Seldom Seen

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Third Week of September

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Marius Alexander Jacques Bauer (Dutch, 1867–1932)
Palitana, ca. 1897–98
Watercolor on paper
22 ½  x 32 ½ in.
Collection of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Singer, Jr., 1931

In this atmospheric painting, Marius Bauer exquisitely captured both the beauty and enigma of Palitana, a city located in the province of Gujarat, India.  Palitana is renowned as a major pilgrimage site for Jains (Jainism is an ancient Indian religion) and it is the second major vegetarian city in the world. This work likely depicts a view of the Shatrunjaya Hills, upon which many of Palitana’s most famous temples stand. A group of men on the lower right of the scene, possibly soldiers since some of them carry spears and shields, have stopped to rest on the roof of a fortress. They observe the dramatic view of domes in the foreground and towers in the distance. Cast in a grayish-white haze, Bauer’s depiction of this city’s architecture and its peoples conveys an ethereal, dreamy quality through its extensive use of loose brushstrokes and atmospheric perspective.

Shortly after arriving in India in 1897, Bauer fell under the country’s spell. He wrote: “Why that perpetual idolisation of ditches and ponds and windmills, when one can revel in the lines and colours of tropical forests and temples.[sic.]” After the artist returned home to the Netherlands in 1898, he remarked: “Now comes the second pleasure, that of recollecting, even finer than the reality. The less lovely and the western aftertaste vanishes, leaving a wonderland of palaces and temples, populated by measureless files of brightly clothed orientals, richly decked-out horse processions, camels and throngs of elephants. Recollecting softens the shadows and the light, throws a transparent veil over reality and transforms this into a vision in which the colours will never fade.” Although the artist’s statements reinforce European Orientalist stereotypes and biased attitudes about non-western peoples, they also express his immersion in his travels abroad, his interest in Indian history and culture, and his desire to escape reality by painting his recollections of past journeys.

Bauer worked as a painter, lithographer, and an etcher who specialized in Orientalist scenes influenced by Impressionism. Many of his works were based on photographs he bought during his travels to India, Egypt, Algeria, Persia and Turkey (1888–1898; 1902–1911), including examples by photographers such as Félix Bonfils (1831–1885). Bauer also produced illustrations for several publications, most notably the 1001 Arabian Nights. From 1878–85, Bauer studied at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, and he soon thereafter came into contact with WCMFA founders Anna and William Singer while painting with some of the Laren School artists. Later, the Singers purchased numerous paintings and drawings by him from the art dealer Frans Buffa. Today, Bauer’s works are owned by the Rijksmuseum, The British Museum, and the Singer Laren, the WCMFA’s sister museum founded by Anna Singer in The Netherlands.


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Washington County Officials at the WCMFA dedication, Septemeber 15, 1931


Second Week of September

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Yun Bing (Nan Lan Ling Nu Shi) (Chinese, Qing Dynasty, active late 17th–early 18th century)
Chrysanthemums, autumn 1688
Handscroll with India ink on silk
78 x 17 ¾ x 2 ½ in.
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Richard Driscoll, 2000

Yun Bing was the daughter of Yun Shouping (1633–1690, Nantian), a renowned Qing Dynasty flower painter and one of the “Six Masters” along with the Four Wangs and Wu Li (ca. 1632–1718). Her alias, Nan Lan Ling Nu Sh, literally means “intellectual woman of South Lanling” (southern Shandong Province, China). Like her father, Bing was a remarkably sensitive observer of nature and painted not only flowers but also insects and birds in their natural habitat. During her lifetime, the governor–general of Liang–Jiang (eastern China) presented one her paintings to the Empress Dowager Xiao Sheng Xian (1693–1777) and the Qianlong Emperor (Hongli, 1711–1799). He admired it so much that he inscribed a dedicatory poem on the work, thereby helping to establish Bing’s reputation at court.

In Chrysanthemums, Bing embodied the spirit of longing and wistfulness from the verses of a poem described below. Specifically, she centered our attention on the fleeting beauty and fine textural details of the flower petals, leaves, and rocky outcroppings whose colors are subtly juxtaposed. While the poet himself, the fence, and mountains are not present in the composition, the viewer is invited to imagine their existence in the past. The characters in this painting contain a poem by Tao Yuanming (ca. 365–427 CE), who was a renowned poet of the Jin (265–420 CE) and Liu Song (420–479 CE) Dynasties and also was a great enthusiast of chrysanthemums:

Although we cannot be intoxicated (in the love for chrysanthemums) together with Tao,
The hearts blossomed facing the East Fence at one time. 

According to historical sources, it is believed that Yuanming planted his own chrysanthemums at the east fence of his residence, in reference to his famous line in another poem: “While plucking chrysanthemums under the east fence, I observed leisurely the south mountain.” Both the artist and her intended audience of aristocratic literati, most of whom were well versed in ancient Chinese poetry, would have recognized the significance of both the fences and flowers in each of Yuanming’s poems.


First Week of September
unnamed

 

Attributed to Dorothy Loretto Trujillo (American, 1932–1999)
Native American, Laguna–Jemez-Cochiti, New Mexico

Storyteller Doll, ca. 1978-1983
Ceramic and pigment
10 ¾ x 11 ¾  x 12 ⅝ in.
Collection of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift from the Estate of Phyllis Emmert, 2009

Storyteller dolls are made by members of the Pueblo people of the Southwestern United States and they play a significant role in preserving indigenous oral traditions. These figures (also called Pueblo Storytellers) are created with clay and depict a man or a woman surrounded by children. Most often, the main figure’s mouth is open to demonstrate that he or she is telling a story to youngsters. The concept of creating these works derives from the Pueblo tradition of “Singing Mother” figures that are typically accompanied by children as well. In 1964, the first storyteller doll was made by Helen Cordero (1915–1994) to honor her grandfather, Santiago Quintana. Several renowned storyteller doll ceramists include Stella Teller (b. 1929), Carol Lucero Gachupin (b. 1958), Mary Lucero, and Linda Fragua.

This example is attributed to Dorothy Loretto Trujillo, a member of the Laguna/Jemez culture (residing near Albuquerque, New Mexico) who married into the Cochiti Pueblo and made Cochiti-style pottery during the second half of the 1900s. This doll represents a male storyteller holding a pot on his head while eight children sit on his legs. The ceramic sculpture’s combination of black, red, and white exemplifies Trujillo’s use of contrasting color schemes. In addition to creating storyteller dolls, her pottery repertoire is comprised of polychrome jars, bowls, and nativity figures.

 


Fourth Week of August
17

Burnis Calvin Day (American, b. 1932)
Pastime Sports, 1976
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 39 in.
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County
Gift of the artist, 1996

In this colorful painting, Day created a lively image of young people playing different sports and engaging in other forms of seasonal recreation. Working in an abstract style with geometric forms and broad planes of color, this African American artist portrayed groups of figures playing basketball, tennis, and baseball in the center and foreground. At the top of the work, individuals are depicted ice- and roller skating. Originally, Day developed the theme of this painting for a mural competition sponsored by the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department in 1976. When the mural design was not accepted as the winning entry, Day developed his work into a smaller painting, which he later donated to the Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County. Eventually, his mural design based upon Pastime Sports was accepted for another competition and reproduced as a 13- x 16-foot mural (completed from 1996–97) at the Maheras-Gentry Recreation Center, Detroit (closed 1999). In relation to the composition’s intended communal setting, its subject conveys a sense of optimism and interracial cooperation.

Day was born in Hepzibah, West Virginia, and he studied at the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, the Famous Artists School (formerly Westport, Connecticut), and Oakland Community College, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Day received exhibitions at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the New Mexico Arts League, Albuquerque, and the New England Art Institute (formerly Brookline, Massachusetts). After first teaching at Pittman’s Gallery, Inc., in 1973, Day later served as an instructor in drawing, painting, and mixed media at different arts institutions throughout Michigan. His work also is represented in the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City.

To learn more about Day’s creative process, you are invited to view this interview with him and his Detroit-based contemporaries: Through the Artist Eyes (1981), © Detroit Educational Television Foundation, 1981.


Third Week of August
16

Pieter Janssens Elinga or Workshop (Dutch, 1623–1682)
Seated Painter, ca. 1650–82
Oil on canvas
15 x 12 ½ in.
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County
Gift of Mr. Chester D. Tripp, 1955

Pieter Janssens Elinga was best known for his Dutch interiors painted in the style of Pieter de Hooch (1629–1684). Seated Painter represents an artist in his studio (possibly Elinga or one of his contemporaries) who is absorbed in the preparation of his paint. His actions are indicated by the mortar and pestle which would be used to grind raw materials for pigments. The inclusion of the glass stopper and small containers on the table also suggests that the man might be about to store the paint in a glass jar or vessel that is hidden by his body. The artist interestingly depicted the sitter with his back to the viewer and he obscured the entirety of his activities, thereby inviting us to ponder the exact nature of his working process. The presence of the landscape painting, palette, and tassel hanging on the wall allude to the artist’s profession. In the background, the portrait leaning against the wall depicts the French military officer Jacques de Mauvissière, Marquis of Castelnau (1620–1658), which might refer to a recently completed commission for that individual. This portrait is likely based upon Robert Nanteuil’s (1623–1678) engraving of the Marquis (see image below). Castelnau enjoyed a distinguished career in the King’s Army as Lieutenant General (1651) and briefly as Marshall of France (1658). In 1648, he was appointed Governor of Brest (Brittany) and he served in many battles during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) and Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659).

This painting was the subject of an FBI investigation and lawsuit over its ownership. In 1989, descendants of the Schloss family (NYC) claimed that the WCMFA unlawfully held this painting, which they believed had been confiscated from their family (then living in France) by the Nazis in 1943. This claim was ultimately invalidated because the stolen painting that the family sought was in fact the first version of the same subject (see image below), the location of which remains unknown. The WCMFA was vindicated of any unlawful ownership of the work of art in question when it was proven that Museum’s painting was an alternate version of the same subject with its own distinct composition, execution, and style. Interestingly, the Schloss family had once owned the WCMFA painting but it sold the work prior to World War II. Subsequently, it entered the United States in 1935 and was offered for sale on the American art market. The most notable differences between the Schloss picture and the WCMFA example are the highlights on the curtain, the number of repaired window panes, the painter’s anatomical proportions, and the sharpness of de Castelnau’s facial expression and eyes.

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Pieter Janssens Elinga
(Dutch, 1623–1682)
Seated Painter, ca. 1650–82
Oil on canvas
Formerly Schloss Collection, Paris,
Current location unknown

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Robert Nanteuil (French, 1623–1678)
Jacques de Mauvissière, Marquis von Castelnau, 1658
Engraving
Image courtesy of Princeton Digital Collections, Robert Nanteuil Collection


Second Week of August
15

Hugh Ralph Micklem (British, 1918–2009)
Two Grenadines, 1993
Oil on wood panel
Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Micklem, in Memory of Mrs. Helen Miller Mathias, 2002

In Two Grenadines, Micklem portrayed two pomegranates that are carefully arranged on a table. In order to achieve a contrast between the fruits and their surroundings, the artist juxtaposed their orange and red surface textures with the drapery of the yellow tablecloth against which they rest. Micklem’s painting betrays the influence of French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) and it responds to trends in mid-20th-century British abstract art through its extensive use of impasto (raised, thick paint application), a subdued palette, compacted pictorial space, and subtle highlights on the pomegranates’ surface. Micklem also employed subtle, angular compositional forms and created the illusion that the fruits are projecting forward into the viewer’s space. Traditionally, pomegranates have symbolized fertility, regeneration, immortality, and beauty.

Born in Hendon, United Kingdom, Micklem studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, from 1935–1939 with British modernists Bernard Meninsky (1891–1950) and William Roberts (1895–1980, English cubist and member of the Vorticist movement). From 1937–1939, he also trained under Mark Gertler (1891-1939) and George Emslie Owen (1899-1964) at the Westminster School of Art. During World War II, Micklem served with the British Army in France, India, and Burma. In 1949, he received a National Diploma in Design. Over the course of his career, Micklem exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. In addition to still lifes, the artist also painted portraits and many landscapes near his home on the southeast coast of Spain. Micklem and his wife, Joan, were good friends of long-time Museum member Mrs. Helen Miller Mathias (1907–1994), who often visited the couple in southern Spain.


First Week of August
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Teapot

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Creamer

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Sugar bowl

Wedgwood (British, founded 1759)
Basaltware Teapot, Creamer and Sugar Bowl, 1813
Stoneware
Gift of Dr. & Mrs. W. Lehman Guyton, 1991

Wedgwood is an English pottery company that was founded by Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795) in 1759. This tea set is made of black vitreous stoneware, used by Wedgwood as early as 1766. The pieces are decorated to commemorate the Battle of Vitoria (June 21, 1813) in Spain, fought between the Allied forces of Britain, Portugal, and Spain and the French under Napoleon I Bonaparte during the Peninsular War (1807–1814). The scene on the teapot and creamer memorializes General Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769–1852), who led the British to victory, the imagery depicts a laurel wreath being placed on a bust of Wellesley by two classical figures. The spouts of the teapot and creamer are crafted to resemble lions while the other portions of both vessels are decorated with floral and vegetal motifs. All of the works bear the inscription “India, Portugal, and Spain/ Vittoria 21st June, 1813.” The Latin motto, “Viresque acquirit eundo,” translates as “And he gains might by going,” and it celebrates Wellington’s strategic triumph that eventually led to the Allied victory over Napoleon’s forces in the Peninsular War. The inclusion of India in the dedication refers to Wellington’s military campaigns to extend the British East India Company’s rule from 1797 to 1805.

Wedgwood ceramics like these examples were made during the Industrial Revolution, an era in which decorative artworks were produced on a large scale for domestic display and use by an emerging consumer society. The intricate botanical designs and figural motifs on these pieces convey the significant influence of Neoclassicism, an artistic and architectural movement that revived ancient Greek and Roman forms and ideas.


Fourth Week of July
13

F. Graham Cootes (American, 1879–1960)
Portrait of W. E. B. Du Bois, ca. 1940–early 1950s
Pastel on paper
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Fidlow, 2002

In this captivating work, F. Graham Cootes deftly depicted the renowned African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and author, W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963). The artist employed striking highlights on his sitter’s forehead, hair, and tie that subtly reference his age, wisdom, distinction, and determination. Between the 1940s and early 1950s, Cootes and Du Bois met when they were both living in New York. While the exact origin of the portrait remains unclear, it is likely that Cootes’ fame as a portraitist of notable personalities attracted Du Bois’ initial attention and that he possibly commissioned it from the artist.

Du Bois was born in Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1868. He descended from French Huguenot, Dutch, and African ancestors. Throughout his career, he advocated vigorously for equal rights among African Americans and strove to combat racism in America and abroad. Du Bois was one of the most influential Black protest leaders of the world, as well as a major voice for social justice. Among his many accomplishments, Du Bois was the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University (1896), he authored numerous books, including his seminal work Black Reconstruction in America (1935), and was one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). For the majority of his career, he also held the position of Professor of History, Sociology, and Economics at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University).

Staunton, Virginia native Cootes attended Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and the University of Virginia (Charlottesville), where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees. In 1902, Cootes studied with Robert Henri at the New York Art School (now Parsons School of Design l The New School, NY). Early in his career, he was involved in advertising and was known for his illustrations in Scribner’s magazine, McClure’s Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and the Saturday Evening Post. While working in New York, Cootes painted the portraits of many prominent Americans, including President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Taft, daughter of former President Howard Taft. The Woodrow Wilson 7-cent stamp issued in 1956 was based on Cootes’ official portrait of this President.


Third Week of July
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Unknown (Chinese)
Tomb Figure, Tang Dynasty, ca. early-mid 8th century
Glazed terracotta with colored pigments
22 3/4″h x 8 1/4″w x 6 1/8″d
Gift of Mr. Alan Laster, 1956

Sacred sculptures similar to this tomb figure (Chinese: mingqui) were widely produced in Tang Dynasty China (618-906 CE). For centuries, Chinese artists excelled at making ceramic works, including glazed terracotta and porcelain wares. The figures are made of molded earthenware with a three-color glaze technique (Chinese: sancai) applied to most of the figure’s surface, with the exception of the head and face in most cases.

During the first half of the 8th century CE, figures such as this one were created by Chinese ceramists for ritualistic purposes and placement in burial sites. It was believed that the persons represented by each statue would be able to accompany and assist the deceased in their afterlives.

Typically, the figures portray servants, soldiers, political officials, courtesans, dancers, traders, and musicians. This example likely depicts an attendant based upon his simple clothing and lack of accessories. The use of brown and white glazes and the inclusion of realistic physical features are characteristic of this Tang sculptural type. As a means of connecting to the condition of contemporary worshipers, the artist added physiognomic details to the man’s head, most notably the exaggerated eyebrows and red lips as well as the mustache and beard, a fashion that was prevalent at the time.


Second Week of July
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Kenyon Cox, Studies after Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart’s etching, Goya’s Daughter-in-Law (1873), pages from Sketchbook of Kenyon Cox.

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Figure studies, pages from Sketchbook of Kenyon Cox.

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Studies of figures in 18th-century French costume, pages from Sketchbook of Kenyon Cox.

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Male figure study, pages from Sketchbook of Kenyon Cox.

Kenyon Cox (American, 1856-1919)
Sketchbook of Kenyon Cox, ca. 1877
Pencil drawings
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County, Gift of the National Academy of Design and the children of the artist, 1961

Cox was born in Warren, Ohio, the son of Union General Jacob Cox who fought at the Battle of Antietam (1862). The artist studied in Cincinnati and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Philadelphia), before leaving for France, in 1877, where he received instruction from Carolus-Duran and Jean-Léon Gérôme. Later, he studied under Alexandre Cabanel at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. In 1882, Cox returned to America and settled in New York City, where he became an influential early instructor at the Art Students League. His experience in Europe cultivated in him a passion for careful drawing, technical proficiency, and classical idealism based on the art of the Italian Renaissance.

Cox was renowned as an illustrator, art critic, a writer, and one of America’s most celebrated mural painters. At the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, his paintings decorated the Liberal Arts Building. During the 1890s and early 1900s, he completed large-scale decorative commissions for the capitol buildings in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as well as court houses in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Today, Cox is perhaps most famous for his mural cycle (1896-97) in the rotunda of the Library of Congress’ Main Reading Room (Washington, D.C.), which depicts monumental allegories of the liberal arts and sciences.

The works in this sketchbook date from the period when Cox was studying in France. These pages are filled with an eclectic combination of introspective and spontaneous drawings that provide insights into the artist’s working process and technique. The subjects range from studies that Cox made after European paintings, prints, and sculptures to sketches of studio models, personal observations of daily life, and figures dressed in historical costumes. In two compositions, Cox deftly executed a study based upon Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart’s etching (1873), Goya’s Daughter-in-Law, which was completed after Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s original oil painting (1805).

For images of these related works, see the following websites: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1982-U-1280

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gumersinda_Goicoechea,_Francisco_de_Goya.jpg

It also should be noted that the Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County owns Cox’s oil painting, Thistledown (1882), which is on display in the Bowman Gallery.


First Week of July
10

Frederick Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935)
The Gathering for the Festivities, 1906
Gouache and watercolor on paper
Bequest of Betty and Hal Demuth, Winchester, Virginia, 2013

While it is not certain which gathering Hassam represented in this watercolor, he possibly depicted a town scene from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Maine because he was working and traveling in New England at this time. Judging by the prominence of the American flag and the large crowd of spectators gathered on the street and the porches of the houses, it is likely that the work portrays a commemorative parade or a celebratory gathering. Through his careful use of a grisaille (gray) palette, Hassam deftly captured the contrast between sunlight and shade throughout the composition. The two figures in the foreground look eagerly toward the events unfolding to the right, though their exact nature remain ambiguous.

Hassam was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the son of a wealthy Boston merchant. His formal art training began in Boston under German-American painter Ignaz Gaugengigl. After working as a wood engraver and illustrator, he continued his studies at the Académie Julian in Paris under Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre. During his stay in France, Hassam adopted a style inspired by French Impressionism. After his studies, Hassam settled in Boston and then in New York, painting with artists throughout New England in the summers. The coastal town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, was one of his favorite haunts.

Upon returning from Europe in 1889, Hassam settled in New York and continued to work both as a painter and an illustrator, doing most of his work in the New England area. In 1898, Hassam became a founding member of the independent group of artists known as the Ten. He was appointed a member of the National Academy of Design in 1902 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1920. Throughout his career, Hassam and his colleagues worked to promote and disseminate American Impressionism as a key artistic style and movement. At the Old Lyme artists’ colony in Connecticut, Hassam met MFA-WC founders Anna and William Singer, Jr. in the early 1900s. Later, Hassam gave the Singers his oil painting, White House, Gloucester (1895) as a token of their friendship. It was one of the first works (on view in the Singer Gallery) acquired specifically for the Museum’s collection.


Fourth Week of June
9

Augustus Vincent Tack (American, 1870-1949)
Portrait of Helen Keller, 1945
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts-
Washington County (MFA-WC)
Gift of Solton Engel, 1945

In this half-length portrait of Helen Keller, Augustus Vincent Tack depicted his sitter toward the end of her life. Using a complementary color palette of green and blue, he deftly captured her personality and dignified demeanor. Tack accurately rendered her physical features and emphasized her sober, focused expression which conveys resolve and composure. Tack painted this work after a larger, full-length portrait of Keller held by the Fogg Museum (Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA).

At nineteen months old, Keller suffered a severe illness that caused her to lose her sight and hearing. With the assistance of her life-long companion and teacher, Anne Sullivan, Keller persevered and pursued an ambitious career as an author, lecturer, social activist, and advocate for people with disabilities. Keller’s and Sullivan’s story is recounted in the renowned autobiography, The Story of My Life (1903). Among her many achievements, Keller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson and she was elected into the National Women’s Hall of Fame at the New York World’s Fair in 1965.

Tack is renowned for his portraits and avant-garde abstract paintings. His chief patron was Duncan Phillips, founder of the Phillips Collection (Washington, DC), an institution which remains the chief repository for the artist’s work. From November to December 1938, the Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County held a retrospective exhibition of Tack’s work that included his portraits, drawings, and paintings of abstract and religious subjects. Tack studied and taught at the Arts Students League in New York, became involved with the Deerfield Artist Colony (Massachusetts), and is renowned for his portraits of Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The artist was first introduced to the Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County by Hagerstown engineer, John B. Ferguson, Sr., after he visited the artist’s New York studio during the 1930s. Subsequently, Ferguson helped organize Tack’s 1938 exhibition with former MFA-WC Director Richard Carl Medford, facilitated the artist’s association with the Hagerstown community, and worked with the Museum’s Board to appoint him as an Honorary Trustee in the 1940s. Subsequently, Tack befriended Mrs. William T. Hamilton, Jr., former President of the Board of Trustees, who fondly recalled the artist in a letter:

“Mr. Tack was a valued fried of our museum and of mine. I knew his whole family…the museum [MFA-WC] has a head and bust of Helen Keller taken from the magnificent large portrait of her which is owned by the Fogg Museum. Mr. Tack very graciously painted this of Miss Keller and contributed it to us, and she and I frequently met in his Washington studio.” (Mrs. William T. Hamilton, Jr., to Nathaniel M. Sims, Ms. Letter, undated, American Studies Group, 1967, Deerfield Academy, quoted and cited in Augustus Vincent Tack, 1870-1949, Deerfield, MA: Deerfield Academy, 1968).


Third Week of June
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Detail, The Battle of Eylau (1807)

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The Battle of Friedland (1807) opposite side of statue

Unknown (French), Equestrian Statue of Napoleon, with Paintings on Base, 1810
Ivory inlay over wood, bronze
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts—Washington County
Gift of Dr. & Mrs. Harry Bowman, 1971

Although he was a ruthless and oppressive dictator, Napoleon I Bonaparte is nevertheless recognized as a highly capable military commander and strategist who significantly altered the course of European and American history. Rising through the ranks of the French military in the wake of the French Revolution (1789-1799), Napoleon I became Emperor of France in 1804, engaged in series of wars (1803-1815), and eventually controlled a vast Empire that stretched from Spain to Russia.

This equestrian statue of Napoleon depicts him in his standard and recognizable dress featuring an overcoat, riding boots, and a bicorne hat. The buttons of his coat are embellished with green and red gemstones while the horse’s saddle and other tack is bronze. The statue was created using ivory inlay over wood and the base is decorated with floral motifs and Napoleon’s crest on each end. Both sides of the base also display a small painting of a battle scene.

On one side of the statue is a painting depicting the Battle of Eylau, which took place in modern day Russia in February 1807. The harsh winter conditions of this battle and its many French casualties are embodied by the snowy landscape and the wounded soldiers scattered in the foreground. This battle brought Napoleon’s string of successes over the past year to a halt. On the other side of the statue is a painting depicting the Battle of Friedland (June 1807). This event was a decisive victory for Napoleon, forcing Emperor Alexander I of Russia to sign the Treaties of Tilsit, which left Napoleon as the ruler of western and central Europe.


Second Week of June
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Unknown (Spanish Colonial, New Mexico)
Santo, ca. 1830-40
Carved wood and paint
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts—Washington County
Gift of Cinda Perry in memory of Spence Perry, 2018

Santo, from the Spanish word meaning “saint,” is a traditional type of Spanish colonial religious sculpture. Santos are usually wooden and ivory carvings that portray saints, angels, or other sacred figures. Examples like this sculpture were employed by ecclesiastical authorities to convert indigenous peoples to Roman Catholicism, which constituted an integral part of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. This santo’s gesture of clasped hands relates to its function as an object of worship while its modest size and decoration suggest that it was made for private use in a home.

Long distances and limited transportation between settlements in New Spain often restricted the supply of large-scale, official commissions of religious art from Spain to local parish churches. Therefore, a particular demand arose in colonial New Mexico for santos, which combine features found in Spanish baroque statues with influences from native artistic forms, materials, and techniques. Santos became popular devotional objects that were displayed in both churches and domestic shrines. The practice of santo carving has been especially preserved in in the northern New Mexican village of Cordova, which is renowned for this tradition.


First Week of June
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Unknown (Yoruba, primarily Nigeria, West Africa)
Ibeji (Twin Figures, Male and Female), 20th century
Wood
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts—Washington County
Gift of Dr. Russell Wade, 1986

These devotional sculptures embody the creative spirit of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. In their culture, twins (Ibeji) are special children whose birth can bless their parents with good fortune. The Yoruba have one of the highest rates of twin births in the world, and the loss of twins is therefore considered a great misfortune. If a twin dies, a mother commissions a memorial figure and the soul of the dead twin is transferred to it. Typically, she dresses the statuette in cloth, adorns it with jewelry, and keeps it near her bed. A mother also offers the sculpture food and prayers weekly and performs more elaborate rituals on the occasion of birthdays and annual festivals.

West African notions of beauty tend to emphasize formal, abstract expressions and poses rather than realistic and detailed portrayals to convey concepts and meanings to viewers. These sculptures conform to Yoruba aesthetics of physical proportion whereby the head is one third the size of the body, for the head is associated with a person’s destiny or “inner head,” which determines success and failure in life. Other key aesthetic qualities include relative straightness, good composition, youthful appearance, and clarity of line.


Fifth Week of May
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Thomas Worthington Whittredge (American, 1820–1910)
Landscape, ca. 1890s
Oil on canvas
Museum purchase, 1968

Thomas Worthington Whittredge’s Landscape depicts a woodland interior in which the trees are traversed by a winding stream that slows to a sand-edged pool in the foreground. Light filters through the forest canopy, illuminates the rushing water and leaves, and subtly silhouettes a fallen tree trunk. It is possible that the painting portrays a scene in New York’s Catskill Mountains or a view near Summit, New Jersey, where the artist lived from 1880 onward. While the Hudson River School painter’s early to mid-career works exhibit precise details that betray the influence of Andreas Achenbach, Asher B. Durand, and Thomas Cole, his late paintings are characterized by loose, sketchy brush-strokes and subdued colors. This scene’s setting and style recall motifs found in landscapes of French Barbizon artists such as Narcisse Díaz de la Peña.

A self-made painter originally from Springfield, Ohio, Whittredge began his studies in Germany under Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1849. While there, he befriended Albert Bierstadt and posed for Leutze as George Washington and a steersman in Washington Crossing the Delaware (1849-51). Later, Whittredge also traveled to Switzerland and Italy. Not long after returning from his trip to Europe, he settled in New York in 1859. In that year, Whittredge reflected upon his personal experiences and offered insights onto his creative expression:

…It was impossible for me to shut out from my eyes the works of the great landscape painters which I had so recently seen in Europe, while I knew well enough that if I was to succeed I must produce something new and which might claim to be inspired by my home surroundings. I was in despair. Sure, however, that if I turned to nature, I should find a friend, I seized my sketch box and went to the first available outdoor place I could find. I hid myself for months in the recesses of the Catskills. But how different was the scene before me from anything I had been looking at for many years! The forest was a mass of decaying logs and tangled brush wood, no peasants to pick up every vestige of fallen sticks to burn in their miserable huts, no well ordered forests, nothing but the primitive woods with their solemn silence reigning everywhere… [sic.].
(Excerpt from The Autobiography of Worthington Whittredge, 1820-1910, John I. H. Baur, ed. (New York: Brooklyn Museum Press, 1942), p. 42.


Fourth week of May

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Unknown (Iran, Qajar Dynasty)
Lacquered Papier–Mâché Box, ca. mid-late 19th century
Painted on paper over wood
Gift of John Buchholz, 1992

From 1789 to 1925, Shahs of the ruling Qajar Dynasty in Iran witnessed an era of political and social reform, modernization, and industrialization that was shaped by diplomatic encounters with European nations. During this time, decorative objects and paintings were influenced by western techniques and forms, most notably the introduction of European perspective, volume, and recession.

This elaborately decorated lacquer box contains lively scenes of court life on the top and inside of its lid. Works like this example were typically commissioned by aristocrats for display in their homes. While various courtiers (likely an aristocratic couple) sit in a garden pavilion of a palace on the cover’s top, men on horseback are portrayed hunting deer, game, and other wild animals on its inside. Each of the scenes idyllically represents the pastimes of noble society in Qajar Iran in which vegetation, food, and mirth abound. These themes are accentuated by the intricate floral and vegetal patterns that adorn the entire work. This casket was made from a base of papier-mâché to which a thinly coated layer of a fine plaster or gesso was applied to its surface. Thereafter, painters executed designs in miniature technique and applied a transparent lacquer or varnish to the whole piece that protected the paintings while enriching and softening their colors.


Third week of May
Week 3
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Unknown (Chinese)
Guanyin and her Attendant
Qing Dynasty, ca. 18th century,
after Tang Dynasty original by Wu Daozi (d. 792)
Ink and pigments on silk
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Augustus Vincent Tack, 1946

This tranquil, contemplative painting by an unknown Chinese artist depicts Guanyin (Sanskrit: Avalokiteśvara), the bodhisattva of infinite compassion who is among the most popular figures of Buddhism. She floats on a cloud-shaped rock and crosses her hands in a gesture of devotion. In the Buddhist faith, bodhisattvas (Sanskrit: awakening beings) are divine entities on the path to becoming Buddhas and who assist living beings in attaining nirvana (enlightenment). Guanyin, portrayed as a life-size figure, is dressed in a graceful, flowing blue robe that is embellished with gold folds and black embroideries along its edges. According to Chinese Buddhist tradition, her acolyte, the boy Shancai (lower left), came to visit her while she was meditating on Mount Putuo, a sacred island located near Hangzhou Bay. Shancai is shown standing atop a lotus petal (a sacred flower in Buddhism) while a white dove gracefully carries a rosary used for supplication (Sanskrit: Japamala or prayer beads). Both figures are adorned with elaborate blue and gold halos that accentuate their holy status.

Scroll paintings like this example were often hung in Buddhist temples and used to assist worshipers during rituals and prayer. Guanyin and her Attendant was once displayed in a Buddhist temple in the city of Chengde (Hebei, Province, China), to which it was presented by the Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799). As indicated by the Chinese characters on the plaque to the lower right, the original composition for this Qing Dynasty painting was created by Wu Daozi (d. 792 CE), a renowned Tang Dynasty painter. In the 8th century CE, Wu executed an engraved stele of Guanyin (now lost) that was greatly admired. In subsequent centuries, Chinese and Japanese artists created engravings on paper and scroll paintings like Guanyin and her Attendant that were based upon the Tang master’s work.

In 1946, American painter Augustus Vincent Tack and his wife, Agnes Gordon Fuller, donated this painting to the Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County in order to help expand its holdings of Asian art. Tack is renowned for his portraits and avant-garde abstract paintings. His chief patron was Duncan Phillips, founder of the Phillips Collection (Washington, DC).


Second week of May
0970_57.0012a (2)

0970_57.0012a (3)
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Unknown (French, ca. mid-15th century)
Leaf from a Book of Hours, ca. 1440
Psalm 109 with antiphons and responses
Pigments, ink, and gold leaf on vellum
Collection of Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County
Gift of William T. Hassett, Jr., 1957

Highly prized by noble patrons who commissioned such volumes, books of hours were an integral part of private devotion in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Typically, they included psalms, prayers, offices of the Virgin and other saints, calendars of feast days, and prayers for the dead. Essentially, they provided worshipers with an extensive sacred compendium that could aid them in performing their daily prayers and engaging in most forms of pious practice. This leaf displays an outstanding level of detail and artistry on the part of the scribe and illuminator who collaborated to produce it. Of particular note are the Latin texts completed in black and red ink as well as paint which display antiphons (a short sung refrain or chant) and responses. On the verso, a large initial D is painted in blue and white against a red and gilded outline frame with foliate interlace. The whole of its margin is bordered by fine vegetal scrolls embellished with black ink stems, multicolor gilt leaves, and flowers that emerge above from the upper serif of the D.


First week of May

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

Yue Yang (Chinese, active ca. late 18th-early 19th century)
Landscape with Mountains and Valley, Qing Dynasty, December 1774
(December in the First Year of the Horse, Chinese lunar calendar)
India ink on silk, Collection of Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County
Gift of Dr. James R. Duke, 2000

Drawing extensively upon a tradition of painting that dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Yue Yang emulated the methods and style of a specific painter whose work he admired, that of Wang Hui (Shigu, 1632-1717). A pivotal figure in the art of the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Wang was one of the four members of his family who dominated the genre of landscape, exerted a considerable impact on this type of painting’s development, and strongly encouraged the copying of earlier masterworks. Yang paid tribute to his predecessor by incorporating an array of his techniques into his work, most notably the use of atmospheric perspective rising above the mountains and water, cascades, craggy rocks, and gnarled trees.

In this ambitious, poetic panorama, Yang employed a broad, horizontal composition and focused on the vastness and expansiveness of the valley, mountains, rolling hills, and rugged terrain, all of which are executed in black ink and juxtaposed with the simple background. Like other images of this type, Landscape with Mountains and Valley represents several episodes or recollections of the artist at one time. On the upper left, a boat with three travelers is approaching a gate to a house nestled on a hill. Meanwhile, on the right, two figures gather in a pavilion adjoining a stream and waterfall and are dwarfed by their surroundings. This image exudes a simultaneous sense of nostalgia, grandeur, and passion for nature in its dreamy and expansive composition. The Chinese characters written on this painting provide insight into its contents and contain a date, poem, and dedication authored by the artist:

Inspired to have a daytrip to explore the quiet nature,
Climbed the difficult path to ridges,
Waded across valley streams,
Observed the forest ‘midst clouds and thousands of miles of mountains.
December, First Year of Horse,
Sketched using Shigu’s Method,
For my dear friend Mozhai,
By Yang Yue (Yin Tang).