A singular Jacobean miniature, a Thomas Hope settee, a large and pristine British watercolor, and a sculpture by acclaimed contemporary Polish artist Monika Sosnowska are among the latest works approved by the Collections Committee of the Cleveland Museum of Art
s Board of Trustees. The museum is continuing to collect across all departments as it moves toward the completion of its transformational building expansion and collection reinstallation in 2013, adding works that strengthen its historic commitment to quality and excellence.
These most recent acquisitions demonstrate the museums dedication to issues like aesthetic quality, artistic vision and cross-collection dialogue, stated C. Griffith Mann, Ph.D, the museums deputy director and chief curator. Objects like the Sosnowska sculpture reflect the museums engagement with emerging artists and signal a heightened interest in contemporary sculpture. Taken together, the Hope settee, watercolor and miniature acquisitions not only deepen our holdings of British art, but also engage other collection areas, like Renaissance and ancient art.
Contemporary steel sculpture highlights artists interest in architectural forms and social commentary
Stairs, by contemporary artist Monika Sosnowska, was created during Sosnowskas residency at Artpace in San Antonio, Texas, in the summer of 2010. As in most of her work, Stairs is not a ready-made (an everyday object selected and designated as art) but an object planned and engineered by the artist. The sculpture is based on the fire escape stairs that distinguish American buildings and was made with the assistance of a company that specializes in custom metal fabrication. Bent beyond use, the misshapen stair hangs on the wall and resembles a graphic drawing. Through interpretation, the object may be seen as a cross or an oversized insect even as it maintains its relationship to its original form.
Monika Sosnowska graduated in 1998 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań. After furthering her education abroad at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam and during residences in Japan and Berlin, she reconnected with peers in Warsaw, a location currently ripe with artistic activity and critical discourse. Sosnowska and her artwork reflect sentiment and ideology prevalent in contemporary Polish society. Given Sosnowskas impulse to connect to her countrys history and socio-political present as well as forms and ideas evident in public architecture, Modernist utopian design attracted her attention. She has become an active interpreter of this style and its present condition, which is often that of a ruin. In the past ten years, her work has been presented in many international exhibitions, such as the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007, and received a survey presentation at the Schaulager, in Basel, Switzerland, in 2008. In May 2010 her work made the cover of Artforum magazine, featured for the artists intervention at the Centre Pompidou in Paris as part of an exhibition on Eastern European art since the 1960s.
The addition of this work expands the museums contemporary art holding in sculpture, an area the museum is exploring for future exhibitions and strengthens the roster of international artists and younger generations whose work represent a significant contribution to the current artistic landscape. Sosnowskas Stairs resonates with the work of other artists in the museums collection, including David Smith, John Chamberlain and Claes Oldenburg.
Madonna and Child in Glory
Unique cabinet miniature by one of the key artistic figures in the Jacobean period.
The cabinet miniature, Madonna and Child in Glory, was painted by Issac Oliver, one of the most significant practitioners of miniature painting in the history of the medium as well as a prominent figure in the Jacobean period. Trained by skillful English miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard, Oliver was a favored painter of the English court. He built his reputation on portraiture, but was also an accomplished draughtsman who executed complex religious, mythological, and allegorical compositions.
Madonna and Child in Glory is a miniature in its original meaning, derived from the Latin miniare, to paint with red lead, a term that described manuscript illumination. In the 1500s, as the printing press overtook handmade manuscripts, miniature painting moved into the realm of small scale portraiture. An artistic trend towards this type of miniature occurred in Jacobean England and was spearheaded by Oliver. These works, significantly rarer than portrait miniatures, became known as cabinet miniatures.
Madonna and Child in Glory demonstrates Olivers complex and refined manner of painting. The object presents a familiar Christian subject, but in an atypical way. The artist places the Virgin and Child in a heavenly setting, and incorporates the medieval iconography of the lactating Virgin with the Salvator Mundi (the savior of the world), early Netherlandish in origin but more commonly seen in Italy by the early 1600s. While the image has visual sources in works by Rubens and Federico Barocci, who were probably known to Oliver through his travels to Italy, the object is iconographically unique and unusual in seventeenth-century Protestant England.
The museum possesses one of the most significant collections of Continental and British miniatures worldwide, remarkable for its quality rather than size, and has consequential miniatures by Elizabethan and Jacobean artists, including Nicholas Hilliard, John Hoskins, and Samuel Cooper. Madonna and Child in Glory by Issac Oliver strengthens the museums holdings of British cabinet miniatures by acquiring a wholly unique object by a major practitioner. The museum also owns an important portrait miniature by Oliver, and two works attributed to his studio and circle.
Notable addition to museums English furniture collection
The newly acquired Settee designed by English Regency designer, Thomas Hope, is an object representing the neoclassical style and was included in the furnishings for his grand Robert Adam-designed residence in Duchess Street, Portland Place, London, around 1802. The house featured themed rooms with suites of furniture designed by Hope to provide a suitable background for his collection of classical and neoclassical statuary and objets d'art. Hopes work in the neoclassical style took its inspiration from various sources including Hopes own travels and early nineteenth-century publications such as V. Denon's Voyage dans la basse et la haute Egypte of 1802.
The settee was likely part of a larger suite of furniture, although only a large arm-chair of identical styling was illustrated in Hope's Household Furniture and Interior Decoration of 1807 (plate XXII), an exceptional publication which established Hope's reputation as an influential designer of great vision. With its completely gilded surface in a manner resembling gilt-bronze and numerous references to classical carved friezes, this settee would have served as an elegant example of authentic Grecian design.
The Hope settee is a magnificent and highly important addition to the museums English furniture collection, which has been a decorative arts collection priority since 2006. The object also indicates antiquitys importance as a source of inspiration and interpretation for artists working in the early nineteenth-century. The piece will be installed in the museums British gallery and will serve as a sightline object leading from the American colonial gallery as well as the continental European neoclassical gallery and will complement the classically themed paintings and portraits found in these spaces.
The Temple of Vesta and the Falls at Tivoli
Luminous watercolor by member of Londons Royal Water Color Society
The Temple of Vesta and the Falls at Tivoli by William Callow is a large watercolor in excellent condition and augments the museums collection of British drawings, a recent area of acquisition focus. In addition, this incandescent and masterfully executed work stands strong next to the museums well-known and prized British watercolors by artists such as John Robert Cozens, John Martin, William Turner of Oxford, and Samuel Palmer.
At the age of seventeen, Callow left England and went to Paris to work as a professional printmaker and, in 1831, he met and began to share a studio with Thomas Shotter Boys. Both artists especially admired the work of the brilliant watercolorist Richard Parkes Bonington. Boningtons sparkling renderings of color, light and shadow were reflected in the work of Boys, Callow and many other artists of the 1830s. In 1834, John Frederick Lewis, one of the greatest British watercolorists came through Paris, saw Callows watercolors and urged him to join the Royal Water Color Society in London. Callow became an associate of the Society, an unusual honor for an artist not based in England, and ultimately returned to England in 1841 settling in London.
The Temple of Vesta and the Falls at Tivoli was shown at the Royal Water Color Society in 1859 and was based on sketches made on the spot when Callow visited Tivoli on his first trip to Italy in 1840. Callow borrowed from Boningtons technique of laying thin washes of brilliant color over graphite under-drawing, exploiting the whiteness of the paper to provide a glittering effect. The addition of this work to the collection expands the museums holdings of British drawings in anticipation of an exhibition featuring new research and acquisitions in this part of the museums collection.