Monday, July 25, 2016

High Museum and Atlanta History Center

The High Museum of Atlanta began in 1926 when Mrs. Hattie High, widow of a wealthy businessman, donated her large house and property on Peachtree Street to be an art museum.
In 1962, a tour of 120 leading citizens of Atlanta took an art tour of Europe for a month.
When their Air France plane took off from Orly, it crashed killing every person on board.
Atlantans became even more generous in supporting a new museum in their honor.
In 1983 American architect Richard Meier designed this building for the museum; and in
2005, Renzo Piano designed three additional buildings for added space.

The museum is part of an arts complex, the Woodruff Center for the Arts.  Across the plaza is
Atlanta Symphony Hall, and next to that is the Alliance Theater.  In the courtyard at the
entrance are four playful sculptures by Spanish artist Jaime Hayon, entitled "Tiovivo," the Italian word for carousel.  Children are welcome to play in the fantasy figures.

This is the Alliance Theater and to the left is Symphony Hall.  There are also
restaurants on the plaza and garages underground.

On the grounds of the museum are several sculptures, including "The House" by Roy Lichtenstein.
It is painted on an aluminum panel and looks flat from a distance.  The center is actually bent back
a little, so as you walk by, an optical illusion makes the house seem to expand and move with you.

On the deck of the museum is this Pop Art sculpture by Claes Oldenbourg and Coosje 
van Bruggen, his wife.  It is entitled "Balzac Petanque."  These are giant sized peaches
and pears of plastic and epoxy, the peaches in honor of Georgia and the pears a memory
of the Anjou region in France where Oldenbourg lived half of each year.  The luscious
fruit is set out for a picnic on a warm summer day in France or Atlanta.

There is a great atrium, five stories high, in the center of the Richard Meier Bldg.
A sloping ramp allows you to walk all the way up gradually.  One day while I was
there, there was a concert of Renaissance music by the Master Chorale of Atlanta.
The acoustics were superb and the chorale was wonderful.

The skylight above the atrium.  Meier said he wanted light to fill the interior of the
building as the art would fill the inside of your soul.

The High Museum is the largest museum in the Southeast U.S.  Its
collection ir rich and wonderful, with Old Masters as well as the best and
most interesting of contemporary arts.  "Madonna and Child" 1506 is by
Giovanni Bellini, a Venetian Renaissance master.

"Holy Family Surrounded by Roses" is by Jan Breughel, a Flemish
painter of the 16th century. He is commonly known as "Flower Breughel" because
of all the detailed pictures of flowers which he painted.   I took all of these pictures
with a hand-held camera and no artificial lighting.  I am pleased with the results.

Auguste Rodin, "Eternal Springtime" 1903 in bronze.

"Staffordshire Teapot."  The museum has a very fine collection of English ceramics
 from the 17th - 19th centuries.

American Art.  The high chest on the left was made by an anonymous maker in Boston
 between 1700-1720.  The high chest on the right was made 1760-1780.  The painting
is "Portrait of David Baldwin" 1790 by Ralph Earl.

Hiram Powers, "Proserpine."   1854.  The statue was so popular that Powers made more
than 130 copies of the work.  He was part of a colony of expatriate American
sculptors in Rome who used Italian craftsmen and Italian marble in their work.
He lived and worked in Rome and Florence from 1837 until his death in 1873.

John Rogers, "Coming to the Parson," 1870.  This statue is made of plaster-of-Paris and
not very expensive.  Rogers created the molds for many of these statues and sold them
in great number; they were extremely popular as genre scenes at the end of the century.

​Edward C. Moore (American, 1827–1891), designer, John C. Moore and Son Co.
 (New York, 1848–1868), maker, Tiffany & Co. (New York, New York,
 established 1837), retailer, Tea and Coffee Set, 1854, silver and ivory. 

Henry Inman, "Portraits of American Indians."   Congress commissioned Inman to make
one hundred portraits of various Indian tribes.  Inman made copies of many of the
original oils of Charles Bird King.  The originals were destroyed in a fire in the
Smithsonian Museum.

The museum has galleries filled with natural light and open flowing space.  This area is
for American modernism with William Zorach's "Floating Figure" 1922 in the foreground.

The beginning of the 20th Century saw many changes in art as some artists began 
to use abstraction.  The galleries above contain these works, both abstract and realist.
from the beginning of the century.

The museum is excellent, I believe, in its displays of paintings along with furniture,
ceramics, glassware, and textiles.  These pieces are from early 20th century.
The chair on the left is by Frank Lloyd Wright and the chair on the right is from
Gebruder Thonet in Austria.

"Stained Glass Window" by John LaFarge in 1903.  This is a large piece of
architectural glass, meant to be part of the architecture of a house.  The pieces of 
glass are not flat, rolled, pane glass, but handmade stained glass from a bubble
with varying thickness.  Note the differences in color especially at the bottom.

"The George Washington Bridge and Harlem River" in Manhattan by Ernest Lawson,
a Canadian-American painter.  Although he was often linked with the Ashcan School,
his works are usually closer to Impressionism in their style.

George Bellows, "Portrait of Anne."  1915  His rough, direct style earned
the nickname of "The Ashcan School of Art."  He was one of the leading members.

Reed Settee.  Michael Thonet (Austrian, born Germany, 1796–1871), designer,
 Gebrüder Thonet (Austrian, 1853 – 1921), manufacturer, 
Settee Model Number 16, ca. 1862, beech and cane.

This settee, with its original caning and geometric form, is an early example
 by Michael Thonet. By the 1850s, Thonet had perfected his innovative use 
of beech rods in his bentwood furniture; first soaked in hot water, the rods were 
then placed in iron molds and allowed to dry. The furniture was often shipped
 to the purchaser unassembled, keeping costs low. This new way to quickly
 and affordably mass-produce objects evolved into a thriving company 
with Thonet’s five sons, Gebrüder Thonet. The company designed hundreds 
of objects with delicate, lightweight appearances.

Burgoyne Diller, "Abtraction," 1924 shows the interest in Dutch painter Mondrian
and the new field of abstraction, instead of pictures of a cow in a landscape.
Diller entitled most of his work "Theme 1" or "Theme 2" or "Theme 3"
wanting to avoid any reference to the natural world.  His color palette was
restricted to the primaries and neutrals.

George K. Morris entitled this work "Concretian," as he created and put-together 
a composition without reference to objects in the real world.

A very different madonna is "La Purissima" by the Italian/American painter
Joseph Stella from 1927.  He did a whole series of madonna paintings with
highly stylized flower decorations.

But not every artist was a "realist" or "abstract" artist.  Many people with no formal
training used art to express themselves in a variety of ways in styles called folk art
or primitive.  The High Museum is famous for its collection of folk and primitive art.
They have the only full-time curator of folk art in the world.  This painting is
"Yard Sale" by Mattie Lou O'Kelley of Georgia, who began painting at the age of 60
and continued until her death 29 years later.  She is one of the foremost folk artists of
the 20th century with works in the Smithsonian, Chicago Art Institute, and other
major museums.

Howard Finster was a Baptist preacher who felt a calling from God to create art,
even though he had no formal training.  For over 40 years he created thousands
of pieces of artwork.  The piece above is entitled "The Angel of the Lord" and
was part of a huge installation on his farm entitled "Paradise Garden."

Two examples of "Jonah and the Whale," a very popular subject for folk artists.
The lower example is fairly straight forward, but the upper piece is entitled "The Tax
Collector and the Whale."  Both are carved in wood, a common technique for folk artists.
The artist was afriad the tax collector was coming for him, and consigned him to
the deep in the belly of a whale, at least artistically.
Top:  William (W.C.) Owens (1908–2006), "IRS Agent Swallowed By Whale,"
1980s, wood, paint, and plastic. 

Bottom: Sulton Rogers  (1922-2003) "Jonah in the Whale," 1980s, wood and paint.

Deborah Butterfield created "Horse" out of hammered steel and barbed wire.
Butterfield has used the image of the horse, in both painting and sculpture, for many years.

Vase of fused glass.  Hundreds of rods of glass of different colors were fused in an oven
to create this vase.  Glass had become simply a functional medium until Harvey Littleton
at the U. Wisconsin - Madison in the 1950s began the modern art glass movement.
Today, glass is one of the most exciting art media, seemingly without limits or
boundaries.  The High Museum has a good collection of glass from the
18th to 21st centuries.  Toots Zynsky (American, b. 1951), designer and maker,
 Pina, 2012, fused and thermo-formed glass threads, created this vase.

By the mid 20th century, Abstract Expressionism was the dominant style of art
in the U.S.  It had several stages, one of which was "Color Field."   "Para" 1963 
by Morris Louis introduced a whole new way of painting - by pouring pigment
onto a canvas and soaking the material.  Louis was a Washington, D.C. painter along
with Kenneth Noland.  They were following the lead of Helen Frankenthaler, who had
invented the technique.  Large areas of pure color create the painting.

But some artists resisted the tendency to abstraction.  Richard Estes was a leader of
the Photo-Realist School.  His oil painting of "Supreme Hardware" seems more real than
a photograph.  Letters and reflections on shiny surfaces make up most of the composition.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Liver Spleen."  Basquiat was from a middle class family in New York
and had no formal art training.  He began by spraying graffiti art on walls in New York
and gradually began to work on paper and canvas.  He became a close friend of Andy Warhol.
His works are dense and powerful.  As a child, he contracted a disease and lost his spleen.
The Greeks believed the liver and spleen were the source of power and anger.  This style
is usually described as "Graffiti Art."  The High Museum has a number of Basquiat's works.

The added gallery space designed by Renzo Piano created very large rooms with diffused
natural light; they are superb for large contemporary paintings and sculpture.  It is a
beautiful and wonderful museum.  The silver mirror piece on the left is by Anish Kapoor,
who created the "Donut" ( or "Cloud Gate") for Millenium Park in Chicago

There was a fascinating special exhibit of the works of Brazilian-American artist, Vik Muniz.
He is particularly interested in the interaction of image and reality.  You can easily recognize
the images of a horse, a young soldier in the Civil War, and an Indian.  Perhaps they are enlarged
old black and white photos.  The works are large, five feet high, and from ten feet away, we
can recognize the images immediately.  But if we walk closer, things change.

This is the actual composition of the young soldier - hundreds of tiny plastic soldiers which are
then photographed from 10 or 20 feet away.  The image of the boy soldier is no longer visible.
Muniz was fascinated by the young boy-soldier who died, and he decided to 
commemorate him with toy soldiers, which is what he was.

Another special exhibit at the museum was the photographs of Walker Evans.
Walker Evans (1903-1975) was an American photographer and photojournalist 
best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA)
 documenting the effects of the Great Depression.  He said that his goal 
as a photographer was to make pictures that are literate, authoritative,
 transcendent."  This famous photo is "Sharecroppers Wife."

Walker Evans.  "Cherokee Parts Store."  He also did many photos of American life in
different parts of the country.

The Atlanta History Center is located on the north side of the city and consists of a main
building with exhibits and then 38 acres of woods and other buildings.  One of them is
Swan House, the home of a wealthy Atlanta business man.

This is the North Facade of Swan House, looking out over the fountains and lawns.

This is the South Facade and main entrance, along with one of the owner's cars.

A vintage automobile.

The main entry hall of Swan House.

The dining room of Swan House.  The dresses are from the wardrobe of the lady
of the house and there are samples from every decade from 1920-1980.

All the buildings from a typical Georgia farm of 1854 were moved here.  This young lady/actress
explained what her life was life in 1854 and what went on in each of the rooms of the house.

They also moved an actual slave cabin from the 1850s onto the History Center grounds.
This White farmer had 19 slaves before the Civil War.

The inside of the slave cabin.  The only furniture they had was the table and chairs;
they slept on the floor.

And so your tour of the High Museum and Atlanta History Center concludes.
I recommend both very highly.

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