New Acquisitions Now on View

Joslyn Art Museum has acquired a monumental new work by internationally renowned fiber artist Sheila Hicks for its permanent collection of contemporary art. The work, titled Mandan Shrine (2016; pictured left), consists of “ponytails” or “cords,” a recurring element in Hicks’s work that she creates by bundling long strands of linen and then tightly binding them at intervals with brightly colored threads.

The work is on view now at Joslyn as part of Sheila Hicks: Material Voices (through September 4); Hicks conceived Mandan Shrine specifically for the exhibition. While reflecting on her Nebraska heritage, she became interested in the work of Swiss artist Karl Bodmer. Joslyn’s collection includes nearly 400 watercolors and drawings by Bodmer, who journeyed up the Missouri River between 1832 and 1834 to portray the landscapes of the high plains and its native inhabitants. The nearly ten-foot-tall wall hanging Mandan Shrine shares its title with a Bodmer watercolor depicting a ceremonial structure related to Mandan beliefs about the afterlife.

Special thanks to the Joslyn Art Group for making this acquisition possible: Rae and Bill Dyer (lead gift), Henry Davis, Diny and Jim Landen, Joe Moglia, Connie Ryan, Stacy and Bruce Simon, Martha and David Slosburg, and Annette and Paul Smith.

At the Joslyn Art Museum Association Gala preview of the exhibition on Friday, June 3, a raise-the-paddle auction raised funds for the purchase of a second work by Hicks — Emerging with Grace (2016; pictured right). Also on view now in the Material Voices exhibition, Emerging with Grace is an example of Hicks’s miniature weavings she calls minimes. Using a loom she constructed in the late-1950s, Hicks turns to the minimes to reflect on her rich life experiences and world travels. With its wandering lines and inclusion of a shell — a non-fiber material — Emerging with Grace exemplifies the experimental nature of the intimate minimes. Hicks created this weaving, along with several others, in the months leading up to the opening of Material Voices, and has explained that she was reflecting on the colors of the Nebraska landscape.

What's pictured: (above left) Mandan Shrine, 2016, linen, cotton, synthetic fibers, 118 1/2 x 53 1/2 in., Museum purchase with funds from the Joslyn Art Group, 2016.11 (Photo: Colin Conces); (above right) Emerging with Grace, 2016, linen, cotton, silk, shell, 7 7/8 x 11 in., Museum purchase with funds from the Joslyn Art Museum Association Gala 2016, 2016.12 (Photo: Cristobal Zanartu); both © Sheila Hicks

Art Out & About

One of Joslyn’s most popular works, and a cornerstone of our American painting collection, is 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 to May 2017.

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

Recent Acquisitions Now on View

Albert Bierstadt was born in Germany in 1830, yet spent his childhood in Massachusetts. He returned in 1853 to Germany to study painting in Düsseldorf, and later traveled to the Alps, Florence, and Rome. Upon his return to Massachusetts in 1857, he had established himself as a highly-regarded artist of romantic alpine scenes. Desiring to explore new American vistas, Bierstadt accompanied Colonel Frederick W. Lander’s 1859 survey along the North Platte River through Nebraska and into the Wind River Mountains. During the Civil War, Bierstadt arranged another western trip with the writer Fritz Hugh Ludlow. They traveled across southern Wyoming to Salt Lake City and on to California and Oregon. Bierstadt quickly seized the American West as his artistic frontier, and was instrumental in shaping our perception of the western landscape. In 1866, he was one of the first visitors to Yosemite, which became the subject of many of his most famous canvases. His paintings’ meticulous details and sublime panoramas convinced viewers that the far West was still a rugged, primordial world of unaltered beauty, as well as a lush and fertile land rich with new opportunities. Rising Mist came to Joslyn on the eve of the JAMA Gala celebrating the opening of Go West! as the generous gift of Norm W. Waitt, Jr. It joins several other important western paintings that have been donated by Mr. Waitt, including works by William Robinson Leigh and Frank Tenney Johnson, as well as another painting by Bierstadt, the elegant study titled Indian on Horseback (ca. 1870-80). Rising Mist is now on view in gallery 9.

What's pictured: (above) Albert Bierstadt (American, born Germany, 1830–1902), Rising Mist, 1874, oil on canvas, Gift of Norm W. Waitt, Jr., 2015.10; (below) Doug Hyde (American, born 1946), Mother Earth, or a Mimbres Woman, 1980s, alabaster, Gift of Sylvia B. Cohn, 2016.6

Doug Hyde was born in Hermiston, Oregon, in 1946, of Nez Perce, Assiniboine, and Chippewa ancestry. Raised in Iowa, Hyde was encouraged to pursue his interest in art by his mother, and spent his senior year of high school at the recently opened Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Hyde had intended to study painting, but was introduced to sculpture by the famed artist Allan Houser, an encounter which changed the course of his artistic career. As Hyde recalled, “That’s when I fell in love with rocks. The colors and shapes of the materials almost instantly gave you an idea of what they wanted to be.” In Mother Earth, or a Mimbres Woman, the figure seems to emerge from a globe of alabaster, exemplifying this unity of subject and material. The Mimbres people, known for their remarkable black-and-white pottery, were part of the larger Mogollon culture, which inhabited an area of southwestern New Mexico during the first century A.D. Hyde’s sculpture, gift of Sylvia B. Cohn, who has served on the Joslyn Board of Governors for nearly four decades, makes an important addition to the Museum’s holdings of contemporary American Indian art. Mother Earth, or a Mimbres Woman, is now on view in the North Balcony gallery.

A New Look at American Painting

The American painting galleries have a new look, with two new installations in the Lauritzen Gallery (gallery 9), “The Romantic Horizon” and “Impressionism and Realism.” The first of these explores the landscape of the American West as seen by artists including Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran. Bierstadt first crossed the Rocky Mountains in the 1860s, and Moran traveled with the earliest surveys of the Yellowstone region and the Grand Canyon the following decade. Although both artists saw settlement and development spread throughout the West and relied on wealthy urban patronage, their paintings were steadfast in presenting a sublime natural world seemingly unaffected by man. Their work helped to shape an idealized image of the western landscape as an untouched wilderness that has persisted to the present day.

In the opening decades of the twentieth century, artists created another image of the West as a rough-hewn paradise, filled with rugged landscapes and daring action. Their theatrical narratives were often fraught with danger, and lives were governed by common sense and muscle. Artists including Charles M. Russell and N.C. Wyeth pictured hard working cowhands and stalwart Indians, subjects whose traditional lives had already been forever altered. Equal parts fact, myth, and nostalgia, these heroic characters continue to stalk us in movies, advertisements, and our own imaginations, even as we acknowledge the complexity and contradictions of the West.

“Impressionism and Realism” explores two of the most important movements that flanked the turn of the twentieth century. In the mid-1880s, American artists and collectors were drawn to the French Impressionists, whose work was characterized by a bright palette and lively brushwork. Many American artists made extended sojourns to Europe to study, and several of the works in the gallery were painted in Paris and its environs. Childe Hassam, one of the best known American Impressionists, gained wide acclaim for his urban views of Paris, New York, and Boston. Most American painters, however, chose to depict pastoral landscapes beyond the city’s edge. Artists such as John Henry Twachtman and Charles Harold Davis lived and worked in Connecticut, finding their inspiration in picturesque rural vistas.

Impressionism remained popular in America into the twentieth century, but by 1900, a group of artists emerged in Philadelphia and New York who treated the urban landscape in a manner that was neither sentimental nor picturesque. Employing bold, loose brushwork and a dark palette, they portrayed everyday people and situations in a realistic and dignified manner, drawing attention to daily routines and experiences. Nicknamed “The Ashcan School” for their commitment to celebrating the vitality of the metropolis as well as its grittier side, the installation includes important works by John Sloan and Robert Henri, whose Consuelo in Black (1924) is a recent gift to the Museum’s collection.

What's Pictured: (above left) Thomas Moran (American, 1837–1926), The Grand Canyon of the Colorado, 1913, oil on canvas, Gift of Mrs. C. N. Dietz, 1934.10; (above right) John Sloan (American, 1871–1951), Sunset, West Twenty-third Street (23rd Street, Roofs, Sunset), 1906, oil on canvas, 25th Anniversary Purchase, 1957.15

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.