action of a suburban Main Street. Because this work's spoofed the suburban ideal, it was deemed "unsuitable for a federal building" and shipped back to the artist as soon as it was received. Paul Cadmus comment about this:
"I never aimed to be controversial. I suppose it was just my objection to society as it was. I believe in exaggeration, because if things are not exaggerated people pass them by, and people's noses should be rubbed in all sorts of things, pleasant and unpleasant." 
Please proceed to the small wall to the left of the doorway, look for a painting of musicians and listen to module #20  


Module #20 - Romare Bearden, Folk Musicians, 1941-42

Bearden's image of folk musicians on the street is drawn in gouache, an opaque watercolor. This dry, porous medium underscores the gritty texture of the city scene. Bearden was influenced by the flat figures and planes of color used by the Mexican muralists.  Notice how he compresses the men into the foreground and against the picture plane: they appear trapped within the frame.  
Bearden executed Folk Musicians as a commission from Forbes magazine along with a companion composition titled Factory Workers. Both works document the labor of African-Americans in the years in and around World War II as they transitioned from rural to urban environments. Although physically able and desiring work, many were forced by racism and lack of opportunity to survive by whatever means available to them.  This work is an example of "Social Realist" painting practiced by Bearden and Ben Shahn, whose painting is also included in this gallery.   
If you wish to take some time to see more of the works in the gallery, press the bottom arrow to pause. When you are ready to continue, press the bottom arrow again and proceed into next gallery to hear module #21 


Module #21 - Curator's Introduction to "Return to Bohemia"

Take a look around this final gallery of the exhibition, "Return from Bohemia." "Bohemia" refers to the artistic and literary community in which many American artists studied in Europe during the 1920's.  
This gallery exhibits pieces of American art from the 1930s and 1940s, made after many of these American artists had returned home. Here you will see accessible, classical and often realistic works depicting rural America, vernacular architecture and the simplicity of everyday life. In reaction to the cosmopolitanism of the preceding two decades, the artists known as "Regionalists" championed a nationalistic art celebrating agrarian values and the search for American roots.  
You can sense the sign of a great and seasoned collector in this gallery's stellar examples of both modern and "anti-modern" American art, chosen with a maverick sensibility that looks beyond fashion and responds to larger personal and cultural significance.  
Please proceed to the left wall to a painting of the artist holding a paintbrush and palette, then listen to module #22   


Module #22 - Grant Wood, Return from Bohemia, 1935

(see above)


Module #23  - Charles Sheeler, Winter Window, 1941

Sheeler painted this fantastic winter wonderland with tight lines and precise realism. The view is from the living room window of his home in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  
The interior of this space is quiet and calm.  A plant sits on the windowsill. There is a paper and a glass on the table. Outside, however, you can see a range of immense snow-covered peaks. 
A group of downhill skiers descend the mountain.  
Though the style is realistic, the artist crafted this view completely out of his imagination. Sheeler often made the quaint and nostalgic setting of his home and personal artifacts the subject of his later paintings and photographs.  
Please proceed to the small wall to the left of the doorway where you will see painting of a seated woman and listen to module #24 


Module #24 - Andrew Wyeth, Christina Olson, 1947

Andrew Wyeth painted many portraits of his friend, Christina Olson. Swathed in a strong light, she gazes out into a vast landscape. Here she appears in perfect communion with this landscape.  
Olson suffered from muscular deterioration as well as polio all her life and was paralyzed from the waist down. Though her body was frail, Wyeth shows her totally at ease with her environment.  
In this painting, Christina leans against a door. The deep wood grain reflects the history of her family home. Wyeth commented: "[The Olsons] were symbols of New England and Maine and ancient Maine. The world of New England is in [their] house-spidery, like crackling skeletons rotting in the attic-dry bones. It's the doorway of the sea to me, of mussels and clams and sea monsters and whales."   
If you wish to take some time to see more of the works in the gallery, press the bottom arrow to pause. When you are ready to continue, press the bottom arrow again and proceed back into the first gallery to listen to the Director's concluding remarks,  module #25. 


Module  #25 - Concluding Remarks

From the beginning, Myron Kunin's collection broke away from the traditional view of American modernism. Interested in both abstraction and figuration, he has consistently sought out works that have an expressive edge. Unconcerned with whether an artwork falls within the mainstream of accepted currents in art history, Kunin seeks paintings that, in his words, "reach in, grab your heart, and then stomp on it."  
We hope this collection has given you a startlingly fresh perspective on American art from the first half of the twentieth century. Thanks for joining us today for your visit to Villa America.  

Editor's note: Module #1 contained a musical introduction.

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