Category Archives: Museums

WW1 Centennial Trade Show report

Yesterday I attended the WW1 Centennial Commission Trade Show. I met a lot of people who are doing some interesting things for the commemoration of the Great War. Here are a few pics from the show.

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The trade show brought together museum officials, authors, and others to discuss their projects for the Centennial. Jones Day, theWashington white shoe law firm, hosted the event.

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The acting chairman of the Commission spoke first and discussed the group’s strategic plan. They have obviously put a great deal of thought and energy into the enterprise. He and the other commissioners are all volunteers.

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Before the trade show presentations there was a fifteen minute musical interlude by Benjamin Sears and Bradford Conner. They set a nice tone for the afternoon.

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Sergeant York’s son (black shirt and glasses on right) was there with his own son and granddaughter (seated to his left).

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Here are a few of the exhibits. As with the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the Great War Centennial will incorporate the  changes that have taken place in historiographically in recent decades.

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This is a sampling of some of the literature I gathered. I do not want to give away too much right now but I spoke to various folks about working on some projects over the next 4-5 years. I think the next few years will be fun and productive in a number of ways.

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Filed under Memory, Monuments and Statuary, Museums, WW1

Rainy Sunday Morning Coffee

It was a big week for John Coltrane. His son Ravi donated one of his father’s saxophones to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History on Wednesday. At the same ceremony photographer Chuck Stewart donated twenty-five previously unseen Coltrane photographs to the Institution. The ceremony kicked off Jazz Appreciation Month. Stewart’s photographs are from the A Love Supreme sessions. Supreme was recorded fifty years ago this December.  The saxophone and original score will soon be on display in the “American Stories” exhibition.

A preservation group has been working for a few years now to save the musician’s Huntington, Long Island home. When we think of jazz musicians living in New York City we think Harlem, but really many of them lived in Queens or farther out on the island. Coltrane died in 1967 and is buried in Pinelawn Memorial Park. Pinelawn is one of several cemeteries along a stretch of Long Island. When a friend of mine visits this summer we may go out there to see her grandparents interred there. If/when we do, I am going to try to visit the Coltrane site as well.

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Filed under Jazz, Museums

The origins of the monuments men

I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Watson Library doing some research today when I passed this display case.

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I did a double-take when I noticed this image of none other than Dwight Eisenhower himself. This is he and Mamie walking down the Met Museum steps familiar to New Yorkers for generations.

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The date was 2 April 1946. That day the Met made Eisenhower an Honorary Fellow for Life for his role in saving European artworks during the Second World War. This is the first page of the address he gave that April day:

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Here is the order he gave in May 1944, just a few weeks before D-Day. It is revealing that he would issue such an order even before the Normandy Invasion. He always said there was no contingency for failure. Thus, there were preparations for saving artworks even before a beachhead had been secured. Think about it.

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Here are Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley. The photo was taken by a U.S. Army lieutenant in a German salt mine on 12 April 1945, a month before the war ended and a year before Ike spoke at the Met.

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In a nice touch, the museum has a gallery itinerary in which one cane find artworks now in the Met that were saved by the Monuments Men. I had seen a few of these a number of times over the years without knowing their provenance.

Here is one of those works.

Guardroom with the Deliverance of Saint Peter David Teniers the Younger, ca. 1645–47

Guardroom with the Deliverance of Saint Peter
David Teniers the Younger, ca. 1645–47

The painting was donated to the Met in 1964, half a century ago and only nineteen years after the war’s end.

(images/Ike et al, National Archives; Guardroom, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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Filed under Dwight D. Eisenhower, Monuments and Statuary, Museums, WW2

The frozen tundra of the National Mall

I was on the Mall today and am here to say it was COLD, and with a bone chilling wind to add insult to injury. I must say it kept the tourists away, even on MLK Jr. weekend. Hours later my ears are still ringing.

Last March I took a pic of what was then the hole that will eventually become the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Well, ten months later we still have a hole but it is starting to fill up.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, January 2014

National Museum of African American History and Culture construction site, January 2014

I have no doubt that they will do a great job. A few months ago the Smithsonian folks were at the Brooklyn Museum appraising people’s artifacts. Earlier this month they were doing the same thing in Fort Lauderdale while I was down there. It is going to be a varied and disparate collection. The only thing that concerns me is that the Mall, especially this part of the Mall, is on low ground and is susceptible to flooding.

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Filed under Museums, Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Army Museum

An Army chaplain performs the last rites, Bliliou (Peleliu) Island,, 1944

An Army chaplain performs the last rites, Bliliou (Peleliu) Island, 1944

Last summer in a post I mentioned a film called They Drew Fire. That PBS documentary was about the artists who painted and sketched the Second World War  as they witnessed it in both Europe and the Pacific. When we think “art” and “war” we think of Winslow Homer, Conrad Wise Chapman, and various others who sketched for Harper’s, Leslie’s Illustrated, or what have you. I suppose that the newsreels and photojournalism one saw in Life magazine, not the paintings and sketches that came from an artist’s hand, are the dominant iconography of the WW2. That the branches of the American Armed Services commissioned dozens of individuals to go forth and record what they saw is a story that has yet to be told fully. What is most incredible is the free rein they had.

Many of the thousands of works these artists produced from 1941-1945 are sitting in a modern storage facility in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, just outside Washington. The photos remind me of the Luce Center storage one sees at the Met Museum, New-York Historical Society,  the Brooklyn Museum of Art among other places. The goal is to move them into the National Museum of the United States Army that is currently being built within four years. I am interested to see how this project plays out.

(painting by WW2 artist Tom Lea, courtesy NPS)

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Filed under Museums, WW2

The original Lombardi comes home

Several years ago your humble writer was walking though midtown Manhattan when, turning onto 5th Avenue, he saw something that made him pause. In the window display case of Tiffany & Co. was the World Series trophy. I had long known that Tiffany’s made the trophy for both MLB and the NFL. It is just not something one sees everyday. Even better for me, although I obviously had no way of knowing it that early fall evening, it was the World Series trophy the Red Sox themselves would win a few weeks later. As you can imagine, it is one of those random events that has stayed with me.

The first three of the Green Bay Back Super Bowl trophies. The team would add a fourth the year after this photo was taken.

The first three of the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl trophies. The team would add a fourth the year after this photo was taken.

In a story I have been loosely following for the past few months, I read today that another Tiffany creation–the original Lombardi trophy–has returned to Newark, New Jersey after a forty-seven year hiatus. Ulysses Grant Dietz, the gr, gr. grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, is the museum curator responsible for bringing it back. The Newark Museum is one of the great places in the New York Metropolitan area. Waking there from the PATH train, the observant walker sees vestiges of the city’s heyday in the architecture and public artwork. Among the many other things the city was know for was its silversmiths and jewelry makers. The Lombardi Trophy from Super Bowl I is part of a current exhibit on Newark’s history of precious metalsmithing.

The exhibit is not entirely coincidental. This year’s Super Bowl is going to be held in New Jersey at the stadium where the Giants and Jets play. Hence, the museum’s administrators figured they would have some kind of tie-in. Shooting high, they went for–and got–the Lombardi.

On the plane from Florida the other day I had a conversation about this with the man next to me. We could not understand why they are playing in an outdoor stadium in the Northeast in February. But they are.

No, I will not be attending the Super Bowl whatever the weather. I will be making the trek across the river to see the original Lombardi trophy along with the other treasures the museum has to offer.

(image/Globe199)

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Filed under Baseball, Museums, New York City

Sanford Robinson Gifford on sale, cont’d

Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861

Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861

Update: Surprisingly Gifford’s Sunday Morning did not sell at last week’s auction. I am even more surprised because another work by the Hudson River School artist did so. I am wondering if the Civil War-themed piece was considered too subject specific by collectors. It will be interesting to see what eventually happens with this work.

Christie’s is auctioning Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861. The “Silk Stocking Regiment” was one of the first to arrive in the nation’s capitol after the firing on Fort Sumter. The painting has been in the collection of the New York Union League Club since 1871, when it was acquired from the artist. The work is fascinating on many levels: as a historical artifact; a visual representation of the early months of the Rebellion, when it still seemed possible that it would be over quickly (First Bull Run was still two months in the future; note the relaxed poses of the individuals in the scene.); and oh yes, as a work of art. We focus so much on the photographers of the Civil War–Brady, Gardner, et al–that we sometimes forget that it was the painters and sketch artists who gave us much of the war’s visual representation. One can see the unfinished U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument off in the distance.

This work by the Hudson River School artist has been exhibited generously many times over the decades. Sunday Morning was also on loan to the White House from the Ford through Reagan Administrations as well. The auction of this and other American art will be on December 5th. The previous auction for a Gifford is $2.1 million. This work is expected to sell somewhere in the range of $3-$5 million. Someone is going to have a nice Christmas.

(image/Christie’s)

Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861More Information: http://artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=66244#.UozVcSeJI1I[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.org
Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861More Information: http://artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=66244#.UozVcSeJI1I[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.org

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Filed under Museums, Union League Club

Remembering the Armory Show

This past Friday I went to the New-York Historical Society to see “The Armory Show at 100.” This N-YHS exhibit is in observance of the groundbreaking 1913 event at the 69th Regiment Armory. The 69th Armory is on East 25th Street, not five blocks from the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace.  Many of the original pieces are on display. I had seen some of them before because many are now famous and situated in major museums. Still, seeing so many in one place is something different entirely.

Roosevelt wasn't much for Wilhelm Lehmbruck's Femme a genoux

Roosevelt wasn’t much for Wilhelm Lehmbruck’s Femme á genoux

The 1913 Armory show was a huge event, attended by many thousands and written about extensively. For many Americans, it was the first time they had seen a Matisse or Picasso. One self-described layman who attended was Theodore himself. In fact, the Colonel even penned a review for Outlook magazine describing his thoughts on the show. “A Layman’s View of an Art Exhibition” hit newsstands on 29 March 1913.

One may not associate art with Theodore Roosevelt but there is a stronger connection than one might realize. When Theodore was a child, the Roosevelts spent considerable time in Europe, Egypt, and the Middle East soaking up art and culture. His father was one of the founders of both the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As president, Roosevelt had given a guiding hand in the creation of the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C. He was also a good friend of sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Frederic Remington. What’s more, he had sat for many painters over the years, including John Singer Sargent.

So, Roosevelt was a layman but one who knew a little more about the art world than he let on.

Reading Roosevelt’s article one cannot help but think of Marshall McLuhan’s adage that art is whatever you can get with. At one point he compares the Cubists to P.T. Barnum. More than once he calls them extremists. Still, he is not entirely skeptical; at times he is even generous. Modernism per se did not seem to bother him, just certain elements within it. For a man seemingly ambivalent he has a lot to say. In the last line he explains that “All I am trying to do is point out why a layman is grateful to those who arranged this exhibition.”

The show at the New-York Historical Society runs through 23 February 2014.

(image/Armory Show postcard)

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Filed under Museums, Theodore Roosevelt Jr (President)

Sanford Robinson Gifford on sale

Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861

Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861

Christie’s is auctioning Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861. The “Silk Stocking Regiment” was one of the first to arrive in the nation’s capitol after the firing on Fort Sumter. The painting has been in the collection of the New York Union League Club since 1871, when it was acquired from the artist. The work is fascinating on many levels: as a historical artifact; a visual representation of the early months of the Rebellion, when it still seemed possible that it would be over quickly (First Bull Run was still two months in the future; note the relaxed poses of the individuals in the scene.); and oh yes, as a work of art. We focus so much on the photographers of the Civil War–Brady, Gardner, et al–that we sometimes forget that it was the painters and sketch artists who gave us much of the war’s visual representation. One can see the unfinished U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument off in the distance.

This work by the Hudson River School artist has been exhibited generously many times over the decades. Sunday Morning was also on loan to the White House from the Ford through Reagan Administrations as well. The auction of this and other American art will be on December 5th. The previous auction for a Gifford is $2.1 million. This work is expected to sell somewhere in the range of $3-$5 million. Someone is going to have a nice Christmas.

(image/Christie’s)

Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861More Information: http://artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=66244#.UozVcSeJI1I[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.org
Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment near Washington, D.C., in May 1861More Information: http://artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=66244#.UozVcSeJI1I[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.org

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Filed under Museums, Union League Club

Jefferson Davis's Beauvoir

Jefferson Davis’s Beauvoir

It is hard to believe it is now 2 1/2 years ago, but at the start of the sesquicentennial there was a great piece in the USA Today about the descendants of various Civil War protagonists. If memory serves, they spoke to the relatives of Frederick Douglass, Jeb Stuart, and a few others asking them about their ancestors and what the Civil War means to them today. Last week Ulysses Grant Dietz and Bertram Hayes-Davis met at a professional gathering in Mississippi. Yes, as you may have figured, these are the great, great grandsons of U.S. Grant and Jeff Davis. Dietz is a curator at the Newark Museum of Art in New Jersey, one of the great cultural institutions in the Northeast. Hayes-Davis is the executive director of Beauvoir, the Confederate president’s estate near Biloxi. Apparently the two men are talking loosely of collaborating to whatever degree in the future, which would make sense given their shared histories and professions.

(image/Jeffrey Reed)

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Filed under Museums, Ulysses S. Grant