May 2, 2019
The National Gallery of Art has acquired a pair of still-life pastel drawings by Antoine Berjon: Hunting Trophy with Mallard, Partridge, Goldfinches, and Onions (c. 1810) and Hunting Trophy with Hare and Bay Leaves (c. 1810). Berjon is principally known as one of the finest French flower painters of the first half of the 19th century.
Pendant works, Hunting Trophy with Mallard, Partridge, Goldfinches, and Onions and Hunting Trophy with Hare and Bay Leaves are distinctive in Berjon's oeuvre and rank among his masterpieces. Most of his drawings are patterned floral studies rendered in black chalk with white heightening on colored paper that correlate with his principal activity as a textile designer. Berjon reserved pastel for works of special contexts and larger scale.
The Gallery's pastels recall the still lifes of Jean Siméon Chardin in their exquisitely calculated compositions and exchange of literal description for a visual experience. At the same time, the precision of their design, with pronounced axes and subtly rhyming shapes, hints at the artist's awareness of the principles of neoclassical composition.
Purchased with funds from the Patrons' Permanent Fund, these drawings are the first works by Berjon to enter the Gallery's collection.
The National Gallery of Art has acquired Philips Wouwerman’s The Departure for the Hunt (c. 1665–1668) with funds given by The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund in honor of retiring director Earl A. Powell III. Wouwerman is one of the most prolific and celebrated Haarlem artists of the Dutch Golden Age.
Among the most elegant and accomplished of Wouwerman's late works, The Departure for the Hunt depicts a party preparing for a falcon hunt in front of an elegant country estate. A master of narrative detail, Wouwerman filled the scene with lively vignettes of pages carrying falcons and bringing wine; a huntsman sounding the horn to signal the start of the event; and a merry company enjoying a peacock pie feast on the terrace above. Combining a subtle palette of browns with a striking blue sky and employing periodic accents of bright color throughout, the artist captured both the elegance of this aristocratic pastime as well as the majestic beauty of the countryside. Best known for his depictions of equestrian subjects, Wouwerman executed some 600 paintings over the course of a short career, spending his final years painting highly refined variations on the theme of the hunt.
Purchased with funds from The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, in honor of Earl A. Powell III, Director of the National Gallery of Art (1992–2019), this painting is the second work by Wouwerman to enter the Gallery's collection, joining Battle Scene (c. 1645/1646).
With support from the New Century Fund, Eugene L. and Marie-Louise Garbáty Fund, Elizabeth White Fund, and the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, the National Gallery of Art has purchased eight drawings by several of the most accomplished Genoese artists. Genoese draftsmanship during the school's golden age—from around 1600 and the visits of Peter Paul Rubens to Genoa, through the second quarter of the 18th century and the activity of Alessandro Magnasco—represents one of the high achievements of Baroque style. Genoese drawings tend toward elaborate technique, with media often superimposed and built up; pictorial values, including actual color; and destination as autonomous works of art. Combined with the Gallery's existing holdings, including several works acquired in recent years, these new acquisitions establish the finest and most representative collection of Genoese drawings in the United States.
A sheet of studies (1610s) by Aurelio Lomi (1556–1623), with its traditional preparatory function and mise-en-page, exemplifies the Tuscan current at the beginning of the period. Dating from the late 1620s, a compositional study for a major altarpiece by Giulio Benso (1592–1668) demonstrates the persistence of earlier habits in its calligraphic line and bold wash. In its visionary tenor and technique that evokes Parmigianino, a 1650s landscape by Bartolomeo Biscaino (1629–1657) is a characteristic example of the artist's work. The Meeting of Jacob and Rachel (1670s), a drawing by Domenico Piola (1627–1703), is unusually subtle in composition, modulation, and feeling. Among the acquired works is the only drawing in the oeuvre of Giovanni Andrea Carlone (1639–1697) that is clearly preparatory for a known painting. Saint Michael and the Rebel Angels (c. 1682), an autonomous work of grand scale and high finish by Gregorio De Ferrari (1647–1726), is the most spectacular drawing in the group and the finest of its kind outside the Musei Civici of Genoa. Idealized but lilting, a study (c. 1738) for the most important commission of Lorenzo De Ferrari (1680–1744), the decoration of Genoa's Gesù, epitomizes a classicism that emerged after 1700. An expressionistic Baptism of Christ (1720s) by Alessandro Magnasco (1667–1749), from a dismembered album of figure studies, corresponds to his painting of the same subject (c. 1740) in the Gallery's collection.
These drawings will be part of the Gallery's upcoming exhibition, La Superba: Art in Genoa, 1600–1750, on view May 3–August 16, 2020.
One of the most distinctive photographs by Margaret Watkins (1884–1969), Domestic Symphony (1919) is an important addition to the Gallery's holdings of modern photography. Depicting a still life she constructed in the kitchen of her New York apartment, this striking print showcases her virtuosity at creating evocative compositions using ordinary objects. This thoughtful study of shape and materiality transforms and elevates its humble subject matter. An enamelware pie plate, a cast-iron pan, and three eggs rest on a porcelain drain board that curves gracefully over the edge of a sink. A striped dish towel draws the viewer's eye down along the right side of the print to where Watkins astutely used light and shadow to create an artful rhythm.
Born in Canada, Watkins moved to the United States in her twenties to become an artist. She transitioned quickly from student to teacher at the influential Clarence H. White School of Photography and was an active member, and later vice president, of the Pictorial Photographers of America. As someone who shaped the move in photography away from pictorialism to modernism, Watkins saw modern art as a great inspiration to photographers. Demonstrating Watkins's awareness of cubist painting and Marcel Duchamp's urinal readymade, Domestic Symphony also speaks to the domestic interior and the spaces of women's labor. The title not only reflects her lifelong interest in music—she played piano, sang in choirs, and enjoyed attending concerts—but also calls to mind other artists who compared music with the visual arts, including James McNeill Whistler and Wassily Kandinsky, who were interested in how abstract forms interact directly with the senses. Watkins associated domestic labor and artistic endeavor with the intellectual work of composing.
Purchased with funds from the Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, this photograph is the second work by Watkins to enter the Gallery's collection.
Laurie Tylec, (202) 842-6355 or [email protected]
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