The Eyes

The Eyes

Friday, January 23, 2015

Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the Shaw Memorial

Sculptor of over 200 works in marble and bronze, Augustus Saint-Gaudens had an international reputation and clientele for his portrait reliefs, decorative projects, and public monuments. His long career in New York, Paris, and Rome began as an apprentice to a cameo maker and ended with a request from the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, to design gold coins for the nation. Saint-Gaudens' formal study at Cooper Union, National Academy of Design, and École des Beaux-Arts, prepared him for a rich, yet tortured life as a sculptor. Inspired by the golden age of Renaissance bronze statuary, he was committed to the overall relationships of architecture, design, and sculpture advocated by the Aesthetic Movement, and blessed by a personal genius for painstakingly researched, yet astoundingly fluid imagery.

Commissioned in the early 1880s, Saint-Gaudens labored over the Shaw Memorial for 14 years. Dedicated as a monument in 1897, the Shaw Memorial has been acclaimed as the greatest American sculpture of the nineteenth century. The relief masterfully depicts Colonel Shaw and the first African American infantry unit from the North to fight for the Union during the Civil War. The sculpture combines the real and allegorical. The memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment is on a ten-year renewable loan to the National Gallery of Art from the National Park Service, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire.

Shaw Memorial | 1900
Patinated Plaster
Overall (without armature or pedestal) | 145 1/4 in. x 206 1/2 in. x 34 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hale Woodruff's Talladega College Murals

In 1938, Atlanta-based African-American artist Hale Woodruff was commissioned to paint a series of murals for Talladega College, Alabama, one of the first colleges established for blacks in the United States after the Civil War. The six murals, created for the college's newly built library, portray noteworthy events in the rise of blacks from slavery to freedom. Though he painted the murals for a local audience of students and faculty, Woodruff intended their impact to reach well beyond Talladega's campus.

The brightly colored murals were removed from Talladega College for a five-year collaborative restoration project organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The murals are six monumental canvases arranged in two cycles of three, portraying heroic efforts of resistance to slavery and moments in the history of Talladega College, which opened in 1867 to serve the educational needs of a new population of freed slaves. 

These exceptional paintings have just been restored and are on a one-time national tour before returning to their permanent home in Alabama. This is the only time these masterpieces will be available for viewing outside Talladega College. Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College is presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (currently being built on the National Mall) and is organized by the High Museum of Art in collaboration with Talladega College. The murals are being exhibited at the National Museum of American History in Washington until March 1, 2015. 

The Mutiny on the Amistad

The Trial of the Amistad Captives

The Repatriation of the Freed Captives

The Underground Railroad

Opening Day at Talladega College

The Building of Savery Library

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Born This Day | January 7, 1830 | Albert Bierstadt

Rocky Mountain Landscape | 1870
Albert Bierstadt
Oil on Canvas | 36 5/8 in. x 54 3/4 in.
The White House Art Collection

Albert Bierstadt (January 7, 1830 – February 18, 1902) was a German-American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. To paint the scenes, Bierstadt joined several exploratory journeys during the westward expansion of the United States, sketching and painting all that inspired him. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.

Born in Germany, Bierstadt came to the United States at the age of one with his parents. He later returned to study painting for several years in Düsseldorf. He became part of the Hudson River School in New York, an informal group of like-minded painters who started painting along this scenic river. Their style was based on carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism.

The artist's rugged, romanticized landscapes of the West, painted on a grand scale with an abundance of detail and dramatic lighting, captured the imagination of 19th-century art collectors and their interest catapulted Bierstadt to the top of the American art market. His paintings brought record prices and in his lifetime, Bierstadt enjoyed tremendous success and recognition.

Bierstadt became internationally renowned for his beautiful and enormous paintings of the newly accessible American west, and his works found their way into public and private collections at staggeringly high prices for his time. His popularity and wealth rose to tremendous heights only to fade as the interest in impressionism turned public taste away from his highly detailed landscapes suffused with golden light.

Nonetheless, his paintings remain popular. He was a prolific artist, having completed over 500 paintings during his lifetime, most of which have survived. Many are scattered through museums around the United States. Original paintings themselves do occasionally come up for sale, at ever increasing prices.

Because of Bierstadt's fascination with mountain landscapes, Mount Bierstadt in Colorado is named in his honor. Another Colorado mountain was originally named Mount Rosa, after Bierstadt's wife, but it was later renamed Mount Evans after Colorado governor John Evans.

Other posts on this blog with references to Albert Bierstadt:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Always Looking | A Year in Art

It is a genuine love for art that compels me to be always looking. Looking at paintings, drawings, sculptures, fountains, architecture, public parks, sky, water, and landscapes. Looking at color, symmetry, repetition, patterns, textures, shadows, and light. I filled my free time this year (and, sometimes that was my lunch break at work) with exhibitions, lectures, museum visits, reading artist's biographies, photography, blogging, and volunteer work at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. 

This was an artfully enjoyable year beginning with my Monuments Men mania. After the release of the movie in February, I read two books; saw an exhibition and attended a lecture about the National Gallery of Art's own Monuments Men, who participated in the World War II effort to save Europe's art treasures; published two posts on this blog and posted a dozen facts and photos on my Art According to Cary Facebook page about this subject; and watched the documentary, Rape of Europa. I'm still fascinated by this story as Nazi-looted art continues to make news headlines around the world.

In May, I participated in a National Trust for Historic Preservation Instagram contest and was invited to photograph a behind-the-scenes tour of Union Station in Washington. It was a great experience with a guide from the Trust about the current preservation efforts. It got me hooked on Instagram as an outlet for my quirky, and I hope fun and visually interesting, photographic vignettes.

Indelible artistic moments this year included seeing James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington for the first time, discovering enchanting Bartholdi Park near the U.S. Capitol, and seeing the beautifully stylized musical about Edgar Degas and the model for his famous sculpture, Little Dancer, at the Kennedy Center. And, artistic intrigue abounded daily living with my partner, an artist! 

Thank you to everyone who joined me on this journey of artistic discovery and I hope you will always keep looking.