Friday, August 25, 2017

EXHIBITION: Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry at NYC's Jewish Museum

Athenaeum family portrait II, c.1915

The art of feisty and exuberant Florine Stettheimer is currently being 
featured in a delightful exhibition at The Jewish Museum in NYC.
 The exhibit comprises over 50 paintings and drawings, a selection of 
costume and theater designs, photographs and ephemera, as well as 
some of her critically acclaimed poems

 Although she's not a household name today, 
in her heyday Stettheimer was well-known as a prolific Jazz Age painter, 
costume designer, poet, saloniste and feminist. The strongest influences 
on her colorful, stylish artwork were the European Symbolist painters 
and the costume designers of Ballets Russes. Born in 1871 in Rochester, NY,
she was the daughter of refined German-Jewish parents.

Self-Portrait with Palette (Painter and Faun), undated. Oil on canvas

Above: Florine Stettheimer, photograph by Peter A. Juley & Son, c. 1917.

Florine enjoyed being seen as eccentric and avant garde.
Her salon, which met regularly on NY's Upper West Side or in
rented mansions on the New Jersey shore, was co-organized by Florine
and her two sisters, Ettie and Carrie. The Stettheimers were “an exotic if somewhat strange trio: Ettie in wig, brocades, and diamonds; Carrie, who dressed in the elegance of a past era; Florine in white satin pants. They were all extremely fashionable, though often they appeared as though they were of another age." 

Portrait of My Sister, Ettie Stettheimer (1923)

"The Stettheimer sisters typified the idea of the new woman of the 20th century, they declared men impossible but worthy of flirtation. They wore pants, smoked cigarettes, disdained marriage, romance and children, and were constantly surrounded by artists and writers who were drawn to their soigné gatherings.” 
           ...  from Extravagant Crowd: Carl Van Vechten's Portraits of Women

Their circle of friends, many of them luminaries of New York's artistic vanguard,  included Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Elie Nadelman, 
Man Ray, Gaston Lachaise, and Marcel Duchamp.

°     °     °     °     °      °     °     °     °     °     °
At last grown young
with noise
and color
and light
and jazz
dance marathons and poultry shows
soulsavings and rodeos
gabfests and beauty contests
sky towers and bridal bowers
speakeasy bars and motor cars
columnists and movie stars
                                               —Florine Stettheimer

°     °     °     °     °      °     °     °     °     °     °

Asbury Park South, 1920. Oil on canvas

Birthday Bouquet (Flowers with Snake), 1932. Oil on canvas

Picnic at Bedford Hills, 1918

"It’s not that Stettheimer, who died in 1944, at the age of seventy-three, needs rediscovering. She is securely esteemed for her ebulliently faux-naïve paintings of party scenes and of her famous friends and for her four satirical allegories of Manhattan: symbol-packed phantasmagorias of Fifth Avenue, Broadway, Wall Street, and Art, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. She painted in blazing primary colors, plus white and some accenting black, with the odd insinuating purple. Even her blues smolder. ... Zealously urbane, Stettheimer wasn’t much for nature, except, surreally, for the glories of the outsized cut flowers that barge in on her indoor scenes. She painted grass yellow. She seemed an eccentric outlier to American modernism, and appreciations of her often run to the camp—it was likely in that spirit that Andy Warhol called her his favorite artist."
                                                                    ... New Yorker magazine   

Spring Sale at Bendel's (1921)

Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry runs through Sept. 24, 2017
 For more information, visit the Jewish Museum's website

If you walk about 10 blocks north from the Jewish Museum,
you'll come to the Museum of the City of New York -- another
favorite place of mine. On display there is a dollhouse
designed by Carrie Stettheimer over the course of 20 years.
The dollhouse is one of the Museum’s most popular artifacts. 

 Every detail of the house was created with meticulous authenticity, 
from the post WWI wallpaper, furniture and fixtures
to the miniaturized versions of actual art, which include a
3-inch version of Nude Descending a Staircase by Marcel Duchamp, Limoges vases in the chintz bedroom and crystal-trimmed candelabra in the salon. Stettheimer infused her artistic sensibility into every aspect of the house.

Hot tip: show your ticket to the MCNY 
at the Jewish Museum, and
you'll get in for free! 


Saturday, August 19, 2017

EXHIBITIONS: An odd couple? Not as much as you might think ...

 Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol were "iconic visual communicators who embraced populism, shaped national identity, and opened new ways 
of seeing in twentieth century America." 
                                                                         ... Curator's note

The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts is 
currently exhibiting an original and thought-provoking show called 
Inventing America: Rockwell & Warhol. This is the first-ever 
exhibition in which the two artists' work has been paired. 
 "Until I came here today," I overheard one visitor remark
"I couldn't have imagined those two names even being used 
in the same sentence!" 

But the two men actually shared many traits:
both knew from the time they were children that art was their true calling,
both had supportive families, both had a sense of humor about themselves and their work, both started out their careers in advertising, and
both were interested in photo-realistic art at a time when the 
fine art world was in thrall to Abstract Expressionism.

Norman Rockwell's beloved oil painting "Freedom from Want" (1943)
is juxtaposed in the exhibition with Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup can (1969).
 Though both artists came from a background in the advertising world
they expressed themselves quite differently. Rockwell liked
to tell a story in his paintings, while Warhol preferred stark 
images of a product, devoid of context.

Rockwell worked on his oil portraits using photos for reference, and he
liked spending time with his subjects so that he could get a fuller
sense of their personalities. Warhol, ever the celebrity-hound, worked 
from film but rarely met his subjects until he himself became quite famous.

Warhol's two favorite muses, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe
The artist was obsessed with celebrity 
and with Monroe and Taylor in particular.
Photo credit: Jewish Museum, NY, NY

Photos of museum grounds courtesy of
Norman Rockwell Museum.  
All rights reserved.

Above left: Entrance to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA
Above center: Visitors picnic on the lawn near Rockwell's studio, which was moved from downtown Stockbridge to the museum's property in 1986.

Many of the objects in Rockwell's iconic "Triple Self-Portrait", 1960 (below) 

can be seen inside the studio.

Photos of exhibition rooms (above and below) courtesy of
Norman Rockwell Museum.  All rights reserved.

Above: Some of Warhol's threads from the 1960s,
along with one of his wigs.

The cover of the exhibition catalogue
displays two very different images of Jacquie Kennedy.
I find it striking that she looks so guarded in the 
Rockwell portrait, and so happy in the black-and-blue image 
Warhol created, based on the iconic photo of her arriving in 
Dallas on November 22, 1963. A few hours later 
her husband would be assassinated.

Inventing America: Rockwell & Warhol
will be on view until October 29, 2017.
For more info, link here

°     °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °
Whenever I'm at the Rockwell Museum, I always 
make a stop at his stirring Ruby Bridges painting
entitled "The Problem We All Must Live With" (1964). 
Ruby was the first black child in the south to attend 
an all-white school. She had to be escorted, alone, 
by federal marshals, while contending with hateful 
graffiti and objects being thrown at her.
Ruby grew up to become a civil rights activist. 
In 1999, she formed the Ruby Bridges Foundation, headquartered 
in New Orleans. The foundation promotes the values of tolerance, 
respect, and appreciation of each others' differences.