”Through blue-tinted glass”

Elie Nadelman (American, born Poland, 1882–1946)
Woman at the Piano, c. 1917 (detail)
Stained and painted wood
Joseph Cornell
Taglioni’s Jewel Casket, 1940
Joseph Cornell
Taglioni’s Jewel Casket, 1940
Joseph Cornell
Taglioni’s Jewel Casket, 1940
Elie Nadelman (American, born Poland, 1882–1946)
Woman at the Piano, c. 1917 (detail)
Stained and painted wood

The first of dozens of works that Cornell made in honor of famous ballerinas, this box pays homage to Marie Taglioni, an acclaimed nineteenth-century dancer of Italian origin, who, according to the legend inscribed in the box’s lid, kept an imitation ice cube in her jewelry box to commemorate the time she danced in the snow at the behest of a Russian highwayman. The box is infused with erotic undertones—both in the tactile nature of the glass cubes, velvet, and rhinestone necklace (purchased at a Woolworth’s dime store in New York) and in the incident itself, in which Taglioni reportedly performed on an animal skin placed across a snowy road. Adding to the intimacy of this delicate construction, the glass cubes were designed to be removed, revealing a hidden recess below that contains two beaded necklaces and rhinestone chips placed on a mirrored surface and seen through blue-tinted glass. [source: MoMA]

Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern

MoMA, Mar-Jun 2019

March 15th, 2019

Fear & Love

Go hand in hand. See, for instance, how beautifully these works complement each other –

From the powerful painting by Maynard Dixon, giving shape to fear,

Maynard Dixon, Shapes of Fear, 1930-32, oil on canvas

to the subdued and delicate works by Joseph Cornell, who took his fear of this world and placed it inside wooden boxes, each one containing a mini universe,

Joseph Cornell, Soap Bubble Set, 1949-50, glasses, pipes, printed paper and other media in a glass-fronted wood box

or his magical homages to Tamara Toumanova, Cornell’s way of expressing his great affection for the world of Romantic Ballet.

Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Marine Fantasy with Tamara Toumanova), c. 1940, collage and tempera on paperboard

Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Tamara Toumanova), c. 1940, collage with tempera on paperboard

Embracing Life @ Smithsonian American Art Museum

April 25th, 2017

Philadelphia – Museum of Art

Vast in size, rich in collections with major works from European, American and Asian artists, from paintings and prints to decorative items and furniture, it will require at least three hours for a ”quick” overview – and that includes the main building only. For the museum manages several annexes such as the Rodin Museum and the Perelman Building across the street, which is why your ticket will be valid for two consecutive days – in case you have the stamina to visit them all (which we didn’t).

The images below show a very brief part of what you can expect to see in the museum; I skipped most of the paintings in favour of objects and furniture that got my attention.

The Greek Revival facade.

Diana, 1892-1893, in gilded copper sheets by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Diana is arguably the best-known work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was recognized at the turn of the century as the country’s finest sculptor. When installed in 1893 on the tower of New York’s Madison Square Garden to serve as a weather vane, Diana ruled the highest point in Manhattan. The sculpture’s gilded form caught the sun during the day and was illuminated at night by the city’s first electric floodlights. Madison Square Garden was demolished in 1925 and the Philadelphia Museum of Art adopted the sculpture in 1932. Diana has reigned as the goddess of the Museum’s Great Stair Hall ever since.

From a Tapestry showing Constantine Directing the Building of Constantinople, 1623-25. A composition designed by Peter Paul Rubens. Detail showing that some things never change.

High Chest of Drawers, 1740-50. Curly maple, red pine. Armchair, 1745-55. Walnut. All made in Philadelphia.

Butaca Chair, 1730-70. Mahogany, original leather upholstery and brass. Probably made in Mexico.

Fireplace, Doorway and Pair of Andirons, ca. 1936-37. Carved oak, stone, copper hearth, iron. Made by Wharton Esherick, American 1887-1970, in Pennsylvania.

White oak and seed beads from the Mandala Series (on the wall), 2013 and 2016. A collaboration between David Ellsworth and his wife, Wendy Ellsworth, a seed bead artist. Burned and pained ash spheres (on the floor), symbolizing form in motion, from the Solstice Series, 1990-91. David Ellsworth. All made in Pennsylvania (Quakertown).

Window. Created for Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, installed 1983. Forty porcelain tiles washed with copper salts, each handcrafted and applied to frosted glass; wood frame. Made in Philadelphia by Rudolf Staffel.

Line Ascending #5, #10, #11, from the Emergence Series 2013-15. Oak burl, black ash burl. Made by David Ellsworth in Pennsylvania (Quakertown).

Furniture, part of a lavishly ornamented suite made in Philadelphia for the house of merchant William Waln and his wife, Mary Wilcocks Waln. Imitating ancient Greek and Roman furniture, sumptuously painted, gilded and upholstered in the latest style of the time. Designed in 1808 by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and made by John Aitken.

Furniture, part of a lavishly ornamented suite made in Philadelphia for the house of merchant William Waln and his wife, Mary Wilcocks Waln. Imitating ancient Greek and Roman furniture, sumptuously painted, gilded and upholstered in the latest style of the time. Designed in 1808 by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and made by John Aitken.

Secretary Bookcase, 1827. Mahogany, mahogany veneer, stained burl ash, white pine cedrela, red cedar, yellow poplar, dark wood stringing, brass, gilt decoration; glass doors and pulls; brass lock. Made in Philadelphia by Anthony G. Quervelle.

The Clinic of Dr. Agnew, 1889. Oil on canvas, by Philadelphia’s very own, Thomas Eakins.

The Japanese Aesthetic was introduced to Americans following Japan’s opening to international trade in 1854. Favouring asymmetry, flat patterns and unfamiliar materials and colour harmonies, it presented a refreshing alternative to that of the West. Here, the reflection of Eakins’ Clinic of Dr. Agnew is a harmonious bridge connecting the two aesthetics.

The Concert Signer, 1890-92. Oil on canvas by Thomas Eakins. Determined to suggest the sound of her voice and the emotions it invoked, Eakins asked his friend, soprano Weda Cook, to pose for hours while repeatedly singing the same few notes from ”O Rest in the Lord” by Felix Mendelssohn. Upon the painting’s completion, Eakins had these notes carved into its fame.

The Annunciation, 1898. Oil on canvas by Henry Ossawa Tanner.

Follette, 1890. Oil on cardboard by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Oh, look!… another Fourteen-Year-Old Little Dancer, by Edgar Degas. If I don’t see one in a major museum, I will begin to worry.

When the room becomes the canvas.

The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) by Marcel Duchamp. A work of art to be looked both at and through, prompts the Museum of Art Handbook – and I made sure to follow the instructions. Duchamp started working on it in 1915 and stopped in 1923 stating that it was ”definitely unfinished”. A few years later, while in transit from an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1926-27, the two panels were shattered. Ten years would pass before Duchamp repaired the glass. Satisfied with the result and appearance of the eerily symmetrical cracks in the upper and lower sections, he declared the work finished!

Marcel Duchamp’s alter ego.

Homage to Juan Gris, 1953-54. A box construction by one of America’s most intriguing artists, Joseph Cornell.

***

I hope you enjoyed this very brief and – admittedly- subjective tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Coming up next, two angry faces.

Philadelphia
February 22nd, 2017

Fragile

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Joseph Cornell
Grand Hotel Bon Port, 1952
Painted wood, paper, photolighographs, glass, coloured pencil, metal hardwarewp20160910_200520

Hoboken, Hudson river, night, mobile camera, reflections
The Whitney, 2016
Behind the glass

September 10th, 2016