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Recent Acquisitions

November 5, 2019 

Sir Edwin Landseer, Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler, 1820, oil on canvas

Sir Edwin Landseer, Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler, 1820
oil on canvas
189 x 237 cm (74 1/4 x 93 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Patrons' Permanent Fund
Press images available

Sir Edwin Landseer (1802–1873) was a renowned 19th-century British painter of animals—in particular horses, dogs, and stags. The Gallery has acquired Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler (1820), Landseer's first masterpiece and the work that helped establish his reputation. Completed when the artist was only 18 years old, the painting depicts two mastiffs that have found a young man buried in the snow near the Augustinian hospice of the Great St. Bernard Pass in the Swiss Alps. The dogs are working together to save him; one is crouched over him, while the other is barking to get the attention of monks hurrying to the scene. Realized on a monumental scale with brilliant color and richly expressive brushwork, the painting is remarkable for its powerful drama and superb depiction of the two dogs that are its protagonists, the unfortunate traveler, and the bleak, frozen scene. A British collector acquired the picture directly from Landseer, and it remained privately owned until its acquisition by the Gallery.

 

Edgar Degas, Apres le bain, femme s'essuyant, c. 1900, charcoal and pastel on tracing paper

Edgar Degas, After the Bath: Woman Drying Herself, c. 1900
charcoal and pastel on tracing paper
sheet: 78.11 x 37.15 cm (30 3/4 x 14 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Bequest of William B. Jordan and Robert Dean Brownlee
2019.45.21
Press images available

A gift of 20 drawings, one print, and four medals was recently bequeathed to the Gallery by renowned historian of Spanish art, museum curator and administrator, and philanthropist William B. Jordan and his husband, Robert Dean Brownlee. Jordan was the founder of the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and was also an adjunct curator of European art at the Dallas Museum of Art before serving as deputy director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth from 1981 to 1990. Among the remarkable works included in this gift are the drawings by John Cage (1912–1992), Edgar Degas (1834–1917), Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966), and Cy Twombly (1928–2011).

Cage's monumental drawing River, Rocks and Smoke 4/10/90 No. 17 (1990), joins a distinguished collection of the artist's works on paper. Inspired by the beauty of nature, Cage explored various combinations of sinuous watercolor-traced contours of found stones on paper prepared with ethereal veils of smoke. This work highlights his signature practice of making decisions determined by chance operations, which he adapted from the ancient Chinese I Ching.

After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself (c. 1900) demonstrates the mastery with which Degas employed the expressive and tonal possibilities of charcoal in his powerful studies of the female form. It joins the Gallery's rich collection of Degas's works in all media, especially the numerous two- and three-dimensional renderings of the female nude.

Executed in Giacometti's characteristically vibrating contours, Diego Seated (1948) is the first work depicting the artist's brother—one of Giacometti's favorite subjects—to enter the Gallery's collection. The density of lines defining the pronounced eye sockets and broadly referencing the features of Diego's head imparts a psychological intensity to the portrait that suggests the inner anxieties of the sitter rather than his outward appearance.

The first major early drawing by Twombly to enter the Gallery's collection, Untitled (1958) is composed of rhythmic calligraphy and a variety of gestural marks that allude to language and form while remaining provocatively indecipherable.

Also included in the gift are significant works by Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947), Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825), Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015), František Kupka (1871–1957), and Pablo Picasso (1881–1973).

October 25, 2019

Judith Godwin, Seated Figure, 1955

Judith Godwin, Seated Figure, 1955
oil on canvas
210.82 x 119.38 cm (83 x 47 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Artist
Press images available

A generous gift to the Gallery from American artist Judith Godwin (b. 1930), Seated Figure (1955) is the first work by her to enter the collection. Seated Figure is a striking arrangement of pale blue, royal blue, and black planes outlined in white and gray that evoke a figure's head, back, knee, and leg folded into a chair. Angular lines, extravagant drips, and vigorous brushwork energize the composition and transform the static motif of a seated figure into a dynamic image. The work shows both Godwin's mastery of the gestural style of abstract expressionists like Franz Kline and the influence of Martha Graham's expressive bodily gesture. Completed when Godwin was 25 years old, Seated Figure is a powerful example of second-generation abstract expressionism by one of the movement's female practitioners.


Dino Aranda, Three Figures, 1968

Dino Aranda, Three Figures, 1968
acrylic on canvas
overall: 88.9 x 139.7 cm (35 x 55 in.)
framed: 144.78 x 92.71 x 3.81 cm (57 x 36 1/2 x 1 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Werth V. Zuver
Press images available

The Gallery has acquired its first work by Nicaraguan-born artist Dino Aranda (b. 1945). Aranda cofounded the Praxis Group, which established Managua, Nicaragua, as one of the leading centers of Latin American art during the 1960s. A vital artist in the history of Latin American art, Aranda is also an important figure in the Washington, DC, art community. With Werth Zuver and others he cofounded Fondo del Sol Visual Arts Center, a Washington art gallery known for its patronage of Latino, Caribbean, and other minority artists. Aranda created Three Figures (1968) as part of a series of works responding to the murder of Nicaraguan students under the Somoza dictatorship. This painting depicts three abstracted figures all contained within coffin- or cage-like forms. His grotesque forms—a dominant trend in Latin American art at that time—have been compared to those of Francis Bacon, although Aranda's images reflect Nicaraguan realities rather than imagined nightmares.

 

Alejandro Arostegui, Beast, 1968

Alejandro Aróstegui, Beast, 1968
oil and mixed media on canvas and board
93.98 x 123.19 cm (37 x 48 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Werth V. Zuver
Press images available

Alejandro Aróstegui (b. 1935) is one of the most important postwar Nicaraguan artists. He cofounded of the Praxis Group, which established Managua, Nicaragua, as one of the leading centers of Latin American art during the 1960s. The first avant-garde visual arts movement in Nicaragua, the Praxis Group integrated elements of Western modernism with a distinctly Nicaraguan visual vocabulary, while also examining the relationship between art, politics, and society. Painted while Aróstegui was in New York, Beast (1968) showcases a combination of textural influences from Paris and from the artist's Nicaraguan roots. Aróstegui often used a thick clay in his paints, sometimes adding shells, stones, or other materials. He is also known for incorporating crushed metal objects into his work, as seen in Beast. This is the first work by Aróstegui to enter the Gallery's collection.

 

Yoshitomo Nara, Midnight Truth, 2017

Yoshitomo Nara, Midnight Truth, 2017
acrylic on canvas
227.3 x 181.8 cm (89 1/2 x 71 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Lisa and Steven Tananbaum
Press images available

Currently based in Tokyo, Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959) grew up in the post-World War II era of Japan's developing manga and anime culture. Nara draws inspiration from both eastern and western sources, as well as spiritual, religious, and philosophical themes. He is best known for his paintings of children that show influences of Japanese cartoon subculture—anonymous figures with large heads and simplified facial features that subvert notions of childhood innocence. Midnight Truth (2017) depicts a child who seems to be glaring angrily at the viewer. It is a significant example of Nara's mature painting style that is exquisitely rendered with the artist's characteristic subtle, layered painting technique. Midnight Truth is the first painting by Nara to enter the collection, expanding the Gallery's holdings of contemporary Asian artists.

 

August 13, 2019
Press images available

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Francisco de Goya, Fuerte cosa es! (That's Tough!), 1810/1820
etching, burnished aquatint, and drypoint
plate: 15.5 x 20.3 cm (6 1/8 x 8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
The Ahmanson Foundation and Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund

Made possible with funds from The Ahmanson Foundation and Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, the Gallery has acquired Fuerte cosa es! (That's Tough!) (1810/1820), a rare surviving proof from Francisco de Goya's (1746–1828) Disasters of War that was created during his lifetime. One of the most important and influential print series ever made, Goya's Disasters of War was created in response to the French occupation of Spain (1808–1814) during the Peninsular War.

Comprising 82 etchings and aquatints that expose war's horrors and depict the upheaval and widespread devastation in the wake of the conflict, Disasters of War encompasses three loosely defined parts: scenes of war and French atrocities, images of the Madrid famine of 1811–1812, and political satire and allegories. Although these prints were informed by newspaper accounts, testimonies of fellow Spaniards, and firsthand experience, Goya used generalized settings to render scenarios that would have resonated with people across Spain.

Fuerte cosa es! (That's Tough!)—plate 31—depicts a French soldier who is sheathing his sword, while in the background, two soldiers pull down the hanged bodies of Spanish civilians that will be quartered and dismembered. These lifeless corpses, along with those piled on the ground, are in direct contrast to the soldiers' dynamic poses. Goya left areas of the white of the paper to denote the stark daylight that plays over the scene, reminding the viewer that the image is the reality of war.

Although Goya pulled (or supervised the pulling of) nearly 500 proofs for this series, it was not published during his lifetime. After his death, all but two of its copper plates were sold by his son to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, which published The Disasters of War: Collection of Eighty Plates Drawn and Etched by Francisco Goya in 1863. A side-by-side comparison of early, lifetime proofs with impressions in this posthumous publication reveals numerous differences, such as changes made to the printing plates or rectangular outlines and captions added to the original compositions. The plates were printed with a thin layer of ink on their surfaces in conformity with a romantic, mid-19th-century French aesthetic, which not only catered to period taste but also helped to mask and visually compensate for wear. With no passages of white paper being left in reserve, the prints in the 1863 edition lack both the contrasts and subtleties of tone that are visible in the earlier proofs.

The Gallery's Rosenwald Collection includes a bound copy of the 1863 edition, Los desastres de la guerra, in addition to several proofs—most of which relate to 19th- and 20th-century editions of the series. More states exist for Disasters of War than for any of Goya's other print series, underscoring its intensity, complexity, and significance for the artist.

 

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Alexander Gardner, David B. Woodbury, Military Bridge, across the Chickahominy, Virginia, June 1862
albumen print, published 1866
image/sheet: 17.3 x 22.5 cm (6 13/16 x 8 7/8 in.)
page size: 31.1 x 39.7 cm (12 1/4 x 15 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Patrons' Permanent Fund

The Gallery has recently acquired a rare copy of Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866) with funds from the Patrons' Permanent Fund. Among the most important photographic works of the Civil War and the 19th century, the landmark volume by Alexander Gardner (1821–1882) significantly expands the Gallery's existing collection of American Civil War photography.

The Civil War offered a new challenge to photographers: how to portray army life and the epic scale of construction and destruction enabled by modern technologies, ranging from railroad transportation to lethal weaponry. Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War demonstrates how photographers responded to the task. Issued in two volumes, each comprising 50 photographs and organized chronologically, the albums are intentionally composed to elicit an emotional response from the viewer. The 100 photographs, by Gardner himself and several photographers who worked with him, are an extraordinary record of the trajectory of the war, highlighting the activities of the Army of the Potomac. Among the subjects featured in the photographs are the engineering accomplishments necessary to prepare for battle: pontoon bridges, wooden railroad trestles, fortifications, and batteries. Other photographs depict army headquarters and posed scenes of camp life, while a handful of images show the destruction wrought on cities and the dead on the field at Gettysburg.

 

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Gordon Parks, Lt. “Wild Bill” William Walker, former college athlete, in the cockpit of a P39, Selfridge Field, Michigan (“All clear—Contact.”), October 1943
gelatin silver print
image/sheet/mount: 29.85 x 26.04 cm (11 3/4 x 10 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Avalon Fund
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

The recent acquisition of four important photographs from the Gordon Parks Foundation broadens the Gallery's Gordon Parks collection, particularly from the period of 1941 to 1950. Dating from the first decade of Parks's career, the works include unique vintage portraits of Langston Hughes (1941) and Ingrid Bergman (1949) as well as two vintage photographs of Tuskegee Airmen in training, both from 1943.

The experimental portrait of Parks's friend and sometimes collaborator Langston Hughes, made at the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago, is the only existing vintage print of such quality and scale capturing this iconic pose. The unusual pair of captioned prints depicting Tuskegee Airmen from the 332nd Fighter Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan, represents Parks's attempt to document the first African American fighter pilots in training and combat while he was working for the Office of War Information during World War II. The large staged portrayal of Ingrid Bergman, shot while she was filming Stromboli,is one of Parks's early portraits for Life. Its acquisition enriches a group of rare prints in the Gallery's collection from Parks's exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1953.

 

August 1, 2019

Jan Jansz van de Velde III, Still Life with Stoneware Jug and Pipe, 1650, oil on panel, 35.9 x 27.9 cm (14 1/8 x 11 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington. The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund

Jan Jansz van de Velde III, Still Life with Stoneware Jug and Pipe, 1650, oil on panel, 35.9 x 27.9 cm (14 1/8 x 11 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund
Press images available

The Gallery has recently acquired its first work by one of the great still-life painters of the Dutch Golden Age, Jan Jansz van de Velde III (1620–1662), who specialized in intimate compositions of everyday objects. Signed “Jan van de.Velde. fecit” on the table and dated 1650 on the belly of the jug, Still Life with Stoneware Jug and Pipe is the Gallery’s first tabakje (tobacco still life)—a popular motif in the 17th century, when tobacco was introduced in the Dutch Republic and imported from abroad. Acquired through the generous support of The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, the painting complements works by other Haarlem artists in the Gallery’s collection who inspired Van de Velde, including Pieter Claesz, Willem Claesz Heda, and Gerret Willemsz Heda.

Born in Haarlem, Van de Velde was the grandson of the master calligrapher Jan van de Velde the Elder, grandnephew of the famous landscape and merry company painter Esaias van de Velde, and son of Jan van de Velde the Younger, who was well known for his picturesque etchings of Haarlem and its surrounding environment. It is possible Van de Velde studied with his father, although nothing is definitively known about his training.

A masterpiece in gray and earth tones, Still Life with Stoneware Jug and Pipe is an exquisite example of the approximately 40 paintings Van de Velde executed during his short career. A stoneware wine jug emblazoned with the crest of Amsterdam is surrounded by a long clay Gouda pipe, a paper wrapper filled with tobacco, and an earthenware brazier whose broken sides reveal embers of glowing peat within. Van de Velde imbued these simple objects with a compelling presence by arranging them in a solid, pyramidal form; placing the viewer at a close and relatively low vantage point; and silhouetting their shapes against a subtly gradated background. From the discarded embers of the pipe, a delicate wisp of smoke trails upward, enlivening the image with a sense of movement that underscores the tranquility of this majestic small-scale work.

July 18, 2019

Henri Lehmann, 'Woman of the Orient', 1837, oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Chester Dale Fund

Henri Lehmann, Woman of the "Orient," 1837, oil on canvas, 75 x 61 cm (29 1/2 x 24 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Chester Dale Fund
Press images available

The Gallery has acquired Henri Lehmann's Woman of the "Orient" (1837), a female figure in a sumptuous blue-green and gold tunic painted early in his career, with funds from The Chester Dale Fund.

Born Heinrich Lehmann (1814–1882) in Kiel, Germany, the artist arrived in Paris in 1831 and immediately joined the studio of J. A. D. Ingres, the best-known and most successful artist of the day. In this painting, Ingres's influence is reflected in the refined contours of the sitter's form and graceful shading in her face and bare arms. The rich color and sensuality of this work, as well as the figure's striking dress, is in line with the romanticism of Lehmann's contemporaries Eugène Delacroix and Théodore Chassériau.

Throughout the 1830s Lehmann regularly returned to Germany, and to Munich in particular, where members of the group known as the Nazarenes had taken up official positions at the art academy. Formed in Rome a decade earlier, the Nazarenes wanted to revive and purify art by emulating 16th-century Italian painting, especially the art of Raphael. The enamel-like surface and still, simplified composition of Woman of the "Orient" are evidence of Lehmann's connections with contemporary German painting.

Lehmann exhibited regularly at the Salon and won medals in 1840, 1848, and 1855. He was awarded Chevalier dans l'ordre des arts et lettres in 1846, and became a French citizen the same year, changing his first name to the French Henri. He was appointed a member of the Institut de France in 1864 and joined the faculty of the École des Beaux-Arts in 1875 (among his students was Georges Seurat). Like most successful painters of the day, Lehmann's primary focus was decorating religious and public buildings: the churches of Saint Merri and Saint Clotilde; the Palais de Justice; and the throne room of the Palais du Luxembourg. Lehmann's most extensive decorations were in the Salle des Fêtes of the Hôtel de Ville, which was destroyed by fire during the Paris Commune in 1871. Lehmann was also a much sought-after portraitist at a time when Salon portraiture was booming. His most famous portraits include those of Franz Liszt (1840, Musée Carnavalet) and Madame Alphonse Karr (1845, Minneapolis Institute of Art), both of whom were also good friends of the artist.

Woman of the "Orient" strengthens the Gallery's holdings of earlier 19th-century French painting and joins other French works with similar subjects, such as Auguste Renoir's Odalisque (1870), Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant's The Favorite of the Emir (c. 1879), and Henri Matisse's Odalisque Seated with Arms Raised, Green Striped Chair (1923).

 

May 2, 2019

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Antoine Berjon, Hunting Trophy with Hare and Bay Leaves, c. 1810, pastel on gray prepared paper, laid down on canvas, 65 x 54 cm (25 9/16 x 21 1/4 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund
Press images available

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.

 

March 1, 2019

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Philips Wouwerman, The Departure for the Hunt, c. 1665–1668, oil on panel, 52 x 67 cm (20 1/2 x 26 3/8 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington. The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, in honor of Earl A. Powell III, Director of the National Gallery of Art (1992–2019)
Press images available

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).

 

January 2, 2019

Domenico Piola, 'The Meeting of Jacob and Rachel', 1670s, brush with brown wash over black chalk, sheet: 29.5 x 43.1 cm (11 5/8 x 16 15/16 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, New Century Fund

Domenico Piola, The Meeting of Jacob and Rachel, 1670s, brush with brown wash over black chalk, sheet: 29.5 x 43.1 cm (11 5/8 x 16 15/16 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, New Century Fund
Press images available

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.

 

January 2, 2019

Margaret Watkins, 'Domestic Symphony', 1919, gelatin silver print, 21.6 x 16.5 cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

Margaret Watkins, Domestic Symphony, 1919, gelatin silver print, 21.6 x 16.5 cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
Press image available

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.

 

Press Contact:
Laurie Tylec, (202) 842-6355 or [email protected]

 

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Acquisitions

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