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"Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century" on view at the Yale Center for British Art
Mrs. James Armand de Rothschild's "Ostrich Feather Fan" (1912-13) is shown in this undated handout photo taken on Jan. 10, 2013. It required numerous artisans and chemical cleanings. It includes silver, diamonds and hundreds of rare blond tortoiseshell. Source: Waddesdon/The Rothschild Collection (Rothschild Family Trust)/Yale Center for British Art via Bloomberg.

By: Lance Esplund

NEW HAVEN (BLOOMBERG).- Edwardian opulence was epitomized by a luxurious ostrich-feather fan presented to Mrs. James de Rothschild on her 1913 marriage into the banking dynasty.

To transform dung-spattered gray plumage into a fluffy, white objet d’art required numerous artisans in Jewish sweatshops, baths of acid, bleach and ammonia, plus diamonds, precious metal and hundreds of rare blond tortoise shells.

“Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century” provides a lot of ostrich feathers, diamond jewelry and electrical marvels, including tulip-shaped lamps, phonograph recordings and jewel-encrusted servant bell pushes from Buckingham Palace -- crafted by Peter Carl Faberge.

Don’t miss the film of little Prince Olav, looking like a present-day Shriner, driving the world’s tiniest car -- made by Cadillac -- through the streets of Oslo.

Extravagance, innovation and hubris permeate this enlightening exhibition at the redoubtable Yale Center for British Art.

Famous figures and lavish objects teeter on the precipice of time.

We encounter flamboyant life-size portraits by Charles Wellington Furse, John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, who painted his colleague James Abbott McNeill Whistler. There are also sculptures, furniture and decorative arts.

Downton Abbey
According to the curators, the success of “Downton Abbey” is partly responsible for renewed interest in that period’s decadence, but I’m not sure we ever stopped being fascinated by the age that went down with the Titanic.

An Edwardian immersion, the two-floor show should satisfy most anglophiles. For some, its “Masterpiece Theater” undertones could become cloying, especially in galleries overrun by willowy maidens, Arthurian pageantry, bejeweled duchesses and high- collared industrialists.

Yet throughout the exhibition, the era is presented as a period of transition. There are portals to the past in the gorgeous photographs Frederick Henry Evans took of cathedral doors, stairways and tympana.

But strong modernist works by Rodin, Duncan Grant, Augustus John, J.D. Innes, William Nicholson and Walter Richard Sickert, like battering rams, push forward.

‘Societe Anonyme’
Just across the street is the renovated and expanded Yale University Art Gallery.

Four floors of railroad galleries connect three buildings of disparate styles and move you almost seamlessly through an encyclopedic history of art.

Duncan Hazard and Richard Olcott of Ennead Architects united the 1953 Louis I. Kahn Building, the 1928 Old Yale Art Gallery and Street Hall (1866) in the $135 million project.

It is absolutely stunning -- a triumph of curatorial taste and architectural savvy. Everything is close without crowding.

Roman busts linger, as if on leave, in a Neo-Gothic setting, and African gods stand like messengers welcoming Picasso’s Cubism.

Memories of Frans Hals reawaken in portraits by Alberto Giacometti, and Fra Angelico’s candy-colored angels sing in chorus with Mark Rothko’s shivering red lozenges and Vincent van Gogh’s heightened yellows in “The Night Cafe.”

The current show, “Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America” is a treasure-trove of early modern art belonging to Yale. Formed in 1920 in New York City by Katherine S. Dreier, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, the society was actually America’s first experimental museum for contemporary art and Dada pranks.

Tightly packed, the exhibition includes masterworks by Jean Arp, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Fernand Leger.

Piet Mondrian’s heart-stopping “Fox Trot A,” a white diamond divided by three black lines of various weights, is itself worth a pilgrimage to New Haven.

“The Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America” runs through July 14 at the Yale University Art Gallery.

Today's News

March 12, 2013

2,600 years of world history in one iconic object: The Cyrus Cylinder makes its US debut

An exciting discovery at the Bowes Museum: Painting revealed as authentic work by van Dyck

Sotheby's to sell beach scene by Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla, to be offered at auction for the first time

Drawings Week at Christie's: Old Master and Modern drawings sale announced

Frick presents a selection of 19th century French drawings and prints from the Clark Art Institute

Lights, camera, action: Julien's Auctions announces 2013 Hollywood legends auction

Personal property of Marlon Brando highlights Hollywood memorabilia at Heritage Auctions

Manet, Canaletto and Rembrandt paintings to tour the United Kingdom between 2014 and 2016

Artists mobilizing to help restore the only monumental outdoor work by Keith Haring in France

Jim and Lauris Phillips Collection in spotlight at Bonhams June Native American Art Auction

"Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century" on view at the Yale Center for British Art

Museum of Arts and Design explores the post-millennial museum through installations, digital initiatives

1935 Duesenberg Convertible Coupe sells for incredible $4.51 million and records tumble at RM sale

New Museum expands Board leadership and announces new Trustees

Exhibition of new works by Marie-Michelle Deschamps and Ditte Gantriis at David Dale Galle

Tate Britain Commission 2013: Simon Starling Phantom Ride

American-born, Berlin-based artist Dorothy Iannone exhibits at Camden Arts Centre

VOLTA NY: Ushering in record-shattering attendance and a triumphant SoHo debut

Colorful jewels from Bulgari, Winston and others make a statement at Bonhams New York

Los Angeles artist John O'Brien's "Meander" opens at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Porsche Super Speedster offered for first time in 50 years at RM Sotheby's Porsche 70th Anniversary Auction

2.- Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens opens 'Storytelling: French Art from the Horvitz Collection'

3.- Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti stars Vincent Cassel as the famed French artist

4.- Stunning colored diamonds expected to dazzle at Heritage Auctions' Summer Fine Jewelry Auction

5.- US designer Kate Spade found dead at 55

6.- Vincent Van Gogh painting sells for over 7 million euros: Artcurial auction house

7.- Sir Stanley Spencer painting discovered hidden under a bed during a drugs raid

8.- Oxford's Bodleian Libraries unveil UK's first major Tolkien exhibition in decades

9.- Major exhibition at the Guggenheim explores decades of work by Alberto Giacometti

10.- World's largest freshwater pearl goes for 320,000 euros

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