Happy New Year!

Although 2011 marked our celebration of the museum’s 50th anniversary, I am a firm believer that any anniversary of significance should last for at least eighteen months. So we will continue to celebrate, even as we turn fifty-one.

For me, our celebration continued when I returned from my holiday adventures to find on my desk an advance copy of the book that will accompany our exhibition, Romance Maker: The Watercolors of Charles M. Russell, which opens here February 11. Rick Stewart, the author of the book and curator of the project, tells a lively story of Russell’s tremendous achievement working with a medium that is subtle and variable. Every watercolor in the exhibition is reproduced in a stunning plate section in the book that proves what Rick claims in his essay: Russell was a true artistic genius as a watercolorist.

Romance Maker

Holding this book made me realize yet again the strength of the museum’s collection and our commitment to find new ways to deepen our understanding of art that seems so familiar. Charlie Russell is one of the artists that we have long celebrated. He was a favorite of the museum’s namesake, Amon G. Carter. But never before has his work as a watercolorist been explored—he was an innovator in this medium. Finally, that story is available for all in the book that I hold. If you are a lover of watercolor, or a fan of Charlie Russell, this volume belongs in your library. Come see the works in person, then visit our store to take them home with you.

Inspired Art

Recently an area teacher borrowed materials from the Teaching Resource Center on artist Joseph Albers to help her students understand the effects different colors have on each other. Elizabeth was kind enough to share pictures of the recent art exhibition at Wedgwood Academy as well as photos of some of the artists and their work.

Wegwood Academy Artists.jpg

Wedgwood Academy Art Exhibition.jpg

Many thanks to Elizabeth Morand and her students for sharing their art and inspiring us all.

Helen Frankenthaler 1928-2011

The sad news of the passing of artist Helen Frankenthaler has prompted the estate of noted photographer Ernst Haas to post a wonderful group of photographs showing Frankenthaler at work in her studio in 1969. The Amon Carter acquired works by both Frankenthaler and Haas within months of each other in 2007-2008.

Link to Ernst Haas photographs of Helen Frankenthaler

Merry and Bright

Did you know that tomorrow, December 22, is the anniversary of Christmas tree lights? The bright sparkles of string lights that today adorn trees and houses alike got their start in 1882 when Edward Johnson, who worked for Thomas Edison’s Illumination Company, first tried stringing together small electric bulbs on a single power cord. Though string lights did not enjoy immediate popularity, today they hold a special place in the hearts of many during the holiday season.

Whether your holiday season is brightened by friends and family, your very own illuminated Christmas tree, the Festival of Lights, or all three, we here at the Amon Carter wish you a holiday that is merry and bright.

Gast House Christmas Tree

Laura Gilpin (1891–1979), Gast House, Christmas Tree [Colorado], 1929, gelatin silver print, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist

Holiday Travels

During the month of December in 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic first flight. Only 83 years later, again in December, the experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first non-stop, around-the-world flight without refueling and landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination. ~Wilbur Wright

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979), [View of Mountain from Airplane]. 1920-1950, gelatin silver print, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist.

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979), [View of Mountain from Airplane]. 1920-1950, gelatin silver print, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist, P1979.102.39

Howard Cook (1901-1980), Airplane, 1931, wood engraving, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

Howard Cook (1901-1980), Airplane, 1931, wood engraving, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1985.271

Happy holiday travels. Enjoy the scenery!

Spreading the Word

I am traveling this week, so I come to you this morning from gate D2 at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. The goal of this trip is to help advance the profile of our museum across the nation. I have been in St. Louis working with our conservator, Claire Barry, and the conservators at the Saint Louis Art Museum on a proposed exhibition project that we hope to partner on.

Jolly Flatboatmen in Port

George Caleb Bingham (1811–1879), Jolly Flatboatmen in Port, 1857, oil on canvas, Saint Louis Art Museum, Museum Purchase 123, 1944

The exhibition will explore the series of paintings the American artist George Caleb Bingham (1811–1879) made during the 1840s and 1850s of life along the Mississippi River—the edge of the western frontier at the time. While we are interested in the compelling cultural narrative Bingham's work suggests about western expansion, we are also exploring his working process. Yesterday we examined through technical process the underdrawings Bingham made on his canvases and their relationship to the highly finished drawings he made of his primary subject: the men who worked on the river. Through the science of conservation—the art museum equivalent of CSI—we hope to better understand how Bingham linked drawing on paper and canvas to achieve complex, multi-figured paintings. Put another way, we’re endeavoring to get inside his head as a working artist creating a national story for his day. Our process began yesterday to reconstruct Bingham's process, and it will continue for more than a year.

Building partnerships with other art museums to advance scholarship is just one reason to travel on behalf of the Amon Carter. Tomorrow, I continue north to Chicago to develop more relationships that will help bring Fort Worth's great American art museum to the nation.

An American Tradition

On behalf of all of us at the Amon Carter, I want to wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday wherever this Thanksgiving finds you. After you have gathered around your own tables, we hope that you will become part of another American tradition—the Amon Carter Museum of American Art—by bringing your family and friends to enjoy the museum’s great collection. You are always welcome here at our house.

Lewis Dinner Party, Spur Ranch, TX

Erwin E. Smith (1866–1947), Lewis Dinner Party, Spur Ranch, Texas., 1912, nitrate negative, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Bequest of Mary Alice Pettis

Feels Like Fall

Eliot Porter, Apples on Tree After Frost, Tesque, New Mexico, November 21, 1966, dye imbibition print

Eliot Porter (1901-1990)
Apples on Tree After Frost, Tesuque, New Mexico, November 21, 1966
Dye imbibition print
© 1989 Eliot Porter
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of the artist

Eliot Porter, Sunset Behind Las Tres Virgenes Volcano, Near Mezquital, Baja, California, August 12, 1956, dye imbibition print

Eliot Porter (1901-1990)
Sunset Behind Las Tres Virgenes Volcano, Near Mezquital Baja, California, August 12, 1956
Dye imbibition print
© 1990 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of Eliot Porter

Eliot Porter, Foxtail Grass, Lake City, Colorado, August 1957, dye imbibition print

Eliot Porter (1901-1990)
Foxtail Grass, Lake City, Colorado, August 1957
Dye imbibition print
© 1990 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of Eliot Porter

Check out all of Eliot Porter's photographs for an in-depth look at one of the photography collections from our archives.

Thank You, Veterans

Many thanks to the millions of brave men and women who have served our country in times of war and peace, including those on our museum staff. We also thank the families who supported their loved ones during their service.

 The Soldier's Departure, 1887, chromolithograph

Louis Harlow (1850-1913), Farewell: The Soldier's Departure, 1887, chromolithograph, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, 2003.8.2

But the freedom that they fought for, and the country grand they wrought for,
Is their monument to-day, and for aye.
~Thomas Dunn English

John Marin Revealed

This past weekend, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art opened its fall exhibition, John Marin: Modernism at Midcentury. The exhibition, which brings together 65 of Marin’s paintings in oil and watercolor, takes a fresh and focused look at the artist’s last great body of work, created between 1933 and 1953, the year of Marin’s death.

During those years, Marin wrestled with the planar architectonics of Cubism—so much a part of his production as an early modernist—finally allowing the tension created by cubist form to relax into loose, flowing lines of great descriptive power and urgency. An active agent in the art world of mid-century America, as well as a tried and true observer of nature, Marin produced work in these years that deeply influenced the emerging experimentation of the New York School.

Composition Cape Split Maine

John Marin (1870–1953), Composition, Cape Split, Maine, No. 2, 1933, oil on canvas, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1969.9

Our museum’s interest in this underappreciated period of Marin’s long and innovative career began quite early in our history. In 1969, the Amon Carter purchased Marin’s Composition, Cape Split, No. 2, created in 1933. That acquisition in our first decade of operation foreshadowed what is now being celebrated in the exhibition: Marin’s ongoing influence on the energetic and often chaotic art world of mid-century America. The artist’s painterly exuberance in this work marked the start of his period of experimentation between the mediums of oil and watercolor, and it exemplifies his achievement of a lyrical synthesis of the two.

It is fair to say this painting has not gotten its proper due until now. The authentic character of the painting only recently was able to be fully appreciated as Marin’s application of paint and the true colors of his palette lay hidden beneath a thick, shiny layer of old, discolored varnish. Claire Barry and Bart Devolder, the museum’s conservators, expertly removed the varnish in preparation for the exhibition. We are now able to see what Marin intended us to see: a fresh-matte surface and the physicality of brushstrokes that transform the viscosity of the oil medium into a view of the roiling seas of Pleasant Bay near the artist’s home at Cape Split in Addison, Maine. It is a wonder among wonders in John Marin: Modernism at Midcentury, on view at the Amon Carter until January 8, 2012.