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Morgan Russell and the Old Masters

March 4, 2006 - August 6, 2006


The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) is pleased to announce the completion of the Morgan Russell Archives and Collection Enhancement Project, 2004 - 2006.  MAM will celebrate with the opening of the exhibition Morgan Russell and the Old Masters on Sunday, March 5th in the Museum's Shelby Family Gallery. 

The Morgan Russell Archives and Collection Enhancement Project, 2004 - 2006 is the first comprehensive re-evaluation and cataloguing of the extensive holdings of Morgan Russell's work and personal papers at the Montclair Art Museum. Morgan Russell and the Old Masters will cover the artist's entire career (ca. 1906 - 1953), and will highlight drawings never before exhibited.  Visitors will be introduced to examples of Russell's close study of Michelangelo, Rubens, and Veronese, as well as samples of his deep interest in Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Chinese ideograms, and 17th- century Dutch still-life painting.  Examples of sketches demonstrating Russell's extensive study of anatomy and the sculpture of Greco-Roman antiquity will also be on view. 


About the Project

The Montclair Art Museum is the premier repository for the art and papers of leading American modernist Morgan Russell (1886 - 1953). Henry M. Reed, a resident of Caldwell, New Jersey, who served on the Museum's Board and Art Committee from 1985 to 1990, donated this collection in 1985.The Morgan Russell Archives and Collection Enhancement Project, 2004 - 2006, which had never been fully inventoried until now, consists of more than 3,000 works on paper, five oil paintings, over 70 notebooks, thousands of pages of correspondence, and more than 350 photographs of the artist's work and other subjects, as well as many other documents. The collection is a unique record of the complexities of Russell's aesthetic and intellectual adventures, especially his development of the first declared American modern art movement Synchromism (meaning "with color") from 1912-14. (right: Morgan Russell, Study after Michelangelo's "Dying Slave," ca. 1910-1912, pencil on paper, 12-1/4 x 8-1/8 inches. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Reed. 1985.172.35)

The Morgan Russell Archives and Collection Enhancement Project, 2004 - 2006 provides unique insights into the origins of Synchromism during 1912 - 1913 in Paris, as well as Russell's preoccupations with music, religion, philosophy, metaphysics, and science.  Prevalent subjects explored in the archives include color practice and theory (the search for a rhythmic basis to color), the sculptural and figural basis of his work, the synaesthetic relationship between music and painting (i.e. analogies between musical composition and color organization as the basis for an abstract art), the artist's reverence for the old masters, and the evolution of selected works of art. As such, the Archives and Collection constitute a rare portrait of one of the most complex, contradictory American masters of the early 20th century, whose ambition to create a new art evoking the rhythms of contemporary life is revealed in numerous documents and artworks.


About the Artist

Morgan Russell was born in New York City in 1886; after spending nearly his entire artistic career in France (1909 - 1946), Russell retired to the United States in 1946.  Within a decade, and after suffering two successive strokes, Russell died at age 67 in Pennsylvania in 1953.  Despite lifelong financial struggles and other setbacks, very early in his career Russell could boast the distinction of having gained critical appreciation from many of the most astute observers of the artistic scene in France.  Russell was virtually the only American apart from Stanton Macdonald-Wright, who could make a viable claim to having decisively contributed to the advent and subsequent evolution of complete color abstraction in Europe and the United States.

Morgan Russell and the Old Masters has been guest-curated by Gregory Galligan, Director of the Morgan Russell Archives and Collection Enhancement Project Enhancement Project, 2004 - 2006 and an independent curator.Galligan is a Ph.D. Candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, and a scholar of modern American and French art.  During the Morgan Russell Archives and Collection Enhancement Project, 2004 ­ 2006, Galligan reported to Chief Curator Gail Stavitsky, and worked along side other Museum staff.  Along with consulting archivist Nancy Johnson, Galligan's tasks included researching and consistently organizing and taking inventory of the entire collection and archives, building upon the foundation of previous efforts.

Galligan and Johnson worked in concert with MAM personnel, specifically Gail Stavitsky; Susanna Sabolcsi, former Director of LeBrun Library; Renée Powley, Registrar; Rosemary Vence, former Associate Registrar; and Joseph Zadroga, former Senior Exhibition Designer; as well as with Data Manager Mary Fletcher and Preparators Maryanna Roberts,and Jason Van Yperen to facilitate the computerized inventory and re-housing and care of the collection.

Finally, Galligan and Johnson have produced a comprehensive Collection Guide, which includes a description of the archival holdings, an overview of the Museum's holdings of artwork by Morgan Russell, and scholarly commentary on Russell and his work.  The Guide also includes detailed scope and content notes, and inventories of the holdings. This collection guide has been produced in series-level, catalog format, and includes a foreword by Marilyn Kushner, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Brooklyn Museum of Art (and author of Morgan Russell, the catalogue that accompanied a 1990 exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum); an introduction and overview by Gail Stavitsky, and an essay by Galligan that highlights key items and recent discoveries in the Morgan Russell Archives and Collection, with a special focus on insights gained into Russell's work during a recent review of the artist's over 70 notebooks.

Thus this publication affords new insights and materials for both Morgan Russell enthusiasts as well as scholars researching many kinds of modernist studies. Providing all of the standard descriptive elements for the art collection and for each archival group within the collection, the Guide includes information on object and archive material titles, date ranges, biographical notes, scope and content notes, series descriptions, folder title lists, access terms, etc. The Collection Guide also serves as the basis for future exhibitions of the Morgan Russell Archives and Collection, and plays a significant role in preparations for the forthcoming exhibition Cézanne and American Modernism (2009). 


Related Programming

Saturday, March 18, 1 p.m.
Free gallery tours with Museum admission
Morgan Russell and the Old Masters
Tuesday, March 21, 2 p.m.
Art in the Afternoon
Morgan Russell and the Old Masters: An Insiders Guide to the Exhibition and its Origins
Gregory Galligan, guest curator of Morgan Russell and the Old Masters will talk about the exhibition and the Morgan Russell Archives and Collection Enhancement Project, 2004 - 2006.
Friday, April 7, 11:30 a.m.
A Closer Look
A work from Morgan Russell and the Old Masters


Morgan Russell and The Old Masters is supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, an anonymous donor, and by Exhibition Angels Suzanne and Jeffrey Citron, Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker, and Carol and Harlan Waksal. 


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rev. 2/8/06

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