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Two Major Donations to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Thomas Sully, "Mrs. FitzGerald and her Daughter Matilda".

NEW ORLEANS, LA.- The Ogden Museum of Southern Art has recently received two major donations to its Permanent Collection: Artist David G. Spielman donated photographs from his “Southern Writers” series and local collectors Dr. Jerry and Carolyn Fortino donated paintings by Thomas Sully.

David G. Spielman and “Southern Writers”
Over a period of 210 days in 1997, artist David G. Spielman photographed 72 Southern authors, documenting these literary legends in their environs. The book, “Southern Writers: Photographs by David G. Spielman” (University of South Carolina Press) and the complementary exhibition in April 2007 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art showcased this unique project.

On Dec. 17, 2009, Spielman donated 34 images that were in the Ogden exhibition to the Museum in honor of J. Richard Gruber, who retired as Director of the Museum in November 2009. Gruber now holds the title of Director Emeritus.

"We are thrilled that David Spielman has donated these photographs,” says Ogden Board Chair Julia Reed. “These writers have played an enormous role in the culture of the South, and David has captured each of them so memorably. This gift is a hugely important addition to our collection."

Speilman shoots with Leica cameras. Not wanting to intimidate or make the subject uncomfortable, he works quickly as he tries to capture the spirit of the encounter without spoiling it. Too much equipment or over-production will destroy the session. “It is a visual conversation between the photographer and the writer,” says Spielman. He also processes and prints his work. These photographs are Selinium-toned silver gelatin prints.

Spielman says the idea was to create a body of work that showed the writers in the environment in which they worked, giving viewers an insight into each writer’s creative process. He also wanted the photographs to act as a document, placing writers in context of a certain period in their and their fellow writers’ lives. “I wanted to show, for example, this is what Richard Ford and Eudora Welty looked like at that time. To compare the difference in age and relationship,” say Spielman. Spielman’s photographs include authors Eudora Welty, Richard Ford, Ernest J. Gaines, Pat Conroy, James Lee Burke and Shirey Ann Grau.

“English is almost finite language. If I could take a dictionary, shake out all the words on the floor and tried to put together a story, I couldn’t,” says Spielman. “Yet a writer takes those very same words that are available to you and me, then strings them together and creates magic, taking us wherever they choose. That is real power and very inspirational.”

“This suite of photographs documents a moment in time, specifically the generational relationships between three generations of Southern writers,” says David Houston, Ogden Museum Co-Director and Chief Curator. “Captured in their worlds, they offer a glimpse into the often hidden life of the writer.”
Thomas Sully donation by Dr. James and Carolyn Fortino
Like most dedicated New Orleans collectors, Dr. James (Jerry) and Carolyn Fortino clearly have an enthusiasm for the art and artists they collect. In 2008, the Fortinos donated to the Ogden Museum’s Permanent Collection three Clementine Hunter (1886-1988) paintings. In December 2009, the Fortinos donated to the Museum’s Permanent Collection two paintings by Thomas Sully (1783-1872). These works are welcome additions to the Thomas Sully painting, Portrait of Mrs. James Robb and Her Three Children (1844), which is part of the Roger Houston Ogden Collection.

Portrait of a Young Woman (Mrs. FitzGerald) is an unfinished oil study of Col. Thomas Fitzgerald's wife painted in 1855. It was acquired by the Fortinos from Christie’s East, New York in 1997. Mrs. FitzGerald and her Daughter Mathilda is a fully finished painting. The date of completion is unknown, but it is known that it was shown in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art’s Annual Exhibition in 1862. The painting was acquired by the Fortinos from Sotheby's New York in 1999. Mrs. FitzGerald and her Daughter Mathilda was previously owned by Riter FitzGerald and eventually the sitter's great-granddaughter before going up for auction.

During his lifetime, Thomas Sully was one of the most prominent portrait painters in the United States. Born 1783 in England to the actors Matthew and Sarah Sully, Sully emigrated to Richmond, Va., in 1792. Two years later, the family moved to Charleston, S.C. At the age of 12, he began studies with his brother-in-law Jean Belzons, a French miniaturist. Sully returned to Richmond in 1799 to study painting under his brother, Lawrence Sully, then began a professional career as a portrait painter in 1801 at the age of 18. In 1806 he moved to Philadelphia, where he spent the remainder of his life. His portraits included Marquis de Lafayette, James Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Queen Victoria, considered the highlight of his career and painted in London at the request of the St. George Society in 1837-1838. Thomas Sully, the painter, was the great-uncle of the New Orleans based architect, also named Thomas Sully.

The two paintings by Sully were originally commissioned by Col. Thomas FitzGerald (1819-1891) of Philadelphia. Col. FitzGerald was an acclaimed journalist, orator, art critic, and philanthropist.

“I thought they belonged together,” says Dr. Fortino, about why he reunited the two paintings.

Says Ogden Co-Director and Chief Curator David Houston, “This donation follows last year’s donation of an unique pair of Clementine Hunter paintings by the Fortinos. The range of the Fortinos collecting—ranging from a major 19th-century painter like Sully to the self-taught artist Clementine Hunter reflects the diversity of the South and the important additions to the Ogden Collection.”

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