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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts acquires major Taos School painting
Walter Ufer (1876-1936) On the Rio Grande (Rio Grande November), 1927, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 ins., J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art. VMFA acquired Walter Ufer’s On the Rio Grande (Rio Grande November) during the June 2014 board of trustee meeting.

RICHMOND, VA.- Among the significant acquisitions accepted by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ board of trustees on June 17 are a painting of a Pueblo Indian by a leading member of the Taos Society, an Egyptian mummy portrait mask, a South Asian shield of steel, gold and silver, and a Japanese Noh mask.

Walter Ufer’s vibrant On the Rio Grande marks the first work by a member of the famed Taos Society of Artists to be acquired for VMFA’s collection. As the leading exponents of figurative painting in early 20th-century America, the Taos Society was founded in 1915 and disbanded in 1927, the year this work was painted. Ufer joined the group in 1917, specializing in portraits of Pueblo Indians and vivid landscapes fluidly painted in a high-key palette with impastoed brushwork. On the Rio Grande melds Ufer’s sensitive portrayal of a native figure with a lushly rendered New Mexico setting in all its remarkable colors and textures. The artist, a strong supporter of individual freedoms and a devout Socialist (he was a close friend of Leon Trotsky), was deeply concerned with the plight of the Pueblo Indians and what he viewed as their centuries-long oppression intended to eradicate their racial and cultural identities. This emphasis on native “race pride” gained Ufer a contemporary reputation for work that was considered the most sympathetic collective portrait of Native Americans to date.

Mummy Portrait Mask of a Woman
This wonderfully evocative face is not a true portrait but a generic image of a beautiful, fashionably coifed young woman. The sculpted plaster head has glass eyes and added pigment and was originally attached to a mummy board placed over the deceased. Such masks had been used in Egyptian burials since the First Intermediate Period (ca. 2000 BC), but the hairstyle dates this example to the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117 – 138 AD), when Egypt was part of the Roman Empire. The mask is an important addition to VMFA’s distinguished collection of Egyptian art, which already includes a mummy mask from the Ptolemaic period (323 – 30 BC). This mask soon will be displayed in the museum’s Hellenistic gallery, where it joins other works of art that explore the complex interactions between local traditions (such as burial customs) and Graeco-Roman artistic conventions.

North Indian Koftgari Shield
A mesmerizingly ornate Indian shield enhances the arms and armor holdings of VMFA’s world-class South Asian collection. The shield’s convex blued-steel surface shimmers with filigree-like arabesque patterning inlaid in gold and silver in a technique called koftgari, similar to damascene in the West. Further animating the shield’s face are four gold-inlaid snakes, intertwined in a knotted pattern around hemispherical bosses, and a plaque that combines solar, lunar, and floral motifs. A large and stunning example of the Indo-Persian shield called a dhal, similar to the Western buckler; it was probably produced in the 19th century in northern India’s Punjab region. Before coming to Richmond, it was in Torrisdale Castle, Argyll, Scotland, likely brought there either by its builder Major General Keith MacAlister of the Madras Cavalry, or by its subsequent owner Peter Hall, founding partner of the British India Steam Navigation Company.

Japanese Noh Mask
This Noh mask, known as Chujo, is characterized by realistic facial features, an open mouth, furrowed eyebrows, and a restrained yet powerful expression. Carved from a single piece of wood, the mask is coated with a layer of gesso and painted in ink and color for detail. Noh, a form of performance that developed in the 14th century and became more popular in the 17th century, combined dancing, music, and poetry. On the stage, male actors wearing masks played both male and female roles. All the Noh masks are designated for particular characters. The Chujo mask is believed to be modeled after Ariwara no Narihira (825-880), a well-known poet in the Heian period (794-1185) and a middle-ranking captain, Chujo in Japanese, in the imperial court.

Today's News

July 16, 2014

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Group show at Blain/Southern in London explores ideas of the void and emptiness

Sotheby's to offer dinosaurs, woolly rhinoceros and marine reptile in Paris on September 30

Snowdon gives 130 of his most iconic photographs from his archive to National Portrait Gallery

The Academy announces major gifts from Dolby Laboratories and the Dolby family

Museum of Modern Art appoints Martino Stierli as Chief Curator of Architecture and Design

Christie's London announces Second Annual Out of the Ordinary Sale to be held on 3 September

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The Phillips Collection in Washington introduces a uCurate app for curating on-the-go

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Call for Participation: Daniel Canogar looks for particpants for project in Times Square

Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art acquires Benvenuto Tisi Nativity painting

Forty Over 40 honors Guggenheim Museum's Chief Curator Nancy Spector

Notable galleries to offer important works at Art Southampton this month

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts acquires major Taos School painting

Tsang Kin-Wah selected as Hong Kong's submission for the 56th Venice Biennale

Project EATS to run a farm stand in front of Brooklyn Museum Thursdays

An important painting by Pop-artist Sam Walsh donated to the nation under the Cultural Gifts Scheme

Berry Campbell opens exhibition of paintings by Eric Dever and Jodie Manasevit

NEA selects Wendy Clark as Director of Museums, Visual Arts, and Indemnity

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