CLEVELAND, OH.- The Cleveland Museum of Art
continues to collect across all departments, adding works that strengthen its historic commitment to quality and excellence. Recent acquisitions by painters Jared French, an important artist working in the Magic Realist style, and Henry Church, one of the great self-taught artists of the 19th century, enhance the museums American painting collections. A work by Austrian painter Johann Georg Plazter, The Artists Studio was purchased utilizing funds from recently deaccesioned works. Platzers painting, an important representation of the artists studio genre and a luminous work painted on a large copper plate, is a cornerstone object in the 18th century European collection. These objects will be incorporated into newly reinstalled galleries as part of the museums transformational building campaign, currently entering the final phases of a multi-year expansion.
These acquisitions establish new directions for the development of the museums permanent collection, stated C. Griffith Mann, Ph.D, the museums deputy director and chief curator. While the Platzer adds a rare and pristinely preserved painting to an outstanding collection of 18th century European sculpture, the French offers a new perspective on how American artists harnessed Old Master painting techniques to create dream-like imagery that explored critical issues in post-war American society.
Jared French masterpiece is a superb example of Magic Realism
Jared French was well regarded during the 1940s and 50s as one of the most technically accomplished Magic Realist painters. Magic Realism, the movement of realist painting in America before the emergence of Abstract Expressionism, depicted the real world mixed with elements of fantasy. Works from this movement were executed with a high level of detail and the subject matter tapped into universal human emotions. Frenchs Evasion, created in 1947 during the height of the artists career, is an intensely personal creation that demonstrates collective human emotion and is considered to be the artists masterpiece. Set in an austere yellow interior, the work is an exquisitely rendered, yet enigmatic tableau featuring several figures whose physical similarities suggest that they represent the same individual. With heads bowed and shoulders hunched, the figures seem to appear shamed and reproachful.
Evasion is an allegorical image symbolizing an individuals attempt to deny the physical and spiritual selves. The work also reflects some of the changing sexual and religious attitudes underway during mid-century America, encouraged in part by inquiries and investigations in the fields of biology, cultural anthropology, psychology and philosophy.
Artists who worked in the Magic Realist style revived Old Master techniques to help translate their improbable, often dreamlike images. In terms of style, French drew inspiration from Italian quattrocento painters by using the same medium of egg-yolk tempera as the masters and whose still compositions emphasized modeled figures and invisible brushwork.
Frenchs execution of the egg-yolk tempera medium, along with his exploration of contemporary and complex themes, rank him among one of the finest and most important realist painters of twentieth-century America. Evasion is now on view in the museums modern art galleries and will be a centerpiece of the museums upcoming exhibition on Magic Realism.
Self-Portrait with Five Muses
Created by one of the great self-taught artists of 19th America, artwork has been extensively exhibited at numerous national museums
Self-Portrait with Five Muses shows the artist, Henry Church, Jr. in a black brimless cap and brown jacket surrounded by a corps of winged muses representing the traditional arts of painting, sculpture and music, along with blacksmithing (Church was a blacksmith by trade.) The muses of music serenade his ear, the muses of sculpture and blacksmithing surround his head, and the muse of painting applies a dab of pigment to his left eye. Occupying the foreground is a still life composition featuring roses placed near his heart, and a knife and fruit situated near his stomach, while a garland encircles the muses and still life elements.
A life-long resident of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Church was represented in the museums 1996 exhibition, Transformations in Cleveland Art: Community and Diversity in Early Modern America, 1796-1946 and Self-Portrait with Five Muses was included in this exhibition. On a national level, Self-Portrait with Five Muses is rightly regarded as one of Churchs finest paintings. This remarkable picture has been extensively exhibited in such venues as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
Among all of Churchs paintings, Self-Portrait with Five Muses is the most academically accomplished in terms of its composition. The painting is on view now in the museums galleries dedicated to exhibiting artwork by Northeast Ohio artists.
The Artists Studio
Platzers choice genre painting strengthens museums 18th century European collection
Johann Georg Platzer is the most significant Austrian painter of the 18th century, and The Artists Studio depicts painting and artistic practice as an intellectual pursuit, as it was considered during the European Enlightenment. The main figure of this painting is an idealized image of Platzer himself, showing a work to an elderly patron. A studio hand grinds pigments in the right foreground, while a drawing class takes place in the back. An artist-in-training is seated on the floor, surrounded by drawings and prints.
The studio itself is lush, complete with a Turkish carpet and velvet upholstered furniture, and is lined with paintings. These paintings reveal Platzers mastery of all genres, from landscape and still life to fables, religion and myth. They also present an allegory of the five senses: a floral still-life represents Smell; the lutenist and singer Sound; the woman feeding fruit to a parrot, Taste; for Touch, Platzer reinterprets Aesops fable of the Satyr and the Peasants (where the peasant blows on his hands to warm them and his soup to cool it); and Sight is represented allegorically by the rendering of Bathsheba at Her Bath.
This work by Platzer may be considered the most important representation of the artists studio genre in the entire collection, with the possible exception of a 1640 print by Rembrandt. In addition, while the museums 18th century central European decorative arts are of the highest quality, and the sculpture holdings are one of the most significant in America, this acquisition fills a gap in the 18th century paintings holdings. The Artists Studio is a cornerstone of the reinstallation of the museums central European gallery, and debuts when the galleries open later this year.