John Himmelfarb: A Chicago-based Artist’s IU Connections

John Himmelfarb’s Toward the River in construction at IU Central Stores ceramic studio, 2010.

By Nan Brewer, Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper

Although born and raised in the Chicago area (where he currently resides) and educated at Harvard University, the artist John Himmelfarb (b. 1946) has a deep fondness for Indiana University.

In the late 1980s, Himmelfarb was invited to produce a print at Echo Press, a fine arts press associated with IU and founded by IU fine arts professor Rudy Pozzatti and master printer David Keister (who he’d worked with earlier on one of his first lithographs at Landfall Press in Chicago). Himmelfarb created a large-scale combination print with the assistance of Pozzatti and printer Dave Calkins.

The artist lost touch with IU until 2009, when his friend Stephen Mueller donated a major painting from Himmelfarb’s ongoing Truck series to the Eskenazi Museum of Art (then the Indiana University Art Museum) in memory of Mueller’s parents. Mueller recalled seeing the painting shortly after its completion in the artist’s studio: “It was a stunning first encounter and I continue to be surprised with every viewing. I would like my parents to be associated with a work that can provide others with a similar experience.… My father, who was an artist himself, would have called it a painter’s painting with all of the excitement in full view for the general public.” (Editor’s Note: This painting has indeed inspired many visitors to our museum, read a great story about the impact this painting had on a young student HERE.)

This gift encouraged Himmelfarb to make a return visit to Bloomington in 2010 where he met IU ceramics professor Malcolm Smith. After hearing about Himmelfarb’s interest in making large-scale clay truck sculptures, Smith invited him to come back the following year for an artist-in-residency and the museum asked him to present a Noon Talk, “Mad Dogs and Rust Buckets” on his work in the collection. Not only did students get a chance to work with an accomplished professional artist, but Himmelfarb was also able to undertake a monumental project that required more technical expertise and numerous assistants. The resulting piece, Toward the River (28½ x 38 x 83½ in.), unfortunately did not survive glazing and re-firing back in Chicago. Himmelfarb recently remarked, “I should really try to remake it, as it was something I liked a lot.” So you never know—he may be back to try again.

Realizing that the Eskenazi Museum of Art lacked examples of his other favorite subjects—based in calligraphic marks and hieroglyphic symbols—Himmelfarb encouraged collectors Stan Ries and Aline Hill-Ries to give two of his prints produced at UNO Print Workshop, and Nell and Paul Schneider to donate a beautiful mixed media drawing. More recently, Himmelfarb’s sister gave a complex pen and ink drawing that provides a deeper understanding of his earlier stylistic progression.

When documentarian Elizabeth Brackett began to make a short film on Himmelfarb’s career, the artist suggested the film crew go to Bloomington and shoot a segment in the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s works-on-paper storage room with Nan Brewer, the museum’s Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper.

Watch the video below:

Here are six works by John Himmelfarb in the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection.

John Himmelfarb (American, b.1946). Untitled (2-24-77), 1977. Black ink on Japanese paper. Sheet: 20 ½ x 31 3/4 in. (52.1 x 80.6 cm). Gift of Susan Himmelfarb, IU Eskenazi Museum of Art 2013.169

When a Harvard professor encouraged Himmelfarb to consider art as a career, he jumped in with a vengeance. As if he could not draw fast enough, Himmelfarb crammed his compositions with a myriad of details until his landscapes moved beyond representation into the realm of surrealism and non-objectivity. In this image animal-like creatures (fish, birds, and reptiles) peak out between vegetative forms, but the work is really about line and pattern. An earlier precedent for this type of fantasy mixed with linear abstraction can be found in Paul Klee’s etching Garden of Pleasure. Himmelfarb recalls that he grew up with books on Klee.

Paul Klee (Swiss, 1879–1940). Garden of Pleasure (Garten der Leidenschaft), 1913. Etching on paper. Image: 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (8.9 x 14 cm). IU Eskenazi Museum of Art 75.2.2

Acknowledging a kind of automatism in his drawing technique, Himmelfarb said, “I get a little nervous when narrative element becomes too important and the investment in medium and process becomes less so. There is always a tug-of-war between content and abstraction, narrative and form.”




John Himmelfarb (American, b. 1946). Serena Lane Meeting, 1988. Color sugar-lift aquatint and relief flat on white Arches Cover paper. Image: 19 1/2 x 37 1/2 in. (49.5 x 95.3 cm). Echo Press Archive, IU Eskenazi Museum of Art 90.48.1

A multi-talented painter, sculptor, ceramist, and printmaker, Himmelfarb often works on an idea in a range of media over a period of years. Such is the case with this print (named after the artist’s then two-year-old daughter and Serena Lane in Bloomington, where master printer David Keister lived), which began in 1982 as a series of giant brush drawings. All of the works in the Meeting series feature a pair of grotesque heads (often accompanied by a snarling dog).

Despite the aggressive demeanor of the print’s protagonists—accentuated by the short, choppy black lines and fiery red-orange color—it was meant to represent confrontation and resolution. As such, the twining plant separating the faces might be construed as a divider or as a peace offering—an olive branch of sorts. The artist also saw the image as a psychological self-portrait with the frontal visage representing the integrated individual, while the face in profile and dog suggest competing inner voices. A lover of word play, Himmelfarb also enjoyed the title’s ironic pun on serenity.

John Himmelfarb (American, b. 1946). Quibble, 2000. Graphite and acrylic on pink paper. Sheet: 27 3/8 x 19 1/8 in. (69.5 x 48.6 cm). Gift from the collection of Nell and Paul Schneider, IU Eskenazi Museum of Art 2013.168

Himmelfarb has long been fascinated with the visual power of words and symbols. This drawing consists of a series of calligraphic shapes loosely based on Chinese or Korean seal script characters. The letters work together to form an “ideographic sequence” in seven horizontal lines with an empty space at the bottom that suggests room for a response. Even the title, Quibble, suggests a play on words or a pun. Within each letter is tiny written text in a vertical orientation with all capital letters and no punctuation. Although it is in English and readable, it remains a kind of insider’s joke on the condition of the art world and, thus, serves primarily as a textural contrast. The pinkish paper tone takes on an almost flesh-like appearance, transmuting the letters into cartoonish people or creatures, further referencing ideograms, pictograms, and hieroglyphs.


John Himmelfarb (American, b. 1946). Zklee, 2003-2004. Color aquatint and etching on Kitakata Chiri Large paper. Sheet: 23 3/4 x 35 3/4 in. (60.3 x 90.8 cm). Gift of Stan Ries and Aline Hill-Ries, Eskenazi Museum of Art 2010.99

Like fragments of a ceramic vessel, the shapes against this red claylike background long to be reconfigured into some sort of narrative. Figures follow visually from one shard into another. There are letters and recognizable pop culture references such as a Dick Tracy comic (by way of a Roy Lichtenstein work), as well as cartoonish, grotesque figures reminiscent of Chicago Imagist artists like Jim Nutt and Karl Wirsum. Although Himmelfarb moved back to Chicago in 1968, his work has never been associated with midwestern groups like the Hairy Who or Monster Roster, although his playful—and sometimes irreverent—imagery has natural affinities. Like them, he embraced the figurative with a raw energy, rather than a Pop artist’s cool. There are other little homages to his favorite artists, including Klee, as suggested by the print’s title, which sounds like giclée (zhee-KLAY), a computer printing process developed in the 1980s.

John Himmelfarb (American, b. 1946). Xtra Xtra, 2003-2004. Color sugar-lift aquatint, aquatint, and etching on Rives BFK tan paper. Image/sheet: 24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm). Gift of Stan Ries and Aline Hill-Ries, IU Eskenazi Museum of Art 2010.100

Through the use of brown and white inks on tan paper and the implied irregular edge of a tattered manuscript fragment against a black background, Himmelfarb suggests an ancient text. Since his freshman days at Harvard, when he invented his own pictorial alphabet, Himmelfarb has been fascinated by how people use markmaking to convey information. But what is this image trying to tell us? Is it a newspaper extra from some sort of distant or alien world? It reads like a puzzle with tile-like game pieces, letters, and numbers, but like all of Himmelfarb’s icons it remains mysterious and unfathomable. Himmelfarb began looking at the exterior contours of such images and making flat sculptures based purely on their form.



John Himmelfarb (American, b. 1946). Forbearance, 2009 Acrylic on canvas 54 x 76 in. (137.2 x 193.0 cm) Gift of Stephen Mueller in memory of Karl and Tanny Mueller, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2009.65

“Since 2003, Himmelfarb has created a body of work focused on the image of the truck. Explaining his fascination with trucks, he has said, “There’s just something about them that’s so easy to anthropomorphize.…They’ve got personality, a soul.”

Himmelfarb’s parents were artists, and they introduced him at a young age to postwar European painting. The spontaneity and directness in the work of these postwar painters—including Art Brut pioneer Jean Dubuffet and CoBrA members Pierre Alechinsky and Karel Appel—made a strong impression on Himmelfarb.

Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901–1985) Business Lunch (Dejeuner d’affaires), 1946 Oil and sand on canvas 35 x 45 1/2 in. (88.8 x 115.5 cm) Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry R. Hope, IU Eskenazi Museum of Art 69.157

The tension between representation and abstraction in Dubuffet’s work, as well as his gestural spontaneity, finds echoes in much of Himmelfarb’s oeuvre. The latter’s work, too, is characterized by its balance of painterliness and draftsmanship. Forbearance’s impastoed surface and vigorous brushwork are tempered by its calligraphic, linear pattering. Subtle hints of red, green, and blue soften the boldly black and white composition.”
(This entry excerpted from Curator of European and American Art Jenny McComas’s cover story in Indiana University Art Museum newsletter, November & December 2009).



You can learn more about John Himmelfarb on his website.

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

The IU Eskenazi Museum of Art in Texas!

Riberia 57.7
Jusepe de Ribera (Spanish 1591-1652). Study for Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, ca. 1626. Red chalk on paper. William Lowe Bryan Memorial, Eskenazi Museum of Art 57.7

Two major works from the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection are now on view in the Dallas / Fort Worth area.

After premiering at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, Between Heaven and Hell: The Drawings of Jusepe de Ribera recently opened at the Meadows Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas. Curated by Gabriele Finaldi, former Associate Director of Conservation and Research at the Museo del Prado, and current Director of the National Gallery in London, the exhibition celebrates the first catalogue raisonné of Ribera’s drawings. The aim of the catalogue is to give a complete vision of Ribera as a draughtsman and to document all of the known drawings by his hand (around 160 in total). Among the drawings in the catalogue and exhibition is Saint Sebastian seated and attached to a Tree from the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s permanent collection. The drawing is highlighted in the catalogue as “One of Jusepe de Ribera’s most beautiful drawings, this work demonstrates the artist’s expert handling of the chalk medium for shading and contour, his understanding of human anatomy, and his dramatic use of contortion in the figure’s sinuous pose.” We are very happy to contribute to this new look at a major Spanish artist. Other loaning institutions beyond the Eskenazi, include the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), British Museum (London), Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge), and the Istituto Centrale per la Grafica (Rome). The exhibition at the Meadows is on view now through June 11, 2017.

“Swing Landscape” Installation from Amon Carter Museum on Vimeo.

Stuart Davis’s masterpiece Swing Landscape, a perennial favorite of visitors to the Eskenazi Museum of Art, is currently on loan to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in nearby Fort Worth, Texas. Produced under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration, the 1938 mural portrays the Gloucester, Massachusetts, waterfront through the lens of Davis’s exuberant brand of abstraction.  As the New York Times’s art critic Holland Cotter recently wrote,  “we see bits of Gloucester—ships, buoys, lobster traps—but basically we’re in a whole new universe of jazzy patterns and blazing colors, a landscape defined not by signs but by sensations: sound, rhythm, friction.” Swing Landscape recently anchored Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, a major retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Swing Landscape will remain on view at the Amon Carter Museum throughout the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s renovation, which is set to be completed by fall of 2019.

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

Your Favorite Things: Lydia Schmitt and Pablo Picasso’s The Studio

lydia3Lydia Schmitt and Pablo Picasso’s The Studio

This is the second installment of a new series in which students, community members, and staff share their favorite works at the IU Art Museum. This week’s feature is by Lydia Schmitt, a freshman at IU Bloomington majoring in Arts Management with minors in Art History and English. Lydia selected Pablo Picasso’s oil painting The Studio (1934), which is on permanent display in the museum’s first floor Gallery of the Art of the Western World. Here is what she had to say:

I vividly remember the first time I saw it. It was welcome week of my freshman year and my friends and I had spent the whole day exploring IU’s campus when I finally convinced them to go to the art museum with me. I was pumped to see what the museum had and they were excited for the air conditioning.

I could hardly contain my excitement as we explored the different galleries. We passed different pieces, each of us trying to recall facts we had learned in art history classes. I remember thinking it couldn’t get any better, and then I saw it. We were rounding the end of the first floor exhibit and as my friends and I were joking about Marcel Duchamp’s urinal (Duchamp’s famous Readymade statue, The Fountain), I caught a glimpse. I couldn’t even believe it. A Picasso? Here? I made a beeline for it.

I stood in front of The Studio mouth agape while my friends quickly followed behind me. A choir of “I don’t see it” ascended. “Well look at this, and this, and look at how these connect to make this,” I explained while frantically gesturing with my arms trying to make them get it. After every explanation I tried to give, I kept seeing new parts of the painting connect. It was like building a puzzle. I was mystified and would have been able to sit there the rest of the day just figuring it out and piecing it together.

Months later, and I am still entranced by Picasso’s The Studio. What an amazing blessing it is to have such impressive pieces here at Indiana University’s art museum. I frequently visit the museum just to sit and stare at this painting. It’s like visiting an old friend but I’m still able to learn something new about it every time.

Many thanks to Lydia for her contribution. If you would like to share your favorite work, please contact Abe Morris, the IU Art Museum’s Manager of Public Relations and Marketing, at:

Your Favorite Things: Sasha Sokolchik and Mountain Landscape with Travelers


This is the first installment of a new series where students, community members, and staff share their favorite works at the IU Art Museum. This week’s feature is by Alexandra “Sasha” Sokolchik, a freshman at Indiana University Bloomington majoring in Economic Consulting. Sasha selected Mountain Landscape with Travelers, a large oil painting on canvas, attributed to Jan Hackaert (Netherlandish, 1628-in or after 1685), and Adriaen van de Velde (Netherlandish, 1636-1672), located in the museum’s first floor Gallery of the Art of the Western World. Here is what Sasha had to say:

What I love most about this painting is how small it makes me feel. Not insignificant, but rather, all of my problems become so trivial, so irrelevant.  My world expands and I am reminded of the bigger painting all around me. I will not be here in a hundred years and I cannot say with certainty how much longer our world will look the way it does today, how long these trees will stay rooted, or these mountains unbroken, but I do know that life will continue no matter the form it decides to take.

I am brought back to reality every time I take in Mountain Landscape with Travelers, remembering that this life is about simplicity. Without bounds, it is everlasting yet I find myself caught up in every day monotony at times. Without a constant mnemonic I casually forget about the fact that I am simply human. A human, just as the millions before me and the millions after me. It serves as a reminder that I should not carry burden on my shoulder and simply live to expand my knowledge and happiness.

I always wonder where the traveler sitting on the side of the dirt road has come from. What is in that bag that he tosses over his shoulder and carries with him along his adventures? What are his thoughts as he sits turned to the lake and mountains under the shade of a tree? More exciting than that; where is this man headed? My future, like his, is up in the air waiting for the wind to blow it in the right direction.

I am excited for whatever my compass needle decides to show but for now, I know that the IU Art Museum will always have a place for me to come ponder and reflect. It is always comforting when a book seems to have been written about you, or a song sung about your life; but through a painting, the text is written into every brush stroke and the song is sung with every color, bringing out those emotions with an entirely new intensity. These are just my sentiments though and I am only a simple observer sitting at the top of a hill by the side of a dirt road.

Many thanks to Sasha for her contribution. Stay tuned for more stories in “Your Favorite Things.” If you would like to contribute to the series, contact Abe Morris the IU Art Museum’s Manager of Public Relations and Marketing at:

Art Work(s) of the Week: Aleah’s Top 11

The time has come in my personal arts journey to move on to a new place, now that I have completed my Master’s degree. However, I could not leave without first sharing one more (brief, when considering all that the IU Art Museum has done for me,) blog post on what makes the IU Art Museum special.

I have collected my top 11 artworks here at the IU Art Museum for you (outside of Caillebotte’s Yerres, Effect of Rain and the Maori Hei Tiki pendant, which already have blog posts in their honor). These works are ones that stood out to me or affected me in some way.

Emmi Whitehorse (American, born 1957)
“Rushing Water,” 2001
Oil, chalk, and paper on canvas
Gift of Thomas Robertello in honor of the Jacobs School of Music flute class 2010, 2010.95

Emmi Whitehorse’s Rushing Water
This painting took me by storm. The third in a set of three contemporary Native American paintings currently on view in the first floor Gallery of the Art of the Western World, this depiction of a river in the American southwest is a powerful rush when you first see it. I have always been attracted to warm colors, and this paradoxical treatment of water as if it were fire is breathtaking. Ms. Whitehorse creates an expansive desertscape on a limited canvas, peppered with lines and circles that convey movement. Thank you, Mr. Robertello, for your generous gift.

Franz Marc (German, 1880–1916)
Four Foxes, 1913
Watercolor and chalk on paper
Jane and Roger Wolcott Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley, IU Art Museum 75.21

Franz Marc’s Four Foxes (Right)
Nestled in our extensive Works on Paper collection, this lovely watercolor and chalk sketch by Franz Marc left me completely smittened. I had seen some of Marc’s work before and enjoyed the bold, saturated colors and geometric animals. But happening upon this piece in a print viewing compelled me to learn more about Marc, his art, and the German Expressionist movement. Simple and sweet, I love that you can see the strokes of Marc’s brush/hand, and the soft peach and sienna of the foxes are complemented by the setting’s blue-greens.

I was never a fan of modern/contemporary art before I came here. I was content in my Renaissance/Baroque-only world. Works like this, and The Old Man below, really opened my eyes. It is fascinating to me how your tastes and preferences stretch and evolve as you get older, and how you realize how much you can learn if you keep an open mind. German Expressionism is now, by far one of my favorite movements.

Teotihuacan culture, Mexico
“Seated Figure”
Classic period, 200–650
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 76.8

Teotihuacan Figure
This Teotihuacan figure is simple and clean, but simultaneously very dignified. Standing (sitting?) at 10 inches, this guy stands out amidst the fascinating Pre-Colombian and Native American collection in the third floor gallery. Aragonite is a common crystaline mineral (relative of Calcite); the Teotihuacan figure’s subtle brown swirls in the aragonite are likely from absorbed sand.

FUN FACT: Mollusks and other similar invertebrates may secrete organic aragonite, which is responsible for the iridescence of pearls.

Alexei von Jawlensky (Russian, active Germany and Switzerland, 1864–1941)
The Old Man (Yellow Beard), 1912
Oil on canvas
Jane and Roger Wolcott Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley, 75.14

Alexei von Jawlensky, The Old Man
When I first “met” Yellow Beard…I did not like him. I remember turning to my parents, who were touring the gallery with me, and saying “I don’t like him. He’s so angry looking.” (What an involved analysis, Aleah) But the more I interacted with him, the more I grew to love him. The vibrant hues typical of German Expressionism truly capture his loveable surliness…He’s like the grandpa that yells and mutters at all the kids, but you love him anyway. The bright red of his face and angular nose, his heavy skeptical brow, and forehead crinkles communicate his palpable personality. He has one of the most iconic faces in our collection, and cannot be missed.

Kunisada I/Toyokuni III (国貞) (Japanese, 1786–1865)
Okaru of Ichiriki (一力のおかる)
1852, Kaei 5, ninth month, year of the rat
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper

Kunisada I/Toyokuni III
Okaru of Ichiriki (一力のおかる)
This Japanese woodblock print is currently on display with 4 other prints relating legends of kabuki theater. The Japanese have absolutely fascinating legends and stories (most of which come with a moral lesson), and I have been treated to quite a few during my time here. The story of this print revolves around samurai seeking revenge for the death of their beloved Lord. The woman in the print, Okaru, is the lady-in-waiting for the lord’s widow and offers to become a geisha in order to gather more funds to enact the revenge vendetta. A spy almost discovers the plot, one of the loyal samurai almost kills Okaru…Drama. But you have to come see the prints themselves to find out what happens.

Claudio Bravo (Chilean, 1936–2011)
Squash, 1985
Pastel on paper

Claudio Bravo, Squash
Listed as one of Fine Art Connoisseur’s Great Contemporary Pastels in American Museums for May-June 2012, this piece is a PASTEL. I repeat: This image of Squash by Chilean artist Claudio Bravo is a PASTEL. I still cannot quite wrap my head around it. The piece is so realistic, so detailed, I thought it was a photograph at first. But no, my friends. This is done in pastel. The complementary use of red and green really makes this relatively ordinary still life pop. The red wall, the geometric patterned, textured carpet, and use of squash (a typical ingredient for a tanjine dish) tell of Morocco, where Bravo lived from 1972 until his death.

Lower Sepik River area, Papua New Guinea
“Commemorative Figure”
Before 1908
Wood, pigment, fiber
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 2010.11

Commemorative Figure
BIG RED! That is our affectionate name for this exceptional wooden carving from Papua New Guinea. And big he is—80 inches or 6 feet, 8 inches. I, in comparison, am 5 feet, 6 inches. This photograph does not accurately communicate how tall he stands. Visiting him in the third floor Raymond and Laura Wielgus Arts of Africa, the South Pacific, and the Americas gallery is a worthwhile experience! Given that he’s made of wood and fiber, I can never help but be awed by how well preserved he (and the rest of the third floor collection, for that matter) is. According to the Masterworks, this piece was made to honor an ancestor, possibly an ancestral hero or leader. He was likely kept in a men’s house and could be shown on occasions such as boys’ initiations. The powder that makes him “Red” is a associated with virility and male power, and red is a color of ritual.

The Rycroft Painter, Greek, Attic
Black-Figure Hydria
Ca. 520–510 BC
Clay, glaze, added red and white
Gift of Thomas T. Solley, 77.33

The Rycroft Painter
Black-Figure Hydria
If I had a secondary concentration throughout my Masters degree, it would have been Ancient Greek art. I took two classes: a Greek Art & Archaeology survey and an art and archaeology of Pompeii lecture. Both were illuminating, my particular interest (outside of Hellenistic sculpture) lying with the painted ceramics. This black-figure hydria (water vessel) is an exquistite example of black-figure technique. Black-figure technique results in silhouetted black figures, their details incised or painted on in red or white after the firing process. This particular hydria depicts the half god, half mortal Herakles (Hercules) wrestling the fishtailed monster Triton. This story is exclusive to Athenian art in the second half of the 6th century BC. The shoulder of the vase has a Dionysian (of Dionysus, the god of wine) scene, complete with satyrs, and a pair of decorative eyes usually found on drinking cups.

Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière (French, 1831–1900)
“Diana,” 1882
Arthur R. Metz Collection; Gift of the Arthur R. Metz Foundation, 94.73

Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière’s Diana
I have always liked mythology, Greek in particular. The moon goddess, Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology), sister of the sun god Apollo, always reminded me of my best friend since childhood. Every day when I get off of the elevator to come to work, this lovely nude statue of the goddess Diana, complete with her archer’s bow and crescent coronet, was always there to greet me. She resides next to the elevator on the third floor of the museum. One could say she seems a little lonely, but honestly, the moon huntress would have probably prefered things that way! This bronze sculpture was the largest in a series of four different sizes that Falguière made of Diana. Falguière worked in neoclassicism and academic realism that frequently produced allegorical or mythological figures.

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956)
“Number 11,” 1949
Duco and aluminum on canvas
Jane & Roger Wolcott Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley, 75.87
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artist Rights Society, NY

Jackson Pollock’s Number 11
Once again, I never was a “Modern Art Person.” I look at Duchamp and go “Huh?” (which is ironic because the IU Art Museum has one of two surviving sets of 1964 edition of Readymades…). But Pollock, thanks to this painting, I like. The color choice seems very unusual…muted sea foam green, deep maroon, mustard yellow, and then the strong contrast of black and white. Something about it though just works. The thickness of the drips and flicks and oozing gushes across the canvas make this so dynamic to see in person. The cake-layered quality of all of these quick, gestural splashes give this non-subjective painting a story. Recently returned from a sojourn in Japan where it was on display for the first Pollock retrospective in the country, this exceptional piece will hopefully be up on display again soon. I’m pretty convinced it’ll make you like Pollock, even if you think you don’t like Pollock.

Rob Shakespeare (American, born England, 1950)
Light Totem: Tower, Wall, Line, Sky, 2007
Site-specific installation
Photo courtesy of Matt James


Rob Shakespeare’s Light Totem
We’ve talked about Light Totem a little bit before. It is our popular after-hours outdoor attraction that delights the entire community. I have spent made wonderful memories lying out in the front courtyard of the museum, feet up on the wall, watching the color shows dance with my boyfriend, my family, and my friends. And I am not the only one. Light Totem is an incredibly special installation that has something to offer everyone that visits the IU Art Museum and Indiana University campus. There’s a magical quality to the choreographed changing of the lights that visitors will never forget. This harmonious structure of art, light, and design brings our community together, and that is one of the greatest gifts that art can give.

I have had an exceptional Indiana University Art Museum adventure. Even though I’ve supplied you with a lot of words, words will never do the experience justice. I invite you to come visit the museum yourself: make memorable moments and find those pieces that are just waiting to inspire you. You will be so glad that you did.

Aleah Holland
Editorial Graduate Assistant 2011-2012

A Tribute to William Zimmerman

William Zimmerman, a nationally recognized wildlife artist and Brown County resident, passed away last fall. In honor of his artistry and passion for ornithology, the IU Art Museum has a selection of five original paintings from his book Life Histories of North American Woodpeckers (1992) on display in the first-floor Art of the Western World gallery. These beautiful pieces show Zimmerman’s meticulous nature and dedication to truth when capturing these stunning birds, along with local flora.

If this small selection inspires you when you visit, hop on over to the Jordan Hall atrium where you can see another 100 Zimmerman paintings from his The Birds of Indiana series.

William Zimmerman
American, b. 1937
Hairy “Harris’s” Woodpecker
(Picoides villosus), 1991
Original artwork for plate 17 in Arthur Cleveland Bent’s Life Histories of
North American Woodpeckers
Acrylic on grey paper
Gift of Elaine Ewing Fess and
Stephen W. Fess, 93.22.17

You might also recognize Zimmerman’s work from the labels on local Olivery Winery’s wine bottles. Zimmerman worked with Oliver to produce their labels for many years, depicting a blue heron, hawks, and other birds, butterflies, grapes, bees, and even a fox to represent Oliver’s various wine flavors. As he was quoted at Hidden River Art, “I can always go get some wine and give it as a gift. I get a double whammy with it!”

I found a video posted by WTIU last December, no doubt in remembrance of Zimmerman shortly after his passing. I thought it best, perhaps, to let the artist himself share a little bit more about his art with you.

Follow the link to watch: William Zimmerman

Zimmerman’s five woodpecker paintings will be on display at the IU Art Museum until September 9th, 2012.


Art Work of the Week: Henri’s Portrait of Edith Haworth

As a photographer, I prefer portraits taken when the subject is unprepared. I am drawn to depicting a fleeting facial expression that shows an emotion or personality trait. In my opinion, a good portrait is an attempt to give the viewer a sense of who the subject is beyond physical appearance. It is much easier to capture these quick, unnoticed expressions when taking a photo. Many painted portraits show a well-lit subject confronting the viewer with a vacant facial expression. Although the technical skill involved in creating these portraits can be praised, I find them lacking an emotional component. This portrait is different.

Robert Henri
Portrait of Edith Haworth
April 1909
Oil on canvas
IU Art Museum 76.55

Henri painted this portrait of his former student Edith Haworth in an hour and a half during her visit to his studio before she left for Europe in 1909. He captured her looking over her shoulder in what appears to be an intimate, reflective moment for Haworth. The loose, spontaneous brushwork provides a sense of urgency, furthering the perception of a passing moment. Everything about her posture and apparel show the confidence of a wealthy, modern woman, but her face displays a sense of vulnerability. The emotion captured in Haworth’s face is entrancing.

Henri often depicted family members or friends in his portraits. His increased teaching responsibilities around this time led him to work in a smaller format with a less formal style of portraiture. Working with a group known as The Eight, later called the Ashcan school, he created work depicting modern, urban life. The group was known for their journalistic approach to art, as shown in Henri’s Portrait of Edith Haworth, where they attempted to capture more than simply physical appearance.

Robert Henri’s Portrait of Edith Haworth can be found in the Gallery of Art of the Western World on first floor of the IU Art Museum.