European Galleries Closed for Major Updates

Joslyn’s European galleries closed on Sunday, February 12, for a much anticipated reinstallation of the painting and sculpture collection. The project will renew these five galleries with new paint and lighting, updated labels and interpretative materials, including three interactive iPad stations. The reinstallation will offer a fresh perspective on the Museum’s renowned holdings of European art that is sure to delight both long-time visitors and new audiences. Save the date — the grand opening of the newly reinstalled galleries is scheduled for Saturday, May 20.

Joslyn Art Museum Unveils New Frame for Rembrandt’s Portrait of Dirck van Os

On November 8, 2016, at a special reception honoring past presidents of the Joslyn Art Museum Association (JAMA), the Museum presented its Rembrandt Portrait of Dirck van Os (ca. 1658) in a seventeenth-century Dutch style frame. The portrait was previously displayed in a carved and gilded French Louis XIV frame, which accompanied the picture when it was acquired by the Museum in 1942 from Schneider-Gabriel Galleries in New York City. The recent conservation of the picture, which placed the portrait firmly among Rembrandt’s late autograph works, and preparation for the reinstallation of Joslyn’s European galleries, set to begin early next year, prompted the decision to replace the frame with a more historically appropriate and aesthetically suitable selection.

Extensive research into the history of Dutch frames was conducted and several prominent framers in both New York City and London were consulted on the project. Due to the rarity of antique Dutch frames meeting the size requirements of the painting, the decision was made to commission a reproduction of an original design. The frame was generously funded by JAMA, a group that also contributed to the painting’s conservation in 2013. Rembrandt’s Portrait of Dirck van Os is on view in Joslyn’s Hitchcock Gallery (gallery 3).

About the Frame

Very few paintings in museum collections retain their original frames. Former owners and cultural institutions frequently changed frames according to prevailing contemporary taste. The former Louis XIV frame surrounding Joslyn’s Rembrandt portrait, characterized by ornate carving and gilding with varying patterns and scrollwork, detracted from the sobriety and dignity of the sitter. Seventeenth-century Dutch frames are less ornate than Italian and French examples of the same period, relying on the warm black and brown tonalities of the wood and the use of broad, flat, and curved surfaces to reflect light rather than ornate carving and gilding. This more restrained style reflects the conservative Protestant atmosphere of the Netherlands as well as the strong mercantile culture in which exotic and expensive wood, such as ebony, were imported through the Dutch East India Company. While examples of French Louis XIV frames were available in Holland after midcentury, the use of dark ebony frames was much more prevalent.

Dirck van Os III (1590-1668) was the Dijkgraaf, or commissioner, of the Beemster north of Amsterdam, a low-lying stretch of land that had been reclaimed from a former lake. Aged 70 at the time of this portrait, Van Os had been in the position for 40 years and was an honored member of the community. Rembrandt renders the respected elder with sensitivity, imbuing Van Os with an inner presence and quiet authority by means of pose, expressive brushwork, and evocative contrasts of light and shade. The new frame both enhances and complements Van Os’s high status and the distinguished manner he projects while providing a balanced historical perspective.

Click here to read more about Rembrandt's Portrait of Dirck van Os.

Gift of Currier & Ives Prints

Conagra Brands (formerly ConAgra Foods, Inc.) has donated its corporate collection of nearly 600 original Currier & Ives prints to Joslyn, giving the Museum one of the largest public collections of these popular and historically important illustrations. ConAgra obtained the Currier & Ives works in the late 1980s when the company acquired Beatrice Foods, the collection’s former owner. Portions of the collection were on display at ConAgra’s Omaha campus, but viewing opportunities for the public were limited, and the majority of the works remained in storage. ConAgra’s generous gift to Joslyn ensures that the collection will be permanently available to share with the Omaha community and beyond. The works enhance Joslyn's growing works on paper collection and serve as an important cornerstone of the Museum's American art collection.

What's pictured: Frances Flora Bond Palmer (British, active in United States, 1812–1876), artist; Currier & Ives (American, 1834–1907), publisher and lithographer; American Farm Scenes: No. 4, 1853, colored lithograph, Gift of ConAgra Foods, 2016.20

The New York-based firm of Currier & Ives was the most influential and widespread publisher in nineteenth-century America. Founded by lithographer Nathaniel Currier in 1835, he was joined in his venture by the accountant James Merritt Ives. Together, they produced lithographic and chromo-lithographic print images of current events, sporting life, landscapes, industry, politics, and fashion, touching on almost every aspect of American life and popular culture. Currier & Ives developed new commercial techniques that enabled them to produce more prints more quickly than their competitors, allowing the firm to distribute illustrations of newsworthy events within days of their occurrence and sell them at affordable prices.

The success of Currier & Ives also coincided with a period of tremendous growth in the United States. From the 1830s to the 1880s, the nation doubled in geographic size, increased in population almost five times over, and saw the emergence of a burgeoning industrial economy. A new middle class emerged that had both the time and disposable income to decorate its homes with affordable art. Currier & Ives was a ubiquitous presence for decades, creating an unmatched panorama of life in nineteenth-century America.

Art Out & About
William Merritt Chase's Sunlight and Shadow (right) was on view at Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., in William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master. The exhibition, which marks the centennial of Chase’s death, explores his role as both an outspoken champion of American art and an active participant in the international art scene in Europe. Portraying a couple at afternoon tea in the garden of a home in Zandvoort, Holland, Sunlight and Shadow is one of Chase’s earliest forays into plein-air painting. Light cascades through a canopy of trees, casting dazzling patterns across the couple — Chase's friend, the painter Robert Blum, and a young woman reclining in a hammock — captured in what appears to be a fraught conversation. On view in Washington, D.C., through September, the exhibition will then travel to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from October 2016 to January 2017, before its final venue at the Ca’Pesaro Galleria Internazionale d’Art Moderna in Venice from February 11 to May 28, 2017.

What's pictured: William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916), Sunlight and Shadow, 1884, oil on canvas, Gift of the Friends of Art, 1932.4

The Maximilian Journals

Between 1832-34, the explorer and naturalist Prince Alexander Philipp Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, Germany, embarked on a voyage into the furthest reaches of the American Interior. Accompanied by the Swiss artist Karl Bodmer, Maximilian set forth from St. Louis in April 1833 on a 2,500 mile journey by steamship and keelboat up the Missouri River, traveling as far as Fort McKenzie, Montana. Wintering at the Mandan village near Fort Clark, they returned downriver the following spring, having spent over a year amongst the tribes of the Upper Missouri. The watercolors that Bodmer produced on this journey remain one of the most perceptive and compelling visual accounts of the West ever created. Meanwhile, his patron Maximilian was equally hard at work on a journal documenting his scientific and anthropologic observations. Few historical chronicles are as informative and eloquent, describing the topography, Native peoples, natural history, and the burgeoning fur trade of the High Plains. Today, Maximilian’s journals are a centerpiece of the Joslyn collection, accompanied by his collection of over 350 watercolors and drawings by Karl Bodmer. 

Joslyn Art Museum recently announced the milestone publication of the third and final volume of the English translation of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied, one of the most important documents of the nineteenth-century American West. Volumes 1 and 2 were published in 2008 and 2010 respectively. In 2008, Volume 1 was named the "Outstanding Nonfiction Book" of the year by National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. In the fall of 2011, Volume 1 received the Western History Association’s Dwight L. Smith Award, a biennial award recognizing outstanding bibliographic or research work. Earlier in 2011, Volumes 1 and 2 were reviewed by Stuart Ferguson of The Wall Street Journal, who called the works a "magnificent chronicle."

The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied — Volume 1: May 1832–April 1833;
Volume 2: April–September 1833; and Volume 3: September 1833–August 1834 are available in Joslyn Art Museum’s Hitchcock Museum Shop for $85 per volume. The Journals are edited by Stephen S. Witte and Marsha V. Gallagher. Volumes 1 and 2 are translated by William J. Orr, Paul Schach, and Dieter Karch with forewords by John Wilson. Volume 3 is translated by Dieter Karch with a foreword by Joslyn’s Executive Director and CEO Jack Becker.

Support for the Maximilian Journals Project has come from many sources. Robert Daugherty funded the completion of the translation in 2003. The Bodmer Society, Charles W. Durham, and Marlene and J. Joe Ricketts made timely contributions to support initial editing and production costs. Dorothy and Stanley M. Truhlsen, Arader Galleries, Ann and Steve Berzin, Judy and Terry Haney, Susan and Michael Lebens, Pinnacle Bank, and Phyllis and Del Toebben provided additional support. Joslyn was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the University of Oklahoma Press received funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Ultimately, however, it has been the extremely generous gifts of Howard L. and Rhonda A. Hawks and The Hawks Foundation that have made this important publication possible.