Monday, December 5, 2011

Crystal Bridges Museum, A "NEW" Collection of American Art + A Taste of Brussels


18th Century: Portrait of George Washington
by Gilbert Stewart (detail 1797) 

 Mid 19th Century:
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait  "The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix" (1856)

Mid to Late 19th Century:
Winslow Homer "Spring" (1878)

Mid -Late 20th Century:
Louise Nevelson's painted wood sculpture "Night Zag Wall" (ca. 1969-74)

21st Century: Evan Penny "Old Self: Portrait of the Artist 
as He Will (Not) Be. Variation #2" (2010)
Alice Walton loves art, but while growing up in Arkansas as an aspiring artist she had little or no opportunity for quality face time with original paintings, drawings or original editioned prints created by the "Greats" of art history. Her main source for experiencing the visual arts was the same as 90% of the art lovers in America's heartland: art publications - books and magazines. Seeing a photo of a work of art vs being in the room with an original piece are emotionally two very different experiences.

Gerardus Duyckinck's Early American Portraits
of the Levy-Franks Family (1795)
Francis Guy "Winter Scene in Brooklyn" (1820)

For many years now, Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton (founder of the world's largest retailer, Walmart) has been funneling her inheritance into her life's passion, art. Specifically she has focused her time on collecting masterpieces by American artists and on her dream to give back to mid-America through exposure to historic and original American art. Hoping an art institution could inspire creativity for many future generations, who visit and participate in workshops.

A rendering of the Museum Complex.

On November 11, 2011 her vision of creating a museum for the Walton family collection became a reality. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art located in Bentonville, Arkansas now houses this amazing collection. The beautiful museum complex was designed by Moshe Safdie. Safdie is an Israeli born architect who has designed many noted cultural centers, museums and airports. Safdie's design for Crystal Bridges Museum consists of a quadrangle of cocoon shaped covered bridges and sloping pavilions built next to and over two creek-fed ponds. The complex is surrounded by 120 acres of gardens and Ozark forest. Walking on the trails through the adjacent landscape completes the Museum's mission to unite art created by man with nature's beauty. 

Walton chose the seasoned museum director Don Bacigalupi to oversee this major collection and to coordinate continuing acquisition. A recent New York Times article stated: John Wilmerding, an art historian on the museum’s board, said he viewed the appointment of a respected museum executive like Mr. Bacigalupi “as a coming-of-age moment for Crystal Bridges"..... It’s an opportunity for it to be perceived not as a curiosity, “but as a major American art museum.”

(above) Andrew Wyeth's "Rush Hour" and
The Roofs and Landscape around Crystal Bridges

There are important works in the Crystal Bridges Museum collection. It is amazing to view so many "masterpieces" which all students of art have studied in their art history books, housed in a brand new art museum. There are also many interesting tales surrounding the formation of this collection. One of the most riveting stories is about Walton's bid to purchase "The Gross Clinic" by Thomas Eakins. 

"The Gross Clinic" by Thomas Eakins
was a near miss acquisition, for the museum.
This beautifully painted masterwork of realism and drama shows Dr. Gross conducting a 19th century class in leg surgery, with the patient's horrified mother and the medical students all looking on. It is one of the icons of American art. The board of the Jefferson Medical College, at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, had voted to sell the painting in order to help fund the institution. They offered the painting to any and all interested parties for a mere $64 million dollars. (At the time, this was a record price for an American painting prior to WWII. The school's alumni had paid $200 for the painting in 1878, which barely covered Eakins' expenses for materials and the frame.) Walton offered the board their asking price, but concerned Philadelphia citizens quickly formed an organization to raise money in order to keep the painting in Philadelphia. $30 million was raised by the group and Wachovia Bank agreed to loan them the difference, enabling the group to purchase the painting, which now hangs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Walton was disappointed to not-be-able to include this icon of art history in her collection, but she was also excited to see a group of citizens so moved by "art" as to unite and work hard to keep the painting they love in the city. 
View from the Restaurant
"Sam Thomas with his Wife and Two Daughters" 
by Edward Dalton Marchant (1830)
A Dan Flavin Neon (1964)
My first 18 years were nourished by Arkansas's natural beauty and many intelligent mentors. I know, first hand, how few institutions promoting understanding and appreciation of the arts there are in this region. With this bias stated, I was very impressed with Crystal Bridges! In my opinion, this collection is the most complete overview of American art, from Colonial times through the most current trends, housed in any singular art museum. (The Smithsonian is a series of museums and the other museums dedicated to American art all have stylistic, theme or period preferences.) I heartily recommend anyone interested in seeing American history through art, and everyone interested in today's contemporary art scene, to plan a visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Although the location is remote, access is easy. There is a new international airport in Bentonville, with frequent flights in and out and excellent highways lead almost directly to the museum.

One of Joseph Cornell's Boxes

Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection is housed in four connected buildings with twelve galleries. The galleries and artworks are arranged chronologically in a counter clock-wise rotation around the central creek fed pond. A walk through these galleries provides the visitor with a journey through every phase of American art history. There are also thematic and stylistic groupings within each period.

Below are some of the galleries along with highlights of artworks you will encounter.  

Colonial to Early
19th Century Art 
Colonial Era through 1860 
Charles Willson Peale 
George Washington 
ca. 1780-1782 
Oil on canvas 

Richard Caton Woodville 
War News from Mexico 
Oil on canvas 

Asher Brown Durand 
Kindred Spirits (detail) 
Oil on canvas 

Late 19th Century Art 
Paintings from 1865 to 1900 

John Singer Sargent 
Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife 
Oil on canvas 

Thomas Eakins

Professor Benjamin Howard Rand 
Oil on canvas

Maria Oakey Dewing 
Rose Garden 
Oil on canvas 

Temporary Exhibitions 
A connecting two-level gallery has small temporary exhibitions from the Museum’s permanent collection and in the future will feature small exhibitions from partner institutions. 
The inaugural exhibitions in this gallery include: 

Upper level: 
Photogravures and overtones from the Native American Indian series by Edward Curtis  

Lower level: 
The Arkansas Traveler, a collection of prints, paintings, and artifacts illustrating the history and significance of this American folk story.  

Early 20th Century Art 
Paintings from the Ash Can School to American Modernism: 1900 to 1945 
Norman Rockwell 
Rosie the Riveter 
Oil on canvas 

Charles Sheeler 
Amoskeag Mills #2 
Oil on canvas 

20th Century Art 
Paintings from Post-World War II art movements such as Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, and New American Realism  

Lynda Benglis
Eat Meat  
Cast Aluminum 

Andy Warhol 
Dolly Parton 
Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas 

Kerry James Marshall 
Our Town 
Acrylic and printed-paper collage on canvas 

Changing Exhibition Space
The Director has created a large gallery for temporary exhibitions drawn from the museum collection with no limitation as to themes, artists or periods. The space will also be used for exhibitions on loan from other institutions.

(above) Currently in the Changing Exhibition Space is a wall hanging made up of spools of thread to form a digital picture that is upside down. When viewed through a crystal orb you see "The Last Supper". 

"Wonder World" 
The inaugural exhibition in this changing gallery features a selection of contemporary works from the museum's permanent collection. 

Nick Cave "Soundsuit"
I personally have seen some of these very same works at recent gallery shows in New York City or written about in articles for this year's international art fairs. This underlines how recent the acquisitions are in this collection. Other artists featured in this "Wonder World" exhibition are also well represented in MoMA, DIA Beacon and the other outstanding contemporary collections around the world. This changing gallery was like walking into a fresh and exciting art fair.

Jamie Wyeth "Orca Bates" (1990)

Mary McCleary "The Falcon Cannot Hear the Falconer"

For more images from Crystal Bridges go to our POSTSCRIPT section at the end of this issue. If you are interested in visiting The Crystal Bridges Museum you can find visitor information at the Museum's website: A 356 page catalog titled Celebrating the American Spirit, Masterworks from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art picturing and discussing many of the artworks in the collection is available through the Crystal Bridges Museum Shop, 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, AR 72712.
(Sources: Personal visit to the museum and the Crystal Bridges Museum Press Department)

Try These Tasty 
Brussels Sprouts

I enjoy Brussels sprouts with any meal, fancy or casual and sometimes the sprouts are the entire meal. Yes, these small, edible one inch buds which look like miniature cabbages, are named for Brussels Belgium and are delicious. Although few historians believe these plants were first cultivated in or near Brussels, all experts agree these hearty vegetables are perfectly suited to be grown in the climates of northern Europe.

Some preparations of Brussels sprouts can render them tough or bitter, but my favorite preparation of this bud renders a savory delight for the palate.

Brussels Sprouts in a Caper Sauce

Sauce -
2 TBLS small capers, rinsed
1 shallot, finely diced
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 TBLS white wine or champagne vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice 
Salt & Pepper to taste

Sprouts -
20 or 30 selectively chosen Brussels sprouts

Sauce - whisk all ingredients together. Add salt & pepper to taste and let the sauce stand for 10 minutes. Then taste again and adjust the seasonings by adding more vinegar, lemon juice, salt or pepper.

Sprouts - Wash and trim off the stem ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove the bruised outer leaves. Cut each bud in half and place in a steamer. Steam for 10 minutes or until soft.

Spoon sprouts into a serving dish and pour sauce over the soft, cut buds, mix well. Best if served warm, but Brussels sprouts hold up well at room temperature. 
(Source: The Atkinson family cookbook)

Until later,

Below are additional images from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

View of the 20th Century Gallery

Andrew Wyeth "Airborne" (1996)

Karl Bodmer (ca.1832-34)
"Pehriska-Ruhpa, Minitarri Warrior
in the Costume of the Dog Dance" 
(Hand-Colored Aquatint)

Alexander Calder "Mobile" in the 20th Century Gallery

Charles Bird King (1822)

In Colonial America, the young and beautiful
Mrs. Frances Atkinson obviously had married well
and her pet flying squirrel symbolizes how she
has her husband on a leash.
Painting by John Singleton Copley (1765)

"Small Purple Hill" New Mexico by Georgia O'Keeffe (1934)

"Evening Star No. II" by Georgia O'Keeffe (1917)

Gilbert Stuart (detail, 1801-2)
"Portrait of William Smith"

The Great Hall

Jacob Laurence

Kara Walker "A Warm Summer Evening in 1863" (2008)

Luis Alfonso Jimenez "Self-Portrait"

John Marin "Grain Elevator" Weehawken (ca. 1910-15)

Milton Avery "Nudes" (1948)

Samuel Morse "Marquis de Lafayette"

Maurice Pendergast
"People on Revere Beach"

Walton Ford "The Island" (2009)

Raphaelle Peale "Corn & Cantaloupe" (1813)

Maxfield Parrish
"The Lantern Bearers"

Wayne Thiebaud "Supine Woman" (1963)

Isamu Naguchi "Lunar Landscape"

Will Barnet "Woman Reading"

Richard Estes "Antarctica" (2007)

ARTSnFOOD, All rights reserved. Concept & Original Text © Copyright 2011 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

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