C. Griffith Mann Chief Curator
While 2009 will be remembered for the opening of the museum’s new east wing, the year also was marked by notable acquisitions across four millennia of the history of art. The market often dictates what kinds of works of art are available for acquisition in any given year. However, in their search for appropriate additions to the collection, our curators are guided by their understanding of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s legacy as one of the country’s foremost collecting institutions. Over the course of its history, the museum has always favored quality over quantity, privileging the singular object over a broad, typological coverage in any given field. As a result, the CMA has defined itself as an institution that offers a selective survey of art history, where visitors come face-to-face with works of the highest aesthetic quality and historical significance. Conceived from its inception as a resource for the entire community and committed to maintaining free admission to its permanent collections, the museum allows visitors to explore both the art of their time and the cultural achievements of distant times and places. An overview of the works acquired over the past year offers a compelling reminder of the collection’s defining strengths.
Works of art enter the collection through many different avenues. Sources for acquisitions made in 2009 included auction houses, dealers, and gifts from private collectors. In proposing suitable acquisitions, curators draw on their scholarly expertise and knowledge of private collections and the market. They work closely with the museum’s director and chief curator to assess how a particular work matches the collecting priorities outlined for each part of the collection. The museum’s library and conservation staff are often enlisted to assist with research, which might include art historical study, summaries of auction records, and technical analysis conducted on selected objects to help evaluate authenticity and condition. Collections management staff arrange for the shipment of potential acquisitions to the museum for firsthand examination.
As a slate of proposed acquisitions is assembled, curators present the fruits of their efforts to their colleagues. These “pre-accession” meetings, held four times throughout the year, offer the opportunity to examine the full range of works under consideration and to weigh the merits of each object. When a short list of pending acquisitions has been developed, curators make formal presentations to the accessions advisory and collections committees. Composed of standing members of the board of trustees and assisted by feedback from members of the accessions advisory committee, the collections committee oversees the final stage of the acquisition process, when a formal vote to purchase brings a work of art into the collection. The acquisitions process, by its very nature, is a mixture of chance, opportunity, planning, and review. At the end of the day, the process is designed to ensure that the museum brings the best of what’s available on the market to Cleveland, where works of art can inspire audiences, create platforms for exhibitions, promote new research, and bring fresh perspectives on the museum’s core asset, its collection.
The types of works that enter the museum’s collection in any given year may differ considerably. In 2009, areas of the collection encompassed by the east wing were especially active, as new acquisitions were integrated into the galleries in anticipation of the wing’s opening. Prints and photographs always constitute a steady undercurrent in the stream of annual acquisitions, because these light-sensitive works require collections that are deep enough for periodic rotation—especially now that they have dedicated display spaces within the museum. (The photography galleries opened in June 2009, and the prints and drawings galleries will open this June.) The renovation and expansion project also offered specific opportunities for development of the museum’s modern and contemporary holdings. A systematic review revealed both strengths and weaknesses in portions of the collection, and the museum sought key objects to fill agreed-on needs.
Paola Morsiani, curator of contemporary art, made several notable acquisitions, including Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Photographs [Ety.] (1965), featured above. This work strengthens the museum’s collection in a crucial moment in the 1960s, when artists engaged both conceptual art and language-based artistic production. The acquisition also has a special resonance for Cleveland, as Kosuth conceived his “One and Three” series just after leaving the Cleveland Institute of Art for New York. Omer Fast’s video installation, The Casting (2007), marked the addition of the museum’s first major piece of video art, and opened a new collecting direction for contemporary art. The Casting, to be installed this summer, seamlessly blurs facts and imagination in a series of four related projections that narrate the story of a U.S. army sergeant who accidentally killed an innocent man while stationed in Iraq.
The Casting 2007. Omer Fast (Isreali, b. 1972). Four-channel video installation, color, sound; 14 minutes; edition 4/6 (Commissioned by the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien). Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2009.8.1-4
The museum’s holdings of contemporary sculpture expanded with the addition of Liza Lou’s Continuous Mile (Black) (2006–08), a mile-long rope made with threaded beads and stuffed with cotton, which the artist stacked to create a shimmering, self-supporting cylinder. Purchased with the assistance of a generous contribution from Scott and Meg Mueller, Continuous Mile also adds to the museum’s evolving holdings of art produced at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, and serves as a central focus of the museum’s contemporary art installation. A more recent addition to the collection is part of a new body of work produced by the Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco, whose sculptures and installations have marked a change from the pop-influenced, high-end production artworks of the 1980s in both Europe and the United States. Orozco’s Mapa estelar en árbol (2009) was created from a fallen mango tree found in the state of Morelos, in the south of Mexico, where remnants of century-old mango trees are used by indigenous inhabitants for cooking and heating.
Secret Butterfly Heaven 2008. Tam Van Tran (American, b. 1966). Acrylic, staples, color pencil on canvas and paper, 253.9 x 233.6 x 129.5 cm. Gift of the Contemporary Art Society and Sundry Art-Contemporary Fund 2009.17
Alice Neel’s Jackie Curtis and Ritta Redd (1970), acquired at auction in New York, is an especially welcome addition to the collection. On loan to the museum from a private collection in northeast Ohio, this painting offered visitors to the inaugural installation of the contemporary galleries a glimpse of the complex interconnections among styles and ideas during the fertile decades of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. When the owners decided to sell the work at auction, the museum organized an aggressive bid in order to ensure that it would remain in Cleveland for future generations of visitors. Now part of the museum’s collection, Neel’s painting offers a significant parallel to Andy Warhol’s Marilyn x 100 (1962), resonates strongly with earlier figurative works and portraiture represented in the collection, and further strengthens the representation of work by women artists at a seminal moment in American art. Finally, the Contemporary Art Society generously supported the purchase of two works by emerging artists: Tam Van Tran’s Secret Butterfly Heaven (2008) and Tsumi Tse’s Mistelpartition (2008), a video projection that assumed a key place in the east wing presentation of the art of our time.
Mistelpartition 2006. Tsumi Tse (Luxembourg, b. 1973). Video projection, high definition with sound, 6 minutes 49 seconds, looped musical score: Cello Concerto #1 in E Flat Major by Dimitri Shostakovich. Gift of the Contemporary Art Society of the Cleveland Museum of Art in memory of Rosalie Cohen 2009.10
Having identified Surrealist work as a collecting priority prior to the reinstallation, William Robinson, curator of modern European painting and sculpture, orchestrated the purchase of Yves Tanguy’s remarkable 1928 canvas Title Unknown. The acquisition of this painting, the first work by Tanguy to enter the collection, greatly strengthens the museum’s group of Surrealist works and anchors the galleries devoted to this movement. Inspired by the new science of psychoanalysis and its ambition of exploring the irrational world of the subconscious mind, Tanguy began painting his iconic dreamscapes in 1926. This composition depicts a series of mysterious forms floating in a dark, dreamlike landscape, providing the collection with a paradigmatic statement of the Surrealist movement at its height. Gifts also provided notable additions to the collection and were integrated into the displays of European painting in the final run-up to the east wing opening. A standout is Gustave Caillebotte’s Portrait of a Man (1880), part of the bequest of Mrs. Muriel Butkin, a longtime supporter and friend of the museum. Caillebotte, an original member of the Impressionist group, was one of the few major Impressionist painters not previously represented in the collection. The painting’s subject, a man seated at a window looking out, has a fascinating resonance with Claude Monet’s The Red Kerchief (1867–78), which features a woman passing outside a set of glass doors, looking in.
Untitled (Rooftop View) 1957 Hughie Lee-Smith (American, 1915–1999). Oil on masonite. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2009.7
Among the spaces in the new east wing is a gallery devoted to works by Cleveland artists. Mark Cole, associate curator of American art, seized the opportunity to showcase Cleveland’s artistic legacy by successfully winning Hughie Lee-Smith’s Untitled (Rooftop View) (1957) at auction. A masterpiece by the Cleveland School of Art graduate, the painting depicts a young African-American man standing on the roof of a decaying brick building, his head turned to look back into the distance. The composition’s wistful and brooding nature shows Lee-Smith at his most evocative and clearly manifests his aesthetic aim to “to get at something invisible and almost impossible to express.”
Cole also addressed the collection’s long-standing priority to expand the representation of American artists active outside the country’s major artistic centers. Raymond Jonson’s Rock at Sea (1920–22), a highly stylized representation of the coast of Ogunquit, Maine, presented a rare opportunity to acquire a seminal work by an artist who developed his modernist aesthetic in the American Southwest and on the West Coast. Practicing his craft first in Chicago and then in Albuquerque, Jonson is best known for co-founding the Transcendental Painting Group, a consortium based in New Mexico and California that constituted a West Coast correlative to the Abstract American Artists organization in New York. The painting is a visually striking, impressively scaled, and stylistically rich example of early modernism by one of America’s leading avant-garde painters.
Fan c.1900. René Lalique, (French 1860–1945). Mother-of-pearl, gold, silk, 21.5 x 37 x 1.8 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2009.79
In the realm of decorative arts, Stephen Harrison, curator of decorative art and design, used his knowledge of important objects in private collections to pursue the purchase of a remarkable fan by René Lalique that had been identified during the planning stages of the museum’s Artistic Luxury exhibition.In both form and composition, the fan clearly shows Lalique’s devotion to Asian design, particularly motifs taken from the Japanese master illustrator Hokusai, well known in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, and to the innovative use of materials. Choosing to depict butterflies in flight, Lalique exploited the natural iridescence of mother-of-pearl to create a shimmering effect across the surface of the object that enhances the translucent character of the insect’s wings.
Notable gifts included a group of European ceramics from Henry Hawley and jewelry and other objets de vertu from the estate of Muriel Butkin. Howard and Cara Stirn made an extremely generous gift of 55 objets de vertu, including gold boxes (used variously for snuff, pastilles, or powder), necessaires (used for writing or grooming), perfume or scent bottles, writing implements, cigarette cases, and other objects composed of gold, various other metals, and precious and semi-precious stones. This group augments the museum’s fine collection of this material, centered around works produced by the Russian firm of Carl Fabergé. Most of the objects of this type already in the collection were acquired for their painted miniature panels or fine goldsmithing; the Stirn collection adds the important dimension of precious and semi-precious hardstones.
Cleveland Clinic 2005. Larry Fink (American, b. 1941). Portfolio, 132 gelatin silver prints. Gift of Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz 2009.22.1-132
The year 2009 marked the debut of new galleries in the east wing devoted to showcasing the museum’s photography collection. The suite of galleries, which underscore the museum’s commitment to photography as a form of visual expression, fueled the further growth of the collection through purchase and gift. Under the direction of Tom Hinson, curator of photography, additions to the collection covered the full scope of the medium—from its origins in the mid 19th century to the present day. Especially notable among early works are images by Édouard Baldus, Captain Linnaeus Tripe, Étienne-Jules Marey, Carlo Naya, and Louis-Pierre-Théophile Dubois de Nehaut. Acquired works by major photographers of the 20th century include images by Charles Sheeler, Wright Morris, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Larry Clark. The collection also gained a number of important images by Cleveland photographers, including Cleveland Arts Prize winner Andrew Borowiec. An especially generous gift by Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz was Larry Fink’s Cleveland Clinic: Two Views (2005), consisting of 132 images featuring the Clinic’s patients, staff, environs, and activities, in which Fink relied on his characteristic approach of using a hand-held camera and flash to record the human events unfolding in front of him. The generous gift of ten photographs by the Friends of Photography further strengthened the museum’s holdings of photography produced in the opening decade of the 21st century.
Ceremonial Blade: Dao, c. 2000 BC. China, Qijia culture. Jade (nephrite), 35.2 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Collection 2009.83
While curators involved in the east wing installation focused on acquisitions that would assume important positions in the reinstalled galleries, other curators continued to develop the collections in their care through targeted purchases and gifts. Anita Chung, curator of Chinese art, enriched the museum’s holdings of Neolithic Chinese art with a remarkable jade Ceremonial Blade. Carved 4,000 years ago, blades like this were associated with the sophisticated jade tradition developed in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age Qijia culture of northwest China, in what are now Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Acquired at auction, the blade was formerly part of the Sackler family collection and exemplifies the kind of work that is highly coveted by collectors for its elegant aesthetic and supreme technical accomplishment.
The most remarkable addition to the Asian collection in 2009 came in the final meeting of the year, when the museum acquired a Yuan dynasty triptych through private sale. Depicting the historic Buddha Shakyamuni flanked by two attending bodhisattvas, Manjushri (the Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Samantabhadra (the Bodhisattva of Universal Virtue), the set of three hanging scrolls is a rare survivor of Buddhist painting of the 13th and 14th centuries and reaffirms the museum’s status as holder of one of the preeminent collections of early Buddhist paintings in the country.
In anticipation of the debut of the new galleries of medieval art this summer, Stephen Fliegel, curator of medieval art, acquired an exceptional example of Frankish metalwork, a brooch featuring a fantastical animal turning back to grasp its own tail in its mouth. Produced in the late eighth or early ninth century and designed to be worn on the body, this brooch adds a distinctive and rare object to the museum’s small collection of European migration jewelry. The brooch belongs to a small subset of Frankish jewels conforming to a form that takes its inspiration from a hexagram motif known as the Seal of Solomon, and later known as the Star of David. Such surviving brooches number fewer than 30, and of these the CMA’s acquisition is among the finest in quality, materials, and execution. In the realm of illuminated manuscripts, the museum also added a remarkable book of hours that serves as an important benchmark in the shift from the handmade books of the Middle Ages to the printed texts of the early modern period. Produced around 1520 by Guillaume le Rouge after the advent of the printing press, the book features printed text pages interspersed with hand-colored illuminations. A hybrid work that stands between two epochs of the art of the book, this work will be displayed in rotating installations of the museum’s collection of illuminated manuscripts.
Brocaded Velvet Cushion Cover, last quarter 1500s. Turkey, Istanbul or Bursa. Brocaded velvet; 127 x 66 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2009.282
Louise Mackie, curator of textiles and Islamic art, also made several notable acquisitions. The year offered significant opportunities to deepen the museum’s already distinguished holdings of textiles produced in the Islamic world, a collection that is internationally recognized for its breadth, quality, and variety. Perhaps most impressive among the acquired textiles is a 16th-century Ottoman Velvet Cushion Cover, a sumptuous work of velvet brocaded with gilt metal thread. Gifts to the collection included both contemporary textiles and a stunning 19th-century silk Ikat-velvet woman’s robe from Arlene C. Cooper.
Bungee Jumper (Frances) 1995. R. B. Kitaj (American, 1932-2007). Black charcoal and black and red pastel, 78 x 56 cm. Bequest of R. B. Kitaj 2009.155
Self-Portrait (After Freud’s First Painting of Me) 2000-2004. R. B. Kitaj (American, 1932-2007). Black charcoal, black and brown pastel, with light touches of blue and pink oil (?) paint, 56.5 x 38.5 cm. Bequest of R. B. Kitaj 2009.156
Pink Ball 2009. Mark Fox (American, b. 1963). Ink, watercolor, acrylic, marker, gouache, graphite pencil, colored pencil, and crayon, 58.2 x 43.8 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2009.274
In her assessment of the museum’s drawing collection, Heather Lemonedes, associate curator of drawings, identified English drawings as a priority for further development. She leaped at the opportunity to acquire a major work by Samuel Palmer, an English romantic artist renowned for his work as a watercolorist. Palmer’s The Golden Hour (1865) is exceptional in terms of composition, intensity of mood, quality of execution, and condition. This masterwork from Palmer’s late period simultaneously achieved the artist’s goals of being true to nature and offering a highly personal vision of an idealized world. The drawing collection also benefited from the bequest of Muriel Butkin, whose gift of her highly personal collection of more than 450 drawings dramatically enhanced the museum’s holdings of 19th-century French art. Largely “academic” sheets, Mrs. Butkin’s collection is the largest gift of drawings to enter the museum’s collection.
Taking advantage of a new space in the contemporary galleries devoted to the display of prints and drawings, Lemonedes also collaborated with curator Paola Morsiani to acquire several contemporary drawings. These acquisitions were guided by the understanding that the museum would seek out works by contemporary artists whose principal means of expression consists of works on paper. Perhaps the most significant among these is Nancy Spero’s Codex Artaud XXI (1972), a drawing from the artist’s most important body of work, the so-called Codex Artaud, made between 1971 and 1972 in New York. The series of drawings unite texts of Antonin Artaud, the French actor, playwright, and poet of highly allusive writings, with Spero’s own personal imagery. Other acquired contemporary drawings include works by David Rathman, Mark Fox, R. B. Kitaj, and the Cuban artists known as Los Carpinteros.
The Rabbit Hunt 1560. Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Flemish, 1527/8-1569). Etching, 24.3 x 31.8 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2009.80
Of the many prints that entered the collection during 2009, two are especially significant additions to the holdings of Old Master works on paper. Identified by Jane Glaubinger, curator of prints, Pieter Bruegel’s The Rabbit Hunt (1560) is the only print the artist executed himself and ranks with his finest landscapes. Drawing the scene directly on the printing plate, Bruegel exploited the graphic vocabulary of dots and dashes he used for his most beautiful pen and ink drawings, almost completely eliminating outlines. Flicked strokes create a vivid sense of atmosphere and light and a deep recession into space particularly evident in strongly printed early impressions such as this one.
The Siege of La Rochelle: Plate 11 1628-1630. Jacques Callot (French 1592-1635). Etching, 170.4 x 147.9 cm. Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 2009.4.1-16
Jacques Callot’s The Siege of La Rochelle (1628–30), a spectacular, large-scale image commissioned by Louis XIII, depicts the yearlong battle between France and England over the important French port city and Huguenot stronghold. Callot executed the six plates that make up the central scene while assistants, notably Israël Henriet, Abraham Bosse, and Michael Lasne, made the ten border plates. Executed on a monumental scale, this print offers a dramatic statement of the technological advances in printmaking that transformed the medium in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Under the leadership of Jon Seydl, curator of European painting and sculpture, the museum used 2009 to augment its holdings of 15th- and 16th-century sculpture. Given the strength of the museum’s collection of Spanish baroque paintings, Seydl identified Spanish polychrome sculpture as a major collecting priority and actively sought works of art that could stand toe-to-toe with paintings of the same epoch. Presented with the remarkable opportunity to purchase a work by the Spanish sculptor Pedro de Mena before the sculpture went to auction last summer, the museum moved quickly. St. Peter of Alcántara (about 1663–70) exemplifies the high-quality work of de Mena and his workshop. As the first Spanish baroque sculpture to enter the collection, de Mena’s work joins an internationally known collection of Spanish 17th-century painting, and also offers an important Spanish parallel for the museum’s nationally preeminent collection of Austrian and German polychrome wood sculpture.
In the area of Italian Renaissance art, the acquisition of Mino da Fiesole’s Julius Caesar (about 1455–60) provides the museum with a major work of 15th-century Florentine sculpture exemplifying many of the innovations that characterize a seminal moment in art history. Mino is one of a handful of great Italian sculptors of monumental objects working in the 1400s between Donatello and Michelangelo. He trained under Desiderio da Settignano and carved the first portrait bust since antiquity (Piero de’ Medici, 1453). Working for many of the era’s key patrons in Rome and Florence, Mino made monumental tomb sculptures, portrait busts, and refined reliefs. The addition of his Julius Caesar to the collection makes key connections to extant strengths, including the museum’s Italian Renaissance medals and plaquettes, as well as one of the museum’s great sculptures, Madonna and Child (also by Mino)—a marvelous religious counterpoint to Julius Caesar.
Over the course of 2009, Susan Bergh, associate curator of ancient American art, worked to expand the museum’s holdings of art from the Central Andes, where many of the hemisphere’s most complex cultures took root. The CMA’s pre-Columbian collection is one of the most refined and comprehensive of its size outside Latin America, but the number of Central Andean works is small in relation to regional importance and artistic production. The purchase of a vessel depicting a grinning feline added a classic example of the Recuay ceramic style. One of the most important but least understood of early Andean ceramic traditions, this style was created before a.d. 1000. The feline, with its Cheshire-like grin, complements two smaller Recuay ceramic objects already in the collection. Together, they create a small group of representative works from this Central Andean culture that will be displayed when the pre-Columbian galleries open to the public. A second significant addition from the same region is a fascinating deity-head vessel produced by the Tembladera people of Peru’s north coast. This stirrup-spouted vessel is shaped as the effigy of a deity head with bulging, circular eyes from which hang pendants. A fanged, band-like mouth is arranged horizontally on top of a projecting chin tipped with a three-dimensional, zoomorphic head. The Tembladera style is one of several very early styles that developed on the northern desert coast of Peru, and this object is the first of this culture to enter the collection.
The growth of the collections across the full scope of the museum’s holdings— from ancient to contemporary and from Asia to the Americas—serves as a vital reminder that the current capital project is about much more than creating a state-of-the-art building. It is fundamentally driven by the broader ambition of creating an experience that brings us all closer to what it means to be human.
Jackie Curtis and Ritta Redd 1970. Alice Neel (American, 1900–1984). oil on canvas; framed: 154.30 x 108.90 cm (60 11/16 x 42 13/16 inches); unframed: 152.40 x 106.40 cm (60 x 41 7/8 inches). Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2009.345
Jackie Curtis (1947–1985), born John Holder Jr., has been described as one of Andy Warhol’s superstars, a transvestite with incredible screen presence, best known from Warhol’s film Flesh (1968). Painted in 1970, Jackie Curtis and Ritta Redd is a double portrait of Jackie in drag and his partner of the moment, Ritta Redd. In this riveting image, Neel’s masterful use of line, color, and brushwork offer a frank, unflinching portrayal of her sitters. The abstract shades around the figures and the pentimenti suggest movement and hint at their inner life. As with many of Neel’s portraits of couples, the man recedes and the woman moves forward, a femme-fatale type whose long legs stretch out toward the viewer. The details of the striped garments interlock with the anatomic contours drawn in blue, allowing the fluency of Neel’s painted lines to come to the fore and balance the subjects’ intensely defined heads.
Continuous Mile (Black) 2008. Liza Lou (American, b. 1969). Cotton and glass beads, 1.9 x 160,934.4 cm (78.7 x 195.6 cm installed). Gift of Scott C. Mueller and Margaret Fulton Mueller and John L. Severance Fund 2009.2
Made entirely of black glass beads hand-knotted in a traditional Zulu stitch, Continuous Mile (Black) is a mysterious cylinder of coils resembling a village well. Each of Lou’s beaded sculptures is labor intensive, constructed according to precise instructions, and requires veritable “armies” of workers to string, thread, and glue. At first the artist did all this work herself; later, she recruited the assistance of groups of volunteers; currently she employs local bead workers from Durban, South Africa where she has lived part-time since 2005.
Mapa estelar en árbol 2009. Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b. 1962). Calcium sulfate (plaster), animal glue, graphite, and mango tree trunk; 72.6 x 69.7 x 40 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2009.343
Mapa estelar en árbol is a rich and accomplished example of Orozco’s work, exploring themes that have engaged the artist throughout his career. In creating this sculpture, Orozco left one side of the wood block in its natural state and covered the other side with an even layer of gesso and then a layer of graphite. This process is based on an Old Master technique, one of many that Orozco has resurrected in his recent paintings and sculptures. On the graphite surface, circles etched with a compass form an abstract composition. The drawing connects pure forms with the growth layers intrinsic to the tree itself. Its presentation on the ground reveals the artist’s interest in the continuity of space between object and viewer, a lesson he learned from minimalist artists whose work he has expanded in original ways.
Title Unknown 1928. Yves Tanguy (French, 1900–1955). Oil on canvas; 65.4 x 80 cm (unframed). © 2009 Estate of Yves Tanguy / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. John L. Severance Fund 2009.78
Yves Tanguy was one of the most important and influential members of the Surrealist movement. He painted this classic, early Surrealist composition in 1928, only four years after the movement’s founding and two years after he developed his mature style. This painting ranks among the artist’s finest works from the period 1926–34, the most seminal and historically significant phase of his creative life.
Portrait of a Man 1880. Gustave Caillebotte (French, 1848–1894). Oil on canvas; 81.3 x 65.6 cm. Bequest of Muriel Butkin 2009.157
More than a century after his death, Gustave Caillebotte remains one of the most underrated members of the Impressionist movement in France. He attended the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874 and developed a close relationship with many of the movement’s leading artists, including Monet and Degas. Starting with the second Impressionist exhibition of 1876, Caillebotte began showing his own paintings and became one of group’s most ardent supporters. The beautifully painted surfaces, broken brushwork, and subtle play of dappled sunlight and color in Portrait of a Man are representative of the artist’s mature Impressionist style.
Rock at Sea 1920–22. Raymond Jonson (American, 1891–1982). Oil on canvas; 88.9 x 104.2 cm (unframed). Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2009.269
Dominating the compositional center of Rock at Sea is a large stony mass rendered in cobalt blue and violet hues, accompanied by smaller and darker outcroppings in the foreground. Dramatic spumes of white and lavender surf erupt and cascade around these forms. The scene is illuminated in the far distance by an unseen sun, which casts a chartreuse glow across a sky filled with dark blue and emerald green globular clouds at right. Dating early in Jonson’s career, this work is apparently his first painting to exhibit the radically reductive and decorative tendencies seen in contemporary avant-garde scenic design.
Julius Caesar about 1455–60. Mino da Fiesole (Italian, c. 1429–1484). Marble with traces of gilding, mounted with mortar into limestone with traces of polychromy; 83 x 84 x 25 cm (overall). John L. Severance Fund 2009.271
A commanding 15th-century marble relief by Mino da Fiesole depicts Julius Caesar in profile, carved with a Latin abbreviation of his name. Caesar appears worn by the burdens of office, with signs of aging carefully described, including crow’s feet, a wrinkled brow, and sagging chin, while his idiosyncratic, antique-inspired robe is pinned in three locations. The relief rests inside a large limestone block, suggesting that the object was originally set into a wall. Mino is one of a handful of great Italian sculptors of monumental objects working in the 1400s, and this particular work fills a significant gap in this part of the museum’s collection, until now almost exclusively composed of religious subjects and small-scale objects. The sculpture is currently on view in Gallery 214, on the sightline from the rotunda through the Reid Gallery.
St. Peter of Alcantarà about 1663–70. Pedro de Mena (Spanish, 1628–1688) and Workshop. Painted wood, with ivory and glass; h. 73 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2009.81
Assembled from separate wooden blocks that were carved and delicately painted with gesso (preserving the subtle carving), the statue is resplendent with sensitive details, with some of the texture of the saint’s face—reflecting his age and hardships—formed by the brushstrokes. The cloth parts were painted in a distinctive impasto style, and the flesh tones with smoother but still textured brushstrokes, even revealing the saint’s nascent beard beneath the skin.
These works number among a small group of Yuan Buddhist paintings to have survived outside the context of Chinese temples, where they generally assume the form of mural paintings. Nearly all of the hanging scroll triptychs to have survived outside of China have been preserved in Japan, where their presence testifies to the long history of cultural exchange between Japan and China. Although Yuan Buddhist paintings can be found in a handful of western collections, complete sets of hanging scroll triptychs from the period rarely appear on the art market. The scrolls are especially notable for their refined drawing and elegant coloring, a testimony to the skill of hand and brush required to give compelling visual expression to faith and belief. Conceived as an ensemble, the scrolls depict the historic Buddha Shakyamuni flanked by two attending bodhisattvas and two disciples in a symmetrical configuration, complete with the bodhisattvas’ foreign attendants, child and female worshippers who seek enlightenment.
Brooch in the Form of a Six-Pointed Star late 8th or early 9th century. Frankish, Carolingian. Gold with repoussé and filigree decoration, copper backplate; 7.7 cm diam. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2009.344
This gold brooch originally functioned as a garment clasp. Medieval manuscripts produced in the 9th century illustrate the use of similar star-shaped brooches by women to fasten their veils or mantles just beneath the chin. The object likely also served as a talisman or amulet, protecting its wearer from malevolent forces. In Jewish, Christian, and later in Islamic contexts, the hexagram motif was known as the “Seal of Solomon”, after a legend connected King Solomon with a signet ring incised with the same design. It was believed in Late Antiquity that the hexagram had apotropaic qualities and was able to ward off evil. It is likely that the Franks were introduced to the hexagram and its apotropaic effects through the Romans or later following their conversion to Christianity.
Silk Ikat-Velvet Woman’s Robe (detail) third quarter 19th c. Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Bukhara. Ikat-velvet; silk; 127 x 150 cm. Gift of Arlene C. Cooper 2009.267.
This robe was a symbol of wealth in 19th-century Bukhara, located in Uzbekistan in Central Asia. Probably a munisak, the textile was part of a dowry and was worn by a new bride and at significant rites of passage during her life. Bukhara was renowned during the 19th century for colorful abstract floral-derived designs. They were made in the ikat technique, a resist dye process in which the pattern is tied and dyed on the warps before the cloth is woven which causes the contours to appear fuzzy. This is a more prestigious cloth, a velvet ikat, in which the pattern was created with the same resist process and then woven in the more costly velvet technique.
The Golden Hour 1865. Samuel Palmer (British, 1805–1881) Watercolor and gouache, 25.7 x 35.5 cm. The Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2009.3
The subject of a figure crossing a stone bridge toward a cottage with cows drinking from a stream in the foreground is highly worked in multiple layers of watercolor, gouache, pencil, and charcoal. The drawing is complex, sensitive, and wonderfully preserved, its colors astonishingly fresh. A long inscription on the verso of the sheet by the artist advising the owner on the long-term care of the drawing attests to the high opinion Palmer himself had for the work of art.
Codex Artaud XXI 1972. Nancy Spero (American, 1926–2009). Cut and pasted papers, printed text, watercolor, metallic paints, pen and stamped ink; 173.4 x 52.6 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2009.270
This multimedia drawing sets an extract from Atraud’s writings in pristine typed capital letters. Spero’s graphic additions include two converging cross-hatched triangles, a tiny woman riding a rat, and a heroic male nude holding a sword. The male figure, which occupies the bottom of the sheet—a place to which “woman” has traditionally been consigned—references Benvenuto Cellini’s sculpture Perseus Beheading Medusa (1545–54), a quintessential Renaissance subject concerned with the silencing of a powerful woman. Born in Cleveland, Spero holds an important place in the feminist art movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Hell: The Street 1919. Max Beckmann (German 1884–1950). Lithograph, 83.2 x 65.2 cm. Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 2009.355
The Street (Die Strasse) depicts war veterans in their brimless caps, one blind and another in a wheelchair with amputated hands, trying to earn a living and jostling in the street with vendors, musicians, prostitutes and citizens. The man in a dark suit in the foreground, arms outstretched like the crucified Christ, is carried by a rotund gentleman in a bowler hat, his arms mimicking the gesture of the rat to his right. This shocking scene vilifies the German government; people sacrifice as the bloated politicians and industrialists gloat.
Rangoon. View Near the Lake 1855. Captain Linnaeus Tripe (British, 1822–1902). Albumenized salt print from a paper negative (printed 1857); 25.1 x 34.3 cm. John L. Severance Fund 2009.86
Working in Burma and India during the latter half of the 1850s, British photographer Linnaeus Tripe was among the finest practitioners of the medium during its early history. While on leave in England between 1851 and 1854 from the East India Company army, he learned how to photograph. On his return to India in 1854, he made more than 100 photos of temples, some of which were exhibited in 1855 in Madras. This distant panorama of Rangoon was Tripe’s most picturesque and generalized rendering of the cantonment, the Shwedagon pagoda, and the lake located to the east of it. A centrally positioned pathway leads the viewer’s attention from the foreground across the expansive mid-ground of water and vegetation to the striking cone form of the pagoda, which was the largest and most important Burmese Buddhist monument. The warm-toned, atmospheric print showcases the inherent qualities of the paper negative to emphasize broad areas of light and shade instead of minute topographical details.
Feline-Shaped Vessel a.d. 1–700. Peru, North Highlands, Recuay; Early Intermediate period. Ceramic, red and white slip, black pigment; 20.3 x 10.1 x 15.2 cm. The Charlotte Ekker and Charlotte Van der Veer Memorial Fund 2009.9
The Recuay, a people of Peru’s northern highlands, developed one of the Andes’ most distinctive traditions in ceramic, their principal artistic medium. The passenger on the wonderfully stylized feline’s head may be a coatimundi, a nosy, busy, raccoon-like creature. Felines are relatively common in Recuay art, as are smaller animals sometimes posed as though headdresses, but they usually are rendered in a cruder and less harmoniously proportioned way. The feline is covered with a layer of creamy white slip with details picked out in red slip. After firing, a resist application of organic black pigment was used to create the dotted pattern.
Deity–Head Vessel 900 to 400 b.c. Central Andes, North Coast, Tembladera people; Early Horizion period. Ceramic with pigment applied after firing; 27.6 x 14.9 x 19.2 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2009.82
The Tembladera style is one of several very early styles that developed on the northern desert coast of Peru. Tembladera is distinguished from its contemporaries by the graceful, tall, shouldered form of its stirrup-shaped spout. Otherwise, the style is like its neighbors in its focus on realism, an enthusiasm for subjects drawn from nature, and a ceramic technology that emphasized smoky firing environments that drove carbon deep into vessel walls and turned them gray or black. After firing, the darkened surfaces of these sculptural creations were ornamented with paint made of plant resin and finely ground mineral pigments. Such post-fire paint is very fragile and rarely survives in good condition.
Cleveland Art, March/April 2010