The Mitchell Gallery

The Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Gallery

“Lurleiberg” by J.M.W. Turner

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J.M.W.Turner (1775-1851), Lurleiberg, 19th c. Watercolor, over black chalk, with some scraping, on paper. Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 1997.14. Photography by Steven H. Crossot, 2014. 

J.M.W. Turner, best known for his grandiose and light-filled landscape, seascape and cityscape paintings found great inspiration in nature, with the possibilities offered by drawing and painting from life. His wild and majestic landscapes are credited with elevating landscape painting to a new and masterful craft. Showing signs of a protégé as a young child, he studied with notable artists and architects, was later admitted to the Royal Academy of Art, and his paintings were accepted and exhibited by the Royal Academy of Art a few years later. He was encouraged by his mentors to pursue landscapes, travel throughout Europe, and sketch from nature. As someone who was attracted to the aesthetics of tragedy and the beauty of nature, many of his works depict scenes of shipwrecks or fires. Turner was fascinated by the power of nature and the violent potential it had to destroy everything in its path, ultimately a reminder of the insignificance of human presence in the face of natural forces. 

The watercolor “Lurleiberg” was completed during Turner’s travels throughout Europe along the Rhine river in the early 19th century. Lurleiberg referred to a rocky cliff formation along the Rhine, near the small medieval town of St. Goar, Germany. Lurleiberg was a beautiful, but formidable site where many sailors lost their way through the sharp rocks and relentless fog. It was named after the legendary siren, Lorelei, who lured sailors onto a deadly course. This watercolor is a part of his seven studies done in chalk and watercolor of this particularly scenic stretch of the Rhine where the cliffs grow taller and the waters dive deeper. This watercolor depicts a seemingly calm picture of the Rhine, but the underlying potential for disaster is apparent. This is an impressive scene with towering cliffs, a winding river and a dense fog that invites us in for adventure and beauty, however, the St. Goar length of the Rhine was an eerie graveyard for unlucky sailors trying to make their way through this treacherous passage. The figures, small and quiet, are indifferent to the potential danger around them, while the imposing rocks and the ominous fog set the scene for catastrophe. Turner perfectly captures the dramatic potential of this scene with his hazy light, murky colors and soft edges; there is an opportunity for tragedy and an opportunity for calm. 

One can read this painting and find either contentment or calamity, but neither would be incorrect. There is a certain ambiguity to this painting that intrigues and engages the viewer. Turner captures this in many of his paintings by sketching from life, capturing a specific moment in time with an expressive and vivid lens. The overcast sky and the hazy lighting suggest an uncertain time of day, and either the onset or aftermath of a storm. One could interpret that this symbolizes rebirth and survival after the storm, or one could interpret that this symbolizes an impending death and destruction. The delicate brushstrokes and soft edges create a sense of vagueness, both in the lack of clarity in the painting and the uncertainty of future events. In either case, the painting inspires an emotional response from the viewer, and invites individual interpretation. Turner captures the sublime, in either tragedy or calm, in this watercolor, and calls wonderment in us of this grand and monumental landscape, and the power and emotion of nature.  

Come to the Mitchell Gallery to get a closer look at Turner’s “Lurleiberg” in The Lure of Nature: Landscape Drawings from the Thaw Collection.  

             This exhibition is made possible by The Morgan Library & Museum, New York,                                                 with additional support generously provided                                          by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust. 

                                                  This exhibition is generously supported                                          by the Arthur E. and Hilda C. Landers Charitable Trust

–Julianne Levin, Mitchell Gallery Summer Intern 

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“View from Castellammare to the Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius” by Franz Ludwig Catel

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Franz Ludwig Catel (1778 – 1856) “View from Castellammare to the Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius” ca. 1818-1819 Watercolor and gouache, over traces of black chalk, on wove paper. Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Photography by Steven H. Crossot, 2014.

Franz Ludwig Catel was a German painter, but launched his career and spent most of his life working in Rome. Catel’s works depicted the Italian landscapes, now idealized by centuries of artists. During Catel’s lifetime, Western civilization was captivated by ideals and aesthetics of the Enlightenment and Neoclassicism. Artists and academics were drawn to nature as well as the ancient world for exploration and inspiration.

In the early 18th century, the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were discovered after centuries buried under layers of volcanic rock, generating international interest and intrigue. Pompeii and Herculaneum were located in the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy, and they were completely covered by the eruption of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius, in 79 AD. The volcanic ash and lava filled these cities and preserved the buildings, artifacts and people who lived there. Once discovered, the archeological digs uncovered an entire world of ancient Roman treasures and resources. This new-found wealth of knowledge spread rapidly throughout Europe garnering curiosity from the artistic and academic communities alike. Before these findings, the ancient world was reduced to myth and ruins, but with these miraculous discoveries, questions of the ancient world could be answered and proof of their life and existence could be seen for the first time. This dramatically changed the way in which people understood and experienced the world around them.

People traveled from all over Europe to view the recently uncovered sites in Southern Italy and Greece. It became a tradition, and a rite of passage for many wealthy, upper-class gentlemen to travel on The Grand Tour. Inspired by the ideals of the European Enlightenment, people looked to the ancient world as the foundation for Western civilization, and the epitome of wisdom and beauty. Traveling to the ancient sites for both education and pleasure showed true dedication to culture and refinement. Inspired by the possibilities of capturing the never-before-seen sites, artists would travel to document the ancient architecture and the Italian landscapes. Wealthy travelers on The Grand Tour would commission artists, and buy paintings or sketches of the ancient sites, as mementos of their journey and symbols of their connections to classical antiquity. These sketches are the earliest images that we have of these ancient sites, still widely appreciated and collected today.    

Franz Ludwig Catel’s “View from Castellammare to the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius” depicts the complexity and beauty of this Italian landscape during Catel’s second trip to Naples. Located just outside of Pompeii, Castellammare is another beautiful coastal town with views of Mount Vesuvius looming over the city from every angle. In his drawing Catel depicts a medieval structure surrounded by bystanders on winding pathways through foliage, and Mount Vesuvius sits behind a body of water in the background. The architectural, fortress-like building takes a passive role in this scene and nature takes on the active role, encompassing the page. Catel uses a more commanding brush stroke and more saturated hues with the verdant trees and well-trod pathways, and a delicate touch and lighter hues with the architectural edifices. The stark contrast between the man-made structures and the natural foliage serves as a reminder of the power nature has over human-kind. Framed by both the architecture and trees, Mount Vesuvius takes center stage as the ultimate force of nature. Although the lines and colors are soft and faded, the volcano looks ever powerful and resolute. The bystanders walk peacefully through the countryside undisturbed with Mount Vesuvius in the background. The dominating presence of Mount Vesuvius serves as a bittersweet reminder of that tragic event that destroyed entire cities, and yet preserved a plethora of history for us today.

Franz Ludwig Catel’s “View from Castellammare to the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius,” along with many other works in the exhibition, The Lure of Nature: Landscape Drawings from the Thaw Collection, remind us of the artists’ continued interest in the ancient world and their desire to travel and paint the observable outdoors. Many images on display depict landscapes with ancient Greek and Roman edifices off in the distance, often romanticized or idealized.  

The Lure of Nature: Landscape Drawings from the Thaw Collection is on view through from August 25th through October 15th. Don’t miss the lunchtime Art Express tour on September 6 from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. and Curator Jennifer Tonkovich’s lecture on September 12 at 5:30 p.m.

This exhibition is made possible by The Morgan Library & Museum, New York,

with additional support generously provided by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Arthur E. and Hilda C. Landers Charitable Trust.

—Julianne Levin, Mitchell Gallery Summer Intern

The Fantastic World of Ronald Markman: A Mini-Retrospective

Mitchell Gallery Art Museum Fundraiser

Ron Markman (American, b. 1931), Fundraiser for the Art Museum, Mixed media, Photography courtesy of Robert Madden.

           MARCH 10 – APRIL 23, 2017

 

Inspired by 1930s cartoons and popular culture, Ronald Markman explores intellectual and artistic journeys through literature, historic events, personal observations, and the absurdities of life in this colorful collection of drawings, paintings, and sculptures. This exhibition combines Markman’s dedicated academic training with George Grosz and Josef Albers with humor and the limitless possibilities of a nonsensical, fantastical world.

“Madonna and Child” by Ruth Starr Rose

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Ruth Starr Rose (American, – ), Madonna and Child. Lithograph, the estate of Ruth Starr Rose.

This lithograph by Ruth Starr Rose depicts Elizabeth Money, who worked for the Rose family watching over her sleeping daughter. The child sleeps in a cradle allegedly lent by Ruth Starr Rose to Moaney while she did housework for the family. An 18th century heirloom piece, it is still in the Rose family today. This scene is one of many realistic and dignified depictions of African-American life on Maryland’s Eastern Shore captured by Rose.

Elizabeth Moaney, the mother, is still alert, as if the baby has only just drifted of to sleep. Her arm and foot are poised to rock the magnificent cradle that, like a throne, frames the child. The ornate cradle contrasts with the dingier objects that the woman employs in her daily work: the broom and pail in the lefthand corner, and the overturned fruit basket that the mother sits on. She is faintly smiling as she gazes intently at her child; her expression is a source of warmth in itself. In addition, Ruth Starr Rose somehow manages to draw out a luminous quality from the black and white tones of the lithograph.

The richness of the light and dark values lend a quality to the scene that is hard to articulate: it is not quite realistic, but stylized to the point of looking like an illustration for a poster. And yet this depiction does not exploit or degrade the subject matter in any way, as a political poster might. In fact, by titling it Madonna and Child, Rose elevates the scene to an extraordinary height. The mother and child depicted here are ordinary, lifelike, but at the same time suggestive of the love that the Virgin Mary had for the infant Jesus.

Along with the title, the almost too-large proportions–the head and torso of the mother compared to her arms and legs, the oversized child, and the enormous headboard of the cradle itself–recall Medieval paintings and icons of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, where realistic perspective and proportions are ignored, and human figures exist apart from any concrete setting in space and time. Figures in Medieval paintings were not meant to be realistic representations of living people, but emblematic depictions of figures who were part of a higher, divine reality. Here, in Ruth Starr Rose’s lovely work, the exaggerated proportions are balanced by the soft luminosity of the tones, and the mother’s gentle and adoring gaze.

Ruth Starr Rose: Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World

Ruth Starr Rose, Anna May Moaney,1930, oil on Masonite

Ruth Starr Rose, Anna May Moaney, 1930, oil on Masonite.

January 11 – February 26

Opening Reception: January 15  from 3 to 5 p.m.

This first comprehensive exhibition of paintings and lithographs by Ruth Starr Rose (1887-1965) offers a rare glimpse into the lives and spiritual world of rural African American life at the turn of the century on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. An Art Students League artist, Rose portrays crab pickers, sailmakers, and soldiers, as well as gospel song illustrations, with a dignity and compassion that expresses her deep love for the residents of the Talbot County towns of Copperville and Unionville.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Helena Foundation.

“Ruth Starr Rose” was developed and organized for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture by Guest Curator Barbara Paca, PhD; Exhibition Tour Management by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA.

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare

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On tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library

November 1 – December 4, 2016

St. John’s College, in partnership with the Annapolis Shakespeare Company for programming support and with the Maryland Humanities for marketing support, has been named the institutional host for Maryland. As part of the “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare” national tour, the First Folio exhibition will be on view to the public from November 1 to December 4 at the Mitchell Gallery on the Annapolis campus.

Gerveux’s Study of a Wounded Soldier

Henri Gervex, Study for Le Blessé de Guerre

Henri Gerveux (French, 1852-1929). Study for Le Blessé de Guerre (The wounded soldier). Charcoal, red and white chalk on blue paper.

In this study by the academically-trained artist Gerveux, a young man lies awake in bed. Moonlight from a window to the left cuts through the bluish darkness and falls on him. Instead of just delineating the form of the man in a dark outline all around, Gerveux touches his left side where the light falls with white chalk. Only under his right shoulder are there deliberate shadows made in black charcoal. These darker lines suggest the substantiality of the young man’s body, the weight of it lying on the mattress. But the mass of his body is also shown more indirectly by the rumpled sheet that has fallen around his waist and the folds that lie in the foreground, also touched by the moonlight.

Again, Gerveux works with the effects of moonlight to suggest the atmosphere of the scene and the inner state of the wounded soldier. You can just see, by the contrast of his dark eyelashes against the moonlit parts of his face, that the man’s eyes are open. He’s not completely at rest; instead of sinking all the way into the bed, he seems contained within himself, and aware of his position on the pillow (in the way that someone injured needs to hold themselves in a certain position in bed to be comfortable). Even though he’s not in complete repose, the lines of his body are sinuous all the same, recalling paintings of sensuous reclining Odalisques or Venuses by Ingres and Titian.

Gerveux’s work is in harmony with the best of the Academic tradition of drawing represented in the exhibit. As the painter and fierce proponent of this tradition, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, said,”Drawing is the probity of art. To draw does not mean simply to reproduce contours; drawing does not consist merely of line: drawing is also expression, the inner form, the plane, modeling. See what remains after that.”