Affini­ties and Dis­tinc­tions

Glack­ens and Renoir are the sub­ject of an ex­hi­bi­tion at NSU Art Mu­seum Fort Lauderdale

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Glack­ens and Renoir are the sub­ject of an ex­hi­bi­tion at NSU Art Mu­seum Fort Lauderdale

Al­fred C. Barnes (1872-1951) was an in­ven­tor and founder of the famed Barnes Foun­da­tion. Wil­liam J. Glack­ens (1870-1938) was one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the ground­break­ing In­ter­na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion of Mod­ern Art in 1913, now known as The Ar­mory Show, which in­tro­duced mod­ern Euro­pean artists to au­di­ences in New York, Chicago and Bos­ton. Barnes and Glack­ens were child­hood friends and at­tended Cen­tral High School in Philadel­phia to­gether.

In 1912, Barnes sent Glack­ens to Paris with a large sum of money “to buy some good mod­ern paint­ings.” Barnes re­called later, “the most valu­able sin­gle ed­u­ca­tional fac­tor to me has been my fre­quent association with a life-long friend who com­bines great­ness as an artist with a big man’s mind.”

Glack­ens sent back works by Paul Cézanne, vin­cent van Gogh, Paul Gau­guin, Pablo Pi­casso, Pierre-auguste Renoir and oth­ers. when Barnes opened the foun­da­tion in 1922, the col­lec­tion con­tained some 400 works by French im­pres­sion­ists and postim­pres­sion­ists, in­clud­ing about 178 works by Renoir (1841-1919). Glack­ens’ son Ira (1870-1938) be­queathed a large col­lec­tion of paint­ings and works on pa­per span­ning his fa­ther’s ca­reer to Nova South­west­ern Univer­sity Mu­seum of Art Fort Lauderdale in 1991.The univer­sity is now home to the Wil­liam J. Glack­ens Re­search Col­lec­tion and Study Cen­ter. In 2014, the NSU Mu­seum hosted the ex­hi­bi­tion Wil­liam Glack­ens, the first com­pre­hen­sive ex­hi­bi­tion of his work in nearly 50 years. From Oc­to­ber 21 through May 19, 2019, it will host the ex­hi­bi­tion Wil­liam J. Glack­ens and Pier­reau­guste Renoir: affini­ties and Dis­tinc­tions. It has been cu­rated by Bar­bara Buh­ler Lynes, PH.D., Sunny Kauf­man Se­nior Cu­ra­tor at the mu­seum.

The ex­hi­bi­tion brings to­gether “25 works by each artist that il­lu­mi­nate

paint dur­ing other im­por­tant eras of Amer­i­can his­tory, in­clud­ing the boom years af­ter World War II, the Cold War and “Red Scare” era, and through­out the civil rights move­ment in the 1960s. It should also be men­tioned that White was, for a brief time, mar­ried to an­other im­por­tant Amer­i­can artist, sculp­tor Elizabeth Catlett.

The ret­ro­spec­tive is co-cu­rated by Sarah Kelly Oehler, the Fieldm­c­cormick Chair and Cu­ra­tor of Amer­i­can Art at the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago, who started work­ing on the ex­hi­bi­tion roughly five years ago af­ter grow­ing fa­mil­iar with nearly 50 works in the mu­seum’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion. “I had been think­ing about White for a very long time. His work is so pow­er­ful and com­pelling, but there wasn’t much re­search on it nor was there ex­po­sure

to a broader au­di­ence,” Oehler says, adding that White’s work will feel very timely to many au­di­ences. “we’re at this mo­ment where it feels so im­por­tant to have an artist like this speak to our view­ers about equal­ity, racism, about an en­tire his­tory of peo­ple of the United States who were very much de­nied their civil rights…our job is to pro­vide some his­tor­i­cal con­text to the art, but re­ally the beauty of art is that peo­ple can come in and re­spond how­ever they like, in their own in­di­vid­ual ways.and I think White’s work will do that ex­cep­tion­ally well be­cause it is very ac­ces­si­ble—he cre­ated fig­ures and peo­ple will make con­nec­tions with them.”

One as­pect that view­ers will be drawn to, Oehler says, is the dif­fer­ent medi­ums White worked in. “he worked in ev­ery­thing. Ev­ery con­ceiv­able me­dia he could get his hands on: painting, draw­ing, oils, tem­pura, wa­ter­color, pen and ink, crayon, char­coal, he was a print­maker and worked in linocut… and he of­ten mixed all these to­gether. Aes­thet­i­cally he was push­ing him­self to cre­ate the best mes­sage at all times, and he chose his means ac­cord­ingly,” the co-cu­ra­tor says. “through­out much of the 1950s and 1960 he was work­ing as a draughts­man, but he never thinks it’s part of the hi­er­ar­chy of things, he just wanted to el­e­vate draw­ing and he en­joyed the process.and what’s so amaz­ing about his work is that he mas­tered his art on so many dif­fer­ent lev­els, and I truly mean that—he mas­tered ev­ery­thing he worked on.” Works in the ret­ro­spec­tive in­clude the 1951 egg tem­pera Our Land, which draws in­spi­ra­tion from two very dif­fer­ent sources: Mex­i­can mod­ernism and Grant Wood’s mas­ter­piece Amer­i­can Gothic.the piece shows a black woman hold­ing a pitch­fork at the open door to her home.“mex­i­can mod­ernists

were a pri­mary in­flu­ence on White as a younger artist. He learned his sense that art has a pur­pose. From Mex­i­can mod­ernists he also de­vel­oped his fig­u­ra­tive style, which is more nat­u­ral­is­tic, but also very styl­ized,” Oehler says. “For Amer­i­can Gothic, I’m speak­ing to you as a cu­ra­tor of art at the home of Amer­i­can Gothic, so we’re ex­cited to have this work be­cause many artists are in­spired by it, and this is White lay­ing his own claim to Amer­i­can Gothic.with this piece he is en­gag­ing with the his­tory of Amer­i­can art.the Wood painting was a cul­tural touch­stone, even cul­tural con­tro­versy about how to de­fine Amer­i­can.white was wad­ing into that con­ver­sa­tion with his own piece.”

In Har­vest Talk, a draw­ing from 1953, White cre­ates a sim­i­lar im­age with two black men in a field with a scythe.the work was ac­quired by the mu­seum in 1991, be­com­ing the first White in the col­lec­tion.“this work re­ally em­braces his more nat­u­ral­is­tic style. He drops the styl­iza­tion for these in­cred­i­bly vol­u­met­ric, well-rounded and beau­ti­ful fig­ures,” Oehler says.“the men don’t look overtly po­lit­i­cal—not like the Trenton Six, which is a di­rectly po­lit­i­cal work—but I would make the case that al­most ev­ery­thing was po­lit­i­cal in one way. Har­vest Talk is tied to a spe­cific event, a trip made to the Soviet Union. White was an out­right left­ist and likely a com­mu­nist. He vis­ited the Soviet Union in 1951, which would have been very in­ter­est­ing to the Fbi.while he was there he was in­cred­i­bly im­pressed, es­pe­cially with so­cial re­al­ism, which was Soviet pro­pa­ganda at the time. It’s been sug­gested the scythe di­rectly links the work to that trip.”

Oehler adds that White was later called be­fore the House Un-amer­i­can Ac­tiv­i­ties Com­mit­tee, which was out­ing com­mu­nists and black­list­ing them from their re­spec­tive fields, but never had to ap­pear as his sub­poena was can­celed.

Ad­di­tional works in the ex­hi­bi­tion in­clude Gideon, a draw­ing of a man’s up­turned face; Black Pope (Sand­wich Board Man), an oil wash on board; and var­i­ous stud­ies and sketches from his five mu­rals, in­clud­ing The Con­tri­bu­tion of the Ne­gro to Amer­i­can Democ­racy from Hamp­ton Univer­sity in­vir­ginia. In ad­di­tion to the mu­ral work, the ex­hi­bi­tion will also fea­ture sev­eral lith­o­graphs.“white al­ways felt that art should not be for the elites, that it should be out in the com­mu­nity for every­one,” Oehler says.“so he would is­sue high-qual­ity off­set lith­o­graphs so peo­ple could buy them for a cou­ple of dol­lars, or even free cal­en­dars.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion will fea­ture more than 80 paint­ings, draw­ings and prints, as well as 18 pho­tographs taken by White and sev­eral pieces of ephemera.

Pierre-auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Por­trait of Jean, 1897. Oil on can­vas.The Mu­seum of Fine Arts Hous­ton, gift of Isaac and Agnes Cullen Arnold, 68.55.

Charles White (1918-1979), Our Land, 1951. Egg tem­pera on panel, 24 x 20 in., signed and dated lower right. Pri­vate Col­lec­tion. © The Charles White Ar­chives Inc.

Charles White (1918-1979), Sound of Si­lence, 1978. Color litho­graph on gray wove pa­per, printed by David Panosh and pub­lished by Hand Graph­ics,Ltd., 25 x 35¼ in., in­scribed verso, lower right, in graphite: ‘NEWSPRINT GREY’. The Art In­sti­tute of Chicago, Mar­garet Fisher Fund.© The Charles White Ar­chives Inc.

Charles White (1918-1979), Trenton Six, 1949. Ink over graphite un­der­draw­ing on pa­per­board,2115⁄16 x 297⁄8 in. Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Fort Worth, TX. © The Charles White Ar­chives Inc.

Charles White (1918-1979), Gideon, 1951. Litho­graph in black on ivory wove pa­per, printed by Robert Black­burn, 20 x 151⁄3 in. The Art In­sti­tute of Chicago, Mar­garet Fisher Fund. © The Charles White Ar­chives Inc.

Charles White (1918-1979), Black Pope (Sand­wich Board Man), 1973.Oil wash on board, 60 x 437⁄8 in. The Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, NewYork, Richard S. Zeisler (by ex­change), The Friends of Ed­u­ca­tion of The Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, Com­mit­tee on Draw­ings Fund, Dian Wood­ner, and Agnes Gund. © The Charles White Ar­chives Inc.

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