Virginia Museum Acquires "Iris" Painting

by Frank Dumond, Who Taught O'Keeffe


The second item from India purchased recently by the museum is a highly important, early-19th-century Indian painting of pastoral life outside a village in the state of Haryana.


The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has purchased "A Page from the Fraser Album: Herdsmen and a Buffalo outside a Village," ca. 1816. Photo by Katherine Wetzel, copyright 1997 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts


"A Page from the Fraser Album: Herdsmen and a Buffalo outside a Village" is executed in opaque watercolor on paper and measures 11 1/2 by 16 1/4 inches. It was painted circa 1816 by an Indian artist whose name has been lost to time.

The Fraser album is widely regarded by art historians as the greatest set of paintings ever produced by Indian artists for English patrons. The Frasers - James and William - were sons of an impoverished Scottish nobleman. The brothers went to India in the early 19th century to seek their fortunes.

After the deaths of William (1835) and James (1856), the album of paintings - which they had commissioned to record local costume - was forgotten until 1979, when it was discovered in Scotland among Fraser family memorabilia. "Without question, our watercolor is one of the very finest village scenes from the Fraser album," Dye said.

The 14-foot carved-wood serpent mask purchased by the museum dates from the 19th/20th century and is decorated with pigment and animal-hair fibers. The mask was made by a member of the Bwa culture, from what is now Burkina Faso and Mali. The Bwa are famed for their dramatic, startling and boldly carved masks.

Once it is on display at the museum, the mask will make "a dramatic impact on visitors to the African art gallery," said Richard Woodward, curator of African art at the Virginia Museum. "It will anchor the section that features Bwa and related masks, making a very impressive ensemble. This mask significantly enhances our ability to teach African concepts of village and wilderness, human-spirit interaction, and how history and cultural values are kept alive in the community through masquerades," Woodward said.

The museum's board of trustees also approved the acquisition of several other items:

· A 17th-century Dutch or Flemish chandelier, ca. 1680s, made of brass and measuring nearly six feet in diameter. The chandelier, purchased from a private collector in Brussels, will be installed in the renovated lobby of the museum's original 1936 entrance.

· A pair of low-slung side chairs, ca. 1950, with birch-wood frames, fabric webbing and chromed-metal ornamentation, by Swiss designer Pierre Jeanneret (1896-1967) and manufactured by Knoll International of New York. The chairs were given to the museum by Dr. Arthur and Mrs. Beatrice Klein of Richmond.

· A 19th/20th-century sculpted ladder, probably from Mali or Burkina Faso. It is 81/4 feet tall and was one of three used in an installation at the museum earlier this year by African-American artist Carrie Mae Weems. The ladder was given to the museum by Lee and Jill Lorenz of Easton, Connecticut.

· A 12th/l3th-century processional cross from the Zagwe dynasty in Ethiopia. Made of copper and standing 10 inches tall, the cross "illustrates a fascination with pattern and decoration," according to African art curator Woodward. It is the first Ethiopian object to be added to the museum's collection.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, an educational institution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, is Metropolitan Richmond's most popular attraction. The museum is on the Boulevard at Grove Avenue. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Thursday nights until 8 p.m.). Suggested admission donation is $4. For additional information about exhibitions and programs, telephone 804/367-0844.


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For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/22/10

This page was originally published in 1997 Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 10/28/11

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