Photographs and Text by John P. Walsh.
FEATURE image: Main Lobby. The Art Institute of Chicago (2014).
The Bunworth harp is inscribed: “made by Iohn Kelly for the Revd Charles Bworth Baltdaniel 1734″. The wire-string harp was made by Catholic instrument maker John Kelly for the Reverend Charles Bunworth, also of Baltdaniel, who was the Protestant rector of Buttevant, County Cork. The many aspects of the instrument—from soundbox, harmonic curve, fore-pillar, tuning pegs, and ornamentation and color— invite interest. Though it may be the female head at the top of the harmonic curve that at first most intrigues. (see – https://harp.fandom.com/wiki/Bunworth_Harp and http://www.earlygaelicharp.info/harpmakers/ – both retrieved October 14, 2021).
Robert Fagan was an Irish painter who was born in London but spent most of his artistic career in Rome and Sicily (Fagan first arrived into Italy in 1781). Though an expatriate, Fagan’s oil on canvas depicts a woman who represents Ireland careessing the strings of the harp, the country’s national instrument and symbol. Seated next to an Irish wolfhound, she holds a scroll that reads: “Ireland Forever” (“Erin go bragh“).
Henry Moore’s 16-foot sculpture was made when the 84-year-old British artist was concerned with the construction of three-dimensional space, internal forms within solid volumes, and placing his work in a natural setting.
Moore had worked primarily in stone but as these formal concerns emerged, he shifted to modeling and bronze casting.
Large Interior Form explores mass and void as well as gravity and growth within a nature-inspired artist-created form.
Swedish sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955) studied in Paris from 1897 to 1904, working in the studio of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Yet Milles departed from the prevailing naturalism that dominated sculpture in the Belle Époque era, and embraced ideas and forms that reflected the artist’s independent spirit, his knowledge and appreciation of classical and Gothic sculpture, and his Nordic roots. Speaking of the fountain, Milles observed: “The great classicists knew that it was impossible to reproduce the appearance of flesh in marble, and they set themselves to create forms of pure beauty that would merely suggest and symbolize the living creature, and then to invest those forms with a meaning that mankind would feel intuitively to be universal and significant. This is what I have tried to do.”
The headdresses at the right and at the left are Gelede headdresses. The headdress in the middle is perhaps a Gelde or Efe headdress. The headdress at the left is made of wood and the oldest of the headdresses. It was made in Nigeria or Benin by the Yoruba community in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.
Gelede headdresses often portray women. The headdresses in the center and at right depict women. One is wearing a head tie and the other is showing a woman with a plaited hairstyle. These were made in Nigeria by the Yoruba community in the early 20th century.
The Gelede festival of the Yoruba community in western Africa is a public spectacle which uses colorful masks that combines art and ritual dance to educate, entertain and inspire worship. Gelede includes the celebration of “Mothers,” a grouping that includes female ancestors and deities as well as the elderly women of the community whose power and spiritual capacity in society is convoked. The Efe is a nighttime public performance held the day before the Gelede.
The artist, born in Sweden, moved with his family to Toledo, Ohio, as a child. Lungren wanted to be an artist but his father objected, wanting him to be a mining engineer. For a brief time, in 1874, Lungren attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to study his father’s preferred subject. But after two years, Lungren’s father still opposed to his being an artist, the younger Lungren rebelled and prevailed. In 1876 he was able to study under Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) at the Pennsylvania Academy in Philadelphia. In winter 1877 the 20-year-old Lungren moved to New York City. With his first illustration published in 1879, he worked as an illustrator for Scribner’s Monthly (renamed Century in 1881) as well as for Nicholas (a children’s magazine) and as a contributor until 1903. He later worked for Harper’s Bazaar, McCLure’s and The Outlook. Lungren’s illustrations included portraits, and social and street scenes.
In 1882 Lungren traveled to Paris via Antwerp. In a brief stay in Paris he studied informally at the Académie Julian, and viewed French Impressionist artworks. Lungren returned to New York City in 1883 and, soon afterwards, established a studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1892 he visited Santa Fe, New Mexico for the first time and, in the following years painted artworks inspired by his contact with American Indian culture and the desert landscape. In 1899 he showed these American desert works at the American Art Galleries in New York and afterwards at the Royal Academy in London and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
When Lungren was in London he made pictures of street life and met several artists, including James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). In late 1900 Lungren traveled to Egypt and returned to New York via London in the next year. Lungren had married Henrietta Whipple in 1898 and they moved to California in 1903, settling in Santa Barbara in 1906. Lungren lived and work in California—including several notable trips to Death Valley—until his death in 1932. Most of Lungren’s artwork, including hundreds of his paintings, were bestowed to what is today the University of California, Santa Barbara.
SOURCE: J.A. Berger, Fernand Lungren: A Biography, Santa Barbara, 1936.
Acquired by the museum in 1966, photographs show that the statue stood in an open location by a garden pool at the museum. In 1991 following a whirlwind of euphoria associated with the successful completion of Operation Desert Storm, a victory celebration at the Mall in June of that year involved hovering military jets and helicopters. Their downdraft sent gravel footpath debris flying in the air that scratched and cracked several statues in the sculpture garden. Though none appeared to sustain damage beyond some repair, the Nymph—Central Figure for the Three Graces suffered the most damage as the nude female statue had pitted indentations on her backside. In 2010 when this photograph was taken, the sculpture was located in front of a protective garden wall. See- https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1991-06-12-1991163158-story.html
Aristide Maillol’s Nymph at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in June 1975. Fair Use.
The Safety Patrol considers the potential of a group of children as future caretakers of the world led by a boy in a sash with outstretched arms whose duty it is to protect the others.
Bisa Butler uses the technique of appliqué quiltmaking to create her work. For the figures, the artist cuts, layers, and pins together fabrics and arranges them on the ground fabric. This comprises the quilt top. Between this quilt top and a backing fabric is a layer of fiber “batting” or stuffing. These layers are stitched to form the quilt with the thread lines part of the structure, texture and details of the image. Butler seeks to use fabric colors and patterns to contribute to the quilt’s subject and narrative.
When Oskar Kokoschka (Austrian, 1886-1980) painted Lady In Red in the Milwaukee Art Museum he was a starving artist living in Berlin. At 24 years old Kokoschka became associated with Berlin’s avant-garde and its writers, artists, and theatre actors. The artist knew some of the artists and others of Die Brücke and those associated with Der Sturm, the art and literary magazine. But Kokoschka’s involvement with the German Expressionists was limited as the young artist was dedicated to pursuing his own artistic ideas and forms. Commenting on this independence, Kokoschka wrote that he was “not going to submit…to anyone else’s control. That is freedom as I understand it.” (Oskar Kokoschka, My Life, translated from the German by David Britt, New York, Macmillan, 1974, p. 67). As Kokoschka developed the art of “seeing,” with his emphasis on depth perception, the local press saw young Kokoschka’s volatile unpredictability and called him “the wildest beast of all.”
Though Kokoschka studied art of the past masters to develop a unique individual style, he and Die Brücke did interact on ideas and formal problems which generated an artistic atmosphere in Berlin and Vienna. In 1912, Kokoschka started a disastrous affair with Alma Mahler (1879-1964), the widow of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). Its ending led to Kokoschka volunteering for the front lines in World War I and being seriously wounded in Russia in 1915.
The Expressionists’ emotional involvement with world events affected each of their creative processes. In these experiences of personal and social upheaval, Kokoschka maintained that as an artist – and he viewed this role as an existential fact more than a choice – his life had less to do with often prefabricated ideologies, programs, and parties and, rather, with searching and crafting his unique outlook as a creative individual. “There is no such thing as a German, French, or Anglo-American Expressionism!” Kokoschka would argue, “There are only young people trying to find their bearings in the world.” (Kokoschka, My Life, p. 37).
Kokoschka’s individualism made him one of the supreme masters of Expressionism, an -ism he defied. His tempestuous canvases with harsh colors and disjointed angles produced compositions that were emotionally aggressive and meant to prod the viewer into discomfort and rage. As Kokoschka eschewed the main modernist movement of Expressionism for the discovery and practice of his own unique style, he became one of the few major artists (Max Beckmann is another) who will often not appear in the annals of mainstream 20th century modernism, though this exclusive outcome is likely what would satisfy “the wildest beast of all.”
St Patrick’s Hall had long been a key location for Ireland’s political, military and social elite to gather (B. Rooney, Creating History, Stories of Ireland in Art, 2016, p.179). These dance proceedings are overseen by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and his wife visible at the end of the hall.
The 1840s was a period of fashion indulgence. The social ball with attendees in sumptuous costume took place during the period of the Irish famine (1845-1849) where approximately one million people died. Another one million or more emigrated out of the country at the same time, many to the United States.
Court dress for gentleman allowed personal expression in fabric and style for the waistcoat. Military officers and political office holders wore court uniforms indicating their position and rank. For ladies, to signal their marital situation, unmarried women wore jewelry and fresh flowers in their hair. Conventionally-minded single ladies added two ostrich feathers behind one ear. Matrons sported a third ostrich feather in their hair and wore lace ribbons.
African Chief in The Art Institute of Chicago was recently exhibited in a 2017-2018 monographic retrospective at the Prado in Madrid. The show, simply entitled “Fortuny (1838-1874),” reflected the Prado’s holdings of many of this artist’s masterpieces. The Prado’s collection is due to their own acquisitions but mainly the generous bequests of the artist’s oils, watercolors, and drawings by late 19th century Mexican collector Ramón de Errazu (1840-1904) as well as the painter’s son, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo.
Fortuny’s artwork is often Orientalist in style that reflects the many trips he made to North Africa. In his career, Fortuny was noted for his precision of anatomy and archaeological scrupulousness though African Chief tends to the modern broken brush style for which the Spanish artist was prescient following his many trips to Paris.
Pompeo Batoni was a leading 18th-century Roman painter. The artist was known for his portraits and commissioned large format historical and religious paintings. The painting entitled “Allegory of Peace and War” represented the mythological figure of the god Mars being restrained by a semi-nude embodiment of peace. Peace lays her hand on War’s sword and bears to him an olive branch.
The painting was the result of Batoni’s own invention – no one commissioned this artwork – and it stayed in the artist’s studio until at least the early 1780s.
Statue of Aphrodite, called Venus de Milo because it was found on the Greek Island of Milos in the Aegean Sea. It dates from around 150 B.C. In the Louvre in Paris, the Venus de Milo is one of the most famous statues in the world. Its soft, sensual handling of the marble was characteristic of the late Hellenistic period. She is monumental – the topless, armless Venus de Milo stands, independent of her base and pedestal, six feet five inches in height.
In the course of the second half of the 19th century, the Venus de Milo became a favorite statue of Parisians and its visitors. It was around 1875 that it was moved away from the wall which it stood against and placed in the middle of a 17th century room so that it could be viewed completely around. It was accorded this baroque effect first used at Versailles at the start of the 18th century so to isolate monumental sculpture for display to produce maximum impact and enjoyment of the artwork.
Statue of Winged Victory, called the Victory or Nike of Samothrace, is from an island in the Thracian Sea and dated to around 200 BCE. Carved from marble, it occupies today a commanding perch on the landing of a staircase in the Louvre in Paris.
In ancient times the Winged Victory was set up looking out over the sea to commemorate a naval victory. In its draperies and wings, the headless and armless female figure became a favorite in Paris starting around 1875.
Masterpieces of the Louvre, Marcel Brion, NY: Abrams.
Creators Collectors and Connoisseurs, Niels Von Holst, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.