Art Out & About

Stone City, Iowa (1930), Grant Wood's first major landscape painting, is representing Joslyn in Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables, on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art through June 10.

This compelling exhibition brings together the full range of Wood’s art, from early Arts and Crafts decorative objects and Impressionist oils through his mature paintings, murals, and book illustrations. It reveals a sophisticated artist whose image as a farmer-painter was as mythical as the fables he depicted. Wood sought to fashion a world of harmony and prosperity in his art that would answer America's need for reassurance at a time of economic and social upheaval occasioned by the Depression. Yet underneath its bucolic exterior, his work reflects the anxiety of being an artist and a closeted gay man in the Midwest in the 1930s. By depicting his subconscious anxieties through populist images of rural America, Wood crafted images that speak both to American identity and to the estrangement and isolation of modern life.

What's pictured: Grant Wood (American, 1891–1942), Stone City, Iowa, 1930, oil on wood panel, Gift of the Art Institute of Omaha, 1930.35; Art © Estate of Grant Wood/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

European Galleries Feature New Acquisitions

A new presentation of Joslyn Art Museum’s renowned collection of European art debuted in May of 2017. The reinstallation addressed several objectives, including renovating the physical gallery spaces for the first time since 2000; treating paintings and sculpture in need of conservation; and providing up-to-date interpretive content, including new wall labels and in-gallery technology. Most significantly, the Museum acquired four new works for the European collection, all of which are now on view.

Dana E. Cowen, Ph.D., associate curator of European art, said the acquisitions are a highlight of the project. “The four acquisitions, all paintings, are major works that strengthen the permanent collection by enhancing key areas of our European holdings. Additionally, they provide added context for other works in the collection and help us achieve our goal of displaying the artwork in a more cogent, art historical narrative. These acquisitions, joined with familiar favorites, assure new, thoughtful experiences for visitors to the galleries.”

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The reinstallation of the European galleries was supported by the Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Foundation, Iowa West Foundation, The Sunderland Foundation, and Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

What's pictured: Hans Pleydenwurff (ca. 1425–1472) or his workshop, The Crucifixion , ca. 1460-70, oil on panel, 51-3/4 x 31 inches, Museum purchase with funds from the Berchel H. and Alice Dale Harper Estate, 2017.1

Photographs from Renowned Berman Collection Gifted to Joslyn

June 13, 2017 — Joslyn Art Museum has received a gift of 124 photographs from the renowned private collection of Bruce Berman. The collection, consisting primarily of color photographs from the late twentieth century, is centered on the theme of the American landscape and the built environment. At its height, Berman’s collection totaled over 2,500 prints, many of which were donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles) and featured in the inaugural exhibition of their photography galleries in 2007. He dispersed the remainder of his collection in 2016 to the Getty, de Young Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and Joslyn Art Museum.

What's pictured: Louise Parsons (American, born 1950), Polka Dot Swing, Ellerbe Heights, South Carolina, 1993, chromogenic development print, Collection of Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE, Gift of Bruce Berman and Lea Russo, 2016

Joslyn’s executive director and CEO Jack Becker noted the significance of the acquisition. “Bruce Berman’s generous gift adds great depth to the Museum’s collection of photography and twentieth-century art. Placing Joslyn in the company of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and de Young Museum is an acknowledgement of the strength of our holdings of American art, and our ongoing commitment to building Joslyn’s distinguished collection.”

Berman assembled work by both nationally recognized and regional photographers, creating an archive of images of highways, small towns, homes, and store fronts that define the quotidian landscape — what he has referred to as “visual preservation.” It is the view through the car window while out running errands, or passing through town on a road trip — photographs that feel familiar, yet made with a clear appreciation for the American vernacular. The photographs in this gift range from New York, West Virginia, and Florida through the south to the Pacific coast, including a concentration of prints of rural architecture of the Midwest by David Husom. The gift also includes prints by photographers from the mid-twentieth century, including Walker Evans, Russell Lee, and John Vachon — who photographed for the Farm Security Administration — and the Mexican artists Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide.

“In its celebration of the everyday landscape, Mr. Berman’s collection has its roots in the deepest traditions of American photography,” noted Toby Jurovics, Joslyn’s chief curator and Holland Curator of American Western Art. “These photographs remind us of the pleasures of the roadside vista, and the wit, elegance and even grace to be found in what might seem to be the most average of places. From documentary images by Russell Lee and John Vachon to the contemporary South of Mike Smith to David Husom’s inventory of Midwestern fairgrounds, the Berman Collection touches every corner of the American social landscape.”

Bruce Berman is the chairman and CEO of Village Roadshow Pictures. He is the executive producer of over ninety-five films, including Sully, Mad Max: Fury Road, American Sniper, Mystic River, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Matrix. An avid photographer in his teenage years, Berman became a photograph collector in 1989 and has donated nearly 1,800 photographs and art pieces to museums around the country. To this day, Berman continues to seek out intriguing and unique photographic works to share with the world.

Gift of Currier & Ives Prints

In June 2016, Conagra Brands (formerly ConAgra Foods, Inc.) 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.

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. 

In September 2012, Joslyn Art Museum published 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.