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Portraits of Women: Re-seeing the Collection

April 24 - July 13, 2008


The Portraits of Women: Re-seeing the Collection exhibition showcases nine portraits of women by twentieth century painters, printmakers and photographers. The exhibition includes George Hurrell's photograph of Dorothy Lamour, Richard Lindner's superheroine Standing Woman, and Dawoud Bey's Syretta, a contemporary portrait of an adolescent girl.


Wall text from the exhibition


Portraits of Women: Re-seeing the Collection

The Haggerty Museum recently acquired a 6-panel photograph by artist Dawoud Bey. Syretta is an intimate dialogue between artist and sitter, and at the same time, because of its size, medium and fractured delivery, a celebration of an empowered woman. The impact of this photograph poses questions about different portraits in the museum's collection, suggesting the opportunity to re-see other artist's interpretations of their subjects.

A portrait's intent is to display a likeness, a personality, or possibly the mood of the sitter. Time is always an essential element, whether revealed by the costume of the sitter, the stylistic approach of a particular moment, or the status of the celebrity. The works in this exhibition vary dramatically in medium and approach, spanning nearly a century in time. Each one, however, draws upon the sitter's power over the will of the artist.


Label copy from the exhibition 

Baron Adolf de Meyer
French (1868-1949)
Miss J. Ranken, 1912
11 x 8 inches
Gift of Therese and Murray Weiss
Described as the founder of American fashion photography, Baron Adolf de Meyer was commissioned to photograph, not only, society women, like Miss Ranken, but also the models, theatrical personalities and dancers of the 1910s and 20s. They appreciated the soft, nostalgic quality of his images, which came from the process the artist used to create them. De Meyer was a pictorialist, who worked in photogravure. Developed in the 1830s,this intaglio printmaking process, which merges photography and printmaking, was the most popular before the advent of modernism. 
While born in Paris, de Meyer was educated in Dresden and then moved to London, where he joined the Royal Photographic Society in 1893. Five years later, he became part of the avant-garde photo-secessionist group known as The Linked Ring. In 1899, he married Olga Caracciolo, a professional model and socialite. Through his wife's contacts, de Meyer befriended a number of European and American celebrities, whom he then photographed. In 1908, Alfred Stieglitz published some of de Meyer's images in Camera Work including Miss J. Ranken. Six years later, de Meyer moved to New York to become the first full-time photographer for Vogue.
Henri Matisse
French (1869-1954)
Study for Woman in Hat, 1919
9 1/2 x 6 ? inches
Bequest of Mrs. Martha Smith 
The great colorist, Henri Matisse was also a printmaker who worked in engraving, etching, aquatint, and lithography. The subjects of his prints were primarily women, interiors and still lifes. Study for Woman in Hat is a highly expressive portrait of a fashionable woman with piercing eyes. It was created with an economy of line that is testament to the artist's skill at capturing the personality of his sitter. 
Matisse's engravings consist of what have been described as traits essentiels or "essential lines." His prints often reflect immediate ideas, and were rarely reworked. In fact, engraving was a refuge for Matisse. He often made prints at the end of a painting session. According Marguerite Duthuit-Matisse, co-author of a catalogue raisonné of her father's prints, Matisse saw his graphic work as an "agreeable conclusion" to a day in the studio.
Martel Schwichtenberg
German (1896-1945)
Seated Woman with Flowers, ca. 1920-21
Oil on canvas
37 1/4 x 30 ? inches
Gift of Marvin and Janet Fishman  
Martel Schwichtenberg is the only female artist featured in this exhibition. Unlike her male counterparts, she does not glamorize, or idealize her subject the way Adolf de Meyer, George Hurrell and Andy Warhol do in their work. The model in Seated Woman with Flowers is somewhat awkward. She has a large head and oversized hands. While the artist has given us a figural composition-a woman sitting in a garden with flowers- this is simply the starting point for a painting about color. The work has an abstract quality that reflects the influence of Die Brücke (The Bridge), the German expressionists who started working together in 1905. Schwichtenberg's work was admired by her contemporaries and she exhibited on a regular basis with Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. 
Ernst Fritsch
German (1892-1965)
Woman with Babushka, 1927
Oil on canvas
33 1/8 x 25 inches
Gift of Marvin and Janet Fishman
A revival of portrait painting took place in Germany between World War I and II. Artists, such as Ernst Fritsch, painted portraits, not of the wealthy but of the working class. Often characterized by grim social realism, these paintings reflect neue sachlichkeit, or the new objectivity in art which defined the times.  
A member of the Berlin Secession (1919 -1932), Fritsch concentrated on producing compelling images of laborers in the 1920s, such as Woman with Babushka. In this half-length portrait, the woman sits in a simple landscape framed by the brick of two factory buildings. She wears a headscarf characteristic of those worn by Russian peasant women. In her tattered clothes, she stares blankly out from the canvas. Her lack of emotion reflects both her state of mind and the malaise that characterized the interwar period.
George Hurrell
American (1904-1992)
Dorothy Lamour from Portfolio II, 1936
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20 inches
Gift of Mr. Curran Redman  
This photograph of Dorothy Lamour comes from George Hurrell's Portfolio II, a collection of 8 Hollywood stars from the 1930s. In 1936, the year Hurrell took her photograph,Lamour (1914-1996) played the role of Ulah in The Jungle Princess. One of the most popular motion picture actresses at the time, sheis perhaps best-knownfor appearing with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the Road to... movies, a string of successful comedies from the 1940s to the early 1950s. 
While later known as the "Grand Seigneur of the Hollywood Portrait," George Hurrell started his career as a painter. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, he was commissioned, in 1925, to photograph paintings of the Laguna Beach Art Colony in California. In 1930, he became the head of the MGM portrait gallery and shot the leading actors and actresses of his day. His talent was in creating incredibly luminous images wherein his sitters became the ultimate icons of fashion and goddesses of beauty. With his photographs, Hurrell set a new high standard for Hollywood portraits. As a result, the genre became known as glamour photography.
Andy Warhol
American (1928-1987)
Liz, 1964
Offset lithograph
Unnumbered edition of 300
23 1/8 x 23 1/8 inches
Publisher: Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Bequest of Mrs. Martha Smith
Andy Warhol embraced not only the banal in society, but also the glamorous. His interest in pop culture manifested itself early on in his childhood collection of autographed celebrity photographs. Warhol bought and read teen magazines and tabloids to stay current on what was hip, even into adulthood. Driven by the desire to become famous, he moved to New York City and worked as a commercial artist and illustrator after studying at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh.  
By using images and ideas from popular culture, he redefined what constitutes a work of art. Icons in society from political leaders to Hollywood celebrities became fodder for prints, which, by their very nature, challenge the concept of a singular work of art. For Warhol, this meant creating serial works of images appropriated from magazines, newspapers, or directly from publicity photographs. For example, Warhol used a publicity shot from c.1960 for his Liz, 1964. The original photograph (shown above) was commissioned by Columbia Pictures studios to promote the film, Suddenly Last Summer, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz in 1959.
Richard Lindner
German (1901-1978)
Standing Woman, 1971
From the Shoot series
Serigraph, Edition 40/100
40 ? x 29 5/16 inches
Gift of Mr. George Friedman and Ms. Diane Love
Highly imaginative and personal, Richard Lindner's style has been described by art critics as "mechanistic cubism." His prints-as seen in this example-have overtones of the 1930s cabaret culture in Berlin. Flat areas of often strong colors, separated by highly defined edges, even the suggestion of a high-heeled shoe, belt or part of a bustier, populate his figures. His subjects, too, seem to come from the cabaret. His women are archetypal costumed performers-garish and generic-rather then specific individuals.
According to Claus Clement, "[Lindner was] driven by weird eroticism... He started his career as an artist at the age of 40 in New York. In this metropolitan jungle, Lindner created his oeuvre: exciting and powerful images of robot-like figures, amazons and heroines, harlequinades of self-styled heroes- his artistic panorama of the unruly 60s and 70s of the 20th century."  
Lindner was most certainly influenced by his past. His mother, Mina, owned a business selling custom-fit corsets. After studying in Nuremberg and Munich, he became the art director of   Knorr and Hirth publishing. A political activist, Lindner fled Germany for Paris when the National Socialist Party came to power in 1933. In 1941, he escaped Europe and began working as an illustrator in New York City. His work after 1965 explored gender roles in the media including the use of sex symbols in advertising. 
Joseph Raffael
American (b. 1933)
Lannis in Sieste X, 1988
From the Lannis in Sieste series
Watercolor on paper
62 ? x 44 ? inches
Gift of Allen and Vicki Samson
Often based on photographs, Joseph Raffael's large-scale watercolors, as exemplified by Lannis in Sieste X, are influenced by the artist's early work in textile design. He started his career designing fabric patterns for the Jack Price Textile Studio in New York.  
In 1981, Raffael met Lannis Wood, personal counselor and tarot teacher. Five years later they married and she became the subject of numerous paintings. In 1988, while living in France, Raffael began the Lannis in Sieste series. This group of paintings features over a dozen of his wife in repose. In Lannis in Sieste X, shown here, the artist has become obsessed with the decorative pattern of her dress. He extends the floral design of her clothes to the surrounding sheets making the work a multi-colored abstraction, as much as a portrait of a woman sleeping.
Dawoud Bey
American (b. 1953)
Syretta, 1996
Dye diffusion transfer prints
94 x 48 inches
Haggerty Art Acquisition Fund
Since the mid-1990s, Dawoud Bey has created personal, intimate, and engaging portraits of young people that thwart stereotypical representations of urban youth. In Syretta, 1996, a young woman, whom the work is titled after, averts her gaze in a gesture of self-consciousness. Through his portraits, Bey seeks to draw attention to the relationship between the artist, subject, and viewer, underscoring the power of the sitter's gaze to engage, confront, or avoid the viewer.
He employs a 20-by-24-inch Polaroid camera to photograph parts of the sitter then reassembles the fragmented portrait.  The resulting 6 panel image has a sense of energetic transition. Bey has said that he chooses to photograph teenagers because, "My interest in young people has to do with the fact that they are the arbiters of style in the community; their appearance speaks most strongly of how a community of people defines themselves at a particular historical moment."

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