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Why a plate?

Michelangelo Public and Private invites us into the artistic process behind some of the most astonishing works of art ever created – the Sistine Chapel frescoes. Through preparatory drawings – quick figure sketches to capture a pose, analytical studies of outstretched limbs, a highly finished portrait that will be incorporated into a populous narrative – we watch Michelangelo making decisions that lead to the finished work.

It is easy to understand why these preparatory drawings – the artist’s first ideas – are at the centerpiece of the Michelangelo exhibition. But what about some of the other objects? Read More

You, me, coffee, tea

Artist John Marshall on his creative process, screen shot from the SAM video

Artist John Marshall, screen shot from the SAM video

Recently, Decorative Arts curator Julie Emerson was able to commission a coffee and tea service from silversmith John Marshall for our collection. It’s a very cool process (both commissioning and making), something the Dec Arts department had never been able to do before—that collection had always focused on historic American and European material.

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The History in Art History: How did this painting get to Seattle?

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

For me, a work of art lives on in part by its association with people, places, and times past and present.  When we see objects in museums, in isolation, how do we understand them as expressions of a maker’s personal vision and circumstances and of viewers’ expectations in the artist’s own time and over the course of generations?  Each object of historical American art that I work with has endured because someone—a collector, a critic, an artist’s descendant, maybe—has been its champion, often when few others were.  Historical American art has for so much of our past been overshadowed by the taste in this country for European art, which signaled for so many the ideal of artistic achievement and good taste. 

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