Blog Category: Collections

Love and the Maiden: A Harmony of Hues

In this installment of our continuing blog series examining key elements of the Aesthetic Movement through the lens of John Stanhope’s masterwork Love and the Maiden (typically on view in gallery 18 at the Legion of Honor and currently on view in The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900), curatorial assistant of European art Melissa Buron takes a closer look at color.

Love and the Maiden

John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (English, 1829–1908). Love and the Maiden, 1877. Tempera, gold paint and gold leaf on canvas. Museum purchase, European Art Trust Fund, Grover A. Magnin Bequest Fund and Dorothy Spreckels Munn Bequest Fund. 2002.176

FRAME|WORK: Children’s story (water dreaming for two children) by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature a painting by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, a member of the Papunya Tula artist collective. Children’s story (water dreaming for two children) is currently on loan to Australia's National Gallery of Victoria.

Water Dreaming

Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula (Pintupi/Luritja, 1925–2001). Children’s story (water dreaming for two children), 1972. Australia, Western Desert, Papunya Tula settlement. Pressboard, tempera pigment. Gift of the Gantner Myer Aboriginal Art Collection. 2002.70.2

FRAME|WORK: A Chasuble from 18th-century France

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature two exquisite 18th-century French liturgical vestments, a chasuble and a dalmatic, from the Museums’ permanent collections. Unfortunately, these garments are not currently on view, but please enjoy this exclusive virtual viewing!

Chasuble

Chasuble and Dalmatic, ca. 1700–1710. France, probably Paris. Silk, metallic thread; cut velvet, embroidery (laid work, couching, padded couching). Museum purchase, Dorothy Spreckels Munn Bequest Fund. 2004.9.1.1–2

FRAME|WORK: Flora and Pomona by Edward Burne-Jones

The integration of art and beauty into every aspect of life was one of the foremost tenets of the Aesthetic Movement. Artists who subscribed to this ideal stepped outside of the confines of their medium of choice and experimented with all variety of design: painters became furniture designers and architects designed textiles. This week’s FRAME|WORK features two luscious tapestries from the Museums’ permanent collections included in the special exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 (on view at the Legion of Honor through June 17). Created by Edward Burne-Jones for Morris & Co., Flora and Pomona exemplify the aesthetics of the Aesthetic Movement.

Flora and Pomona

Edward Burne-Jones (English, 1833–1898) for Morris & Co. Flora (left) and Pomona (right), 1886–1920. Wool, silk, cotton; tapestry weave. Museum purchase, Dorothy Spreckels Munn Bequest Fund. 2001.120.1–2.

FRAME|WORK: George Washington by Rembrandt Peale

FRAME | WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. On Monday, the Museums were closed in observance of Presidents Day and today is the birthday of American painter Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860). In honor of these two occasions, we feature Peale’s iconic portrait of George Washington, which is currently on display in Gallery 27 at the de Young.

FRAME|WORK: Halved Cabbage by Edward Weston

Tomorrow, most of us will sit down with family and friends to enjoy a cornucopia of Thanksgiving comestibles that will leave many satiated to the point of sickness. In preparation, this week’s FRAME|WORK takes a closer look at Edward Weston’s Halved Cabbage, whose beauty and detail give new meaning to the concept of good taste.

To Honor the Dead While Serving the Living

On Armistice Day in 1924, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor opened its doors to the public. Dedicated to the 3,600 California soldiers, sailors and marines who gave their lives during World War I, the Legion of Honor pledged to “honor the dead while serving the living.”

Today, we not only celebrate the sacrifices of countless servicemen and women, but also the 87th birthday of the Legion of Honor Museum. To commemorate this meaningful day, we hope you enjoy this selection of related artwork.

FRAME|WORK: A Māori cloak

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature an exemplary Māori cloak from the Museums’ inaugural collections (currently on display at the de Young) in honor of the October Artist-in-Residence, Māori weaver Glenda Joyce Hape.

FRAME|WORK: The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature an iconic work by the father of modern sculpture, Auguste Rodin. The Thinker is currently on view in the Court of Honor at the Legion of Honor.

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917). The Thinker, 1904. Cast bronze. Gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels. 1924.18.1

Follow that Art! Six-Sided Planes Gets a Makeover by Paintings Conservation

Last week Balcomb Greene’s Six-Sided Planes made its first entry into the Museums and the acquisitions process via the registration department. This week, the painting heads upstairs to the paintings conservation lab for a little makeover.

My name is Elise Effmann and I’m an associate paintings conservator at the Fine Arts Museums. Conservators are entrusted with the care, treatment and technical study of artworks in the collection. When a painting comes to the Museums as a proposed acquisition, our department must examine it to provide the curators with information about how it was made, and to determine if there are any potential problems with the acquisition due to its condition.

FRAME|WORK: An imperial tea service by Peter Carl Fabergé

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature an exquisite tea service from Russia made by Peter Carl Fabergé currently on view at the Legion of Honor.

Conserving Louise Nevelson’s "Ocean Gate"

As a follow up to our last post about the conservator’s role in dealing with artistic intent, the Objects Conservation Department has been working with outdoor sculpture contractors from Tracy Power Conservation to conserve the Louise Nevelson sculpture Ocean Gate. The sculpture is located at the south corner of the Osher Sculpture Garden at the de Young.


Louise Nevelson (American, 1900–1988)
Ocean Gate, 1982
Aluminum and black paint
145 11/16 x 81 7/8 x 68 1/8 in.
Museum purchase, gift of Barbro and Bernard A. Osher, 2002.72a-f

FRAME|WORK: A seven-headed bush spirit from Nigeria

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature a life-size sculpture depicting a Nigerian bush spirit, currently on view in the African gallery at the de Young.


Shrine figure or bush spirit with seven heads, 20th century
Nigeria, Cross River, Ijo people
Wood, glass eyes, paint
172.7 x 35.6 x 45.7 cm (68.5 x 14.5 x 18 in.)
Museum purchase, gift of Phyllis C. Wattis and the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Major Accessions
2004.93

Pulp Fashion Goes Pop!

The art of Isabelle de Borchgrave is in itself a type of recycling. Inspired by sumptuous costume and textiles from the past, de Borchgrave recreates some of history’s most iconic fashions in the surprising medium of paper. Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave, on view at the Legion of Honor through June 12, displays paper outfits derived from those seen in European paintings, museum collections, photographs, sketches and even literary descriptions. De Borchgrave’s art practice seems particularly relevant in today’s conservation-minded climate in which “recycle and reuse” has become a mantra for artists and fashionistas alike.

Paper fashion was not always associated with such principled objectives. In the late 1960s, when de Borchgrave was just beginning her career, paper dresses captured the cultural zeitgeist not only for their pithy design and novelty, but specifically for their disposability.

Will Work for Art: Steven Correll

"Will Work for Art" takes you behind the scenes to meet the people who make the Fine Arts Museums operate. Steven F. Correll is a Registrar who literally makes the "scene" possible by organizing and tracking artwork as it moves through the Museums. Originally from San Diego, CA and Ponca City, OK, Steve has been with the Museums for 4 years.

RTI Photography of the Red-Figure Pelike

In my last post, I introduced you to the cutting edge photography Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), a technique invented by Tom Malzbender at Hewlett Packard Labs. Here at the Museums, we have been using RTI to gain better understanding of objects in our permanent collection. We have just completed another round of RTI photography of this 5th-century Greek pelike.

FRAME|WORK: A ceremonial hanging from the Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Department of Textile Arts

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature a superb example of Indonesian weaving from the Textiles Department. This new acquisition is not currently on display, so we hope you enjoy this virtual viewing!

Ceremonial hanging (palepai), 19th century
Indonesia, South Sumatra, Lampung
Handspun cotton; plain weave with supplementary-weft patterning
330 x 69 cm (129 15/16 x 27 3/16 in.)
Museum Purchase, Textile Arts Council Endowment Fund and the Nasaw Family Foundation Fund, 2010.1

Marvelous Menagerie Unmasked

In 1996 construction workers accidentally uncovered a mosaic while widening a road in the modern Israeli town of Lod, near Tel Aviv. A preliminary excavation immediately conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed that three feet below the modern surface there was a mosaic floor dating to about AD 300. The three most complete and impressive panels from the floor are on view at the Legion of Honor through July 24.

Mosaic floor central panel, Roman, ca. AD 300. Excavated at Lod (Lydda), Israel. Stone tesserae. Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. Image courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

FRAME|WORK: Ponds and Streams by Wayne Thiebaud

FRAME|WORK is a new weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week we feature a landscape painted by one of our marquee artists, Wayne Thiebaud.

The Conservator’s Role in Honoring Artistic Intent

When objects conservators design a treatment for a corroded sculpture, they often have to grapple with the issue of the artist’s intent.

For instance, would Henry Moore at age 29, who made a sculpture with a shiny metallic surface, be in agreement with Henry Moore at 75, who, when interviewed about a treatment, stated that he quite liked the idea that surfaces went green, dry and streaky with time?

One way a conservator can help tease out these contradictions is to interview contemporary artists about the materials and techniques they use and then record how these artists would like their sculptures cared for in the future. At the Fine Arts Museums we are developing a database tracking this information for contemporary sculpture under our care.

The artist Al Farrow with

Artist Al Farrow with his sculpture The Spine and Tooth of Santo Guerro previously on view at the de Young

Cutting Edge Photography Technique Comes to the de Young!

My name is Sue Grinols and as the director of photo services and imaging, I witness the intersection of art and technology on a daily basis. This is an exciting time to be working in photography. Just seeing how technology is changing the field can be breathtaking, not to mention challenging.

Photographing artwork is a sub-specialty of studio photography. Here at the Museums, we use the same equipment and techniques as photographers who produce beautiful images of cars, perfume bottles, leather couches, and the perfectly grilled steak. But instead of trying to capture the steak’s sizzle or the couch’s inviting warmth, we attempt to bring out the essential character of the artwork while emphasizing its sublime beauty whenever possible. When we’re not doing that, we can make images that show the hard, cold details of an object in order to help conservators as they work through treating the artwork, or to help curators in their scholarly study of an object. It is this second type of photography that I want to blog about today.

In Memoriam: Merle Greene Robertson, 1913–2011

It is with great sadness that the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco mourn the passing of Merle Greene Robertson. A legend in the world of Mesoamerican studies and Maya epigraphy, Robertson has been a friend and consultant to the Museums for decades. She generously donated many of her unique rubbings made from the monuments of Chichen Itza, a large Maya center that flourished on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico after AD 800. These rubbings provide clear renderings of detailed Maya stone carvings and are an important aspect of the Museums' Mesoamerican holdings.


© 2008 Ron Henggeler
 

Happy Birthday, Richard Diebenkorn!

Today the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco wish a happy birthday to renowned artist Richard Diebenkorn. The Fine Arts Museums have enjoyed a long relationship with the artist since the Legion of Honor hosted Diebenkorn’s first solo exhibition in 1948. From that point on, the Museums were ardent supporters of the artist and his work. Both the American Art Department and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts have compiled significant holdings of his work.

Richard Diebenkorn (American, 1922–1993)
Seawall, 1957, Oil on canvas
Gift of Phyllis G. Diebenkorn, 1995.96
© The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Our Banner in the Sky

Our Banner in the Sky

Attributed to Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900)
Our Banner in the Sky, ca. 1861
Oil on paper mounted on paper board
7 13/16 x 11 13/16 inches
1994.71

Exactly 150 years ago today on April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began in earnest. At 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries on the shores of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina opened fire on Fort Sumter, the Federal-held fortification that dominated the harbor after commander Major Robert Anderson refused its surrender. The resulting bombardment went on for 34 hours, with Confederate artillerists lobbing over 3,000 rounds of shot and shell in the fort's direction. While the fort's masonry walls were battered and many of its wooden buildings were set alight, there were no fatal casualties on either side during the engagement. Ironically, two Union soldiers were killed when ammunition was accidentally ignited during the 100-gun salute to Fort Sumter's tattered but intact American flag.

It is this flag that is thought to be depicted in the de Young's Our Banner in the Sky, believed to have been created in 1861 by American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. Major Anderson took Fort Sumter's flag with him back to the North, where it became the focal point of numerous patriotic rallies, the first of which took place in New York City's Union Square. With over 100,000 attendees, it was the largest public gathering in the United States to date. The celebrity flag toured countless cities throughout the North, where it raised funds for the war effort by being auctioned off. The winner naturally donated the flag back to the nation to be auctioned off again at the next rally. In April of 1865, Anderson, now a major general, returned to Fort Sumter and raised the flag over its ruins as part of the celebration of the Union's victory.

Julian Cox in conversation with Collection Connections artist Marco Breuer

In the midst of the 48-hour installation of Line of Sight, Founding Curator of Photography and Chief Curator at the de Young Julian Cox sat down with Marco Breuer to discuss his artistic practice.

Portraits of George Washington for Presidents’ Day

George Washington

Rembrandt Peale (American, 1778–1860), George Washington, ca. 1850.
Oil on canvas. 53.15.1

Presenting the first blog post by communications intern Gauthier Melin.

Another Wave

The Wave, 2005, by Kay Sekimachi

In 2005, Bay Area artist Kay Sekimachi gifted the museum a seminal work, a miniature book—The Wave. The Wave comes from her series of accordion books that were inspired by the Japanese artist Hokusai prints from his own series Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji. Woven in natural linen, Sekimachi used a painted-warp technique to imprint the repetitive pattern of the wave on the book’s covers and pages and a double-weave technique to create the accordion folds. The meditative quality of Sekimachi’s work belies the complexity of her techniques. Her work reflects a combination of influences— from the Japanese aesthetic comes her purity of form and reverence of nature and from her early Bauhaus training the control of geometry and symmetry, as well as, the exploration of the double-weave technique. 

Jill D'Alessandro, Curator, Textile Arts

Fun with Patterns

fun with patternsFAMSF presents Amish Abstractions: Quilts from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown in the Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Textile Gallery at the de Young. The exhibition, which runs through June 6, 2010, features 48 full-size and crib quilts that showcase the diversity of the Amish quilt tradition. As an exhibition supplement, the textile education gallery is devoted to quilts and visitors of all ages are invited to create their own quilt patterns using wooden blocks.

A Day at the FAMSF Photo Studio

Amazing art comes through the photo studio on a regular basis.
 
We tend to save Mondays (when we’re closed to the public) to photograph artworks that are normally installed in the galleries. This way we can take the objects out of the galleries and into the photo studio without impacting the public.
 
Recently we shot two recent acquisitions from the AOA department. The images will appear in the next edition of the museums' Fine Arts magazine.