Now on View: Mrs. Rotch's Dress

To display a portrait alongside the original garment worn by the sitter is a rare opportunity. It offers a distinct occasion to consider the artist, the subject, the dynamics of portraiture, and the culture of the time period during which both portrait and garment were produced. Now on view, the elegant blue and white evening dress designed by the Parisian couturier Callot Soeurs at the turn of the twentieth century and worn by Mrs. Abbott Lawrence Rotch for her portrait by John Singer Sargent. The premier international portraitist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Sargent flourished as a painter to the English aristocracy and American high society. He understood the importance of fashion and took great care in advising his sitters on their selection of wardrobe. Mrs. Rotch’s dress signified her wealth, sophistication, and modern taste while also providing an opportunity for Sargent to showcase his masterful handling of light and texture. Admired for his dazzling technical virtuosity and painterly technique, he influenced an entire generation of American portraitists.

This is the first installation of its kind at Joslyn, inspiring visitors to see this beloved Sargent painting in a new light.

What's pictured: (left) John Singer Sargent (American, 1856–1925), Mrs. Abbott Lawrence Rotch, 1903, oil on canvas, Lent anonymously, L-1987.5; (right) Callot Soeurs (French, active 1895–1937), Evening dress, about 1900, silk, chiffon, and linen lace, Lent anonymously, L-2018.1

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

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; (below) Martin Puryear (American, b. 1941), Self, 1978, polychromed red cedar and mahogany, 69 x 48 x 25 in., Museum purchase in memory of Elinor Ashton, 1980.63, on view at The Broad in Los Angeles. Photo: Pablo Enriquez

Martin Puryear’s 1978 sculpture Self, long a centerpiece of Joslyn’s contemporary galleries, is making a final stop at The Broad in Los Angeles as part of the exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963–1983. Prominently installed in The Broad’s ground floor entrance, Self welcomes visitors as they ascend to the exhibition—a fitting acknowledgement of Puryear’s selection to represent the United States at the 58th Annual Venice Biennale this year. Organized by the Tate Modern, the exhibition opened in London before traveling to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, AR) and Brooklyn Museum (New York, NY), and will be on view in Los Angeles until September 1, 2019.

The son of an amateur woodworker, Puryear embraces making art with his hands. While his use of simple forms recalls the spare aesthetic of Minimalism, Puryear adheres to the mantra “everything visible,” and strives to emphasize the physical characteristics of his materials. Drawing on the furniture-making skills he learned as a child, Puryear created Self by building up thin layers of wood over a hollow core.

Joslyn Art Museum Announces Major Gift from Internationally-Renowned American Artist Ed Ruscha

Internationally-renowned American artist Ed Ruscha (b. Omaha, NE, 1937) has made a major gift to Joslyn Art Museum, including 18 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture spanning his career from 1961 to 2017. Also included is a collection of Ruscha’s original artist books. The gift is complemented by an additional gift from Ruscha of 20 works by his colleagues and friends in Los Angeles, including Terry Allen, Richard Artschwager, Joe Goode, Ed Moses, and William Wegman, dating from the 1960s through 2015. The gift comes following Word/Play: Prints, Photographs, and Paintings by Ed Ruscha at Joslyn, the first major exhibition to feature the artist in his home state of Nebraska.

What's pictured: Ed Ruscha (American, b. Omaha, NE, 1937), Standard Station, 1966, 7-color screenprint, 25 5/8 x 40 in., edition number 11/50, Courtesy of the Artist. Photographer: Paul Ruscha

About his gift, Ruscha noted, “Joslyn Art Museum stands in the heartland of America. Being an Omaha native, it is important for me to contribute to this great and growing flagship institution.” The newly-acquired works will create an important core collection of Post-War West Coast artists at Joslyn and together they represent the single most important body of work ever gifted to the Museum by a living artist.

Jack Becker, Joslyn’s executive director and CEO, noted, “This gift by Ed Ruscha of his own work, in tandem with the works of other fixtures of the West Coast art scene over the past several decades, is one of the most significant gifts of contemporary art in Joslyn’s history. Ruscha’s work is renowned for his capacity to cleverly transform the mundane into the extraordinary. Fluent in painting, photography, and printmaking, he continues to influence contemporary artists worldwide as he makes new work into the seventh decade of his career. It is nothing short of extraordinary to receive more than three dozen works, selected personally by this renowned American artist, to be showcased in Omaha as part of Joslyn’s collection. We are forever intrigued by Ed Ruscha’s view of America and immensely grateful for his generosity.”

About Ed Ruscha

The promised gift of Ruscha’s work is a compact retrospective of his practice. As an important early figure in conceptual art, Ruscha demonstrated a talent for deftly combining imagery and text during his student years, when planning on a career as a commercial illustrator. His use of varied and often unusual materials and printmaking methods also reflects the practical nature of his early training, suggesting an embrace of finding the right tool for the task at hand, rather than limiting himself to a more traditional process. Together, his combination of technical finesse, an imaginative use of materials, and the array of subjects he found – from the graphic design of cans in the kitchen cupboard to neon billboards and the Hollywood sign – led to the broad acceptance of the modern world itself as subject.

Gift Highlights

The gift is anchored by a body of Ruscha’s drawings from the early 1960s onward, employing oil, acrylic, tempera, pencil, and even gunpowder that reveal a hand equally adept regardless of medium. Renowned for his printmaking, the gift includes several of Ruscha’s recent etchings from 2014, as well as the 7-color screen print, Standard Station (1966), which is arguably the artist’s most iconic image. Based on an early snapshot he made along Route 66, Ruscha transforms the profile of a filling station into a dynamic silhouette braced against a flaming horizon. In a single image, he both tips his hat to the majestic history of western landscape painting, and undermines it with his elevation of the most mundane of landmarks. The gift is bookended by two paintings, Automatic, from 1966, and 2007’s monumental Figure It On Out, which layers its eponymous text over a heroic alpine landscape. These works are joined by a boxed set of the artist’s groundbreaking photographic books, including Royal Road Test, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, and Some Los Angeles Apartments.

Ruscha’s complementary gift of works by other artists charts the course of Post-War art on the West Coast, which was a significantly different enterprise in Los Angeles than in New York City. During this fertile period, L.A. artists quickly embraced new approaches, subjects, and techniques for art making, including experimenting with the materials and processes of the booming aerospace industry, as well as the influence of surf and car cultures. L.A. Fueled by the glimmer of the space program and the emerging presence of a consumer culture poised to mine a prosperous middle class, California felt like the leading edge of the continent. The sense of racing headlong into the future was balanced, however, by the sun and surf of the Pacific Ocean, whose breezes filled artists’ studios, and California’s emerging hippie culture. It was this environment that inspired a group of young artists who had made their way West in the late 1950s and 1960s, many drawn from the Midwest. While Ruscha is recognized as perhaps the most influential California artist of the era, this gift is very much an acknowledgment of the friendships and collaborations that helped him establish his career.

What's pictured: Ed Ruscha (American, b. Omaha, NE, 1937), Figure It On Out, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 in., Courtesy of the Artist. Photographer: Paul Ruscha

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.