New Acquisition: A Gift from the Rubell Family Collection

Giving voice to the disenfranchised, Purvis Young’s compositions reflect the impact of urban poverty and racial inequality. Young began drawing while serving time in jail as a teenager, finding inspiration in the prison library’s collection of art books. Upon his release in the early 1960s, he was magnetized by the political and social activism that had gripped the world, particularly antiwar protests and the Black Arts Movement. Young took this spirit of resistance to his native Overtown, Florida, a historically black North Miami neighborhood. Once billed the “Harlem of the South,” the area began to struggle in the mid-twentieth century, when the construction of Interstate 95 isolated it from surrounding communities. Young was a vocal critic of Miami’s widening socioeconomic gap. Often working on found materials, such as wooden doors, the artist installed semi-autobiographical paintings on abandoned buildings and in alleyways throughout Overtown.

Included in Joslyn’s 2019 exhibition 30 Americans, this untitled painting was gifted to the Museum by the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, which has the most extensive holdings of Young’s work in the world. Typical of Young’s style, this painting features expressive brushstrokes, a flattened perspective, and a crowded picture plane, tools the artist employed to convey a sense of urgency regarding the many troubling realities of life in the inner city, such as drug use and overcrowding. Nevertheless, his work maintains a sense of whimsy, and even hope.
A recurring motif in Young’s iconography, the horse-like figures in this painting are symbols of freedom for
the artist.

What's pictured: Purvis Young (American, 1943–2010), Untitled, 1985–99, paint on wood, 59 x 39 inches, Gift of Rubell Museum, Miami, 2019.7

New Acquisition Now on View

Joslyn Art Museum has announced the purchase of a seventeenth-century canvas, Still Life of Flowers in a Glass Vase (about 1685), by Dutch artist Maria van Oosterwyck (1630–1693). One of the few female painters active in Holland in the 1600s, Van Oosterwyck was a master of the floral still life. She enjoyed great success in her lifetime and counted King Louis XIV of France and King William III of England among her patrons. Her elegant floral arrangements set against dark backgrounds were especially admired for their diversity of flora, a characteristic exemplified in Joslyn’s painting.

Taylor J. Acosta, Ph.D., Joslyn’s associate curator of European art noted, “Of the known works by Van Oosterwyck, this painting is one of the most significant in terms of quality and scale. The meticulous attention to detail and the great variety of blooms, as well as the inclusion of insects and shells, make this an excellent example of the genre.” The first floral still life to enter Joslyn’s collection, Still Life of Flowers in a Glass Vase represents an important step in diversifying the Museum’s collections. “Joslyn is actively working to increase the representation of women artists in its collections, and this addition marks the earliest example in the European collection,” said Dr. Acosta. Held in the same private collection for several generations, Joslyn’s acquisition of Still Life of Flowers in a Glass Vase, through Ben Elwes Fine Art, London, makes this extraordinary painting accessible to the public for the first time in over a hundred years.

What's pictured: Maria van Oosterwyck (Dutch, 1630–1693), Still Life of Flowers in a Glass Vase, ca. 1685, oil on canvas, 31 ¾ x 26 ¼ inches, Museum purchase with funds from the Ethel S. Abbott Art Endowment Fund and the General Art Endowment Fund, 2019.4. Courtesy of Ben Elwes Fine Art, London. Photo Credit: Matthew Hollow

Joslyn Art Museum Presents Five New Acquisitions at Reopening of Postwar and Contemporary Galleries

At a public opening event on Thursday, May 23, Joslyn Art Museum unveiled five new contemporary acquisitions by American artists Rashid Johnson, Therman Statom, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, and Kehinde Wiley. All five—two large paintings, a print triptych, and two mixed-media sculptures—are the first works by these selected artists to enter Joslyn’s permanent collection. They are now on view in the U.S. Bank/Rismiller Gallery (gallery 16).

The reopening of the four permanent collection galleries of postwar and contemporary art came following a brief closure that began May 7 at the conclusion of the exhibition 30 Americans. As that show was deinstalled, the spaces were prepared to reveal familiar favorites, as well as the new additions. Jack Becker, executive director & CEO, said, “We have planned for these acquisitions for some time now, and they reflect Joslyn’s commitment to diversifying the Museum’s holdings of works by women and artists of color. Many visitors were recently introduced to the work of Johnson, Thomas, Walker, and Wiley, as all four of these artists had work in 30 Americans. Therman Statom is a renowned sculptor, glass artist, and painter, working right here in Omaha. Each of these works is an incredible addition to the collection on its own. Together, they signal a fresh approach to collecting at Joslyn.”

What's pictured: Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977), Three Girls in a Wood, 2018, oil on linen, 108 x 144 in., Museum purchase, gift of The Sherwood Foundation, 2018.11; Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California; Photo by Jean-Paul Torno, Courtesy Saint Louis Art Museum

New Acquitisitions

Like many artists associated with Pop Art, Jim Dine finds inspiration in everyday objects and consumer goods, yet separating Dine from his contemporaries is his interest in autobiography. He first began depicting bathrobes in 1964 after seeing a newspaper advertisement for a man’s dressing gown. Dine has returned to the motif many times throughout his career, using it as proxy for his self-portrait. Eleven Part Self Portrait (Red Pony), 1965, is the first of more than seventy prints Dine created that feature bathrobes. The numbers in this lithograph may appear diagrammatic, however the artist has asserted that they have no real meaning. The subtitle Red Pony was an afterthought inspired by the crimson wash Dine used for the print, which he explained reminded him of the coat of a dappled horse. This work is one of three Dine lithographs gifted to the Museum.

What's pictured: (right) Jim Dine (American, b. 1935) Eleven Part Self Portrait (Red Pony), 1965, lithograph, 41 3/8 x 29 1/2 inches, Anonymous gift, 2019.5.3; (below left) Claes Oldenburg (Swedish, b. 1929), Study for a Giant Swedish Light Switch, 1966, tempera and chalk on cardboard construction in painted wood frame, 64 1/2 x 64 1/2 inches, Anonymous gift, 2019.5.1; (below right) Richard Mosse (Irish, b. 1980), Yayladagi, Turkey, 2017, digital chromogenic development print on metallic paper, 49 3/4 x 116 3/8 inches, Museum purchase with funds from the James Art Acquisition Fund and the Lawrence and Jeanette James Family Foundation, 2019.2

A leading figure of Pop Art, Claes Oldenburg draws attention to used, out-of-date, or banal items that generally go unnoticed, such as telephones, toilets, fans, and drainpipes. He is most well-known for his sculptural work and whimsical, large-scale public commissions. Conceiving multiple versions of a single subject, the artist explores a variety of media, including wood, resin, vinyl, canvas, and rubber. Using what he calls “soft materials,” Oldenburg created two sculptural versions of the Swedish light switch in the 1960s as part of his Home series. Although simple in its design, this household object represents one of the most significant developments in modern living in the early twentieth century: the spread of electric power to homes across the United States. Executed on textured cardboard, Study for a Giant Swedish Light Switch, 1966, achieves in two-dimensions the playful tactility that characterizes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures.

Richard Mosse began documenting refugee camps and staging sites in 2014 as the world was awakening to the escalating humanitarian crisis unfolding in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and across Europe. Creating what he calls "heat maps," the artist used a military-grade camera that registers infrared radiation and was originally designed for battlefield surveillance and border enforcement. Horrified by the incompetent, and often cruel, responses of countries receiving migrants, Mosse turned the camera against its intended use, employing it instead to call attention to the deterioration of basic human rights in modernized, Western societies and to communicate the harsh realities of the migrants’ experiences.

Building on the compositional sensibilities of traditional landscape painting and photography, Mosse made Yayladagi, Turkey, 2017, near the Turkish/Syrian border. Nestled into the valley at the center of the image is the titular migrant camp, laid out in an austere grid and surrounded by towering mosque spires. Stitched together from thousands of individual frames, this photograph and the other heat maps describe vast, complicated scenes in incredible detail, shedding light on both the physical and social landscapes that contain the refugee crisis.

Art Out and About

William Adolphe Bouguereau’s Return of Spring, 1886, a centerpiece of Joslyn’s renowned collection of nineteenth-century Academic painting, is featured in the exhibition Bouguereau & America. The first exhibition dedicated to the artist’s remarkable popularity in the United States, it explores how Bouguereau’s idealized, highly finished paintings of Madonnas, chaste yet sensual maidens, and remarkably spotless peasant children embodied the taste of his Gilded Age patrons.

Bouguereau & America: Milwaukee Art Museum (February 14–May 12, 2019), Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (June 22–September 22, 2019), and San Diego Museum of Art (November 9, 2019–March 15, 2020).

What's pictured: (above) William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825–1905), Return of Spring, 1886, oil on canvas, 84 1/2 x 50 in., Gift of Francis T. B. Martin, 1951.889; on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum; (right) Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926), The Meadow, 1879, oil on canvas, 32 x 39 1/4 in., Gift of Mr. William Averell Harriman, 1944.79.

Claude Monet’s The Meadow, 1879, is representing Joslyn in Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature, on view at the Denver Art Museum through February 2, 2020. The most comprehensive U.S. exhibition of Monet paintings in more than two decades, this exhibition features more than 120 paintings spanning Monet’s entire career and focuses on the celebrated French impressionist artist’s enduring relationship with nature and his response to the varied and distinct places in which he worked.

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.