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10 Must-See Artworks In The Garden

Summertime is just around the corner, and there’s no better time to enjoy the pleasant late-spring weather! With First Thursday, Art On The Rocks, and other fun events quickly approaching, we’d like to give a rundown of the art you can find in the BMA sculpture garden this summer! Here are 10 pieces you can keep an eye out for on your next visit:

This ballerina can’t help but twirl in the summer breeze! // "La Danseuse Nattova" Serge Yourievitch, bronze. BMA collection 1967.50. Summer is the perfect time to head to the pool(s)! // "Blue Pools Courtyard" Valerie Jaudon, ceramic tile, water, brick, bluestone plantings. BMA collection 1993.26. There's fun for everyone in the garden! Take a family photo in front of "Family Life." // "Family Life" Alexander Archipenko, bronze with polychrome patina. BMA collection 22.2.11.008 The dog days of summer are almost here, so come see the Fuel Dog soon! // "Fuel Dog" Charlie Lucas, found metal objects. BMA collection 2009.65. The sculpture garden is a nice place to visit alone, or bring along a group of friends! // "Ascent" Barbara Hult Lekberg, bronze. BMA collection 1965.45. This little guy may look familiar - he was made by artist Frank Fleming! See more of Fleming's works in our exhibition "Between Fantasy and Reality: Frank Fleming" on display through August 9. // "Rat" Frank Fleming, bronze. BMA collection AF 1193.2011. Like this playful piece? There are many more to see at the BMA! // "Wild Mustang" Charlie Lucas, found metal objects, mixed media. BMA collection 2009.66. Need a little sunshine? The sculpture garden is the perfect place to kick back and soak up some sun! // "Reclining Nude" Fernando Botero, bronze. BMA collection 1985.292. Did you know the Museum has a Rodin sculpture in the garden? Come pay Jean d'Aire a visit! // "Jean d’Aire" Nude Auguste Rodin, bronze. BMA collection 1987.21. The sculpture garden also has plenty of flowers and trees for the nature-lover in your life. It's a perfect outing with your mother or daughter! // "Mother and Child" Brad Morton, Cor Ten steel. BMA collection 1986.749.
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This little guy may look familiar - he was made by artist Frank Fleming! See more of Fleming's works in our exhibition "Between Fantasy and Reality: Frank Fleming" on display through August 9. // "Rat" Frank Fleming, bronze. BMA collection AF 1193.2011.

News

5 Reasons You Can’t Miss “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College”

Opening Day at Talladega College 007

On Saturday, June 13, the Birmingham Museum of Art will welcome Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College. Organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, the exhibition has traveled across the country and has received much acclaim, even from The New York Times.

As Chief Curator and Curator of American Art, I’m very excited to welcome this stunning exhibition. Here are a few reasons why you’ll love Hale Woodruff’s murals, too:
1. The Story: The story of the Amistad captives’ mutiny, the trial resulting in their freedom, and ultimate return to Africa is one of the most riveting episodes in American history. Hale Woodruff, a master of narrative painting, brings the past to life in six monumental canvases which not only tell the story of the Amistad captives, but also depict the Underground Railroad. The murals also tell the history of  Talladega College, one of the country’s oldest historically black colleges, which was founded in 1867 by former slaves, who proclaimed, “We regard the education of our children and youth as vital to the preservation of our liberties…”

2. The View: While the Talladega College murals permanently reside in the school’s Savery Library, only an hour’s drive away from Birmingham, the exhibition provides an unprecedented opportunity to see these extraordinary masterworks up close. In Savery Library, the murals hang at a considerable height along the top of the walls. Here at the BMA, visitors will be afforded a rare chance to come face-to-face with them, and appreciate Woodruff’s skill as an artist in a way not possible in their original setting.

3. The Color: Woodruff has a well-deserved reputation as one of boldest colorists in American art. The varied and vibrant hues of his Talladega murals arrest and dazzle the eye, ironically bringing aesthetic beauty to some of the most difficult chapters in our history. It is not surprising that renowned sociologist Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) wrote that Woodruff “packed the rainbow in his knapsack” when he came to Alabama and “dreamed upon the walls of Savery Library, the thing of color and beauty…”

4. The Context: The exhibition does a masterful job of showing how Woodruff developed as an artist, working in a various styles – including Post-Impressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism – before settling into his own distinct brand of narrative realism. By including works that show his versatility and deft mastery of these styles, the exhibition shows both Woodruff’s tremendous skill as an artist and the diverse influences that contributed to the Talladega murals.

5. A Hidden Treasure: In The Trial of the Amistad Captives mural, Woodruff has included a small likeness of himself, looking on intently as the drama of the trial unfolds, as if a witness to history. I challenge you to find Woodruff’s self-portrait!

Birmingham is the penultimate stop for this beautiful exhibition, and we are proud to welcome the murals back to Alabama. Be among the first to see the exhibition on its opening night during Art On The Rocks, on Friday, June 12 from 7-11PM.

The exhibition will open to the public on Saturday, June 13, with free admission.

Spotlight on the Collection

June 2015: Chatsworth House and Park

Chatsworth House and Park. Pieter Tillemans (Flemish, active Great Britain, 1684-1734), about 1725. Oil on canvas. 26 × 68 inches. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase with funds provided by the Sklenar Family – Herb, Ellie, Susan and Tisha; and the Art Fund, Inc., AFI.4.2013.

Chatsworth House and Park. Pieter Tillemans (Flemish, active Great Britain, 1684-1734), about 1725. Oil on canvas. 26 × 68 inches. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase with funds provided by the Sklenar Family – Herb, Ellie, Susan and Tisha; and the Art Fund, Inc., AFI.4.2013.

Chatsworth House and Park, Pieter Tillemans, about 1725

Though at first glance this painting may appear to show little more than a peaceful summer day in the English countryside, it is actually a carefully crafted representation of one family’s position and interests.

The manor in the middle distance is Chatsworth House, the ancestral seat of the dukes of Devonshire, patriarchs of one of the most wealthy and powerful aristocratic families in England. Located in the East Midlands county of Derbyshire, Chatsworth has been home to the Cavendish family for nearly 500 years. Bess of Hardwick (c. 1527-1608), then wife of Sir William Cavendish (c. 1505-1557), began its construction in the 1550s. In the last decade of the 17th century, William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire (1640-1707), renovated and extended the original Elizabethan structure, including the distinctive south and west fronts visible here. With well over 100 rooms, Chatsworth – one of several of the Cavendish family’s residences – was a symbol of their wealth.

The painting’s high viewpoint, looking southeast, captures an expanse of the family’s holdings in Derbyshire, centered at Chatsworth. The village of Edensor, stretching from left to center here in the middle ground, provided a home for many of the people who tended to the house and land. To the east and south of the house are formal gardens built by the 1st Duke and expanded by the 2nd Duke (1672-1729), including spraying fountains, a classical temple, and marble sculptures. Formal gardens were fashionable in France, Italy, and Holland at the time, and the Cavendish family was among the first to add them to an English estate.

The 2nd Duke himself may be the principle mounted figure on the left, surveying his prized possessions – he was well-known for successfully breeding and racing horses. Indeed, the expansive house and grounds seem secondary to the horses, which stand in a line across the front of the painting. Of the 2nd Duke, a contemporary once said, “…his chief skill lay in painting, medals, and horses[;] he was more able as a virtuoso than a statesman, and a much better jockey than he was a politician.” The three foals closest to the viewer may be the offspring of the 2nd Duke’s greatest thoroughbred, Flying Childers – who never lost a race – and the mare on the far left may be Old Ebony, known for her rare black color.

Chatsworth House and Gardens effectively showcases the Cavendish family’s influence and interests, but it may have also served a more personal use. It dates to about 1725, around the same time that Lady Elizabeth (1700-1747), daughter of the 2nd Duke, married. This painting may have been made for her as a memento of a beloved father or childhood home, or perhaps as a symbol of her illustrious background for her new family relations. It hung primarily at Holker Hall, a home that descended through Lady Elizabeth’s family, until recently. The Museum acquired the painting – an interesting take on sporting art as well as an early exploration of prospect painting and picturesque landscape – for the European collection in 2013.

Have a sense of déjà vu?

Does Chatsworth House look familiar? It provided the location for Mr. Darcy’s home, Pemberley, in the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, as well as its recent spinoff, Death Comes to Pemberley (2013). The 2008 Oscar-winning film The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes as the 18th-century duke and duchess of Devonshire, also filmed at Chatsworth.

Learn more!

Hear more about the BMA’s painting Chatsworth House and Park from Jonny Yarker, art historian, on the Museum’s smartguide.

The house and gardens are still open every day to the public. Click here to visit Chatsworth’s website.

Join the conversation!

How do you remember or honor the people, places, and things that are important to you? Do you have a “wall of fame” in your home with photographs of family, friends, or pets? Do you have pictures from vacations you’ve taken and want to remember for years to come? Join the conversation below!

Community News News

BMA Places Third for Neighborhood Project

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Associate Curator of Education Suzy Harris and Artist-in-Residence Toby Richards accept award

The Birmingham Museum of Art continually strives to make positive change in the Birmingham community, planning creative projects to touch lives through the power of art. The BMA’s commitment to our surrounding communities has not gone without notice. In fact, this May, the BMA Education Department received national recognition by winning third place at the 2015 Neighborhoods, USA Conference. The award was for Best Neighborhood Program, given to community art projects in neighborhoods across the nation.

The award was in recognition of a community day of service, Into the Streets. Artist-in-Residence Toby Richards led the creation of decorative panels for the Shields Conference Center, joining together students and teachers from throughout Birmingham. With representatives from UAB, Horizons School, Birmingham City Schools, Jefferson County Schools, Hoover Schools, and Birmingham City districts, the project truly represented a community effort.

The BMA appreciates this recognition and plans to continue these community-based service projects so that other Birmingham neighborhoods may enjoy lively, creative visuals like those at Shields Conference Center. We extend our thanks to our community partners who joined us in this project, and we are especially grateful for the work of our staff members Toby Richards and Associate Curator of Education Suzy Harris (pictured). Their creativity and energy to bettering our community through art is inspiring; we cannot wait to see what projects they will bring to Birmingham next!

News

Memorial Day: Honoring Heroes At Home and Abroad

"Dodenakker (Cemetery)" (About 1978), Paul Thys (Belgian), possibly gum bichromate over platinum print. Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Anonymous gift 00.235

“Dodenakker (Cemetery)” (About 1978), Paul Thys (Belgian), possibly gum bichromate over platinum print. Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Anonymous gift 00.235

On Memorial Day, we remember those who have sacrificed themselves to defend our freedom. As we honor these brave men and women, we likely think about those buried here on American soil. This piece from our collection reminds us to pay tribute to the thousands laid to rest abroad.

In Belgium, England, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, more than 10,000 servicemen and women are buried in 20 American cemeteries. The American Battle Monument Commission oversees each location. The cemeteries have somewhat different features; however, at each site, the fallen are buried under white crosses, as depicted in artist Paul Thys’ piece, or Stars of David. Every grave is marked with the name, rank, unit, home state, and date of death of the hero. The cemeteries also contain larger memorials, most including a chapel, which commemorate the lives of missing men and women.

Walking through the rows, one might be struck by the diversity of these Americans, who, in spite of their different backgrounds, bonded together to defend our country. This Memorial Day, let us remember these people, many of whom were everyday citizens, and thank them for their tremendous sacrifice.

 

Sources:

http://www.stripes.com/travel/american-cemeteries-where-america-s-heroes-are-laid-to-rest-1.53068

http://www.stripes.com/military-life/american-cemeteries-in-belgium-u-s-fallen-from-wwii-rest-in-honored-glory-1.144593

http://www.harrimantravelbooks.com/LWFWWII.html

http://www.usmemorialday.org/?page_id=2

News

Happy Birthday, Mary Cassatt!

(left, detail of) "Portrait of an Elderly Lady in a Bonnet: Red Background" Mary Cassatt, United States, 1844-1926, oil on canvas, painting. Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art.  (right, detail of) "Portrait of an Elderly Lady" (c. 1887) Cassatt, Mary, American, 1844 - 1926 oil on canvas. Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. 1963.10.7

(left, detail of) “Portrait of an Elderly Lady in a Bonnet: Red Background” Mary Cassatt, United States, 1844-1926, oil on canvas, painting. Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art. (right, detail of) “Portrait of an Elderly Lady” (c. 1887) Cassatt, Mary, American, 1844 – 1926, oil on canvas. Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. 1963.10.7

Happy birthday to artist Mary Cassatt, who was born on this day in 1844. Born to a privileged family who viewed travel as educational and enriching, Cassatt spent much of her early life in France and Germany, where she took her first lessons in drawing and music. Though they did not approve of her aspirations to become a professional artist, when Cassatt was fifteen years old, her family allowed her to study painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Seeking faster-paced instruction, she returned to Paris in 1865 to be taught by the renowned painter Jean-León Gérôme and to learn from the works of old masters. In 1870, with the start of the Franco-Prussian War, she halted her studies in France and returned to Philadelphia.

However, just one year later, Cassatt returned to Europe and continued studying the work of old masters in Italy, Spain, and Belgium; by 1874, Paris had become her permanent home. After noticing Cassatt’s non-traditional style, Edgar Degas invited her to join the group of independent artists known today as the Impressionists. Like Degas, she was mainly interested in figure compositions, and she gradually began to focus on women and children as her primary subjects. During her time in France, Cassatt sent many of her works to the United States to be displayed, and hers were some of the first impressionist paintings to be seen here.

Among Cassatt’s well-known works is the Etude de femme âgée en chapeau: fond rouge (Portrait of an Elderly Lady in a Bonnet: Red Background), which is on display here at the Museum, shown on the left. In this unfinished study for the Portrait of an Elderly Lady (now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), shown on the right, Cassatt has created a spirited sketch that vividly characterizes the sitter. The female subject is the same in both paintings, but the figure is positioned quite differently in each. Cassatt’s brilliant use of color and quickly applied brushstrokes contribute to the spontaneity of the Birmingham portrait, a trait that is somewhat lost in the finished painting.

What similarities and differences do you see in each painting? Which do you prefer?

 

Sources:

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46482.html

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cast/hd_cast.htm

http://www.marycassatt.org/biography.html

http://www.biography.com/people/mary-cassatt-9240820 – artistic-activism

News Staff Updates

BMA’s Chief Curator Elected To The Association of Art Museum Curators’ Executive Committee

Graham BoettcherThe Birmingham Museum of Art’s Chief Curator and The William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art Graham C. Boettcher, Ph.D. has been elected to the Association of Art Museum Curators’ executive committee, now serving as Vice President of Finance.

Founded in 2001, the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) has members from over 400 institutions, including representation from all 50 states and 5 provinces. The mission of the Association of Art Museum Curators Association of Art Museum Curators is to support and promote the work of museum curators by creating opportunities for networking, collaboration, professional development, and advancement. In support of these aims, the AAMC Foundation seeks to heighten public understanding of the curator’s role in art museums through professional development programs, awards, and grants.

Boettcher will join current Executive Committee Members, Christa Clarke, Senior Curator, Arts of Global Africa, Newark Museum; AAMC Board of Trustees Vice President, Programs, and Marianne Lamonaca, Associate Gallery Director & Chief Curator, Bard Graduate Center Gallery; AAMC Board of Trustees, Vice President, Communications, all under the leadership of the AAMC President, Helen C. Evans, the Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

To learn more about AAMC, please visit their website.