TLC #44: Summer Delights at The Clark—Picasso: Encounters, Orchestrating Elegance & More
Picasso: Encounters looks at artist’s experimentation and collaboration in printmaking
Picasso’s prints and paintings on view at the Clark Art Institute Until August 27
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass.—Picasso: Encounters, on view at the Clark Art Institute June 4–August 27, investigates how Pablo Picasso’s (1881–1973) creative collaborations fueled and strengthened his art, challenging the notion of Picasso as an artist alone with his craft. The exhibition addresses his full stylistic range, the narrative themes that drove his creative process, the often-neglected issue of the collaboration inherent in print production, and the muses that inspired him, including Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot, and Jacqueline Roque.
Organized by the Clark with the exceptional support of the Musée national Picasso–Paris, Picasso: Encounters is comprised of thirty-five large-scale prints from private and public collections and three paintings including his seminal Self-Portrait (end of 1901) and the renowned Portrait of Dora Maar (1937), both on loan from the Musée national Picasso–Paris.
Picasso: Encounters includes a series of four unpublished linocut trial proofs modeled after Édouard Manet’s 1863 painting, Luncheon on the Grass, offering a unique perspective on the artist’s and printer’s process. The four proofs on view were eventually combined to create the final linocut, which is also shown in the exhibition.
Music heard on this show
Thank you to the following brilliant artists for their musical contributions:
Jeewon Park playing Frederic Chopin’s “Prelude No. 5 in D major, op. 28” on the Alma-Tadema piano; courtesy The Clark Art Institute
Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design
Elaborate design, exquisite craftsmanship in furniture, paintings, sculpture,
and decorative arts of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
And, as resurgent interest in Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (British, born Netherlands 1836–1912) raises appreciation and interest in his work for a new generation, the Clark Art Institute offers new insight into one of the painter’s most successful and distinctive artistic endeavors—the design of a music room for the New York mansion of financier, art collector, and philanthropist Henry Gurdon Marquand (1819–1902). Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design, curated by Kathleen M. Morris and Alexis Goodin, reunites twelve of nineteen pieces from the original furniture suite, along with paintings, ceramics, textiles, and sculpture from the room for the first time since Marquand’s estate was auctioned in 1903. The Clark’s ornately decorated Steinway piano, acquired in 1997, is the centerpiece of the exhibition.
Gilded Age elegance and exquisite cuisine combine to create an unforgettable evening at the Clark. Guests will enjoy a private, after-hours tour of Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design hosted by exhibition curator Kathleen Morris, followed by a culinary immersion in dining led by noted food writer and historian Darra Goldstein as she invites guest to navigate the intricacies of a Gilded Age dinner.
Explore the foods, wines, and table customs of the period while dining on an extravagant menu prepared by Chef Dan Hardy of STARR Catering.
Seating is limited to 40 guests at communal tables. Click here to view the menu and make reservations, or call 413 458 0524.
Picasso—Muses, Myth, and Old Masters
“We are delighted to bring these exceptional works to Williamstown to share them with our visitors this summer,” said Olivier Meslay, Felda and Dena Hardymon Director of the Clark. “This exhibition gives us a different look at Picasso and provides the opportunity to study the remarkable achievements accomplished as he worked with different printmakers. Their craftsmanship and his artistry forged new paths that clearly expanded Picasso’s view and broadened his horizons. We are particularly grateful to the Musée national Picasso–Paris for the extraordinary loans they have made to this show –– we are thrilled to be able to bring these incredible paintings to the Clark.”
The exhibition begins with a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period (1901–1904). Self-Portrait embodies the despair, isolation, and poverty that marked images created during this period. Following this, visitors encounter The Frugal Repast (1904) which was the artist’s first foray into large-scale printmaking, and was created at the end of the Blue Period. Picasso was living with his lover Fernande Olivier in Montmartre, a bohemian section of Paris, creating art that depicted individuals at the margins of society, such as the poor.
Following World War I, Picasso became involved in theater design. It was through this interest that he met his first wife, the Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova, who performed in the corps of the Ballets Russes. The couple moved to a fashionable neighborhood in Paris where they began to entertain and mingle with the elite, a changed atmosphere from Picasso’s earlier bohemian circles. The artist’s upward mobility, both in the art market and in the sophisticated lifestyle he shared with Khokhlova, began to appear in his art. The drypoint Portrait of Olga in a Fur Collar (1923) depicts Olga dressed in the height of fashion, serenely turning her head to the side.
Marie-Thérèse Walter and The Minotaur
In 1927, Picasso met one of the most iconic muses of his artistic career, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Walter would become both an erotic and visual preoccupation for Picasso during an immensely productive time in his life. Her youth and classical beauty are evident in Visage (Face of Marie-Thérèse) (1928), which was created for a monograph on the artist by the Parisian collector and critic André Level.
Free Art-Making Activities Celebrate Abstract Expressionist Exhibition at the Clark Art Institute
On Tuesday afternoons from July 11–August 22, 1–4 pm, the Clark Art Institute invites people of all ages to experiment with Cubism. Outdoor art-making stations, located on the Fernández Terrace, encourage participants to make observations from different angles in order to create a unique work of cubist art. This event is weather-dependent. All activities are free, but admission to the galleries will be charged. Clark members, children under 18, and students with a valid ID always receive free admission.
ALSO, Beginning July 13, the Clark Art Institute will hold weekly art-making activities in celebration of the exhibition As in Nature: Helen Frankenthaler Paintings (on view July 1–October 9, 2017). “Off the Wall: Soak Stain” sessions will be held on Thursday afternoons from 1–4 pm through August 31. Participants create a canvas wall hanging inspired by the work of Frankenthaler, an Abstract Expressionist painter, experimenting with the “soak stain” technique the artist pioneered. Activities will be held outdoors at the Lunder Center at Stone Hill. The art-making sessions are free; optional admission to the galleries will be charged.
Alma-Tadema—Creation of The Music Room
The music room acted as the Marquand mansion’s parlor and formed the social center of the residence. In it, Marquand displayed a portion of his famous collection of European paintings including two works by Alma-Tadema: A Reading from Homer (1885) and Amo Te, Ama Me (1881), both on view in the exhibition. Classical antiquities, including marble sculptures and vases, as well as modern sculpture in the antique style were also found in the room and are represented in the exhibition.
Marquand set no cost limit for the music room project, which was Alma-Tadema’s only commission of this type. The resulting furniture suite, extraordinary in every detail, created a sensation when it was displayed in London prior to shipment to New York. Acclaimed for its imaginative forms, the suite was painstakingly decorated with veneers of ebony and cedar accented with elaborately carved inlays of boxwood, ivory, abalone, and mother-of-pearl. Magazines and newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic featured extensive coverage of the furniture and the room, praising the design and craftsmanship, while marveling at the cost: an estimated $50,000 for the piano alone. When the Clark purchased the piano at auction in 1997 for $1.2 million, headlines across Europe and the United States once again touted the price paid for the piano, which was the most expensive sold at auction up to that time. That benchmark was eclipsed in 2000 when the piano John Lennon used to write Imagine sold for $2.1 million.
Alma-Tadema and Classical Antiquity
The Marquand mansion was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt (1827–1895) and completed in 1884. When Marquand commissioned Alma-Tadema, the London-based artist was well established as the premier painter of classical antiquity. Orchestrating Elegance includes several paintings that helped build this reputation: Preparation for Festivities (1866), The Sculpture Gallery (1875), Between Hope and Fear (1876), and The Women of Amphissa (1887). In addition, preparatory sketches and related drawings and photographs demonstrate his ability as a draftsman and his approach to incorporating ancient references in his works.
Alma-Tadema achieved great success during his lifetime. His paintings of imagined scenes from ancient times have influenced directors of films set in antiquity such as Ben-Hur and Gladiator, among others. While admiration for his academic style of painting waned in the early decades of the twentieth century, in recent years there has been renewed interest in his work, and in 2011 his canvas The Finding of Moses sold for $35.9 million—an auction record for the artist. In 2016 The Fries Museum opened the major exhibition Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity, which traveled to Vienna and will be shown in summer 2017 in London, the city where Alma-Tadema enjoyed his greatest success.
About the Clark
The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, consisting of more than 270,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.
The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, children 18 and younger, and students with valid ID. For more information, visit clarkart.edu or call (413) 458-2303.
Today is Thursday June 29, 2017—I’m your host, Jason Velázquez, and I thank you for tuning in to Episode Number 44 of the Top Left Corner.
Summer is never long underway before I start wondering if it wouldn’t be worth it just to pitch a tent on the lawn at The Clark Art Institute. They wouldn’t mind that, right? I mean, between the special Summer exhibits, music series, lectures, films, classes—all on top of their permanent collection, which never gets old for me—you could keep pretty busy even past Labor Day. And gourmet food is available on site too pretty often, although showers might present a problem…
Well, I had the good fortune earlier this month to preview two exhibits that are on view now, Picasso: Encounters, and Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design. It’s pretty unusual for us to try to cram more than one high-octane presentation into an episode, but like I said, there’s so much going on over there, we kind of have to. Pretty much as soon as you get finished listening to this episode, two more exhibits, both featuring the work of Helen Frankenthaler, will open on July 1st. No Rules: Helen Frankenthaler Woodcuts and As in Nature: Helen Frankenthaler Paintings. Check the shownotes for more information about them.
But what we’ve got for you today is pretty unique. Firstly, I managed to record a walk-through of Picasso: Encounters given by Jay A. Clarke, who is the Manton Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. I selected segments of that tour and paired them with the actual works she discusses and have the placed images in the shownotes. For example, you can listen to Jay Clarke discuss Picasso’s lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, and study her face in the print that was once shrouded in mystery.
Naturally, I couldn’t include the entire narration in the episode — that would made for three hour show or something, but I did select some of my favorite pieces from the exhibition. Supporting patrons of the Greylock Glass can access the ENTIRE walkthrough of Picasso: Encounters, which makes for a very slick personal guided tour right there in your smartphone or mp3 player. What? You’re not a supporting patron of the Greylock Glass? You should fix that. Go to https://www.greylockglass.com/support/ and contribute either through Patreon.com or PayPal.
I also had the extreme pleasure of a guided walkthrough of Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design. I spend a little less time on this episode talking about it, and for good reason. Appreciation of the re-assembly of the Music Room of Henry Gurdon Marquand goes beyond two dimensions plus sound. You really have to stand in the midst of the different pieces to feel the impact. The collection took a decade of sleuthing and negotiation to bring together, and the result is a luxurious, sensual feast that tries to seduce your fingers into striking a key on the enchanting Steinway Model D or tracing a delicately carved contour in the wood of the Long Sette. The Pieces in Orchestrating Elegance were all conjured into being to interact with each other, to balance each other, to complete each other.
If you’ve already seen the Grand Piano, part of the Clark’s permanent collection, this Summer is the time to experience it again in context. If you’ve never laid eyes on this not-quite-over-top masterpiece, you’re in luck, since once the enchantment of Music Room is dispelled in September, you will never have the chance to see this much of the original collection together again.
Before we make our way into the cool and calm of the galleries of The Clark, though, I wanted to remind listeners that the Shaker Barn Music, Summer Series, curated by Karl Mullen, is under way at the Hancock Shaker Village. If you missed our interview with Dom Flemmons, Grammy Award–-winning founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, I urge you to go back and listen to Episode #42. The second installment of that series will feature internationally loved Sarah Lee Guthrie on Saturday, July 1. Opening for her will be homegrown singer-songwriter Eliza Edens. We are very grateful that both artists contributed songs for this episode. Sarah Lee is joined by her husband, Jonny Irion, on “Circle of Souls” from the 2013 release Wassaic Way. Right now, here’s Eliza with “Balaclava” off her March 2017 EP Low Light.
Again, that was Sarah Lee Guthrie with Johnny Irion and “Circle of Souls.” Before that we heard Eliza Edens and “Balaclava.” You can hear both artists July 1st at the Hancock Shaker Village. Check out the show notes for links to more information.
Now I think we’re ready to talk about Picasso: Encounters.
In addition to the wealth of insights we gleaned from curator Jay A. Clarke, we also spoke Olivier Meslay, who has been The Clark’s Felda and Dena Hardymon Director, since late August of last year. He came to Williamstown by way of the Dallas Museum of Art, and is only the Clark’s 5th director.
That’s Jay Clarke.
Beginning with Olga Khokhlova, the women in Picasso’s life seem to come largely from artistic circles.
As if in a mean-spirited seating assignment at a dinner party, the woman at whom the portrait of Olga may or not be glowering is in the print to the left of the soon to be spurned first wife.
Some of Picasso’s real world muses undergo a synthesis with mythology, as the artist plumbs the depths of his mind. Making one of several appearances in his works, an alarming creature takes center stage in surreal 1935 scene of barely contained internal and external conflict.
Picasso taps into the inspiration of myth frequently, as well as that of his contemporaries and the Old Masters. Would that we cover more ground in this episode. As much as we might have thought we had a good familiarity with the artist previously, Picasso: Encounters, which closes August 27, reveals a character that defies simple definition. Director Meslay suggests that the focus on Picasso’s experimentation with printmaking adds new depth to the understanding both of his personality and his process.
Alexis Goodin, along with her co-curator Kathleen M. Morris, have poured tremendous effort and expertise into Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design. Alexis begins our tour of the re-incarnation of the Marquand Music Room. The centerpiece of the room is, of course, the Alma-Tadema Steinway Model D forte, or grand, piano, heard in the intro heard just now, and played by Jeewon Park, who performed Frederic Chopin’s Prelude No. 5 in D major, op. 28.
Director Meslay, as one might expect, possesses both depth and breadth in his understanding of the themes, styles, and techniques to be found in the various pieces in the exhibition. Having held a variety of leadership positions at the Musée du Louvre between 1993–2009, including curator in charge of British, American, and Spanish paintings, Meslay’s knowledge is steeped in exactly the types of considerations that Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema brought to bear in the creation of the Marquand Music Room.
Alexis Goodin highlights Alma-Tadema’s intensive field research and scholarship through a discussion of the artist’s 1875 oil, “The Sculpture Gallery.”
I know that before I hire an artist to convert my 800 square foot spare bedroom into a music parlor, I’m going to want to know the artist has a track record in Orchestrating Elegance. Fortunately for Henry Marquand, Alma-Tadema had acquired just that experience in the creation of the artist’s own study.
In case you’re wondering if the Music Room was the only grand showcase for Marquand’s tastes, rest assured, his penchant for luxury saturated every corner of the New York banker’s home. It’s just that when you give a world-renowned artist like Alma-Tadema a blank check to create design perfection, the results tend to be perfectly striking.
Marquand lived in an era between two industrial revolutions, and his Music Room was completed at the very pinnacle of the Gilded Age. Although he only lived to enjoy the room for about 15 years, knowing that it represented the very definition of refinement surely gave him satisfaction in the sunset of his life. When he died in 1902, the contents of his Madison Avenue mansion were auctioned and dispersed into the four winds, symbolic, perhaps of the end of an age of opulence unlikely to return.
Today’s aesthetics tend toward the demure compared to the conspicuous celebration of wealth of Marquand’s era. With tensions rising between the one percent and the ninety-nine, building and dressing an estate in Gilded Age splendor would strike many as uncouth, or insensitive at the very least.
Then again, it’s difficult to imagine a small handful of men and women today summoning into being a landmark institution such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art the sheer force of wealth and will as did Marquand and his circle. Many of the original works in the MMA were acquired by Marquand, and his lifelong patronage assured that generations of young American art enthusiasts would have access to some of the world’s finest pieces.
Thankfully, enough economic and artistic stars came into alignment during a period that saw a massive concentration of private treasure lead to the public display of so many great works. While the next generation was in preparation for manufacturing empires, Alma-Tadema and his patron Marquand were still studiously Orchestrating Elegance.
The Gilded Age may be a fading memory more than a century later, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little taste of it from time to time—literally, a taste.
Even as I was working on this episode, I received an invitation by e-mail to reserve a seat at the Clark’s Gilded Age Evening.
Gilded Age elegance and exquisite cuisine combine to create an unforgettable evening at the Clark.
Enjoy private, after-hours access to Orchestrating Elegance: Alma–Tadema and Design with a personal tour hosted by exhibition co-curator Kathleen Morris. Then, join noted food writer and historian Darra Goldstein in an exceptional dining experience with a culinary immersion in Gilded Age dining.
Explore the foods, wines, and table customs of the period while dining on an extravagant six-course feast prepared by Executive Chef Dan Hardy of STARR Catering.
Seating is limited to 40 guests at communal tables. Click here to view the menu and make reservations, or call 413 458 0524.
And, as if to prove my initial point about wanting to set up a tent on the lawn, I ALSO got a notice in my inbox about free workshops in Cubism going on afternoons from July 11 through August 22.
So, of course, we’ll have links to both of those items in the shownotes.
That’s our show for the week, written, produced, and edited by me, your host, Jason Velazquez. Thank you so much for tuning in, and we’ll talk again in July. Take Care.