The Cleveland Museum of Art
(CMA) announced acquisitions approved by the Collections Committee of the Board of Trustees at its March meeting. Of these works added to the collection by gift or purchase, the following are especially noteworthy.
One and Three Photographs [Ety.] by Joseph Kosuth, represents a crucial moment in the development of Conceptual Art
Joseph Kosuth (American, b. 1945) was one of the first artists of his generation to forge a new approach to art-making. His approach represented a decisive break with previous traditions and exercised an enormous influence on the subsequent development of contemporary art. Among the earliest of Kosuths works, One and Three Photographs [Ety.] (1965) belongs to the One and Three series, in which the artist presented together an object, a photographic image of the object, and its verbal definition. One and Three Photographs [Ety.] stands out within this series because it makes photography the subject of this inquiry and because the term used to verbally represent the photograph is photic, which means of or related to light. A leading figure in the movement known as conceptualism, Kosuth sought to give the idea of a work of art and how it could be presented (in language or in reproduction) a status that was equivalent in value to its realization in material form. His method also challenged the viewer to consider the complex relationship between these different modes of representation.
Hughie Lee-Smiths Untitled (Rooftop View), a masterpiece from an important period of this famed African-American artists career
Hughie Lee-Smiths (American, 1915-1999) signature works feature isolated and often solitary figures amid desolate cityscapes and landscapes. The paintings he created in the mid- and late 1950s tend to be his most meticulously executed and iconographically memorable. Untitled (Rooftop View) (oil on Masonite, 1957) is a masterpiece from this important period.
Untitled (Rooftop View) depicts a young African-American man who stands on the roof of a decaying brick building and turns his head to look back into a distance left enigmatically invisible to the viewer. The wistful and brooding nature of the composition, which conveys a feeling of profound melancholy and disquiet, shows Lee-Smith at his most evocative and clearly manifests his aesthetic aim to to get at something invisible and almost impossible to express.
Lee-Smith is the best-known alumnus of the studio art program at Karamu House and a distinguished graduate of the Cleveland School of Art (now Cleveland Institute of Art). His works are held in private and public collections, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A major monograph on the artist is scheduled to be published next year.
The Casting by Omer Fast, first video projection to enter CMA collection
The Casting (four-channel video installation, color, sound; 14 minutes; 2007), a highly acclaimed work by the Israeli artist Omer Fast (b. 1972), is among the most important works in the relatively new medium of video to enter the museums collection.
The Casting narrates real events experienced by a U.S. Army sergeant stationed in Iraq, who accidentally killed an innocent man. The video begins with an interview of the sergeant and includes reenactments of this and other events in his life as a soldier. Actors form silent tableaux vivants, while the artist is the interviewer and an actor personifies the soldier. The soldier's stories are interspersed with the representation of the artist's audition process for this work. It is only well into the video that viewers realize that this is a staged interview rather than a conversation with the actual sergeant.
Fast's works are noteworthy for their complex blending of fact and fiction, a methodology that enables the artist to comment on how history is created in a layered way by the telling (and re-telling) of stories in different contexts for different reasons.
The Siege of La Rochelle by Jacques Callot, a superb cartographic rendering of a famous battle between France and England in the early 17th century
Commissioned by King Louis XIII of France, Jacques Callots The Siege of La Rochelle (six etchings with 10 surrounding borders, 1628-30) is a brilliantly choreographed summary of the year-long siege of this important French port by the English and their eventual defeat. Callots (French, 1592-1635) brilliant composition blends many separate battles and activities into one comprehensive image. No cartographic renderings of military campaigns, before or since, have achieved the superb illusionism and narrative authority of The Siege of La Rochelle.
Callot executed the six plates that make up the central scene while his assistants, notably Israël Henriet, Abraham Bosse, and Michael Lasne, made the ten border plates. The latter consist of legends identifying various military and naval encounters shown within the map, portraits of the king and his brother, and four scenes in cartouches, including Louis XIIIs victorious entry into the city. Myriad details depict life at the time from laundresses laying out clothes to dry along the shore to cattle being transported, slaughtered and roasted to feed the troops.
The Siege at La Rochelle joins the museums other fine impressions of Callots most important prints, including The Fair at Impruneta, The Stag Hunt, The Temptation of St. Anthony and The Beggars.
Samuel Palmers The Golden Hour best example of his late work to appear on the market in many years
Samuel Palmer (British, 1805-1881) was a key figure of English Romanticism. His art was devoted to the portrayal of the natural world and in his watercolors he sought to preserve and celebrate nature as the product of divine creation. In 1861, devastated by the death of his favorite child, Palmer secluded himself and moved to a cottage outside of London. Such isolation nurtured his creativity, producing a more mature version of the visionary intensity of his youth. The Golden Hour (1865), a masterwork from this late period, is an exceptional work in terms of composition, intensity of mood, quality of execution and condition.
His goals of being true to nature and offering a highly personal vision of an idealized world are simultaneously realized in this drawing. The subject of a figure crossing a stone bridge toward a cottage with cows drinking from a stream in the foreground is highly worked in multiple layers of watercolor, gouache, pencil and charcoal. The drawing is complex, sensitive and wonderfully preserved; its colors astonishingly fresh. The Golden Hour is the best example of Palmers late work to appear on the market in many years and makes a strong and notable acquisition to CMAs collection.
Stirn gift enhances CMAs world-class collection of European decorative arts
A gift of 55 objets de vertu by Howard and Cara Stirn will transform the museums holdings of European decorative arts, represent the culmination of many years of collecting by the Stirns and embody several years of cultivation and analysis by the Cleveland Museum of Art.
This collection includes gold boxes, necessaries, perfume or scent bottles, writing implements, cigarette cases, and other objects composed of gold and various metals, precious and semi-precious stones crafted during the 18th through early 20th centuries.
The Stirn Collection adds the important dimension of precious and semi-precious hardstones, which are currently under-represented in the CMAs collection. The craftsmanship and materials of the objects are of the finest of their type and includes rare examples by makers not currently represented in the CMA collection. In addition, the works by the House of Fabergé in the Stirn Collection add depth both to the group of animal figures and smoking accessories, enhancing CMAs world-class collection of the works from Fabergés workshop.
Seventy-five, 19th century French works bequeathed by Muriel Butkin is the largest gift of drawings to the museum
Seventy-four drawings and one print from Muriel Butkins collection of more than 450 nineteenthcentury French sheets entered the collection in March. In her trust, Muriel named the museum as the recipient of her highly personal collection of drawings. Largely, academic sheets, Muriels collection is the largest gift of drawings to the museum.
The group includes carefully wrought sheets by artists such as François Boucher, Rosa Bonheur, and Jean-François Millet as well as working drawings by Ann-Louis Girodet, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt and Auguste Rodin. The remaining 300 drawings will be reviewed, catalogued and added to the collection during 2009-2010. Generous gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Butkins extraordinary collection of French drawings and paintings have, over a period of more than 30 years, shaped the overall character of French art at CMA and have enriched the collection immeasurably.