Celebrate the people you love at SAM this weekend, with great art and activities. You can even extend your celebration, and stop by the downtown Seattle Art Museum on Monday—we are open downtown on Presidents Day!
In 1917 Marcel Duchamp, using the fictitious name “R. Mutt,” submitted Fountain—a factory-made men’s urinal—to the first exhibition of the American Society of Independent Artists. After heated discussion, the work was rejected from the exhibition. But the event, with Duchamp’s brash challenge to basic assumptions about art, reverberated through the 20th century and beyond. At the most basic level, the artist asked what makes a work of art? Duchamp asserted that the artistic concept was more important than traditional notions of skill, craft or beauty.
As opposed to the found fixture of Fountain, Robert Gober’s Urinalis hand-made. With this action, he turns Duchamp’s object back into a sculpture, a psychologically suggestive form suggestive of a human body.
Relief fragment with warrior and horse, 668-627 B.C., Neo-Assyrian (ca. 1045-610 B.C.; modern Iraq), Nineveh, Southwest Palace, Room XXXIII, stone, overall 17 1/4 x 22 1/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 57.54. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, Seattle Art Museum.
WHEREAS it has long been our custom to commemorate November 11, the anniversary of the ending of World War I, by paying tribute to the heroes of that tragic struggle and by redirecting ourselves to the cause of peace; and
WHEREAS in the intervening years the United States has been involved in… other military conflicts, which have added millions of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this Nation…
NOW, THEREFORE I, DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe… November 11… as Veterans Day.
-Presidential proclamation on the first Veteran’s Day, 1954
The Seattle Art Museum and Asian Art Museum are closed on Veteran’s Day. The Olympic Sculpture Park is open today until 30 minutes after sunset.
Seated demon figure, 14th century, Chinese, bronze with gilt, 3 1/4 x 2 x 1 7/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 52.45. Currently on view at the Asian Art Museum.
‘Tis the season… for ghosts and ghouls and demons!
Supernatural beings appear in artwork spanning centuries and continents, and play distinct roles in different cultures. Even within individual cultures, these creatures have different attributes that can mean different things. It has been suggested that this demon is shivering from cold, suffering that is being imposed upon him.
SAM celebrates Halloween this week with the help of Nancy Guppy and New Day Northwest (KING 5, 11 am). Nancy will be in SAM’s galleries on Thursday, October 30, in full costume inspired by Pop Departures. Join her, and SAM, for a little Halloween inspiration!
Portrait of a Young Woman “C A C,” dated 1565, attributed to Santi di Tito, Italian, Florentine, 1536-1603, oil on wood panel, 7 1/2 x 21 3/8 in., Samuel H. Kress Collection, 61.153
In our image-saturated age, it’s hard to imagine a time before selfies, Snapchat and Instagram. But before photography made it a simple matter to capture a life, painters strove to convey an individual’s unique character in ways that would endure through the ages. Costume, gesture, and accessories tell us about the sitter’s family and status in society, while facial expression and gaze give as much of a sense of personality and inner life as the sitter was willing to reveal.
A new installation in the European galleries (fourth floor, Seattle Art Museum) introduces you to individuals who lived in 16th-century Italy, a time when prosperous citizens considered themselves worthy of the same kinds of visual commemoration that had previously been reserved for royalty. These portraits honored important life events—a new job, a new marriage—or simply served as visual reminders of people and places long gone—just like our digital photo albums do today.
The Cornish Hills, 1911, Willard Metcalf, American, 1858 – 1925, oil on canvas, 35 x 40in., Partial and promised gift from a private collection, 2005.160. On view in American Art Masterworks, American Art galleries, third floor, Seattle Art Museum, starting this Saturday, October 11.
Rather suddenly, as a mature painter at the age of fifty, the impressionist painter Willard Metcalf found a landscape subject that would engage him as never before. In the winter of 1909 Metcalf traveled to the artists’ enclave of Cornish, New Hampshire, where he discovered the beauty of the winter landscape, reduced to a few solid forms and strikingly contrasting colors. Thereafter, Metcalf made the scenery around Cornish something of a specialty year-round, his magnificent paintings earning him the title “poet laureate of the New England Hills.”
Basket with Orca whale design, ca. 1910, Tlingit, spruce root, maidenhair fern stem, grass, and dyes (twining), 8 1/2 x 10 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.100. Currently on view in the Native American art galleries, third floor, Seattle Art Museum.
Baskets made for collectors (rather than for use) were produced in large numbers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Tlingit women. They often took the form of functional Tlingit berry and cooking baskets and displayed traditional false embroidery designs—but the fine weaving betrays its decorative intentions. This example, depicting orca whales, is of a rare type developed in the late 19th century.
Our Super Bowl champion Seahawks return to The CLink in their season opener on Thursday. Whether you’re cheering from the stands or from your living room, stop by the Seattle Art Museum before the game to see Modernism before it closes. The stunning collection of Northwest masters is only on view through Sunday, September 7.
Muhammad’s Ascent to Heaven (Miraj), 16th century, Persian (modern Iran), Safavid period (1501-1722), opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 9 3/16 x 5 3/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 47.96. Not currently on view, but accessible online (link below).
A prophet enters an ancient holy place, where he is met by angels. They present him with a gift, a horse with wings who immediately flies the man to a faraway place. Here, the man and winged horse leap into the air, and ascend to heaven itself. The prophet speaks with God. When they come back down to earth, the man dismounts the horse armed with one cornerstone of a faith. Lailat al’Miraj, celebrated this week by Muslims around the world, commemorates this journey, and the prophet Muhammad’s return to earth with the knowledge that God wants Muslims to pray five times daily (Salat).
The story behind the holiday provided inspiration to artists in earlier eras, who often illustrated it as a frontispiece to volumes of the Khamseh, five epics by the Persian poet Nizami. While figures are forbidden from religious settings, illustrating this journey within books of secular sagas proved popular for centuries across the Islamic world.
Male standing figure, 20th century, Tanzanian, Nyamwezi/Sukuma culture, wood, natural pigments, cloth, height: 26 in., Gift of Dr. Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb, in honor of Mark Groudine, 2012.28.21, Photo: Elizabeth Mann. On view beginning 24 May, African art galleries, Seattle Art Museum.
If only we could hear the songs that once surrounded this figure! Distinctively long limbed sculptures like this were never seen in quiet spaces, but in the middle of stirring tornados of dance and song. This figure may originally have been dressed, but is now able to show off a lean angular stance that is near, but not exactly, symmetrical.
This figure, as well as other recent acquisitions of African art, goes on view in a new installation starting on May 24.
Jingdezhen ware saucer, Chinese, Ming dynasty (reign of the Wan Li emperor, 1573-1619), porcelain with decoration in underglaze-blue, overglaze-enamels, height 1 in., diameter 5 7/16 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 51.90. On view beginning 30 April, Chinese art galleries, Asian Art Museum.
For the first time in a decade, these three figures are catching a glimpse of Seattle.
This saucer, last displayed in the early 2000s, shows three men in a garden, their idyllic setting framed by a pine tree, a mountain, and a stream. This newly on view saucer is, in fact, quite old: it was made during the Ming dynasty, in the reign of the Wan Li emperor (1573-1619).
There is always something new (or old) to discover at the Asian Art Museum. This week, look for recently installed ceramics and textiles in the Chinese art galleries.
A Fuller view of China, Japan and Korea, the museum’s celebration of our Asian art collectioncloses this weekend. See the Hell of Shrieking Sounds, Deer Scroll, Crows Screen, and other favorites before they disappear from our galleries. Before they go, make sure you see the stunning Hell of Shrieking Sounds scroll, which relates a Buddhist sutra on the different representations of hell. The inscription on the SAM scroll reads, in part:
“…there is a place called the Shrieking Sound Hell. The inmates of this place are those who in the past, while human beings, …[failed] to conduct themselves properly and having no kindness in their hearts, they beat and tortured beasts.”
(Translation by Mr. K. Tomita for the Seattle Art Museum)
Segment of the Hell Scroll: Hell of Shrieking Sounds, ca. 1200, Japanese, Heian period (794 – 1185), handscroll; ink and color on paper, 10 3/8 x 25 3/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 48.172. On view until Sunday, 13 April, at the Asian Art Museum.
Victoria Dubourg was trained as a portrait painter and met her future husband, the celebrated portraitist and still-life painter Henri Fantin-Latour, while both were copying paintings at the Louvre. Like her husband—and many women artists before her—she specialized in flower still lifes. This exquisite study of crisp paperwhites against a plain brown ground shows both formal restraint and compositional precision.
In the new installation, France: Inside and Out, landscapes, domestic interiors, and decorative arts invite us to think about the different worlds of men and women in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This painting by Dubourg represents the beginning of broader opportunities for women that were to come.
Narcissus, late 19th-early 20th century, Victoria Dubourg Fantin-Latour (French, 1840–1926), oil on canvas, 11 x 12 3/8 in., Gift of the Seattle Garden Club, 59.123. Currently on view in France: Inside and Out, fourth floor, Seattle Art Museum.
As global trade increased in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Europeans became enthralled with visions of Cathay, as China was popularly known. Chinoiserie,the ornamentation featured on this tapestry, is an enchanting decorative motif depicting imaginary and whimsical interpretations of life in Asia. An eighteenth-century European concept, chinoiseries typically present exotic figures clothed in flowing robes and elaborate headdresses, and situated in fantastical landscape settings. Whether these figures represent people of China, India, the Middle East, or Japan is often difficult to determine; they are a mélange of peoples referring not to geographical and cultural boundaries so much as to a general concept of Asia.
Altar of the Three Buddhas (detail), commissioned in 1717, Judocus de Vos (Flemish, Brussels, 1661-1734), wool, silk, metallic threads, 105 1/2 x 85 1/16 in., Gift of Guendolen Carkeek Plestcheeff Endowment for the Decorative Arts, Anonymous, General Acquisition Fund, Mildred King Dunn, Richard and Betty Hedreen, Decorative Arts Acquisition Fund, Margaret Perthou-Taylor, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, Ann Bergman and Michael Rorick, Mr. and Mrs. David E. Maryatt, 2002.38.1. Now on view in the European art galleries, fourth floor, Seattle Art Museum.
Bronze abides forever. That idea changed the course of Frederic Remington’s career, and shaped the work of Alexander Phimister Proctor.
Frederic Remington was in his day and remains now the most famous painter and illustrator of the western cowboy. His early adventures in the far west introduced him to the Mexican vaqueros, admiring their derring-do as they fought to tame wild horses, the bronchos, and had done for generations. The Broncho Buster was displayed for years in the window of Tiffany & Co. in New York, where Gilded Age admirers eagerly ordered casts of Remington’s masterly vaquero.
A westerner by birth, Alexander Phimister Proctor earned an international reputation as one of the most accomplished sculptors of his generation. Animals became a specialty: Heroic horse and rider monuments by Proctor can be found from Portland, OR to New York, NY.
Buckaroo and other works by Alexander Phimister Proctor are currently on view in the American art galleries at SAM. Also on view (as a Super Bowl loan from the Denver Art Museum) is The Broncho Buster by Frederic Remington. Learn about both works in today’s members art history lecture.
Members Art History Lecture Series: Curator’s Choice with Patricia Junker Buckaroos in Bronze March 19, 2014
Plestcheeff Auditorium, Seattle Art Museum
Buckaroo, modeled 1914, cast initially 1915, Alexander Phimister Proctor (American, 1862-1950), bronze, Phimister and Sally Church. The Broncho Buster, modeled 1895, cast before May 1902, Frederic Remington (American, 1861-1909), bronze, Roman Bronze Works, cast number 12, Denver Art Museum; The Roath Collection, 2013.91. Currently on view in the American art galleries, third floor, Seattle Art Museum.
The Northwest is known the world over for its association with the studio glass movement. With the Pilchuck Glass School and the studios of such luminaries as Preston Singletary, Ginny Ruffner, and Dale Chihuly, western Washington is a hotbed for glass art. See great examples of work by artists associated with Pilchuck in a new installation at the Seattle Art Museum, opening on March 8.
Porcelain, such as this centerpiece, embodied the essence of taste for Europeans of the mid-eighteenth century. At that time, porcelain was costly and a European formula had only recently been attained through scientific and technological struggle. Using the recently devised formula, the white translucent ceramic could be molded or cast in wonderful, light, airy, sculptural forms—such as this basket-shaped bowl supported by a swirl of foliage and cavorting, fanciful putti.
Only two other examples of this form are known; both are in England. Previously unrecorded, this rarest, most beautiful piece of Bow porcelain was recently acquired by SAM. It will be installed in the Porcelain Room this spring.
Centerpiece, 1750, Bow Porcelain Manufactory, London, England, soft-paste porcelain, 7 × 9 ½ in., Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser Fund, 2013.15. On view in spring 2014, Seattle Art Museum, fourth floor, Porcelain Room.
Masks have work to do, coming alive to interact with people in forceful ways. They can sing songs, ease pain, encourage laughter, and honor elders. A new installation in the African galleries brings together masks that align human desires with animal characters. Including several recent acquisition, these masks align human desires with animal characters. Birds, antelopes, bush cows, a hyena and a rabbit are ready to greet you on your next visit to the museum.
Rabbit mask, 20th century, Bwa/Bobo culture, Burkina Faso, wood, 18 in. height, Gift of Dr. Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb, 2012.29.11. Currently on view in the African art galleries, fourth floor, Seattle Art Museum.
Plants and animals of exceeding beauty and technical intricacy appear throughout Japanese design. The natural world is deeply rooted in the DNA of Japanese design, and is transmitted down through generations. Over the past few centuries, artists have begun reimagining traditional subjects in modern forms.
Nature and Pattern in Japanese Design, a new installation of Japanese art, celebrates the motifs of the natural world in folding screens, fan paintings, hanging scrolls, ceramics and lacquerware from SAM’s collection. On view at the Seattle Art Museum starting December 21.
Asagao no tane (Vine with Morningglory Seed Pods), 19th century, Shibata Zeshin (Japanese, 1807 – 1891), lacquer and color on paper, 6 13/16 x 19 3/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 61.80.1. On view in Nature and Pattern in Japanese Design, Asian art galleries (new!), third floor, SAM Downtown, opening Saturday, 21 December.
Gold has been a shimmering presence in art across cultures and time. When the first metals were unearthed by humans around 5000 b.c., gold was valued for its rarity and lustrous color. Today, gold is prized as both investment and adornment, with fifty percent of the world’s consumption of this rare substance being made into jewelry. The rarest of all metals, gold has unique properties. It is chemically inert so it remains stable and does not oxidize or degrade, even if buried in a tomb or sunken in a shipwreck. Gold is also dense—a cubic foot weighs half a ton—but is so malleable that it can be stretched into threads to be woven into textiles or hammered into thin sheets to be applied as gilding.
The dazzling art on view in Going for Gold offers a rare opportunity to appreciate gold in all its beguiling aspects. This exhibition closes on Sunday, 8 December.
Portable shrine: Bodhisattva Kokuzo, 19th century, Japanese (Edo period, 1603-1868), wood with gold and black lacquer, polychrome, and metal fittings, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 34.183. On view in Going for Gold, third floor, SAM downtown, through Sunday, 8 December.
Canadian Haida artist Robert Davidson is on a lifelong quest for innovation, which he sees as a continuation of the spirit of originality present in the work of generations of Haida artists.
In 1977, the efforts of Davidson and other artists in elevating the status and quality of silkscreen prints as an artistic, rather than touristic, medium resulted in the formation of the Northwest Coast Indian Artists Guild. Experimenting with larger scale and bold graphics, Davidson was inspired to new originality. In Reflections, the black expanse serves to heighten the precision of line, texture and color.
A heroic guardian, this figure was strategically placed precisely at the water line of a decorated canoe’s prow in the Solomon Islands. Dipping into the water as the large canoe navigated the seas, it kept watch for hidden reefs and enemies. Shell inlay swirls over the face in a pattern like those found on the painted faces of warriors. Beneath the chin of this figure is a head that is being clutched—although whether the warrior is protecting it or presenting it as a fallen enemy is unknown.
Oceanic art is on view at the Seattle Art Museum through Sunday, December 8.
Canoe prow figure (Nguzu Nguzu), 19th century, Solomon Islands, Melanesian, wood, nautilus shell, 10 5/8 x 7 7/8 x 5 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.1443.
“It is not a reportage but a reconstruction….”
-Fabrice Monteiro, on his Signares series
How much force does a camera hold? Africa is a continent known for photo “ops”–as seen in post cards, historic portraits and journalism for 200 years. Looking back, this opportunism has also created a backlog of stereotypes and misunderstandings. Contemporary African artists are now shifting the use of this medium. Belgian-Beninese artist Fabrice Monteiro works with Senegalese women to create his images evoking “Signares,” the legendary women who matched beauty with business acumen, and played a surprising role in the Atlantic slave trade. His photographs capture his models in the guise of these elegant and charming women of the past.
One of the great American collections of Minimal and Conceptual art was built by New Yorkers Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. What makes their story so inspiring is that they were able to accomplish this on their modest salaries—Dorothy a librarian and Herbert a postal service employee. The couple had no formal training in art or art history but found themselves drawn to art, frequenting galleries and befriending artists over four decades. They followed Minimal art with particular interest.
Drinking vessels incised with monochrome geometric designs, known as keros,were used in pre-Hispanic Peru to consume chicha (maize beer). While keros continued to be made and used during the Colonial period, the decorative form of the vessels changed. Brightly painted and inlaid figural compositions became the favored style. Peru has the longest textile-making tradition in the world, and elegant, elaborately woven textiles were symbols of wealth of the Inca elite, here represented by brightly-patterned tunics being ceremonially presented.
Kero (drinking cup) with figures presenting textiles, after 1550, Peruvian, Inca, Colonial period, wood, resin pigments, 6 ½ x 6 in. overall, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 53.52. Currently on view in the Native and Meso-American art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown.
Contrary to popular belief, Islamic art is bursting with images of humans and animals. The Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, admonishes against the making and adoration of idols, but does not forbid the creation or viewing of images. This tripod, from the 12th century, stands on the legs of three fantastic creatures, possibly lions. Between the main figures, a low relief presents dogs cavorting in gardens. While not used in a religious setting, images of animals such as these have been common in secular Islamic arts since the very advent of Islam in the seventh century.
Tripod stand with fantastic creatures, 12th century, Persian (modern Iran), bronze, 7 x 6 ¾ in. overall, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 52.61. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.
“Things that seem whimsical, incidental, inauthentic may be trusted to provide entry into the heart of one’s material.”
– William Kentridge, 2001
William Kentridge’s raw images prompt our imagination in a way that Technicolor realism cannot. Shadow Procession is set in a featureless landscape that still manages to reference the streets of a Johannesburg of the past. People struggle to move quickly, but we’re not sure if they are fleeing a menace or simply hurrying home. A cat stretches, an eyeball swivels, an Everyman dictator gestures, and a pair of scissors begins to march. Kentridge’s art thrives on ambiguity and unresolved endings.