Our Genji screens are going to the Met!

The Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Genji screens are going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York! According to John Carpenter, Mary Griggs Burke Curator of Japanese Art at the Met, “the screens will be included in the exhibition The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic illuminated (March 5–June 16, 2019), the first major show in North America to focus on the artistic tradition inspired by Japan’s most celebrated work of literature. Covering the period from the eleventh century to the present, The Tale of Genji will feature more than 120 works, including paintings, calligraphy, silk robes, lacquer wedding set items, a palanquin for the shogun’s bride, and popular art such as ukiyo-e prints and modern manga. Highlights include two National Treasures and several works recognized as Important Cultural Properties. For the first time ever outside Japan, rare works will be on view from Ishiyamadera Temple.” The Eskenazi Museum screens will be displayed prominently, across from the Jodoji Temple fan screens and in the same room as the Harvard Genji Albums.

Tale of Genji, which was written in the early eleventh century by the court lady Murasaki Shikibu, is often called the first modern novel composed in any language. The original manuscript no longer exists, but many copies, though fragmentary, survive in the form of 54 chapters and 750,000 words, although there is some disagreement as to the order. The tale revolves around the life of Prince Genji and his descendants, their loves, losses, jealousies, and sorrows in the context of life in the Japanese imperial court. The central character, Genji, is the perfect courtier—handsome, clever, and accomplished—but his life, and those of his descendants, is overshadowed by sadness, guilt, and remorse.

The Eskenazi Museum’s screen is unusual in that it illustrates only two moments, rather than many, from the tale. The screen on the right is from the chapter entitled “Murasaki,” or “Lavendar.” Murasaki, one of Genji’s enduring love interests, is depicted as a young girl in the center of the veranda. Her pet bird has escaped to the highest branches of the flowering cherry to the left. Genji peeps through the fence, seeing Murasaki for the first time.

66.12

The screen on the left is from the chapter “Ukifune” (sometimes translated as floating or drifting boat) and depicts Genji’s grandson Niou catching a glimpse of Ukifune, who sits with her serving women folding clothes.

66.11

By illustrating story lines from the early and late chapters of the tale, the unknown artist creates emotional and karmic bookends that invite the viewer to contemplate the various narrative threads and emotional entanglements that occur across generations.

Judith A. Stubbs, PhD

Pamela Buell Curator of Asian Art

Advertisements

Alumni Spotlight: Andrew Wang

Andrew Wang photo
Andrew Wang

After graduating from Indiana University with a Master of Arts in art history in 2017 and serving as a graduate assistant at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Andrew Wang has completed a Kress Fellowship at Yale University and has accepted a new position as Instructional Design Librarian at the Ringling College of Art + Design in Sarasota, Florida. We recently caught up with Andrew to hear more about his experiences at IU and after.

1. Tell us a little bit about your experience at IU and specifically the Eskenazi Museum of Art.

I was the graduate assistant to Jenny McComas, Curator of European and American Art, from 2014 to 2017. I worked on a wide variety of projects during those three years, including regular maintenance of curatorial files and electronic records for the museum’s collections. I also assisted MFA students with the installation of their thesis exhibitions and curated special installations in the galleries.

I saw the museum transform dramatically in just a few short years. Jenny executed a major reinstallation in the first floor gallery, we migrated our data to a new collections management system, the museum was renamed, and David Brenneman joined as the new director.

I worked at the Fine Arts Library throughout my graduate program in the art history department as well, so I practically lived in the building.

Andrew Wang discusses the legacy of Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades at a Noon Talk in 2017.  Photo: Doug Paul Case

2. What was your experience at Yale like?

The Kress Fellowship in Art Librarianship at Yale allowed me to pursue my own independent projects with the support and guidance of leading professionals in the field. I created visual indexes for the Visual Resources Collection, managed a digital exhibition, and designed a user study for Yale’s art history department. I also provided research consultations for students, instructed classes on research methods and information literacy, oversaw the Haas Arts Library’s social media platforms, and organized the annual Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon and rotating thematic book displays. I spent most of my time working at the Arts Library, but I spent one day a week at the Center for British Art so I could gain experience working in a museum library. At the center I conducted a collection analysis project to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Reference Library’s holdings. The center is involved with so many groundbreaking projects, like the International Image Interoperability Framework.

3. Did you spend much time at the Yale University Art Gallery? How does it compare to the museum here at IU?

I took almost everyone who visited me in New Haven to the Art Gallery, so I ended up spending a lot of time there. Their permanent collection is encyclopedic in scope, like the Eskenazi Museum’s, and the galleries are organized similarly. I think Yale’s Art Gallery has exceptional strengths in its contemporary collection, with works by Gerhard Richter, Barkley L. Hendricks, and Kerry James Marshall, to name a few. They also have Marcel Duchamp’s last painting on canvas, Tu m’, which I loved seeing since Jenny and I had co-curated a special installation in celebration of the centennial of Duchamp’s Fountain. Yale has a larger infrastructure and staff, but the Eskenazi Museum has a competitive collection.

4. Tell us about your new job at the Ringling College of Art + Design.

My new position at Ringling College of Art + Design is Instructional Design Librarian. I was surprised by how much I really loved teaching and conducting research consultations during my time at Yale, and this new position at the Ringling will allow me to focus primarily on those aspects of librarianship. In collaboration with another Instructional Design Librarian (who also happens to be an IU alum!), I will be teaching undergraduate art students how to conduct research and about critical information/visual literacy. In this position I hope to continue to develop public speaking skills while bringing a fresh perspective to library instruction. I want to introduce more engaging activities and relatable analogies to help students take advantage of the resources offered at an academic institution. At the very least, I want students to understand their own agency in their research process and to feel more comfortable approaching librarians for help. I was attracted to this position because the director of the library at the Ringling, Kristina Keogh, was my former supervisor at the IU Fine Arts Library. She encouraged me to pursue so many professional development opportunities as a student, and I always loved working with her. I always said that it would be a dream-come-true scenario to work with her again.

5. How did your experience at IU and the art museum prepare you for post-graduation?

I can’t thank Jenny and the museum’s registrar, Anita Bracalente, enough for the opportunities they gave me at the museum. Working at the museum gave me such a well-rounded perspective on how to serve patrons as an art librarian. I feel as though I have a particularly nuanced understanding of what my patrons need, whether they’re conducting provenance research or just starting to browse the available literature on a new subject. Getting to work so closely with TMS, the museum’s collection management system, helped me better understand metadata standards, which is crucial for efficiently managing projects that are related to digital collections. The Yale Center for British Art also uses TMS, so I felt confident diving straight into my work there.

I think my curatorial experience helped me stand out as a candidate for the Kress Fellowship. At IU I had curated a special installation about Josef Albers’s pedagogy while he was an instructor at Yale, so I had a unique understanding of his legacy in the School of Art’s curricula. Also, working closely with MFA students provided me the opportunity to understand a variety of working processes. I’m especially grateful that Jenny trusted me to work with them.

6. What do you miss about IU and Bloomington the most?

I miss the B-Line/Clear Creek trail and how easy it was to bike everywhere! I made a lot of close friends while I was there, so I plan to visit as soon as I have time. I also find myself craving food from the Owlery and Rainbow Bakery.

7. Are there any areas of research that you are interested in exploring in the future?

I’d like to continue researching queer theory and underground subcultures, but I’m also starting to read more about critical and feminist pedagogy. Right now, I’m working on an essay about comics, their history of censorship, and their current place in academic libraries. My reading list is never-ending, so I’m not sure where my research will take me in the future.

8. Anything else that you would like to add?

I just want to reiterate my thanks to the staff at the museum who supported me throughout grad school. With the relocation of the Fine Arts Library, the renovations at the museum, and the relocation of both the art history and information and library science departments, I might not see the IU I knew as a student when I get the chance to visit in the future, but at least I know that I have a fantastic network of friends, colleagues, and mentors in Bloomington.

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

Announcing the Sara and Bob LeBien Arts-based Wellness Pilot Program

Photo by Kevin Montague

This year, our education department is launching the Sara and Bob LeBien Arts-based Wellness Pilot Program, which will connect children who have suffered from neglect or abuse with the healing and educational power of art. As part of this program, our education department staff will expand to include a certified art therapist.

About the Program:
Guided by an art therapist, children who have suffered from abuse or neglect will make art and look at works from the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection in the Learning Lab and galleries. They will be immersed in the creative process for self-expression, stress reduction, healing, and learning. The children’s studio work will be connected to experiences in the galleries for opportunities to validate the child’s expressions, emotions, and self-efficacy. Gallery and studio experiences will help the child form positive bonds with other children, the art therapist, and the cultures, artists, and ideas represented in the galleries.

Photo by Kevin Montague

Why Art Therapy? Why at the Museum?
Making art is natural for children. Expressing through art mediums, like drawing, painting, or forming clay, is an accessible form of communication for children that is easier than spoken language. Artmaking fosters emotional development that bolsters cognitive, social, and physical advancement. For children who have suffered trauma, it is a powerful tool for expressing emotions or sharing experiences that may be difficult to articulate with words. If left unexpressed, these emotions and experiences can become a major barrier for overall educational development. For example, being mad or sad is not always easy to describe with words, but a child can put these emotions into a drawing, which can be the starting point for communication and healing. This reflective and expressive process leads the child to a better understanding of her/his feelings and thoughts.

Cognitive, social, and physical development also emerge when children experience the arts. Artmaking advances the development of motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and muscle control. Through artmaking, children naturally encounter cognitive complexities, such as cause and effect, or imagined and real. In their interaction with the arts, children have to make choices that have visual consequences, which, in connection with their body’s actions, is a highly efficient route to learning new concepts. Through talking about works of art, children learn critical thinking and looking skills; build vocabulary; and discover ways to reason in evidence, ask questions, and seek answers.

Photo by Kevin Montague

These kinds of complex thinking experiences, which connect the mind with the body’s senses, positively impact the brain’s neural connections. Conversely, research suggests that experiencing trauma has significant negative impacts on neural connections for children. For example, the number of times a child experiences the flight or fright release of chemicals directly impacts their wiring for learning, essentially weakening the structure upon which all learning relies. Experiences with the arts require problem-solving and brain activity that build a stronger physical learning structure. Studies show that both artmaking and looking at art reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and they can also increase endorphins, which combat the ill effects of stress. By pairing our newly renovated museum galleries and new education center with the practices of art therapy we can study the impact of a museum-based art therapy program for children. We think this has potential to change children’s lives, both directly through our program, but also as a model for other art museums.

I most sincerely thank Bob LeBien for his gift to pilot this program. If you are interested in learning more or would like to help support this program, please contact me at hdavis2@iu.edu.

Heidi Davis-Soylu
Lucienne M. Glaubinger Director of Education

This article was originally printed in the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art’s magazine. If you would like to receive print copies of our magazine, sign up for our mailing list HERE.

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

Vincent Price as Art Collector

Vincent Price visiting the Indiana University Art Museum (now Eskenazi Museum of Art) with former museum director Thomas T. Solley and former curator of education Virginia Jackson.

By Nan Brewer, the Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University

Whenever I showed works from the Vincent Price collection to classes, I began by asking the students if they were familiar with his name. Some recalled that he was an actor; others knew that he appeared in horror flicks. When I mentioned that he played the inventor who dies at the beginning of the movie Edward Scissorhands (1990) or that he provided the monologue in Michael Jackson’s video for Thriller (1982) they lit up. Few, however, had any idea of Price’s background in the visual arts or interest in collecting.

Vincent Price

Born in 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri, to a wealthy and distinguished family, Price studied art history at Yale University and the University of London. In England, he switched his attention from art to acting. Nonetheless, he never lost his love of art and regularly purchased original artworks as his time and resources allowed. Price often lectured and wrote about art, including the book I Like What I Know: A Visual Autobiography (1959), and served as an art consultant, most notably for the Sears, Roebuck, & Company. The first exhibition and sale of the “Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art” took place in 1962 at a Sears store in Denver, Colorado, before being expanded nationwide. Most of the items—available for $10 to $3,000 and payable in $5 installments—attracted entry-level collectors. Although Price never actually owned the art, he selected the pieces to be sold and even commissioned contemporary artists, like Salvador Dali, to create works specifically for the collection. The program claims to have sold more than 50,000 pieces of original fine art by the time it ended in 1971. Price’s daughter, Victoria, said in her 1999 biography of her father that he saw the Sears collaboration as an “opportunity to put his populist beliefs into practice, to bring art to the American public.”

Vincent Price examines a sculpture by artist David Smith, on a tour of the Indiana University Art Museum (now Eskenazi Museum of Art), with former museum director Thomas T. Solley and former curator of education Victoria Jackson. Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives.

When Price came to lecture at Indiana University in 1984 (his fourth time in Bloomington), the museum’s Director Emeritus (then curator), Heidi Gealt, knew of his art education and passion for collecting. She asked if he would be willing to lend a portion of his personal collection for students in an art history graduate seminar to use as the source material for technical examination and in-depth research. Their work would result in an exhibition with an accompanying scholarly catalogue. This was the fourth such partnership that the museum had undertaken with the art history department in the School of Fine Arts (now School of Art, Architecture + Design). Mr. Price kindly agreed to do so and sent 53 drawings ranging in date from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

I’ve always thought of this act as not only benevolent—in that it greatly benefited young scholars in their hands-on education—but also brave. Price opened up his treasures to intense scrutiny by the students, their professors, and the outside experts they consulted. In the field of Old Master drawings, authorship is often based on connoisseurship. When Price purchased a work, he generally assumed that the attribution to a particular artist was correct. Would those assignments withstand close inquiry? As it turns out, some of the works were by lesser-known artists or their respective schools, while others proved to be more important than was originally thought. What really interested Mr. Price was not increasing their monetary value, but learning more about the artworks that had attracted his eye and imagination.

The sampling of his collection that arrived at IU reflected Price’s eclectic taste. There were works in all media, ranging from delicate pen-and-ink drawings to graphite preparatory sketches. Although a few of the pieces, including a Study of Skulls by Giovanni Battista Franco, suggested a macabre (or vanitas) theme, there were also works of touching beauty, serenity, and piety. Among the artists best known by today’s audiences were Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Odilon Redon, Camille Pissarro, Jean François Millet, and Paul Gauguin.

The resulting exhibition, Master Drawings from the Vincent Price Collection, was held at the Indiana University Art Museum (now Eskenazi Museum of Art) from January 21 to May 3, 1987. Eleven students authored the catalogue entries and thematic essays on the media, history, and collecting of drawings. A museum graduate assistant at the time, I wrote on the tradition of copying and on two of the drawings, one by Pieter van Lisebetten and the other by Bartolomeo Passarotti, the latter of which ended up on the exhibition poster and book cover. It proved a truly formative experience that showed me the rigors and excitement of original primary research and inspired me to become a curator of works on paper. As Gealt and the late Bruce Cole wrote in their preface, “We are convinced that close and continuous study of works of art is the foundation upon which all art historical scholarship should be based.” I can attest that it was a thrill to uncover the source material used for a particular drawing, learn how it related to the artist’s oeuvre, and about its potential use—a lot like being a forensic drawing detective!

Although Price was scheduled to attend the exhibition’s opening, he had to cancel due to his mother’s death. Gealt continued to maintain contact with the actor until his own death in 1993. I still recall how excited the museum’s receptionist became whenever that distinctive voice called. In appreciation of the excellent work done by the students and the museum, Price donated two drawings in 1987. He later gave a third work to Gealt, which she gifted to the museum in his memory.

Here are those three works.

Giovanni Agostino Ratti (Italian, 1699–1775). Sketchbook, 1736. Pen and iron gall ink with gray ink wash over graphite indications on paper. Gift of Vincent Price, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 87.9.1

The most complex work in the Price collection to arrive for the student seminar was a rare multi-sheet, bound sketchbook by the Genoese artist Giovanni Agostino Ratti. In 1736—per a date on the cover sheet—Ratti drew preparatory designs for paintings in nine small pilgrimage chapels for the Church of Nostra Signora della Misericordia in the northern Italian port city of Savona. Since the paintings were commissioned for the bicentennial of the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary in the town, her image figures prominently. In this sheet, the Madonna appears in the upper right, where she saves a ship by imploring a swordfish to fill a hole in the hull. Although the sketchbook seems to be incomplete, it gives interesting insight into the artist’s process and provides a valuable reference source for works now lost. Only three of the frescoes survive, but even these were overpainted by a restorer in 1835.

Nazarene or Pre-Raphaelite Artist. Woman by the Well, 19th century. Blue green gouache, graphite, and charcoal with some ink and white chalk highlights on paper. Gift of Vincent Price, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 87.9.2

When this piece arrived at the museum, it was attributed to the English painter William Dyce, but images and information sent to numerous experts around the world garnered mixed responses as to whether or not it was by his hand. Some suggested that it had similarities in style and theme to some British Pre-Raphaelite or German Nazarene painter, but no definitive matches were made. One even postured a French artist such as Leon Lhermitte. The subject matter, originally thought to be of a woman spinning, is probably a woman by a well, perhaps a segment of the biblical story from the Woman of Samaria. Even the drawing’s presentation raises questions. It appears to be a large preparatory drawing in a variety of media with gridded transfer lines; however, no corresponding mural or fresco has been found. Periodically, I re-examine this issue with the continued hope of unraveling this mystery.

Fortunato Duranti (Italy, 1787–1863). Arcadian Scene, after 1840. Pen and gray brown ink with black and brown ink washes on paper. Gift in memory of Vincent Price, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 93.11

This unusual drawing by a relatively unknown Italian artist reflects Price’s willingness to buy interesting material that was out of the mainstream. Duranti was born in Montefortino, a small town in the Italian Marches. Although he eventually went to study in Rome, he never achieved widespread success. Part of the reason for this failure may have been his mixture of Arcadian subjects based in a neoclassical tradition with an expressive romantic style. This image with its smudge-like shading is distinctive and personal in a surprisingly modern way. Relatively few American museums have any examples of Duranti’s unique work.

In March, Vincent Price’s daughter, Victoria, will visit the IU campus as part of a special program at IU Cinema. Victoria will give a special lecture about her father’s life and sign copies of her book Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography. IU Cinema will also be screening two of Vincent Price’s most celebrated films, The Masque of the Red Death and The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Learn more and purchase tickets at the IU Cinema website.

Learn more about the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art

 

Heidi Davis-Soylu Named New Director of Education at the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art

2015ad-st-da0001_o4
Heidi Davis-Soylu. Image courtesy of Newfields

The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University is proud to announce Dr. Heidi Davis-Soylu as its new Lucienne M. Glaubinger Director of Education. Davis-Soylu will begin at the museum on January 11. Most recently, Davis-Soylu was Director of Academic Engagement and Learning Research at Newfields (formerly the Indianapolis Museum of Art). At Newfields she led the academic engagement department, including the St. Mary’s Child Center at the IMA preschool, the Art and Nature Homeschool Cottage (K-middle school), pre-K-12 school programs, docent program, adult and youth studio programs, studio classrooms, summer camps, educator professional development, and student and educator tours. A number of these programs began under Davis-Soylu’s direction, including the launch of the country’s first encyclopedic art museum preschool with a focus on serving children in poverty, and the Art and Nature Homeschool Cottage.

As the new Director of Education, Davis-Soylu will lead the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s education programs at an exciting time in the organization’s history, as it further solidifies its place as one of the preeminent teaching museums in the United States. The museum’s current renovation plans include a new Center for Education, which Davis-Soylu will help envision. And a recently launched school outreach initiative that organized visits by museum docents to every second grade classroom in Monroe County in 2017 will expand in 2018 under her direction.

Davis-Soylu is no stranger to Indiana University. She received both her Master’s and PhD in art education from IU Bloomington, and her bachelor’s in elementary education from IU Southeast. During her time as a graduate student at IU she served as an associate instructor and regularly embedded the Eskenazi Museum of Art into her courses in art education. In 2017, she received the Maris M. and Mary Higgins Proffitt Outstanding Dissertation Fellowship, which is awarded to one candidate each year at the IU School of Education.

“As a university art museum, education is central to what we do at the Eskenazi Museum of Art. We are very excited to welcome someone with Heidi’s expertise and background to lead our education department. This is an important time as we reimagine our museum, and plan for the reopening of our newly renovated building. It is a great pleasure to welcome Heidi to our team,” said David Brenneman, the Wilma E. Kelley Director of the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art.

You can follow news about the museum’s renovation and activities during this exciting period of change at artmuseum.indiana.edu

Caring for Works on Paper

Janelle Beasley, Works on Paper Preparator, Eskenazi Museum of Art

In pursuit of a new level of care for the works-on-paper collection at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, I recently attended an introductory course in paper conservation at the International Preservation Studies Center (IPSC). Located in the small town of Mount Carroll, Illinois, the IPSC offers more than 75 courses in collections care and historic preservation. Since its founding in 1980, the center has become a wonderful resource for museum professionals, archivists, librarians, and all those tasked with preserving historical artifacts.

Janelle Beasley (left) removing adhesive residue from a map with a crepe eraser

As the works-on-paper preparator at the EMA, my primary duty is to mat and frame the collection of prints, drawings, and photographs for exhibition and storage. Museum standards include using archival materials, framing the works with UV-filter glazing, and limiting their exposure to light. Given that paper degrades over time (to varying degrees depending on its quality), these preventative measures are crucial to prolonging the life of an object.

A damaged object, however, may require intervention by a conservator to improve its condition. In addition to internal degradation, paper can suffer from external sources such as poor storage conditions, exposure to light or humidity, acid migration, wear and tear, pollutants, and pest infestation. The instructors of “Care of Paper Artifacts,” Susan Russick and Tonia Grafakos of Northwestern University Libraries, provided a framework for understanding these issues as well as basic conservation treatments, including mending with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste, surface cleaning, humidification and flattening, adhesive removal, and deacidification.

A building on the International Preservation Studies Center campus

One benefit of attending the IPSC is getting to know other collections professionals. Our class of ten included representatives from a wide variety of institutions, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the Walt Disney Archives. All of us shared the common goal of providing care to the paper artifacts in our collections. Now that I am back in Bloomington and the museum is closed for renovations, I am focusing on re-housing works, updating data, and making minor repairs for a portion of the collection. Working with the EMA’s collection of 22,000 works on paper (and counting), it is safe to say there will always be a need for care.

Please visit the IPSC website at www.preservationcenter.org to learn more.

Susan Russick demonstrates the toning of Japanese tissue using acrylic paints.

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

 

Celebrating the Centenary of Rodin’s Death

Image: Edward Steichen (American, 1879–1973). Rodin from Camera Work (vol. 2), 1903. Photogravure on paper. Eskenazi Museum of Art, 78.31A

November 17, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917), one of modern art’s most famous sculptors. This portrait of the aging artist appeared in Alfred Stieglitz’s journal Camera Work. Stieglitz was an early proponent of modern art in America and he promoted Rodin’s work. He reproduced nine of Rodin’s drawings in Camera Work, vol. 34/35 (Eskenazi Museum of Art, 200.XIII.35.5–.13).

One of Stielgitz’s favorite photographers was Edward Steichen, who shared his interests in pushing the artistic possibilities of photography. In his early portraiture, Steichen embraced a Pictorialist aesthetic that featured the soft-focused veils of tone and idealized subjects promoted by Stieglitz. Steichen also sought to further the status of the medium through references to other fine arts. In this portrait, Steichen posed a pensive Rodin in silhouette against the gleaming white of the sculptor’s recently completed monument to the French novelist Victor Hugo. More than capturing a likeness, this image serves as a metaphor for the creative process—with the artist’s masterwork looking down angelically on its maker. The photogravure appears to be a cropped version in reverse of Steichen’s 1902 gum bichromate print, the latter of which was created by combining two negatives. The larger image, which was reproduced in Camera Work, no. 11, 1905 (Eskenazi Museum of Art 200.XIII.11.7) and a Special Steichen Supplement, 1906 (Eskenazi Museum of Art 200.XIII.15.10), also included and image of Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker (Le Penseur) facing the artist. The journal reproduced two more traditional portraits of the famous artist: by Steichen in Camera Work, vol. 34/35, 1911 (Eskenazi Museum of Art 200.XIII.35.1), and by the British photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn in Camera Work, vol. 21, 1908 (Eskenazi Museum of Art 200.XIII.22.40), further suggesting Rodin’s importance to burgeoning modern artists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Image: Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917). Head of Baudelaire, 1898 (cast 1959). Bronze. Gift of Mrs. Julian Bobbs, Eskenazi Museum of Art, 62.1

The first work by Rodin to enter the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection was a portrait head of the great French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire (French, 1821–1867). Rodin never met Baudelaire, but his art was shaped by the former’s theories of modernity and subjectivity. In 1892, a group of writers commissioned Rodin to design a monument commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Baudelaire’s death. He gladly made a portrait sculpture for the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris. Six years later, he reworked this image as an independent piece.

To make this portrait, Rodin studied the death mask of the poet and made life studies of a man said to bear a striking resemblance to Baudelaire. At the same time, he tried to conjure up the spirit of a Roman bust, allying the subject with the dignity and longevity of ancient writers. Finally, Rodin drew upon his own personal response to Baudelaire’s poetry to give expression to the artist’s viewpoint and to inject the eternal, spiritual quality that he—and Baudelaire—sought in art.

Rodin, whose sculptural talents are often considered equal to those of Michelangelo, was able to imbue simple compositions with psychological depth and intensely expressive feeling. Rodin was greatly influenced by Baudelaire’s 1857 poem The Flowers of Evil, which encouraged him to explore erotic themes, as seen in his sculpture of the goddess Iris.

Image: Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917). Seated Nude Holding Left Ankle (Femme assise de tenant le pied gauche), ca. 1906–07. Watercolor over graphite on paper. William Lowe Bryan Memorial Collection, Eskenazi Museum of Art, 66.31

The first and only drawing by Rodin to enter the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection was acquired in 1966. Albert Elsen—an expert on Rodin and professor of art history at IU (1958–68)—noted in a letter (April 8, 1966) to the donor, James S. Adams, “It is a superb drawing and there is no question as to its authenticity. Every week I am called upon to give an expertise on a Rodin drawing or sculpture, many of which are fakes. But this drawing is of the highest quality and unmistakably by Rodin.” He went on to say, “This new acquisition will give me many hours of enjoyment and a superb work of art to use in my courses.” Although not as well-known as his sculptures, Rodin’s drawings and watercolors—of which he produced more than 10,000—are regarded by some scholars as more experimental and spontaneous than his large, three-dimensional works. Although they rarely served a preparatory studies for his sculpture, Rodin said in 1910, “It’s very simple. My drawings are the key to my work.”

Image: Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917). Iris, Messenger of the Gods (Iris, messagère des dieux) (also known as Another Voice, called Iris), 1890/91 (cast 1960). Bronze. Gift of Marion and Rudolf Gottfried, Eskenazi Museum of Art, 2011.40

Although the Eskenazi Museum of Art had not acquired a new work by Rodin in forty-five years, the gift of a bronze in 2011 rectified that situation. Seeming to defy the laws of gravity as she balances on one foot, Iris has a muscular body suggesting that of a dancer in Rodin’s frankly erotic sculpture. Her weightlessness also refers to the ancient Greek goddess’s role as a messenger traveling between the worlds of gods and humans.

Nan Brewer, Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper, and Jenny McComas, Curator of European and American Art,
Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University.

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website