Recent Acquisition: The Captive by Ahren Ben-Shmuel

Ahron Ben-Shmuel (American, also active in Israel, 1903-1984). The Captive, 1932. Bronze, 15 1/8 x 4 5/8 x 3 9/16 in. Museum purchase with funds from the Estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund. Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2017.63

Although little known today, Ahron Ben-Shmuel was recognized as a leading American sculptor in the 1930s. Known as a “sculptor’s sculptor” among his peers, Ben-Shmuel was especially admired for his technical mastery of stone carving, although he also worked in terracotta and bronze. In the 1930s, his sculptures were featured in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Sculptor’s Guild in New York.

Ben-Shmuel’s streamlined style reflected his study of ancient sculpture as well as the influence of modernism. Although only fifteen inches high, The Captive (alternately titled The Martyr, Saint Sebastian) conveys a powerful sense of anguish. In both subject (human suffering) and style (figural elongation), the piece has a clear affinity with German Expressionist sculpture.

The Captive will complement the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s holdings of German sculpture, revealing the international dissemination of Expressionism, and reintroducing a significant American modern artist to our visitors.

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art website

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Recent Acquisition: Korean Scholar’s Screen

Korean Scholar’s Screen, 1930–45. Ink and color on paper, 67 ½ x 160 in. Purchased with funds from the Thomas T. Solley Endowed Fund for Asian Art, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2018.1

Thanks to the generosity of the late Thomas Solley and the Thomas T. Solley Endowed Fund for Asian Art, we were able to purchase an eight-panel folding screen. It is not only a significant example of Korean art but also a real showstopper. Chaekgeori, or scholar’s screens such as this one, can loosely be described as a still life genre painting suitable for the scholar or any other individual wishing to visually inform others of their erudition, sophistication, and taste. The earliest known Chaekgeori screens date to the late eighteenth century, a time of peace and stability after the destructive
Manchurian and Japanese invasions of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. With increased prosperity art patrons and scholars could once again relish the accoutrements of a genteel life. This type of painting continued to enjoy popularity through the mid-twentieth century.

Korean Scholar’s Screen (detail), 1930–45. Ink and color on paper, 67 ½ x 160 in. Purchased with funds from the Thomas T. Solley Endowed Fund for Asian Art, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2018.1

The word Chaekgeori literally means “books and things,” and books, which are displayed in towering stacks on every panel, are certainly the most prominent and important motif in such paintings. Perhaps some of the books here are the Confucian Classics, which all respectable scholars would own and consult. But other objects also populate the screen: fine ceramics, writing brushes, exotic flowers and fruits, butterflies, carp, Buddha’s hand citron, pomegranates, and images of cranes, all of which reference the long-standing vocabulary of wealth and auspicious symbols representing prosperity, longevity, and fecundity.

There are also references to a larger world beyond the boundaries of Asia represented by the inclusion of the round, black eyeglass in the left-most screen. While smoky quartz or glass had been used by the Chinese at an early date to shield their faces and vision, proper eyeglasses were not imported to China until the sixteenth century. Eyeglasses in the East and West are associated with the scholar. Also of note are the Western-style rulers stuck in the brush pots in the two right-most panels. All the objects represented in the screen are not only artifacts of refinement but also of their owner’s worldliness since many of them were priceless imports from China and Japan and, to a lesser degree, the West.

The origins of this kind of genre painting are obscure, but the assemblage of objects and recent scholarship indicate that the ideas are drawn from both the long-established Chinese tradition of paintings referencing the scholar’s study and recently introduced ideas from the West such as antiquarian collecting.

Judith A. Stubbs, PhD
Pamela Buell Curator of Asian Art

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

Recent Acquisition: 17.7.215 (2) by Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932). 17.7.2015 (2), 2015. Oil on chromogenic color print, 4 1/4 x 6 in. Museum purchase with funds from David and Martha Moore; Burton and Suzanne Borgelt in honor of Linda Watson; the Elisabeth P. Myers Art Acquisition Endowment; and the Estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2017.82

The internationally recognized painter Gerhard Richter has consistently defied expectations of what one should paint and how. In the early 1960s, Richter gained notoriety with his blurry paintings based on smeared photographs. Never one to be pigeonholed by a single theme or style, he created images of color charts, monochromatic works, glass constructions, and abstract pictures executed with a squeegee. Richter even experimented with painting over his “failed” gray paintings with colorful streaks of paint.

In 1986, he began a series of overpainted photographs. By combining the implied realism of the photographic image, historically considered the most factual of all media, with abstract gestures, Richter raises questions about the nature of representation. As he said, “Abstract pictures…make visible a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but whose existence we can postulate.” In this small, unique work, the juxtaposition of the thick impasto paint with a color photo of a forest taken by the artist leads us to draw our own inferences and to read the multicolor brushstrokes as floral, fungi, or ferns. Although the painting blocks almost two-thirds of the photograph, to Richter each element is equally important.

Nan Brewer
Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

Recent Gifts: The Melion and Clum Japanese Ceramic and Print Collection

Charger. Japanese, 1912–26. Manufactured by Fukagawa Koransha. Porcelain with overglazed enamel decoration. Gift of Drs. Walter S. Melion and John M. Clum, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2017.160
Recently, the museum received a wonderful collection of approximately 100 Japanese ceramics and 22 prints, many of them triptychs, donated by Professors Walter Melion and John Clum. The collection is stunning in the quality, beauty, and presence of each print and ceramic.

CERAMICS

The ceramic collection was begun by Hans Melion (Walter’s father), who was born in Vienna during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph (r. 1848–1916). From a family of collectors, Hans began acquiring Japanese ceramics in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Forced to flee Vienna in 1940, he migrated east, first to Shanghai then Manila, where he was befriended by a community of Anglican missionaries, including a woman named Nellie McKim whose father had been the Anglican bishop of Tokyo. Nellie, a great admirer of Japanese ceramics, encouraged Hans to rebuild his collection and he continued to do so after moving to San Francisco in the 1960s. The Melion collection centers on decorative ceramics that were produced in Japan between the 1880s and 1930s, with a preference for Imari and Kutani pieces. Hans was a connoisseur of underglaze and overglaze techniques, and he was sensitive to the relationship between a pot’s shape and its painted decoration. When he died in the late 1990s, Hans left a bequest of funds to fill gaps (works by unrepresented Imari factories and workshops) in the collection.

Terminology used to describe and distinguish various types of ceramics during this period is often confusing. The most common descriptors are kiln, family, and place names and sometimes these overlap. For example, Imari ceramics are also called Arita or Kakeimon ceramics. Arita is a town located in Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island whose principle economic and artistic activity is devoted to the production of high-end overglaze ceramics. Imari is the port from which porcelain was shipped to other parts of Japan and the West. Sometimes these ceramics are identified as Kakeimon after the name of the seventeenth-century potter Sakaida Kakeimon who perfected the technique of overglaze enamel decoration. His kiln was near the town of Arita. Kutani is another place name also located in Kyushu near the city of Kanazawa. But, with a long history of production there are several types of Kutani ware, which are differentiated by age and decorative technique.

Japanese ceramics. Gifts of Drs. Walter S. Melion and John M. Clum, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2017.148, 2017.173, 2017.125, 2017.124, 2017.146

The collection brings together some of the finest examples of Japanese ceramics created during this window of time and specificity of place. Many pieces in the collection were produced by the Fukugawa family factory in Arita. It makes high-quality ceramics decorated with exquisite detail and technical perfection that are fit, quite literally, for an emperor. The Fukugawa factory has been the purveyor of Japanese ceramics to the imperial family since 1910.

Unusually, the collection also includes many pairs of ceramics. It is hard enough to find one piece in pristine condition, so imagine the difficulty of finding two! The entire collection is of the highest quality, and the addition of these marvelous ceramics enriches our holdings in immeasurable ways. Future guests to the museum can look forward to seeing a rotating selection in the galleries, and they will likely come away impressed and delighted by these masterpieces of Japanese art.

PRINTS

In describing the origins of their wonderful print collection, John Clum and Walter Melion recall, “One day in a gallery in London about thirty years ago we got the bug and began buying Japanese woodblock prints.” The first was by Hiroshige, but John’s interest soon focused on Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892), especially his series 100 Phases of the Moon (1885–92), and Toyohara Chikanobu (1838–1912), an underappreciated artist recommended by Bruce Coates, who was writing the definitive book on the artist. The purchase of many other prints, particularly diptychs and triptychs, followed.

Both artists’ careers span the decades when Japan was emerging from about 250 years of self-imposed isolation. However, each of them reacted to their changing world in very different ways. Yoshitoshi, although interested in modernization and Westernization, increasingly focused on traditions of the past while Chikanobu emphatically embraced and documented the world around him. The majority of the prints in this gift are by Chikanobu, with a few by his close, but less well-known, contemporaries. Chikanobu’s life spanned the end of the Edo period (1615–1868) and the beginning of the Meiji period (1868–1912), a time of social unrest, encroachment by Western powers (notably the United States), and the modernization of every aspect of Japanese life, from education and the economy to the electrification of the cities and the writing of a constitution.

Toyohara Chikanobu (Japanese, 1838-1912). Singing By the Plum Garden, 1887. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Gift of Walter S. Melion and John M. Clum, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2017.201 A-C

In his prints, Chikanobu addressed contemporary life, from images of the Sino-Japanese War to changing fashions. In Singing by the Plum Garden (1887) we see the two worlds of old and new Japan in counter balance. The subject of the print is an evening’s entertainment: Empress Shōken, her son, and her attending ladies enjoy a concert. The Western and modern elements are obvious—the piano and Western dress, chairs, and architecture—but less apparent is the new idea of producing an image of the royal family,  something previously forbidden. The more traditional aspects of Japanese life are found in the setting and the pastime of plum blossom viewing, an activity that has deep roots in the Japanese past.

Toyohara Chikanobu (Japanese, 1838–1912). Saigo’s Final Battle at Shiroyama (Shiroyama Oshingeki Saigo Kessen no zu), 1877. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, 13 ¾ x 9 15/16 in. each. Gift of Drs. Walter S. Melion and John M. Clum, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2017.215 A–C
Chikanobu also designed more familiar-looking battle scenes such as

Saigo’s Final Battle at Shiroyama (Shiroyama Oshingeki Saigo Kessen no zu) (1877). Although following the compositional layout of traditional samurai battle scenes, this print also has a modern twist. The scene depicts the famous and near contemporaneous battle of Shiroyama that took place in September 1877 between the rebellious samurai of Satsuma province and the imperial army (seen on the right). The defeat of the Satsuma samurai by a conscripted Japanese army effectively ended the samurai class.

Through these two examples we can see not only Chikanobu’s masterful design sense but also how much he was a man of his times. He straddled two worlds and two narratives but made them seamless. Chikanobu was indeed a master of his medium, and with this gift, we are fortunate to showcase his talent.

Judith A Stubbs. PhD

Pamela Buell Curator of Asian Art

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

New Acquisitions of Works by Female Artists

We continue to be very active while our museum building is undergoing renovation. This includes acquiring new works for our permanent collection. We have recently added a number of interesting pieces by some phenomenal women artists. Here are a few of our recent acquisitions.

 

Resurrection Story with Patrons by Kara Walker

HyperFocal: 0
Kara Walker (American, b. 1969). Resurrection Story with Patrons, 2017. Etching with aquatint, sugar-lift, spit-bite, and drypoint on paper, frames (left and right): 42 x 32 in.; (center): 42 x 51 in. Museum purchase with funds from Paula W. Sunderman, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2017.81

This new triptych by Kara Walker reflects the complexities of her narratives and her use of the print medium. Walker emerged on the international art scene with paper silhouettes of the antebellum atrocities of slavery. Resurrection Story with Patrons continues to explore contemporary issues of race through references to the historical past. While a 2016 resident at the American Academy in Rome, Walker reflected on the police killings of young black men and social unrest back home. Drawing on iconography of Christian martyrdom from Western European artistic traditions and contemplating the challenges of erecting monuments and memorials, she created a resurrection story that she says alternates between captor and redeemer. In the central panel, a half-length nude black woman is pulled up by ropes with her back supported by a man and a baby. The standing figure on the right suggests an African chief with ceremonial staff, while the wooden boards recall the hull of a slave ship or the cross. The ghostlike figures in the wings—reminiscent of wealthy patrons in medieval and Renaissance altarpieces— are actually black house servants. The great colossus serves as a tribute to the souls of slaves lost in the Middle Passage and to the power of collective memory.

 

Seated Figure with Hands in Head by Elizabeth Catlett

catlett SEATED FIGURE2
Elizabeth Catlett (American, active in Mexico, 1915-2012). Seated Figure with Hands in Head, 1982. Bronze. Museum purchase with funds from Donald, Nicole, and Dexter Griffin; Janice and Mary Wiggins; and the Estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2017.62

With the acquisition of this sculpture, the Eskenazi Museum of Art adds a work by one of the most significant American artists of the twentieth century to its collection. Born in Washington, DC, Elizabeth Catlett studied at Howard University and at the University of Iowa with renowned regionalist painter Grant Wood, who encouraged her to develop her talents as a sculptor. Frustrated by the limited opportunities available for African Americans in the United States, Catlett moved to Mexico City in 1946, and became a Mexican citizen in 1962. The politically and socially engaged prints she produced at Mexico City’s Taller de Gráfica Popular have become icons of twentieth-century art, and they reflect her activism in support of the civil rights movement in the United States and against human rights abuses in Latin America. Catlett’s sculptures often portray archetypal African or African American women, either alone or with children. The intimately sized sculpture now in the museum’s collection is posed in a manner that recalls traditional Western depictions of melancholy (as in Albrecht Dürer’s famous engraving Melancholia), but the solidity of the figure’s limbs suggests strength, and her mask-like face hints at resolve while also referencing African art.

Falcon by Kiki Smith

2016.122
Kiki Smith (American, born Germany, 1954). Falcon, 2001. Aquatint and etching on paper. Museum purchase with funds from the Elisabeth P. Myers Art Acquisition Endowment,
Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2016.122

Although recognized as a sculptor and installation artist, Kiki Smith is also known as a printmaker, particularly for her realistic images based on dead animals. The museum’s collection already included several smaller works by Smith, but Falcon (2001) is our first major print by the artist. For this large-scale image, Smith used an intaglio technique to carefully render the bird’s feathers and to create a haunting, macabre effect through the inclusion of a solid black hood over the bird’s head and flowing tendrils.

If you enjoy these works you can explore more art from our collection at our Highlights from the Collection website. You can also sign up for our monthly email newsletter or bi-annual museum magazine at our website: artmuseum.indiana.edu

 

Spotlights: Two Recent Acquisitions On View in French Sculpture Collection

84.10Image: Jacques Lipchitz (French, born Lithuania, 1891-1973). Harlequin with Guitar, 1926. Bronze. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry R. Hope, 84.10

This summer the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University is offering a special exhibition called Spotlights: Five Views into the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Collection, on view June 11-September 4, 2016. In this exhibition each of the museum’s five curators has chosen a group of objects to highlight due to their rarity, research interest, or importance, as a way of further displaying the range and quality that make the museum’s collection among the best in the country. You can find an overview of the exhibition HERE, and we will be taking a deeper look at the individual collections “spotlighted” here on the blog this summer. This week we focus on a collection of French sculpture curated by Jenny McComas, the museum’s Curator of European and American Art.

Between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century, Paris was the birthplace of avant-garde movements such as Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism. While the paintings associated with these movements are well known, sculpture, too, played a significant role in the development of modern French art. The Eskenazi Museum of Art has a strong collection of sculptures by artists who were active in France during this time. While some of these works are always on view in the museum’s permanent gallery, this exhibition offers an expanded survey of our holdings in this area, including two new acquisitions, which you can see below.

2016.1Image: Charles Malfray (French, 1887-1940). Rider Crossing the Marne, 1915. Terracotta. Museum purchase with funds from Estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, 2016.1

Charles Malfray’s work blends aspects of classicism and modernism, though many of his subjects referred to his experiences on World War I battlefields. This sculpture may allude to the First Battle of the Marne, which took place in September 1914. Possibly a model for a larger work, this terracotta reveals the spontaneity of Malfray’s working process.

2016.2Image: Marcel Damboise (French 1903-1992). Peasant (La Paysanne), 1938-39. Stone. Gift of Danielle Damboise Françoise, daughter of the artist, 2016.2

Born in Marseilles, Marcel Damboise apprenticed with a stonecutter before moving to Paris to pursue sculpture. Damboise’s work is characterized by a respect for traditional forms and subjects. He also conveyed a sense of modernity by simplifying forms and giving prominence to the mark of the artist’s hand—as evidenced by the patterning carved into this sculpture’s surface. This beautiful work was a generous gift to our museum from the daughter of the artist.

The other sculptures on view as part of our Spotlights exhibition range from the figurative, classicizing sculptures of Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol to more experimental works by the Cubist Henri Laurens and the Surrealist Marcel Jean. As the center of the art world, Paris also attracted artists from around the globe. Some of these immigrants—including Jacques Lipchitz, born to a Jewish family in Lithuania; Alexander Archipenko, a native of Ukraine; and Julio González from Barcelona—were among the most important contributors to the development of French modernism, drawing both on their diverse backgrounds and their enthusiasm for Parisian culture. We hope you take the opportunity to visit the museum and see the full collection on view through September 4, 2016. Admission to the Eskenazi Museum of Art is always FREE. If you have any questions, please contact us at iuam@indiana.edu.

If you would like to learn more about French Sculpture visit the French Sculpture Census website.

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

Spotlights Exhibition: Japanese Surimono Prints

70.4.73Image: Sadaoka Gakutei (Japanese, 1786[?]-1868). First Companion of the Writing Chamber: Ink, ca. 1827. Surimono: ink, metallic powders, and color on paper. Eskenazi Museum of Art 70.4.73

This summer the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University is offering a special exhibition called Spotlights: Five Views into the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Collection, on view June 11-September 4, 2016. In this exhibition each of the museum’s five curators has chosen a group of objects to highlight due to their rarity, research interest, or importance, as a way of further displaying the range and quality that make the museum’s collection among the best in the country. You can find an overview of the exhibition HERE, and we will be taking a deeper look at the individual collections “spotlighted” here on the blog this summer. First up is an exquisite collection of Japanese surimono woodblock prints, curated by Judy Stubbs, the museum’s Pamela Buell Curator of Asian Art. Stay tuned for future updates. 

The Eskenazi Museum of Art is fortunate to have a collection of almost ninety surimono, or special-edition prints, in various formats. However, these appealing prints are rarely exhibited because of their light-sensitive pigments. The prints in Spotlights have not been on display as a group since 1979, when Professor Theodore Bowie (Indiana University Department of Fine Arts) curated an exhibition of surimono that was accompanied by a groundbreaking catalogue. Spotlights offers a welcome opportunity to research these prints anew, add information, and display two newly acquired prints for the first time.

The word surimono means “printed thing,” a definition that does little to explain this exquisite genre of woodblock printing, which combines poetry and imagery. Developed in the late eighteenth century, surimono prints were privately commissioned and exchanged between friends and colleagues–especially members of poetry groups–as gifts, rather than sold commercially. As such, surimono required a high level of collaboration between artist, printer, and patron. Produced in small numbers, the prints offered opportunities for the use of elaborate printing techniques and luxurious materials such as fine paper and gold and silver inks.

2016.25Image: Shibata Zeshin (Japanese, 1807-1891). A Cock, a Chicken, and Chicks, 1861, Year of the Rooster. Surimono: ink and color on paper. Purchased with funds from the Thomas T. Solley Endowed Fund for Asian Art and the estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anne Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, Eskenazi Museum of Art 2016.25

 

The prints displayed in Spotlights were made for a variety of occasions, especially as New Year’s cards, but also as eulogies, invitations, and anything related to Kabuki actors. During the Edo period (1603-1868), Kabuki plays were an extremely popular form of entertainment. Additionally, two examples of the surimono subgroup Egoyomi, or calendar prints, are on view. Initially, surimono were printed in a wide variety of sizes, until about 1810 when the shikishiban, or square print format (size 20.5 x 18.5 cm), became the norm. Surimono prints often include one or more kyoka, or “wild verse” poetry, which often take visual cues from the accompanying images to create puns for the puzzlement and enjoyment of the viewer.

2016.24Image: Ryuryuko Shinsai (active 1799-1823). Lacquer Box and Writing Implements, 1818, Year of the Tiger. Commissioned by the Shakuyakutei Poetry Group. Surimono: ink, metallic pigments, and color on paper. Purchased with funds from the Thomas T. Solley Endowed Fund for Asian Art and the estate of Herman B Wells via the Joseph Granville and Anna Bernice Wells Memorial Fund, Eskenazi Museum of Art 2016.24

 

In total, twenty-one surimono are on view in the Spotlights exhibition. We hope you will take the opportunity to visit the museum and see this rarely exhibited collection for yourself. If you would like to learn more about Japanese woodblock prints we recommend you visit the website Viewing Japanese Prints, which offers a wealth of information on the subject. If you have any questions, please contact us at iuam@indiana.edu.

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website