First Joseph Stella exhibition to examine artist's portrayal of nature starts today at Norton Museum of Art

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First Joseph Stella exhibition to examine artist's portrayal of nature starts today at Norton Museum of Art
Esther Hasse, (German Born 1966), The Fearless Lola Walking the Lion King, Miami, for Stern, 1999.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.- The Norton Museum of Art is currently conducting two major presentations as part of its diverse line-up of special exhibitions. A Personal View on High Fashion & Street Style: Photographs from the Nicola Erni Collection, 1930s to Now (October 8, 2022 – February 12, 2023) showcases highlights from the Nicola Erni Collection’s unparalleled holdings that trace the origins and development of fashion and street photography, and Joseph Stella: Visionary Nature, starting today (October 15, 2022 – January 15, 2023), is co- organized by the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta and debuting at the Norton, focuses on an underexamined facet of the artist’s career with a display of Stella’s paintings of the natural world.

“The Nicola Erni Collection is a globally-celebrated collection that brings together the divergent worlds of fashion and street photography, exploring glamour and style through the lens of some of the greatest photographers of the last century. The Stella exhibition is the first in-depth exploration into the artist’s fascination with the natural world,” said Ghislain d’Humières, Kenneth C. Griffin Director and CEO of the Norton Museum of Art. “Together, these exhibitions provide insight into major artistic movements of the 20th century, and demonstrate the Norton’s commitment to bringing important, major exhibitions spanning diverse genres to Palm Beach and the region.”

Marking the first time this renowned collection is on view to the public, A Personal View on High Fashion & Street Style: Photographs from the Nicola Erni Collection, 1930s to Now includes nearly 300 works by more than 100 different artists from across the globe. The exhibition demonstrates the rich history of fashion and street photography, showcasing work by the trailblazing photographers whose practices have helped to shape our definition of style and define cultural eras, including leading figures such as Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Helen Levitt, Vivian Maier, Amy Arbus, Ellen von Unwerth, Cindy Sherman, Tommy Ton, Nadine Ijewere, Albert Watson, Esther Haase and others. Organized by guest curators Ira Stehmann and Birgit Filzmaier from the Nicola Erni Collection, with involvement from Erni herself, the exhibition follows the history of fashion photography beginning with its origins in the first half of the 20th century, then looking to the 1950s and 1960s as photographers documented the evolution of fashion from Christian Dior’s famed “New Look” to the revolutionary styles of the youth movement, and finally explores the 1980s and beyond as photographers looked beyond the boundaries of traditional media to capture street style. Additional works examine fashion photography through the lens of its thematic content, demonstrating how artists have used the medium to create images conveying ideas of fantasy, romanticism, and provocation.

Based in Switzerland, Nicola Erni’s extensive photography collection, which she began building as a passion project in the 1990s, started with works from the 1960s and 1970s that depicted the era’s jet set and celebrities from the worlds of art, fashion, film, and music. She later expanded her collection to include fashion and street style photography. Alongside photography, the Nicola Erni Collection is well known for its fine selection of contemporary art with works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Elmgreen & Dragset, Rashid Johnson, Duane Hanson, Beatriz Milhazes, Julian Schnabel, Andy Warhol amongst many others. Over the course of building her collection, she developed personal connections to many of the artists represented in the exhibition; several works on view are unique photographs printed specifically for Nicola Erni.

Joseph Stella: Visionary Nature examines the work of the pioneering American modernist (1877-1946) through a presentation of approximately 90 paintings and works on paper drawn from major American museums and private collections.
Works in the exhibition range from small-scale delicate renderings of botanical subjects in media such as silverpoint, crayon, and charcoal to large-scale complex allegorical and religious oil paintings. Though this bold and innovative artist is recognized primarily for his dynamic Futurist-inspired paintings of New York, Stella used his art to express his powerful spiritual connection to the natural world throughout his career, becoming a prolific creator of lyrical and exuberant depictions of flowers, plants, and birds.

The first major museum exhibition to focus exclusively on his nature-based subjects, Visionary Nature reveals the breadth of Stella’s artistic vision as well as the complexity and spirituality driving these works. The exhibition is accompanied by a 180-page, hard-cover color catalogue that contributes new scholarship on the artist, including multilayered discussions of his stylistic and thematic evolution and inspirations, while also placing him in the context of American and European modernism, with contributions by Ellen Roberts, Harold and Anne Berkley Smith Senior Curator of American Art, Norton Museum of Art; Stephanie Heydt, Margaret and Terry Stent Curator of American Art, High Museum of Art; and Audrey Lewis, Associate Curator, Brandywine River Museum of Art, among others.

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