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Recent Acquisitions

Cutting a Fine Figure

Lehman Jar

John Frederick Lehman (American, born Germany, 1825-1883), Jug, about 1870. Ash-glazed stoneware. Museum purchase 2013.19

The BMA recently acquired a rare figural vessel made by the Alabama potter John Frederick Lehman around 1870. The jug depicts an African-American man wearing a cap, hoop earrings, and a coat with broad lapels and buttons impressed with Lehman’s initials. A large buckle-like square probably surrounded a paper label for whatever product the jug contained. The Museum purchased the piece from a private individual who had discovered it in a Talladega County store nearly 45 years ago. Joey Brackner, Director of the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture and author of Alabama Folk Pottery (2006), commented on the significance of the piece: 

The acquisition of the John Lehman figural jug, one of only three in existence, is a testament to the commitment of the Birmingham Museum of Art to acquiring and presenting the art of the people of Alabama. Along with enslaved Edgefield potter Dave Drake, Lehman is the most well known of historical Southern potters. Lehman combined a variety of decorative techniques unusual for the Deep South with the distinctive alkaline glaze for which the region is known. He most likely came to the United States in the 1840s as a refugee of the revolutions in the German states. During his odyssey, he acquired considerable skills as a potter. Lehman’s longest tenure was in Rock Mills, Alabama, where he and his family lived and worked during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Before his death in 1883, Lehman created a series of decorated jars and jugs that have been the source of much excitement and varying interpretation.

With this most recent acquisition, the BMA now owns two of these important decorated pieces, and has secured a third as a promised gift. The collection also includes two undecorated pieces attributed to Lehman. The figural jug is now on view.

European Masters on Paper

European Masters on Paper

The Museum recently received a very generous gift of nine works on paper and two books from Roy Curtis Green. The gift includes four prints by Giovanni Battista Piranesi from his famous Views of Rome, etched between 1747 and his

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Art Matters: New Gallery, New Ideas

Art Matters: New Gallery, New Ideas

Numerous technological changes have occurred since the 1990s, and the world of art conservation is no different! Over the years, art conservationists have kept up with innovative products and solutions, constantly adapting to keep collections safe and looking their best.

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Spotlight on the Collection

July 2014: Armor

Armor (Tōsei Gusoku), Muromachi period (1392-1573), about 1550. Saotome Iyetada (Japanese, active mid-16th century). Lacquer, wood, iron and silk. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Endowed Funds for Asian Art Acquisitions, the Birmingham Museum of Art Volunteer Council, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas N. Carruthers, Jr., Mrs. Gerda Carmichael, Mr. James D. Sokol, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Hanson II, and Dr. and Mrs. James Kamplain, 1997.137.1-.6.

Armor (Tōsei Gusoku), Muromachi period (1392-1573), about 1550. Saotome Iyetada (Japanese, active mid-16th century). Lacquer, wood, iron and silk. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Endowed Funds for Asian Art Acquisitions, the Birmingham Museum of Art Volunteer Council, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas N. Carruthers, Jr., Mrs. Gerda Carmichael, Mr. James D. Sokol, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Hanson II, and Dr. and Mrs. James Kamplain, 1997.137.1-.6.

Armor, Saotome Iyetada, about 1550

To a modern audience, suits of samurai armor may seem extravagant or even flamboyant; however, each element served a real purpose. Besides providing protection, high-status samurai warriors needed to be identified by their foot soldiers and to intimidate the enemy on the battlefield. At least four to six different artisans created suits like this one, working together in a manner not unlike an assembly line. The colors and patterning on armor identified a warrior’s rank; those on this suit link it to the daimyō (governor), so it belonged to a samurai of high status.

In the 16th century, changes in warfare and interactions with European – mainly Portuguese – traders produced helmets called kawari kabuto (“extraordinary” or “fancy”). Forms included simple animal shapes like rabbits and bears, dragons, and stylized horns like the ones on this helmet. An artist created these designs with materials such as papier-mâché or lightweight wood. For wealthier classes of samurai, helmets included more complicated designs, like Mount Fuji, to distinguish high-ranking military leaders on the battlefield. In large battles, it was essential to discern friend from foe quickly, so form often took precedence over maneuverability.

The ferocity of a soldier’s armor was meant to project an image of superhuman strength and fearlessness in the face of death. The samurai often fought in one-on-one duels; warriors proceeded from opponent to opponent until called off by their officer. When combined with kawari kabuto, face masks with pointed teeth or wiry moustaches created frightening adversaries in this type of combat.

Join the conversation!

Today, people use clothing, piercings, tattoos, and other outward signs to project certain aspects of their identity, to intimidate (like the samurai’s helmets), or simply to stand out in a crowd. How do you project your identity? What do you hope to express about yourself? How have these markers affected your relationships, perceptions, or self-image?

Check out these links, and join the conversation below!

“Mark My Words. Maybe.” New York Times, April 12, 2014

Object Lessons: Samurai Warrior Armor, Christie’s

10 Artworks To Welcome Summertime

10 Artworks To Welcome Summertime

Summer is officially here, and what better way to celebrate than with art? These 10 images evoke many favorite summertime memories. Whether you spent summers at the beach or on the front porch with someone special, these pieces transport us to different places,

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News

Art on the Rocks June 13 Events

HOW TO WIN:

Visit performances and activities throughout the entire museum and snap a photo to share on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using both #ArtOnTheRocks and #Brombergs.

The more performances and art activities you visit, the more photos you can share, and the more chances you have to win a piece of beautiful Bromberg’s jewelry!

Winners will be chosen based on creativity of photos.

FEATURED EVENTS

7:30PM & 8PM // ASIAN GALLERIES
WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN: JAPANESE PRINTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY

Expand your knowledge and appreciation of Japanese art as the BMA’s Senior Curator and Curator of Asian Art Don Wood gives a talk on traditional woodblock prints from the first half of the 20th century. Two extraordinary Japanese artists, Hasui Kawase (1883-1957) and Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-195), will be discussed during this gallery talk.

7-10PM // EUROPEAN GALLERY
THE DAPPER MAN POP-UP SHOP

Presented by Shaia’s and Southern Femme
Over the centuries, samurai warriors cultivated a respect for elegance and aesthetics in their suits of armor. With their flash, color, and exceptional design, these warriors were unlike any other in the world. Channel the samurai warriors’ appreciation for the finer things, and learn the art of dressing like a dapper man! Stylists from Shaia’s Menswear in Homewood and Southern Femme will share the secrets to looking your best! For even more fun, step into the “Dapper Man” photo booth for a chance to win some generous giveaways from Shaia’s!

8 & 8:30PM // CONTEMPORARY GALLERIES
DANCEE: TRUST, RUSH, RECEIPTS

DANCEe, the modern-contemporary company, is celebrated abroad and treasured by Birmingham. Ross’ new dance for Art On The Rocks blends aesthetics: the digital and the sensual, the sustained and the vibratory, the glorious and the busted movement qualities. Come delight in, Trust, Rush, Receipts.

10PM // UPPER PLAZA OF SCULPTURE GARDEN
LIVE MUSIC: SERYN

This Texas-based, 6-piece band features a layered texture of guitar, ukulele, accordion, bass, violin, banjo, various percussions, and chilling harmonies.

ALL NIGHT // UPPER PLAZA OF SCULPTURE GARDEN
JUNIOR PATRONS VIP AREA

Junior Patron members can be found in a prime location, in a VIP tent right next to the band! Become a Junior Patron member to enjoy food and drinks, including Back Forty Beer Company’s exclusive beer, made just for Art On The Rocks! The special beer, Fuzzy Belly, is a blend of Frecklebelly IPA and the current seasonal, Paw Paw’s Peach Wheat.

ALL NIGHT // OSCAR’S CAFÉ
DJ COCO

DJ Coco has been moving dance floors all over the world for well over a decade. Having played in some of the hippest bars and clubs, from London to Miami, Barcelona to Ibiza, DJ Coco has been a regular fixture at many of the Southeast’s largest events. This summer he is celebrating the Art On The Rocks with a mix of Japanese pop culture music, setting the scene perfectly for all of our themed events.

ALL NIGHT // BOHORFOUSH GALLERY
COLLABORATIVE PAPER CRANES

Bring prosperity and good fortune to the city of Birmingham by participating in an art installation, created by you! In celebration of Japanese tradition and the 10th anniversary of Art On The Rocks, we will be making one thousand paper cranes, a practice that is believed to grant a wish to those who join in the fun. Make your crane, see it on display, and be a part of bringing good luck to Birmingham and the Museum!

ALL NIGHT // JEMISON GALLERIES
SAMURAI PHOTO BOOTH

Get ready for our summertime exhibition, Lethal Beauty! Jump into our Samurai armor photo booth, and share your photos on social media! #BMASamurai

ALL NIGHT // 8TH AVENUE LOBBY
MAKEBHAM PHOTO BOOTH BY THE SIMPLE BOOTH

A collaboration of Katie Thompson and Sam Porter with MAKEbhm
Step into our contemporary photo booth, a collaboration of MAKEBhm artists Katie Thompson and Sam Porter. Their inspirations were summer, cartoons, 3d and 2d mixing media, adult version of kid fun, and just having a good laugh with friends. Props provided by Zoe’s in Forest Park.

9-10PM // 8TH AVENUE LOBBY
BROMBERG’S GIVEAWAYS

Freshwater Endless Pearl Necklace and 14 Karat Yellow Gold Freshwater Pearl Drop Earrings

OUR NEW ELEMENT OF ART ON THE ROCKS: THE AFTER PARTY!

Sponsored by H2 Real Estate, 3 bars downtown will help us host Nijikai. Nijikai (二次会) is Japanese for the after party, where friends join together to bar hop! Receive drink specials at The Collins Bar, Carrigan’s Public House, and Paramount after each event by showing your Art on the Rocks wristband.

BMA Dads Are The Best!

BMA Dads Are The Best!

At the Birmingham Museum of Art, we are lucky to welcome visitors from all over the world who come to see our exceptional collection of art. Among our visitors are many families, who come here to unwind, create, explore, and discover

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News

Remembering D-Day and the Monuments Men

Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877), oil on canvas, 1876. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Birmingham Museum of Art Endowment for Acquisitions; Members of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Dr. and Mrs. David Sperling in honor of their friends; Mr. Arthur E. Curl, Jr. in memory of his beloved wife, Donnie; Illges-Chenoweth Foundation; Dr. and Mrs. Jack C. Geer; Mr. James E. Simpson; Mr. and Mrs. James A. Livingston, Jr.; Mrs. Evelyn Allen; Mr. and Mrs. Thomas W. Barker, Jr.; and Mr. and Mrs. Harold H. Goings.

Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877), oil on canvas, 1876. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Birmingham Museum of Art Endowment for Acquisitions; Members of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Dr. and Mrs. David Sperling in honor of their friends; Mr. Arthur E. Curl, Jr. in memory of his beloved wife, Donnie; Illges-Chenoweth Foundation; Dr. and Mrs. Jack C. Geer; Mr. James E. Simpson; Mr. and Mrs. James A. Livingston, Jr.; Mrs. Evelyn Allen; Mr. and Mrs. Thomas W. Barker, Jr.; and Mr. and Mrs. Harold H. Goings.

This Friday, June 6, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the beginning of the end of World War II. In the BMA collection, we have a close connection to WWII, both in our history and our art. We have two works in our collection that were saved by the Monuments men and our first director was a Monuments men himself.

The Monuments men were a group of 350 men and women from thirteen nations, who volunteered for military service to protect monuments and other cultural treasures from the destruction of WWII. In civilian life, many were museum directors, curators, artists, architects and educators. You may be familiar with their stories after seeing the movie Monuments Men, which was in theaters this spring.

The first director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, Richard Howard, was one of those heroes. He, along with many others, worked furiously and secretively to track, locate, and ultimately return more than 5 million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis.

"Les Portraits de MM. De Béthune Jouant avec un Chien" (Children of the Marquis de Béthune Playing with a Dog), 1761, François Hubery Drouais. Oil on canvas. The Eugenia Woodward Hitt Collection, 1991.254.

“Les Portraits de MM. De Béthune Jouant avec un Chien” (Children of the Marquis de Béthune Playing with a Dog), 1761, François Hubery Drouais. Oil on canvas. The Eugenia Woodward Hitt Collection, 1991.254.

Among the objects rescued are two beloved pieces that now hang in the European galleries at the Birmingham Museum of Art as part of our permanent collection. Entrée d’un Gave, 1876, by Gustave Courbet, is a stunning landscape painting, renowned for the artist’s use of texture and visual drama. In the painting, Courbet recalls the striking topography of his native region in eastern France, as he created the piece while living in political exile on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The piece became a part of the Museum’s collection in 1999.

The second piece is Les Portraits de MM. De Béthune Jouant avec un Chien (Children of the Marquis de Béthune Playing with a Dog), 1761, by François Hubert Drouais. This painting perfectly characterizes Drouais’s work and the playful, lighthearted temperament of the Rococo period. Since this piece is such a fine example of the period, it was stolen during WWII to be added as a piece to Hitler’s Führermuseum. This museum was planned as a place to keep all of the artwork stolen by the Nazis after the war; however, this plan was never full realized. After the war, the piece was rescued and returned to its original owner. The piece entered the Museum’s collection in 1991.

Although we can’t be sure that Richard Howard had direct interaction with our pieces in particular, we are honored to have a permanent reminder of his and others unprecedented contribution in preserving some of the world’s most precious cultural treasures.