Misplaced by History: 2020-May-15

Misplaced by History: Artists Worth Knowing
Vanessa Bell

British artist Vanessa Bell was known for her Post-Impressionist paintings which emphasized bold forms with pronounced brushstrokes and rich colors. She was also an innovator in the design world, blurring the distinction between fine and applied art. The artist’s sister, the writer Virginia Woolf, remarked that Bell’s work was as “firm as marble, ravishing as a rainbow, and like sunlight crystallized.”

Born Vanessa Stephen in 1879 in London, England, Bell was raised in an literary household where leading thinkers and artists of the time were family friends. Her father, Leslie, was an accomplished writer and editor and her mother, Julia, a great beauty immortalized by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones and the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

Bell’s father encouraged her artistic talents, and in 1899 she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Arts. There, she was taught by John Singer Sargent, whose influence can be seen in the sumptuous tactile qualities and muted colors of her early work.

After the death of her parents, Bell and her siblings settled in the Bloomsbury area of London. There she met writer Clive Bell and artist Duncan Grant, founding members of what came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. The “Bloomsberries” as they were called, were influential English writers, intellectuals, and artists who rejected oppressive Victorian institutions and embraced creative and sexual freedom. They were known for their bohemian lifestyles and complicated love affairs: the American writer and wit Dorothy Parker famously remarked that the group “lived in squares, painted in circles, and loved in triangles.”

In 1907, Vanessa married Clive Bell. They both had romantic relationships outside the marriage but remained devoted to each other.

Bell’s artistic epiphany occurred in 1910 when she attended England’s first Post-Impressionist exhibition, organized by the artist and curator, and her eventual lover, Roger Fry. There she saw the works of Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso for the first time and felt liberated by the bold, unrefined and expressive quality of their work. Said Bell, “It was as if one might say things one had always felt instead of trying to say things that other people told one to feel”

Bell embarked upon an intense period of experimentation, utilizing the vocabulary of Fauvism and Cubism in her still lifes and landscapes, as well as abstract compositions. She invented a new language of visual expression, just as her sister Virginia invented a revolutionary way of writing.
Months prior to the outbreak of World War I, Bell, her husband, and their friends, moved from the city to a country home in East Sussex. Charleston became an ever-changing work of art. Bell and her artist friends, among them Roger Fry and Duncan Grant, decorated furniture, curtains and embroideries, painted doors and walls, with their spots, swirls, arabesques, acrobats and mythic figures.

With Fry and Grant (who eventually became her longtime partner and the father of her daughter, Angelica), Bell founded the Omega Workshops, a lab to experiment with abstraction while creating beautiful and useful things for the home. Their modernist products ranged from furniture to stained glass and mosaics, as well as textiles. In 1915, Bell began to incorporate handprinted fabrics into popular dress designs. She also created the original book jacket designs for the majority of her sister novels and essays.
To Bell, art and life were intertwined and intensely personal. She died in 1961 at her beloved Charleston. Her works can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.

May 1879 – April 1961

Let’s Talk About Art: 2020-May-13

Let’s Talk About Art: Edward S. Curtis’s “A Bridal Group”

Image Credit: Edward S. Curtis, “A Bridal Group”, 1914, photogravure on Dutch Van Gelder paper, 11 1/2 x 15 3/8 inches, Collection of The Dubuque Museum of Art, Gift of the Dubuque Cultural Preservation Committee, an Iowa general partnership, consisting of Dr. Darryl K. Mozena, Jeffery P. Mozena, Mark Falb, Timothy J. Conlon, and Dr. Randy Lengeling, 2009.361. Open Access, Public Domain

Artists and their Pets: 2020-May-11

Artists and their Pets: Ernest Hemingway

American novelist and short story writer Ernest Hemingway was also remembered for his love of polydactyls, his six-toed cats. After a ship’s captain gifted Hemingway with his first cat, named Snowball, Hemingway was hooked. He owned 23 cats by 1945.

Hemingway named his cats after famous people and let them roam freely about his house. He fed them generously from cases of salmon and even offered them a mixture of whiskey and milk. His love of cats inspired his creative writing, evident in his 1925 short story titled “Cats in the Rain,” which is said to be inspired by a true story of his wife encountering a stray cat on vacation.

Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961)

Facebook Crosspost: 2020-May-10

Happy Mother’s Day to All Our DuMA Moms!

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”

-Maya Angelou
Listen: Renée Fleming and Evgeny Kissin – Franz Schubert: “Ave Maria”
Look: Horace Pippin; “Giving Thanks” 1942
Look: Mary Cassatt: “Maternal Caress” 1896
Look: Edward S. Curtis:”, Mother and Child, Nunivak” 1929

What’s Cooking?: 2020-May-9

What’s Cooking? – Pablo Picasso

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, is one of the most iconic artists of all times. Picasso was best known for his unbridled appetite for women. His diet, however, was surprisingly restricted. When he was in his fifties and plagued by worries of ill health and decreased productivity, he adopted what today would be termed the Mediterranean diet, consisting of fish, vegetables, grapes, and rice pudding washed down with mineral water or milk. He ate in silence, uttering not a word from beginning to end.

Picasso’s doctor advised him to eat spinach. One of Picasso’s least objectionable ways to consume this leafy green vegetable was in a souffle.

Explore more of Picasso’s life from the PBS Digital Studio, “The Art Assignment” series.

Spinach Souffle (vintage recipe)
(4 servings)

1 package chopped frozen spinach (1 cup)
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon butter
2 or 3 shallots – minced
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
6 Tablespoons butter
5 Tablespoons flour
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground back pepper – to taste
6 large eggs
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter a two-quart souffle dish and sprinkle the sides and bottom lightly with Parmesan cheese.

Melt one Tablespoon of butter in a heavy saucepan and add the shallots. Cook for about three minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the thoroughly drained spinach and lemon juice and cook over very low heat, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has evaporated, which will take about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Melt the 6 Tablespoons of butter in a heavy sauce pan and, over low heat, stir in the flour with a wire whisk; remove from heat.

Meanwhile, bring the milk to the boiling point and add it to the butter-flour mixture, beating vigorously with a wire whisk until smooth. Add the salt and pepper and continue whisking until blended. Let this white sauce cool a little.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Beat the yolks into the sauce one at a time. Stir in the spinach and set the mixture aside.

Beat the egg whites, including the extra white, in a large bowl until they hold soft peaks.

Stir a little of the whites into the sauce to make it easier to manage, then gently fold in the remainder.

Pour this mixture into the prepared souffle dish. Place in oven, turn heat down to 375 degrees immediately and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is well puffed up ad lightly browned.

Misplaced by History: 2020-May-8

Misplaced by History-Artists Worth Knowing:
Vilhelm Hammershøi

Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) was a Danish painter known for his meditative interiors and landscapes. Created with a sensitivity to both light and spatial construction, his muted paintings use a limited palette to great effect. His figures are often positioned away from the viewer and project an air of mystery.

Hammershøi was born in 1864 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The son of a well-to-do merchant, he studied drawing from the age of eight before embarking on studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.
By the age of 17, Hammershøi had chosen his themes: portraits of family and close friends, spare interiors and a few landscapes. He shunned the lively subjects and colors favored by his contemporaries, limiting his palette to subdued grey, blue, black, white and ochre.

Hammershøi worked mainly in his native city, painting portraits, architecture, and interiors. He is most celebrated for his interiors, many of which he painted in Copenhagen. By 1885, his work had taken on the formal and emotional characteristics of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. His early works, with their simplicity and recording of the “banality of everyday life”, enjoyed critical acclaim. Artists and literary figures of the time, among them Emil Nolde and Rainer Maria Rilke, admired his work and sought out his company. They remarked on Hammershoi’s retiring manner and reluctance to talk.

Hammershøi took few risks and never explained his art. As his library of art journals testifies, Hammershøi was exposed to contemporary art movements but consciously chose to ignore their “contaminating” effects.

Painting slowly, Hammershøi completed only 400 canvases. He expressed admiration for only one other painter, the American James McNeill Whistler. As an homage to Whistler’s iconic portrait of his mother, Hammershøi painted his mother Frederikke seated in profile.

Hammershøi’s also contributed to a new model in Scandinavian interior design, with his rejection of the cluttered nineteenth-century aesthetic in favor of a simplicity that bordered on the ascetic.

Successful during his own lifetime, Hammershøi died in 1916 in Copenhagen. In 2008, the Royal Academy of London put on the first major exhibition of his work in Britain, “Vilhelm Hammershøi: The Poetry of Silence.” Today, the artist’s works are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery in London, and the Ordrupgaard Collection in Charlottenlund, Denmark, among others.

Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916)

From the Collection: 2020-May-6

From The Collection: Outdoor Edition

We invite you to hop in the car and go for a drive by DuMA. When you get here, pull over and check out our two outdoor sculptures located off 7th Street.

(Left) Dubuque artist John Anderson-Bricker’s sculpture, Hairball, takes inspiration from the distinctive regurgitations of a beloved family cat. Created from heavy industrial materials and covered in a delicate mosaic, Anderson-Bricker’s oversized “hairballs” are suspended in an articulated steel frame. Using scale to great effect, he playfully transforms them into a monument akin to a towering cat toy only the most fearless feline would take on. Artists often turn to industrial materials to convey their understanding of the natural world. Conversely, natural imagery can be used by artists to understand the industrial and technological elements of our culture. In Hairball, Anderson-Bricker’s ruminations take a lighthearted approach as he explores the artistic connections between the natural and the industrial world.

John Anderson-Bricker, Hairball, 2007, mosaic, concrete, and painted steel 138x42x42.

(Right) Tom Gibbs, Obelisk Number 3. The shape of the obelisk has a long history originating in Ancient Egypt where it was used in funerary and religious ceremonies. This stately form has been widely adopted, from the Washington Monument to countless cemetery headstones, for the gravitas it imparts. In this work, Dubuque native, artist Tom Gibbs uses the obelisk to represent the erosion of time and the imprint of history – a vanitas painting in steel. Obelisk #3’s exposed midsection, heavy gashes, and distressed surface reveal the deterioration process. The industrial steel that it is made from and the machine-made patterns in the exposed areas connect this ancient monument to the modern day. This work also connects the museum to its history. From the 1970s to 1999 the museum was housed in Dubuque’s Old Jail, one of the few Egyptian Revival style buildings in existence.

Tom Gibbs, Obelisk, Number 3, 1977, mild steel, 72x33x33.

Artists and Their Pets: 2020-May-4

Emily Carr was a Canadian artist and writer credited as one of the first painters in Canada to adopt a modernist and Post-Impressionist style. Her paintings were inspired by the Indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest Coast.

Carr ventured into the wilds of British Columbia, roamed its forests and hills. There, she met the province’s indigenous people. They became her friends, and even gave her the nickname of the Laughing One. Carr sought to capture the vanishing arts and customs of Canada’s native people as well as the vast landscape she loved so profoundly.

Carr was fascinated by animals. She had parrots, chipmunks, a raccoon, white rats, cats, dogs, and a Javanese macaque monkey named Woo. Carr lived and painted them. She took them camping and even pushed some of them in a baby buggy around the town of Victoria where she lived.

Emily Carr (1871 – 1945)

What’s Cooking?: 2020-May-2

What ‘s Cooking? The Futurist’s Cookbook

Futurism was an Italian art movement of the early twentieth century that aimed to capture in art the dynamism, speed, energy and power of the machine and the vitality, change, and restlessness of modern life.
Futurism was launched by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909, when he published his Manifesto of Futurism on the front page of the Paris newspaper Le Figaro.

Futurism denounced the past and the oppressive weight of cultural history. The Futurist’s proposed an art that celebrated the modern world of industry and technology:

“We declare…a new beauty, the beauty of speed. A racing motor car…is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.”

Futurist Meat Sculpture from “The Art Assignment, PBS Digital Studios”