December 18, 2010 - March 20, 2011



Wall panels for the exhibition


Nina Bentley (b. 1939)
Corporate Executive Wife's Service Award Bracelet II (Homage to Lorna Wendt), 1999
Plated silver and chain
Gift of Jennifer Bentley, 2001.32
A long-term resident of Westport, Connecticut, Nina Bentley was raised in New York. She graduated in 1962 from the University of Wisconsin, later studying art at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and Chelsea Art School, London. Married young, she moved around the world with her husband, then an international banker. A mother of three, her view of life has been molded by "a lifetime of changing roles -- wife, mother, copy writer, window designer, art center director." Bentley is an inveterate collector of "stuff," which she juxtaposes to make biting and humorous statements about the human condition.
Here twelve silver-plated teapots on a heavy industrial chain are displayed on a white pedestal that mocks a jeweler's tray. The piece was inspired by the well-publicized 1995 divorce of millionaires Lorna and Gary Wendt, during which Mrs. Wendt chose to fight for her due. She later founded the Equality in Marriage Institute. Bentley has commented, "Often the one who holds the ladder her husband climbs is the corporate wife." An acerbic critique of the institution of marriage, it reminds us that even a level of economic ease does little to ensure gender equality.
Isabel Bishop (1902-1988)
Nude in Interior, 1947
Oil and tempera on canvas
Stephen B. Lawrence Fund, 1953.08
Graduating from high school in Detroit at age fifteen, Isabel Bishop traveled to New York to train as a commercial artist at the New York School of Applied Design for Women. After two years there, she studied the fine arts at the Art Students League, completing her studies in 1924. Bishop moved into her first studio at Fourteenth Street and Union Square in lower Manhattan in 1926, maintaining a studio there until 1984. Critical acclaim came in the 1930s when she became know as one of the urban realists of the Fourteenth Street School. Human figures are the essential facets of her work -- people she observed daily in the square or models who posed for her in the studio.
Bishop, thoroughly aware of the objectification of the female nude in the hands of many male artists, used the subject as a vehicle to investigate the problem of aesthetic beauty in art and as a statement of her profoundly humanist ideas. The nude's small size creates intimacy and draws the viewer close, yet Bishop conveys a sense of monumentality and expressiveness in the figure. Seeming to shift in space and merge in and out of softly toned background layers, it is at once still yet mobile, an embodiment of the human potential for change or growth -- an essential aspect of life itself.
Christine Breslin (b. 1948)
Bobby, 2000
Gelatin silver print from Polaroid negative
Gift of the artist, 2007.74
Raised in New York City, Christine Breslin moved to the Hartford area in the early 1970s. She earned a B.F.A. in photography from the University of Connecticut in 1981 and an M.F.A. from the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, in 1995. Since then she has worked as a professional photographer, practicing documentary and commercial photography, which often nourish her socially engaged art projects. She is known for her portraits series of particular age, gender, or social and ethnic groups. Her work counters cultural stereotypes by emphasizing the personal qualities of her sitters.
Bobby belongs to a series on adolescent boys that Breslin began in the late 1990s. Moved by the growth, physical changes, and emotional distancing of her son, she began documenting him and eight of his male friends annually from early adolescence through high school. Bobby is a complex investigation of the nebulous process of becoming adult. His display of chains and tattoo demonstrate a committed and fashionable tie to his new social group. He faces the camera in full innocence and trust, yet his body closes in on itself, barricaded by the arm that crosses before our eyes and keeps us from getting too close.
Fidelia Bridges (1834-1923)
Study of Ferns, 1864
Oil on board
Gift of Jean E. Taylor, 2009.32
After being orphaned at age fifteen, in 1854 Fidelia Bridges moved from Massachusetts to Brooklyn to work as a governess. In 1860 she began studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Bridges worked from her Philadelphia studio until touring Europe in 1867. Upon her return, she moved back to New York where in 1874 she was elected an associate member of the National Academy of Design. Bridges painted watercolors as well as oils and, after 1875, supported herself by designing cards, calendars, and gift books. In 1890 she moved to Canaan, Connecticut, where she remained until her death.
Landscapist William Trost Richards (1833-1905) was a life-long friend of Bridges. Richards ascribed to the philosophies of English aesthetician John Ruskin (1819-1900), who advocated direct and detailed examination of the natural world. Bridges painted methodically from nature, often ten hours a day and in remote areas, as seen here, countering the belief that women lacked the mental and physical stamina to sustain outdoor work. Study of Ferns is an intimate examination of forest ecology. The tender, growing bark of the birch tree peels away, tree stumps and fallen limbs rot, and richly variegated leaves decompose into shadowed moist earth, providing sustenance for the stand of brilliantly lighted green ferns.
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)
In the Omnibus, 1890-91
Drypoint with color aquatint
Lent by Lucy E. Cross, 1991.25T
Raised a member of a prominent upper-middle-class family in western Pennsylvania, Mary Cassatt studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1860 to 1862. She left America for Europe in 1865, studying art in Paris, Rome, and Madrid for four years. After returning briefly to the United States, she chose to live and work in France starting in 1875. The only American artist to exhibit with the French Impressionists, during the 1870s and 1880s she developed the themes for which she is known today: women engaged in private domestic activities, attending the theatre, and (her "trademark" subject) a mother and child.
In the Omnibus is both a scene of everyday life and a commentary on late nineteenth-century women's increasing entry into the public sphere. A middle-class woman simultaneously upholds and transgresses society's rules for her class and gender: she and her child are accompanied by a servant/chaperone, but they are clearly outside the home, riding urban public transportation with its conceivably dangerous mix of social classes and genders. Cassatt's mother, by example, teaches her child that women can cross culturally-proscribed boundaries for self-fulfillment. Inspired by Japanese woodcuts, the innovative print is one of a series Cassatt created about 1890 using drypoint and aquatint etching, resulting in finely expressive lines and muted hues that resemble subtle watercolor washes.
Kate Cheney Chappell (b. 1945)
Explosion of Amphibian Deformities, 2006
Monotype and graphite pencil
Gift of the artist, 2008.12
A native of the Hartford area, Kate Cheney Chappell was in her first art exhibition at the age of fourteen. Upon her return from a year in Paris in 1966, she married and moved to Maine where she and her husband founded the environmentally responsible company Tom's of Maine. After raising five children, Chappell graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern Maine in 1983. A decade later, she built a studio on Monhegan Island, where she returns yearly for lengthy stays. That natural environment is her spiritual home.
In 2006, Chappell was particularly concerned with "the loss of many species that contribute to this fragile web we call life." Frogs are not only diminishing in quantity and variety of species, but are developing debilitating mutations. The three frogs illustrated in Chappell's print have extra legs. The mutants move up through a chute in space toward a hovering egg that contains other frogs whose semi-visible forms are larger, fuller, and seemingly healthier. They appear to be returning to the womb for healing. This work is Chappell's offering, the instincts of a mother, to the earth in need of physical and spiritual restoration.
Beatrice Cuming (1903-1974)
Welders at Electric Boat Company, ca. 1944
Oil on canvas
Charles F. Smith Fund, 1972.01
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Cuming graduated from the Pratt Institute Art School in 1923. Between 1924 and 1933, she continued her studies in Paris and New York, painting during trips to England and North Africa. Cuming moved to New London, Connecticut, in 1934. She spent the rest of her years as an artist there, painting and occasionally teaching art classes from her studio or at public schools. Her subjects of choice were southeastern Connecticut's streets and buildings, railroad yards and docks, power plants and shipyards -- subjects she said were "beautiful, powerful, dramatic, [and] exciting."
Cuming worked as a guard for the Electric Boat Company in Groton for three months in 1943. The job resulted in a commission from the company to document the building of submarines; this painting is one of at least six she created on the subject. Here, workers and machinery meld as a dynamic whole. The welders' visors mask any sense of their identities, implying they are not so much individuals as interchangeable parts of an inhuman process. Yet Cuming heroizes the welders by heightening the dangers inherent in their work: we track billowing smoke and sparks spraying through the air to their origins, where the men's visors form illuminated backdrops to the hazardous heating of metal.
Lalla Essaydi (b. 1956)
Converging Territories #12, 2003
Charles F. Smith Fund, 2006.125
Lalla Essaydi was born and raised in Morocco. She now lives in New York City and as well as Marrakech. She received a B.F.A. from Tufts University and an M.F.A. from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 2003, and. Living for twenty years in Saudi Arabia, four in France, and a decade and a half in America has given her exposure to multiple dimensions of women's lives in both Islamic and Western cultures. From 1990 to 1994 she attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris followed by studies in the United States. She received a B.F.A. from Tufts University in 1999, concentrating on women and art, and an M.F.A. in painting and photography from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 2003. Her exhibition career began soon after completion of her B.F.A., and she received her first solo show in 2003. Since then she has been exhibiting widely, both nationally and internationally, and Hherher art works ar now in almost twenty museums. Essaydi now lives in New York City and Marrakech.
Having lived for twenty years in Saudi Arabia, four in France, and a decade and a half in America, she understands multiple dimensions of women's lives in both Islamic and Western cultures. Considering the past in painting and the present in the camera's view, Essaydi produces paintings, photographs, videos, and film installations. The compositions of her photographs are guided by her training in painting in their placement of cloth, bodies and symbolic objects, all covered with calligraphic forms. Her purpose is consistent-to establish a position from which a Muslim woman living in the West can address both the gendered circumstances of her memories of the past and her observations of contemporary cultural change.
Helen Frankenthaler (b. 1928)
Bronze Smoke, 1978
Color lithograph
Davidson & Leventhal Fund and Friends Purchase Fund, 1983.52
Born and raised in New York City, Helen Frankenthaler was able to study with important artists of the era such as Rufino Tamayo (1811-1991) and Hans Hoffman (1880-1966). In 1949 she met critic Clement Greenberg, who introduced her to the Abstract Expressionists. She soon began working on the floor like Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), pouring and spilling paint onto huge pieces of canvas, usually left unprimed. Unlike him, she used thinned paint, which soaked through, staining the surface. This technique anticipated the establishment of the Color Field painting movement of the 1960s.
Although oil and acrylic are Frankenthaler's primary media, she has also worked extensively in printmaking. For this lithograph, she chose light brown paper with barely noticeable hints of red and black. The ink is absorbed into the paper, merging with it to create "accidents." Her stain technique is employed in this work as well. Lightly-outlined organic forms create the look of coffee-stains on the first layer of the print. The second layer, noticeable by overlay, is comprised of broad vertical brush strokes. Imperfections generate intricate details that are reminiscent of a topographical map. Some sections look like wave marks on sandand, most importantly, others look like smoke.
Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934)
Louise Grace, ca. 1919
Sepia photograph
Gift of Francine DuPlessix Gray, 2005.181
Born Gertrude Stanton in Des Moines, Iowa, the artist married Eduard Käsebier in 1873. Käsebier began her study of art after her three children had started high school, training as a painter at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1889 to 1893 and in France during the summers of 1893 and 1894. Shifting her focus to photography, she apprenticed to photographers in Germany and Brooklyn before opening her own portrait studio on Fifth Avenue in New York in 1897. In 1902 she became a founding member of the Photo-Secession Group. Leading exponents of Pictorialism, they sought to evoke photography's similarities to painting, using darkroom and in-camera manipulations to produce soft tonal gradations and experimental light effects. Käsebier worked until 1927, retiring from professional photography at age seventy-five.
Louise Grace was the daughter of a prominent New York City family that made its wealth in international shipping. She epitomizes standards of female grace and beauty with her upswept hair, slender form, and delicate facial features. Käsebier's painterly tonal gradations and blurred details reinforce the mood of quiet introspection, as Louise Grace reads, intent and serious. Käsebier rejects centuries of portrait traditions that associated men with mental acuity and women with emotion, nature, and fertility. Louise Grace presents woman as intellectual being.
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
Toward Los Angeles, Calif., 1937
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase, 2005.180
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Lange worked part time at several photographic portrait studios in New York from 1914 to 1916 and took a photography course with Clarence H. White (1871-1925) at Columbia University in 1917. She set up her own studio in San Francisco in 1918, and her thriving portrait business supported her husband and three children until their divorce in 1935. Lange and her second husband, economist Paul Taylor, crossed the nation from 1935 to 1944, documenting the lives of displaced and poverty-stricken farm workers for several federal agencies. Considered a crippled "other" because of a leg permanently malformed after an attack of polio at age seven, Lange maintained that perception resulted in her unique insight into the suffering of America's other outsiders -- the poor, the dispossessed, and the unjustly interred.
Integral to American identity is the belief that the United States is a nation of people on the move: to seek fame or fortune, to shed one identity for another, to live on one's own terms. Toward Los Angeles, Calif. ironically exposes the often-cruel reality of that belief. The expansive billboard's words evoke a pre-Great Depression era of prosperity and choice unthinkable to the two migrant workers walking the road to Los Angeles in search of work.
Hung Liu (b. 1948)
Relic 12, 2005
Oil on canvas and lacquered wood
Charles F. Smith Fund, 2007.99
A citizen of Mao Zedong's China, Hung Liu finished high school in Beijing at the start of the Cultural Revolution. Designated an intellectual, she was sent for reeducation to the countryside, where she spent four years working in the fields. By 1972 she qualified as a peasant and was thereby allowed to enter college and eventually art school. Resistant to official attitudes about art, she began the long process that brought her in 1984 to the University of California, San Diego, where she studied with Allan Kaprow (1927-2006). Today, Liu is Professor of Art at Mills College in Oakland, California.
Liu's art revivifies women whose images she discovered in a cache of pre-revolutionary photographs. Although fully clothed, the pose of the female figure in this painting is reminiscent of Western reclining female nudes, particularly Edouard Manet's (1832-1883) Olympia (1863; Musée d'Orsay). Like Olympia, the woman in Liu's photograph was a courtesan. Liu liberates the figure from her real-life circumstances, setting her in a celestial garden. The central panel is symbolic. Red is the color of celebration, used for weddings. In harsh contrast, its black character translates as "slave." In the place of Manet's servant is a spectacular blue butterfly, a Chinese symbol of love. Flowers, distributed across the figure and the space she inhabits, are interspersed with circles -- symbols of the universe that have become Liu's signature.
Nancy Graves (1939-1995)
Clash of Cultures, 1988
Etching, aquatint, and drypoint on Fabriano Artistico
Gift of the Nancy Graves Foundation, 2010.87
A sculptor, painter, printmaker, and occasional filmmaker, Nancy Graves was known for her focus on nature and history. Her personal aesthetic emerged from a combination of childhood memories and the concepts of Abstract Expressionism prevalent in her formative years. Her works represent an interchange between the replication of nature and the formal values of abstract art.
In Clash of Cultures, Graves highlights various figures from art history. At the top left is a portrait of the Etruscan noblewoman Velia Velcha, based on an ancient mural found in the Tomb of Orcus in Tarquinia, Italy. According to Graves, the dragon next to her alludes to "medieval art history" while the figure of Justice at the bottom right references a twelfth-century mosaic in the church of San Marco in Venice. The pattern in between was inspired by a contemporary design for electrical circuitry. By combining historic and iconic images with modern designs, all depicted in an abstract style, Graves questions contemporary aesthetics and the influence of art history on contemporary art.
Please note that Indicate, a sculpture by Nancy Graves, is also included in this exhibition. It is located on the grounds of the Museum, but can be viewed from the staircase landing.

Constance Richardson (1905-2002)
City of Detroit, 1943
Oil on board
Harriet Russell Stanley Fund, 1950.42
Constance Richardson grew up in Indiana, and attended Vassar College for two years before leaving to study painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia from 1925 to 1928. There she met Edgar P. Richardson (1902-1985), who became her husband and a noted historian of American art. She pursued her painting career while her husband's work took them to Detroit, Delaware, and Philadelphia. Although best known today for her landscapes and depictions of the cities and industrial sites of the Midwest, she also painted portraits and scenes of everyday life.
Detroit was a burgeoning metropolis when Richardson painted this scene. The home of the American auto industry since the beginning of the twentieth century, it was a leading manufacturing center during World War II. She subtly documents a flourishing city with a rich heritage through finely detailed renderings of the fabric of the city. The terracotta ornamentation, high chimneystacks, and steep-pitched roofs of nineteenth-century brick structures contrast with the geometric regularity of modern skyscrapers. Human presence is reduced to a handful of figures and mundane elements of modernity such as street signs are eliminated -- even cars, Detroit's lifeblood, are noticeably absent in this pristine and stately view.

Esphyr Slobodkina (1908-2002)
Abstraction with Red Circle, 1938
Oil on canvas
Olga H. Knoepke Fund, 1994.02
Born in Siberia, Esphyr Slobodkina's early life was nomadic, moving around Russia, then to Manchuria and, in the 1920s, to the United States where she quickly adopted abstraction and became an active member of the American Abstract Artists. Slobodkina is known for her work as a children's book author and illustrator as well as for her painting and sculpture. In 1991 she moved to West Hartford, Connecticut, and her famous book Caps for Sale debuted as a musical at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. She also sponsored the Slobodkina-Urquhart Children's Reading Room at the University of Hartford.
The dynamic composition of this early painting is based on abstract principles of design. Playing with black lines and multi-colored shapes on a neutral ground, she produces a precarious asymmetry. Linear forms of varying widths intersect and overlap rectangles, circles, triangles, and oddly rounded planes. The lines and angles lead the viewer's eye across the entire picture plane, ping-ponging from element to element until finally settling in the central area between the green, yellow and red forms. Slobodkina pushes and pulls the viewer back and forth in space, forcing them to size up colors and forms and testing their ability to decipher
Polly Thayer (1904-2006)
Circles, ca. 1928
Oil on canvas
Gift of the artist, 1960.08
Polly Thayer (née Ethel) studied painting with Philip Hale (1865-1931) at Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts in the 1920s, pursuing further training in New York, Provincetown, and Paris in the 1930s. Adept at academic realism, Thayer garnered success quickly, with solo shows in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. She continued making art after her 1933 marriage to a Boston lawyer and yachtsman and while raising two daughters born in the early 1940s. With family responsibilities, however, she did not pursue public acclaim as consistently as she had while a single woman. Her later work focused less on the human figure and more on landscapes as well as closely observed nature studies.
Circles established Thayer as a major talent in America and won her a prestigious Hallgarten Prize at the National Academy of Design in 1929. The title likely comes from the overlapping circles of purple and lilac that form the background, their roundness echoed in the nude female's contours, the shape of the tiger's head, and the sweeping position of her robe -- all guiding the viewer's eye from one curvilinear form to the other. Thayer created a sense of eroticism by juxtaposing textures so illusionistic they seem almost tangible. She had been an international traveler since childhood and the tiger rug may be an exotic element inspired by her travels to Africa or Asia. Although the female nude lacks individuality since we are unable to see her face, her expressive back engages viewers nonetheless and allows them an intimate glimpse into this moment.

Martha Walter (1875-1976)
Immigrant from Checho Slovacia, ca. 1921-22
Oil on board
Gift of Howard H. Bristol, Jr., 1985.47
Martha Walter, born and raised in Philadelphia, attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before spending the summers of 1899 and 1900 painting outdoors at William Merritt Chase's (1849-1916) Shinnecock Art School on Long Island. She continued her training with studies and travel in France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy from 1903 to 1914. Best known for her plein-air scenes, Walter worked in the United States and abroad for several decades; she taught in both New York and Brittany and exhibited frequently in Paris, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. She painted almost until her death at age one hundred.
Immigrant from Checho Slovacia is one of a series of paintings Walter created based on weekly visits to Ellis Island about 1921-22. She concentrated on immigrant families in "Detention Hall," where those with suspected illnesses were confined until allowed into the U.S. or returned to their homelands. The young mother may have pricked her finger to add ruddy color to their cheeks, reassuring both the viewer and authorities of their good health. Painted during a time of rising anti-immigration sentiment in the United States, this mother and child are notably "Other," the conspicuously "foreign" shawl and babushka signifying their Eastern European ethnicity. Walter's vigorous brushwork and vibrant color captures the pair's energy, character, and beauty: they are America's vital future; they must be allowed to stay.

Negar Ahkami (b. 1971)
Backsplash, 2010
Acrylic, gesso, and glitter on wood panel
Charles F. Smith Fund, 2010.84
Backsplash shows a melting New York cityscape in the shape of a mosque. The geometric, calligraphic, and floral patterning, as well as the many shades of blue, brings to mind beautifully decorated Iranian mosques. Ahkami, an Iranian-American, took inspiration from traditional Iranian ceramics when she chose to create textures by layering hardened gesso and acrylic onto a wood panel. She wanted to pay tribute to the celebratory and flamboyant nature of Iranians and, as a result, decided to include glitter in this painting.
Ahkami says of her work:
"While formally paying tribute to Iranian culture, Backsplash satirizes Iran's menacing image in the United States and the cartoonish brutality of Iran's theocratic regime. The melting mosque resembles a factory or power plant, with polluting smokestacks for minarets. It also evokes the 1960's horror film The Blob. The force of the meltdown produces a green counter-wave in which miniature faces and hands of imperiled Iranian protestors are submerged.
In this work, I deliberately combine a flamboyant exquisiteness with a cartoonish brutality to mirror the absurdly conflicting perceptions of Iran to which I have been exposed as an Iranian-American. Among Iranians, Iran is regarded as a source of immense pride and influence on world culture; within American contemporary culture, Iran is understood as a backward source of terror. I use the cacophonic, swirling patterning in Persian art as an expressive tool to convey the dizzying confusion I have experienced from being exposed to such opposite versions of Iran."
Sandra Allen (b. 1963)
Risorgimento, 2005
Pencil on paper
William F. Brooks Fund, 2009.115
Risorgimento is closely related to the large-scale drawings of trees that were part of Sandra Allen's NEW/NOW exhibition held at the NBMAA last fall. Allen has been inspired by the surface and form of trees since the late 1990s. Initially, she used her drawings as sketches for paintings. She soon realized that the drawings became more important to her than the final paintings and, therefore, decided to make drawing her primary medium.
Allen describes Risorgimento as follows:
"I was initially attracted to the tree trunk in Risorgimento because of the interesting marks and scaring on the trunk. When I found this tree (which I think is a Linden) I didn't have my camera with me and so I knew I would have to plan on coming back another time soon. I left on a trip to Italy the very next day and when I returned two weeks later the tree was in bloom and I felt it was too late and I had lost my chance to get what I was after. I knew I would have to wait six to eight months to come back and photograph it again without any leaves. I decided to take some pictures anyway and when I saw the photographs it seemed to me that the trunk was even more poignant in contrast to the delicate white flowers that were blooming. I had never drawn anything like it before and so decided to give it a try.
When I drew the tree I realized that the whiteness of the flowers was not showing up at all and so decided that I would put in a gradual tone in the background to make them standout. It is the only drawing I've done that includes the flowers, buds and the background shading.
My trip to Italy was the influence on the title. 'Risorgimento' means a time of renewal, renaissance or revival."
Alice Baber (1928-1982)
The Light in the Depths, 1975
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Alice Baber Art Fund, Inc., 2000.38
The Light in the Depths was one of Baber's mid-career paintings with more color in stronger shades than her later work. The hallmark of Baber's work is its beauty. Despite illness as a child and other adversity, the artist maintained a life-long essential, poetic vision which was optimistic and celebratory. Baber proclaimed that "color is more important to me than some type of gesture or attacks."
She studied at the University of Illinois at Bloomington and later married artist Paul Jenkins (b. 1923) in 1964. They traveled to Japan and India where she was thrilled to see the "open air stores filled with a million colors." She died at 54. Her dedication to the cause of women in the arts is continued today by the Alice Baber Art Fund.
Jennifer Bartlett (b. 1941)
Circle, Line, House from Rhapsody, 1992-93
William F. Brooks Fund, 2006.126
Bartlett's work Rhapsody, a career-defining painting which debuted at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, in 1976, is a monumental piece, comprising 987 one-foot-square painted steel plates. The work reads as a survey of advanced painting theories of the last century, referencing an array of techniques and styles from the pointillism of Georges Seurat (1859-1891) to the geometry and hatch-work of Sol LeWitt (1928-2007). Here we see three etchings based on Rhapsody which not only illustrate the variety in style of the piece, but also serve as a more accessible snapshot of the work.
Harriett Casdin-Silver (1935-2008) & Kevin Brown (b. 1965)
Alice Mitchell, 1999
Hologram and audio dome
Charles F. Smith Fund, 2000.2
Harriett Casdin-Silver, a pioneer in holographic art, collaborated with Kevin Brown, an expert in acoustic and robotics, to combine portrait conventions with new innovations in technology to celebrate the process of aging.
Alice Mitchell, is part of Harriet Casdin-Silver's series exploring the body and psyche of women. As early as 1973 Casdin-Silver started exploring figurative holograms. In the early 1980s she began to create portraits of women she knew, either by abstracting and distorting the image to suggest the stresses of personal and political changes, or by studied representations of attitudes expressed through eyes, postures, and facial expressions. Holograms make an excellent media for portraiture as they render the sitter in three dimensions with striking detail.
Casdin-Silver continued to work on images of women through the late 1990s. She expanded the limits of holographic expressions, exploring the body, the self, and their entanglements with culture. Contemporary feminist ideas about objectification, the gaze, and the power of the female body have been persistent themes, as have the subject of aging, and the aging process. Casdin-Silver's works are consistently innovative and relevant to life in the new millennium.
Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844­1926)
A Caress, 1891
Pastel on paper
Harriet Russell Stanley Fund, 1948.14
Cassatt was born to a privileged family and spent much of her youth abroad. She lived in Philadelphia from 1861 to 1865 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before settling permanently in Paris. She exhibited regularly at the Salon from 1868 to 1876. In 1877 Edgar Degas (1834-1917) invited her to exhibit with the Impressionists, whom she joined from 1879 to 1886. During this time, she developed the themes that would characterize her oeuvre: women and children engaged in domestic activities. At her death, Cassatt was considered by many to be America's leading female artist.
A Caress was shown in 1891 at Cassatt's solo exhibition at the prestigious Galeries Durand-Ruel in Paris. Her confident technique belies the difficulties of working in pastel. In the flat surfaces and subject matter, the work reveals the influence of Japanese prints, which she had studied. The theme also owes a debt to the Western tradition of representations of the Madonna and child. However, this work of art was highly controversial at the time as it depicted male genitalia drawn by a female artist.
Cassatt's close friend and patron Louisine Havemeyer bought the pastel in 1895 just before the opening of the artist's first major American retrospective. Because it was a favorite, Havemeyer did not bequeath it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art along with the rest of the Havemeyer Collection but gave it to her daughter Electra Havemeyer Webb, the founder of the Shelburne Museum, whose own daughter sold it months before her house burned to the ground.
Sarah Charlesworth (b. 1947)
Control and Abandon, 1992-93
Laminated Cibachrome
Charles F. Smith Fund, 2005.05
While studying painting and art history at Barnard College in New York City, Charlesworth was influenced by the work of conceptualist artists like Robert Barry
(b. 1936), Lawrence Weiner (b. 1942) and Douglas Huebler (1924-1997). Often associated with postmodern photographers Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) and Laurie Simmons (b. 1949), Charlesworth's work explores the photograph as a subject in itself, rather than the photograph's documentation of its subject. This work, from the series Natural Magic (1992-94), uses photography as both medium and subject to explore the image's ability to communicate the real to the viewer. In fact, the image depicts the art of illusion, or magic tricks in progress, alluding to the art of photography as a form of magic or artifice, also suggesting that photography and painting are equally effective media for creating illusions.
Christo (b. 1935)
& Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009)
Surrounded Islands, Project for Biscayne Bay,
Greater Miami, Florida, 1983
Friends Purchase Fund, 1984.1
For two weeks in 1983, the contours of eleven islands near Miami, Florida, were outlined with luminescent pink fabric that dramatically floated in the water. Christo, a Bulgarian native, and his wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude temporarily transformed the environment with his artwork. From wrapped buildings to miles of fabric fencing, their complex installations involve years of planning with government agencies and engineers. To finance their work, they sells studies like this collage. With photographs, these studies remain tangible records of the work of art long after the piece is dismantled. The Museum has mounted two exhibitions devoted to the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
The temporary is essential for these artists, who explain:
"You can say it is about displacement. Basically even today I am a displaced person, and that is why I make art that doesn't last.... I make very stimulating things. Unlike steel, or stone, or wood, the fabric catches the physicality of the wind, the sun. They are refreshing. And then they are quickly gone."
Cynthia Westwood (B. 1969)
Blue Bathroom, 2006
Oil on linen
Gift of The American Academy of Arts and Letters
Westwood's enchanting figure encompasses the canvas as a whole, although she physically exists in only half. As part of her Bathroom series, Westwood has captured this woman in a fresh and unguarded moment, her piercing blue eyes in stark contrast with her pale flesh.
Gabriela Gonzales Dellosso (b. 1968)
Three Sisters, 2004
Oil on panel
Gift of the artist, 2006.134
Dellosso earned her Batchelor of Arts degree at the School of Visual Arts, New York City. She also studied at the Art Students League and the National Academy School of Fine Arts, New York.
Dellosso's Three Sisters won first prize in the Museum's 37th Annual Juried Members Exhibition in 2006. Her paintings explore family relationships, and, in particular, with Three Sisters she demonstrates the close family resemblance of the three women and also their similar taste in clothing. A hallmark of Latina life is a dedication to maintaining close family ties. This triptych constitutes a visual record of the physical and cultural ties that bind these three women together for life. Dellosso lives and works in West New York, New Jersey.
Dellosso remarked the following about her work:
"I enjoy bringing the figure to life on the canvas and then seeing how the audience responds to it. I am always fascinated by what people say and how differently people respond to a single subject. To me that is the greatest reward."
Elizabeth Nourse (1860-1938)
Head of an Algerian (Moorish Prince), 1897
Oil on canvas
Harriet Russell Stanley Fund and through exchange, 1981.68
Nourse studied at the Cincinnati School of Design and in 1887 traveled with her sister Louise to Paris, where she enrolled at the Académie Julian. She was accepted at the Salon as a painter of peasant women and children. Norse settled in France, returning to the States only once-to see the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 and visited Russia, Italy, Austria, The Netherlands, North Africa, and Spain.
Head of an Algerian is one of Nourse's most powerful North African subjects. She probably painted the work during a three-month sojourn in Tunis, perhaps on a side trip to the Algerian city of Biskra. The sitter is traditionally dressed, a white turban around his head and several layers of loose clothing wrapped around his body. North African subjects were popular in France during the second half of the nineteenth century, and Nourse's canvases were well received and shown at the Salon and the Société des Orientalists.
Elizabeth Murray (1940-2007)
Untitled, 1989
Pastel and charcoal on paper collage
Alice Osborne Bristol Fund, 2007.116
Murray was born in Chicago, Illinois. In 1958, she entered the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she planned to study commercial art. Her commercial intentions never materialized, however, the result of a daily exposure to Cézanne's The Plate of Apples (ca. 1877; The Art Institute of Chicago), a still-life that she would pass by on her way to class. She is quoted as having said of this work "...the space is all pouring out somehow at you."
Murray was able to trace her interest in making art to her Chicago nursery school, where at a young age she witnessed her teacher cover a piece of paper with thick red crayon. That experience inspired a lifelong preoccupation with the physicality of color. Murray's work regularly features a combination of formal elements both abstract and figurative, executed in a vibrant, dramatic palette.
Untitled is a prime example of Murray's later work, showing the particular combination of representation and abstraction that made her famous. Her whimsical rendering of yellow silverware is given a sculptural effect by weaving it in and around the cut paper that functions as the primary surface for the deep, rich pastel work. Black and blue are combined with subtlety in the background, generating an overall effect that is at once dynamic and organic.The powerful fields of red strain to push the surfaces on which they are painted outward toward the viewer.
Ellen Carey (b. 1952)
Blue Pull with Flare and Yellow Rollback, 2002
Color positive print
Gift of the artist, 2004.81
Born in New York City and a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, Carey does not take photographs which are documents or snapshots of objects but rather she creates abstractions of light and color on paper. Carey breaks from the restraints of the 20" x 24" Polaroid Land camera by letting the dye and color run free as she pulls each color through the camera's internal rollers. Color positive prints are created by enlarging the color negative onto a positive color paper. Carey controls each color by modifying amounts of light by inserting yellow, magenta or cyan filters. After a print is pulled through the camera, Carey removes the negative backing and allows the dyes to dry. Carey's remarkable intuition in the darkroom enables her to work by trial and error, yielding a beautiful depiction not of an object but of pure light.
Ellen Emmet Rand (1876-1941)
Anna Delancey Mears, 1926
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mrs. C. Singleton Mears, 1981.81
Rand's talent for portraiture no doubt stems from her family, a long line of respectable women artists. The beautiful, warm tones throughout the piece highlight her subject's face, capturing her clear, poised expression. She meets our eyeline directly, though not confrontationally, inviting us into the composition. The elegant shawl Mears wears was donated to the New Britain Museum along with the painting.
Lillian Genth (1876-1953)
Manchu Girl, Peking, ca. 1931
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mrs. William H. Bender and Edythe Haskell, 1954.51
Lillian Genth was born in Philadelphia and received a scholarship to the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. Upon graduating, she went to Europe and studied in Paris with James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) at his Académie Carmen. Like Whistler, Genth chose to paint academic subjects such as strong, attractive women with exotic adornments on their clothing and environment. Both painters had a somewhat traditional style of painting but they also used the techniques and innovations of the Impressionists.
During her lifetime, Genth was considered to be the most successful painter of female nudes in America. Besides being noted for her studies of nudes in poetic and pastoral settings, she was also a successful portrait painter. In 1928, she announced that she would no longer paint female nudes but instead would concentrate on painting Spanish and Oriental themes.
Genth's sitters seem to transcend their culture and society. For Manchu Girl, Peking, the artist positioned her sitter in the typical fashion, painting the subject seated in full-profile and dressed in a highly colorful textured gown. Manchu Girl, Peking pushed the theme of the "colorful" stranger to an extreme. The viewer is reminded of a delicate China doll when viewing Manchu Girl, Peking. Similar to the brilliant colors of the sitter's costume, China, too, was a visual spectacle for Western visitors.
Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934)
Louise Grace, ca. 1919
Sepia toned gelatin silver print
Gift of Francine Du Plessix Gray, 2005.181
Käsebier attended the Pratt Institute from 1889-1893 with the intention of becoming a portrait painter. At the time Pratt did not offer photography, but Käsebier frequented the school's library to further her photographic knowledge and techniques. On a yearlong hiatus from her husband, Käsebier traveled to France where her focus shifted to portraiture. For the rest of her artistic career Käsebier worked toward creating delicate, soft-focused photographs that explored themes of motherhood and portraiture like that of Louise Grace, who was a member of a prominent New York family.
Anna Mary Robertson ("Grandma") Moses (1860-1961)
All Out for Sport, 1949
Oil on board
Gift of Robert C. Knox in memory of his wife, Leonice M. Knox, and his daughter Leonice L. Knox, 1984.02
Moses was one of the most successful artists of the twentieth century despite the fact that she did not begin her painting career until she was in her seventies. She was forced to give up embroidery due to arthritis and began to paint original scenes, developed from her memories of farm life with her husband. Collector Louis J. Caldor discovered her folk art in the windows of a drugstore in 1938; he bought several paintings and took them back to New York. Some of her paintings were shown the next year at the Museum of Modern Art and her works were reproduced on Christmas cards and other souvenirs throughout Europe and the U.S. She became so popular that on her 100th birthday New York governor Nelson Rockefeller proclaimed it "Grandma Moses Day." She continued to paint until her death at age 101.
All Out for Sport, painted in 1949 is typical of Moses' flat, colorful style. Despite using few colors, details, and little to no shading she captures the movement and the mood of the people and the landscape. Her simple style lends itself to this kind of iconic winter scene; the flat broad brushstrokes are perfectly suited to depict the gray sky, and the rolling snowdrifts.
Harriet Whitney Frishmuth
Peter Pan, 1936
Gift of Ruth Talcott, 1980.9
British author James Barry's Peter Pan remains one of the most whimsical heroes of children's literature. The story centers on a boy who vowed never to grow up and his adventures in Neverland. Frishmuth received the commission for a Peter Pan to be placed near the grave of a deceased cousin. As was her custom, Frishmuth asked her model what he or she would do in a given situation. The sculptor told the story of Peter Pan to the child who was selected as her model and said, " 'If you were out in the dark, in the woods, and you looked up at the stars for the very first time, what position would you take?' He looked at me with his eyes bright and said, 'I'd take this pose,' and sat right down on the model table in the pose of my Peter Pan."
Julie Heffernan (b. 1956)
Self-Portrait as Everything that Rises, 2003
Oil on canvas
Charles F. Smith Fund 2005.182
Heffernan's Self Portrait as Everything that Rises depicts a fantastic moment of ordinarily inanimate objects coming to life. The Rococo interior is strongly reminiscent of the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich,Germany. The decoration includes elements, such as the scalloped windows along the top level and thin-arched windows on the lower levels, which echo the design of the Stone Hall at Nymphenburg. The trompe l'oeil ceiling fresco, on the other hand, is more characteristic of the Italian Baroque tradition. In the eighteenth century, Italian artists, such as Giacopo Amigoni or Giambattista Tiepolo, were often commissioned to paint the interiors of these grand German structures. Heffernan's painting conveys a sense of baroque theatricality.
The figures in the fresco as well as those used for architectural ornamentation are brought to life by the sudden fire ascending from the chandelier's candles. The transformation of the fresco's wine grapes to orbs of fire, carried by the birds to the chandelier's crystal chain, is a fanciful concept. The fire rises in a natural spiral-like pattern, emphasizing the cyclical nature of both the fresco's narrative and human life. The fire may also stand for the artist's presence in a form other than her original, figural body. These scenes surround the main figures, creating an active dream-work of transformational processes within a landscape of Rococo exuberance.
Judith Thorpe (b. 1948)
Femme #8, 2003
Iris print on rice paper
Gift of the artist, 2003.89
Thorpe is concerned with a woman's body and the process of aging. Using the throwaway parts of 4"x 5" Polaroid images that she has collected for several years, she scans the Polaroid remnants into her computer and creates new images that deal with the form and meaning of the photograph and the expressive issues of change, loss, rebirth and aging. Her work combines traditional and digital components of photography.
Most of her photographs are self-portraits. She holds a B.S. in psychology from Regis College, Denver, Colorado, and an MFA in photography from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Thorpe participated in the NEW/NOW series at the Museum in 2003.
Thorpe notes:
"I feel that these latent (Polaroid) images are like mistakes, thought to be unusable or incorrect, but in actuality they are a new direction for my work to take as I question representation and culture through my own body."
Judy Kensley McKie (b. 1944)
Grizzly Bear Bench, 2002
Gift of Mary Tredennick Gould in memory of her husband J. Spencer Gould, 2005.47
Judy Kensley McKie crafted this unique bench for the new Chase Family Building. Grizzly Bear Bench is made of bronze cast, and the bench's seat is provided by the bear's back, which curves to provide surprising comfort.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, McKie attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), earning her B.F.A. in painting. She began creating furniture out of necessity when she and her husband struggled as artists living in Boston. McKie's friends praised her furniture and encouraged her to pursue design.
Since then, her work has appeared in exhibitions across the country and is part of permanent collections at many museums including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and the American Craft Museum, New York. She is also the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award.
Marion Kinsella (1924-2005)
Martha Graham
Gift of the artist, 2001.83
Marion Kinsella was a sculptor and lighting designer who knew Martha Graham from working with her on theatrical productions in the 1950s. Graham was an American dancer and choreographer. She is regarded as one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance. Although Kinsella knew Graham she decided not to ask her to pose but instead used photographs taken over a twenty-year period to create a portrait bust. This piece is a culmination of Graham's attributes such as strength, power, beauty, and grace.
Kinsella said of the sculpture:
"I'm attempting to make her look as she does . . . on the stage. . . . I consider her to be one of the greatest artists of the century . . . one who knows more about form and space than anyone."
Lee Krasner (1908-1984)
Nude Study, 1939
Charcoal on paper
Friends Purchase Fund, 1985.09
To many people, Lee Krasner is only known as the wife of famous abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (1912-1956). Yet, Krasner was a renowned artist in her own right. While she was promoting Pollock's work, she stopped promoting her own art, even though she never stopped painting, even during the most turbulent years of her marriage. Today, Krasner is regarded as one of the most influential first-generation Abstract-Expressionists.
Even though Krasner had already received traditional academic training, she decided to study with Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) from 1937 until 1939. During life classes she learned the required "detachment," which was believed to be innate to men but had to be studied by women. These classes helped her study the nude form in a Cubist style, where she not only conveyed the nude but also the space surrounding it in a Cubist grid, which can be observed in Nude Study. Circular lines and arcs imply the female figure and rectilinear shapes and lines suggest the space around her. Krasner's nude is an investigation of abstract forms and shows the detachment of artists from three-dimensional forms that had been in use since the Renaissance.
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
Toward Los Angeles, Calif., 1937
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase, 2005.180
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Lange worked part time at several photographic portrait studios in New York from 1914 to 1916 and took a photography course with Clarence H. White (1871-1925) at Columbia University in 1917. She set up her own studio in San Francisco in 1918, and her thriving portrait business supported her husband and three children until their divorce in 1935. Lange and her second husband, economist Paul Taylor, crossed the nation from 1935 to 1944, documenting the lives of displaced and poverty-stricken farm workers for several federal agencies. Considered a crippled "other" because of a leg permanently malformed after an attack of polio at age seven, Lange maintained that perception resulted in her unique insight into the suffering of America's other outsiders -- the poor, the dispossessed, and the unjustly interred.
Integral to American identity is the belief that the United States is a nation of people on the move: to seek fame or fortune, to shed one identity for another, to live on one's own terms. Toward Los Angeles, Calif. ironically exposes the often-cruel reality of that belief. The expansive billboard's words evoke a pre-Great Depression era of prosperity and choice unthinkable to the two migrant workers walking the road to Los Angeles in search of work.
Doris Lee (1905-1983)
Louisiana Picnic, ca. 1938
Gift of Stevan Dohanos, 1977.02
Life magazine, in one of its earliest issues, devoted almost five full pages to the presentation of the life and work of Doris Lee and declared: "Miss Lee is an expert at putting the folkways of America on canvas." Her climb to fame started with her winning the coveted Logan Gold Medal of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1935 for her famous painting, Thanksgiving Dinner. Lee's confirmed place as one of America's most important women artists of the twentieth century was confirmed in 1944 when the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, awarded her its $500 Third Prize in Painting in the United States Exhibition. Her work is represented in leading museums throughout America.
Renowned for her vigor, action, and a certain primitive charm, Lee lovingly captured the joy and leisure of a family picnic in this work. Vital and full of excitement, Louisiana Picnic is somewhat reminiscent of nineteenth-century Currier & Ives prints. Lee's work was first exhibited at the New Britain Museum in October 1939.
Marianna Pineda (1925-1996)
Prelude, 1957
Gift of the artist's family, 2003.07
Marianna Pineda was a twentieth-century American sculptor whose preferred media were bronze, wood, stone, ivory and wax. From these materials she repeatedly shaped female figures which explored the essential themes of existence as both a human being and a woman. These included creativity, family and the various stages of life.
Prelude is a bronze sculpture of a woman in labor. This scene is not defined by the presence of either midwife or infant; rather, it is implied by Pineda's repetition of "X" shapes. The entire figure creates one elongated "X," stretching between the woman's elbows and knees. This shape also features in the fabric of the skirt and in the tie of that skirt, which the woman has wrapped around her hands and stretched out beneath her torso. These "X's" create visual conflict, illustrating the woman's personal and physical struggle with the forthcoming birth of her child.
Mary Nimmo Moran (1842-1899)
& Thomas Moran (1837-1926)
Figure in the Woods, 1888
Gift of Douglas Hyland in memory of Ann M. Chamberlain, Director of Development 2002-2005, 2005.155
Mary Nimmo Moran was the wife of the famous American Hudson River School landscape painter Thomas Moran, one of the talented Moran family which also included Percy, Edward and Peter, noted landscape and marine painters of the nineteenth century. As was frequently the case, women were encouraged to paint in watercolors and it is therefore unusual to have a nineteenth-century woman artist who was so proficient as an etcher. Her intimate scenes of people walking in the landscape are very pleasing and recall journeys through the woods enjoyed by the artist and her female companions. In this instance, gigantic trees overwhelm and overshadow the traveler. The majesty of nature is therefore uppermost in the artist's mind.
This etching was given in memory of Ann M. Chamberlain, Director of Development at the Museum from 2002-2005. She dedicated her efforts to raising the money to build the Chase Family Building and to renovate the Lander's House. Ann was an extremely intelligent, experienced arts administrator, who after many years working in New York and Milwaukee returned to her hometown, where she made an enormous difference to the success of the Museum's fundraising efforts at a key period in our history. Her distinguished antecedents included several industrialists responsible for the founding of the New Britain Institute, the predecessor to the New Britain Museum of American Art. Ann especially enjoyed weekend hikes through the Connecticut countryside.
Louise Nevelson (1900-1988)
Untitled, ca. 1985
Wood painted black
Members Purchase Fund and Olga H. Knoepke Fund, 1997.2
Untitled, 7 a.m., 1967
Color lithograph
Friends Purchase Fund, 1985.46
Although Louise Nevelson is primarily known as a sculptor, she was also a prolific printmaker. Nevelson refused to adhere to either Abstract Expressionism or European abstraction.
Untitled is exemplary of her sculptural practice, where she recycles remnants of architectural interiors cast off into New York streets, putting them into rectangular containers, and painting them black. She creates a clear structure and compels the viewer into a mysterious darkness.
Her practice of reusing and balancing large rectangular forms and an array of small details can also be seen in her lithograph Untitled, 7 a.m., which is a combination of two identical prints in reverse vertical position. This work has an impact on the viewer due to its unusually large size and its dramatic juxtaposition of red against black.
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
East River from the 30th Story of Shelton Hotel, 1928
Oil on canvas
Stephen B. Lawrence Fund, 1958.09
O'Keeffe's panoramic cityscape documents a portion of the view from the apartment she shared with Alfred Stieglitz along the East River. By the way the image is cropped, it appears as though she had been influenced by her husband's photography. Because the view is from the 30th story, the perspective is from above the horizon line, which cuts across the painting just beyond the farthest buildings in sight. The painting is again divided diagonally by the river. These diagonal movements, such as the diagonal paths of the boats and smoke trails, create an illusion of movement.
The subtle cast of light and the almost monochromatic color help to evoke a low-key, even sad mood. O'Keeffe was looking for an apartment, and, as she put it, "I decided to try the Shelton. I was shown two rooms on the 30th floor. I had never lived up so high before and was so excited that I began talking about trying to paint New York. Of course, I was told that it was an impossible idea -- even the men hadn't done too well with it." O'Keeffe valued this picture so much that she refused to part with it for thirty years, until she sold it to the Museum.
Irene Hardwicke Olivieri (b. 1959)
Oil on wood
Gift of the artist, 2004.04
Olivieri participated in the Museum's NEW/NOW series in 2004. She was inspired to paint Catamount by observing the feline beauty and agility of a teenage nephew. As with all her paintings, she has embellished the portrait with texts written in decorative patterns. She also incorporates self-portraits arranged as vignettes. Mystical in nature, the paintings of Olivieri are biographical and highly fanciful at the same time.
Margaretta Angelica Peale
Melons and Pears, 1820
Charles F. Smith Fund (1968.08)
Daughter of famed American painter James Peale, Margaretta began her artistic efforts at a young age, completing her first still-life at fifteen. She painted still-life compositions and was known for her carefully rendered depictions of fruit as subjects. Stylistically, her work is reminiscent of her father's in subject matter and arrangement on canvas. She worked predominantly in oil on canvas, using a layout that did not exceed sixteen by twenty-one inches.
Though nearly all of Margaretta's still lifes were executed in oil, Melons and Pears is the artist's only known watercolor. This medium was often associated with amateur efforts produced by young schoolgirls and genteel ladies during the early nineteenth century. These works were often decorative but lacked three-dimensionality. Melons and Pears shares the simple compositional style of these amateur watercolors in its sparse background, yet Margaretta's arrangement is far more complicated for it features a wide variety of intricately rendered produce. In the best Peale tradition, which favored the realistic depiction of natural objects, her painting is highly detailed, from the pattern of dots along the rim of the platter, to the knobbed texture of the cucumber and the dry variegated surface of the cantaloupe. Her modeling also exhibits knowledge of light and shade, producing a sense of weight and depth not attainable, nor even desirable, in flat decorative theorem paintings.
Sarah Miriam Peale (1800-1885)
Mrs. Charles Ridgely Carroll (Rebecca Pue), ca. 1822
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Vose, in memory of Sanford Low, 1964.56
Sarah Miriam Peale, one of the first American women to succeed as a professional painter, was from an extended family of artists active in Baltimore and Philadelphia. She learned her craft as a studio assistant for her father, James Peale, the miniaturist and brother of Charles Willson Peale. This painting of Rebecca Pue (1801-1851), the daughter of a Maryland physician, may have been commissioned in 1822 on the occasion of her marriage to Charles Ridgely Carroll, with whom she raised eleven children. The Carrolls were among the most influential Maryland families at the time.
Yvonne Pène du Bois (1913-1997)
3rd Avenue Elevated, 1945
Oil on canvas
Harriet Russell Stanley Fund, 1948.16
Yvonne Pène du Bois's 3rd Avenue Elevated presents the city as desolate, empty of its true life-giving force: people. Her subject is a modern innovation in urban transportation, yet the carefully depicted stair entrances and the street below are eerily deserted.
Pène du Bois's city is geometrically ordered, anchored by a grid of horizontals and verticals that comprise nondescript buildings, punctuated by the thrusting diagonals created by the "el's" covered stairs. A strong light throws structures in sharp relief and casts other areas into deep shadow, reinforcing our sense of unease. Complementary tones of reds and greens unify the canvas, and the artist's fascination with perspective reveals itself as our eyes are drawn into the deep space behind the stairs to the unknown.
The Great Depression and World War II kept Pène du Bois in New York in the 1930s and 1940s, when she created this image. She wrote of her longing for France at this time and called herself a romanticist, dramatizing everything. Perhaps in the painting she used the city as metaphor for the loneliness of her own experience, unease about the future, and desire to be elsewhere.
Born on Staten Island in 1913, she was raised and trained in New York and Paris, mentored by her father, Guy (1884-1958), and Edward Hopper (1882-1967), among others.
Kay Sage (1898-1963)
Unusual Thursday, 1951
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mrs. Naum Gabo, 1978.90
The landscapes of Kay Sage suggest desolate, uninhabited places. In Unusual Thursday the anonymous objects piled in the foreground and the fragmentary bridge or scaffold resemble the debris of a lost civilization. Sage once attributed her references to scaffolding to a recurring dream in which she ran to her window to see scaffolding burning on a nearby building but saw only an empty square. At the time, she lived in a Roman palace with her first husband, an Italian prince. Experiencing her subjects deeply, she claimed, "While I am painting I feel as though I were living in the place."
Sage became involved with the Surrealist movement during a visit to Paris in the late 1930s and married one of its leaders, Yves Tanguy (1900-1955). Sage was inspired by the Surrealist fascination with dreams and the desire to record the subconscious in art. In 1942, an international Surrealist exhibition in New York featured her paintings. After her husband's death, Sage committed suicide.
Cindy Sherman (b. 1954)
Untitled, 2000
Cebachrome print
Members Purchase Fund, 2000.88
Sherman was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, in 1954 and has become one of the most respected photographers of the late twentieth century. After receiving a B.A. from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, Sherman moved to New York City and became a full-time photographer. It was during the era of feminism and postmodern theory that Sherman came of age and explored the use of wigs, make-up, and clothing to construct and alter her image to conform to different personas. A constant theme throughout Sherman's work is a persistent exploration of shifting identity. Untitled is one of twenty-two images created in 2000 in which Sherman continues her exploration of the connection between costume and identity, returning to her early interest in Hollywood.
Lilly Martin Spencer (1822-1902)
This Little Pig Went to Market, 1857
Oil on cut arched board
Charles F. Smith Fund. 1994.18
Spencer was one of the first professional women artists. Her themes celebrated domesticity and frequently celebrated motherhood. Having studied fashionable ladies magazines, she adapted the pose and furnishings of an illustration of the Empress Eugénie and her son, the Prince Imperial for This Little Pig. The elegant clothing and high style bed in the background are indicative of Parisian fashions of the 1850s. At the time, very wealthy mothers spent little time with their babies. Thus, this glimpse of the loving bond between parent and child represents an ideal rather than a reality. It describes the best possible mother: caring, nurturing, playful and accessible.
Jane Stuart (1812-1888)
Morning, Noon and Night, ca. 1830-60
Oil on wood panel
John Butler Talcott Fund, 1968.10
Jane Stuart was the daughter of the Federal era portraitist Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). Although she was born into an artistic family, this advantage did not guarantee her artistic success since her father had her grind his paints and fill in his backgrounds instead of instructing her in drawing or painting. Unfortunately, she spent most of her career making ends meet by painting copies of her father's celebrated images of George Washington and fulfilling other portrait commissions. At the time, portraiture was considered the most appropriate art form for women artists to pursue since it was considered of relatively low status compared to other genres.
Morning, Noon and Night was Stuart's attempt to delve into a higher form of art. The work is allegorical in concept; the three beautiful young women represent the times of day, their graceful interlocking poses symbolically uniting them as one perfect entity. Stuart represented the passage of time and the sun's travels through the sky with the girls' large, winsome eyes: Morning's not quite fully open as the sun rises at dawn, Noon's gazing fully outward as the sun is directly overhead, and Night's closed as the sun fades from view. Although suggestive of Greek mythological traditions, Stuart's personifications are her inventions. Her allegorical narrative was a testament to her belief in herself as a creative being, not a victim of gender.
Ruth Weisberg (b. 1942)
Mirrors, 1967
Oil on panel
Gift of the Austin Fairchild Organization, 2009.96
In her artwork, Ruth Weisberg combines different themes from feminism, art history, and Judaism. When Weisberg left graduate school in the 1960s, at the height of Abstract Expressionism, she decided to paint in a figurative manner. A reason for this was as she explains: "If you're Abstract Expressionist, you can't do this, you can't do that, you can't have subject matter, you can't have narrative, but I knew these were things I wanted."
Similar to her contemporary male artists, such as Larry Bell (b. 1939) and Robert Smithson (1938-1973), Weisberg chose to include mirrors in her paintings. Multiple mirror reflections let these artists explore complex special dynamics. Since Weisberg included a female figure in her painting, she presents the viewer with something familiar and human, which contrasts with the empty spaces that Bell and Smithson created. As a result, Weisberg feminized, personalized, but also physicalized the "male" art of the 1960s.

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