The curators pay tribute to these avid Aesthetic Movement collectors by framing these promised gifts with reproduction period wallpaper and fixtures, and it’s hard to decide where to look first.
The approach to this marvelous exhibition gives modern gallery-goers an experience of what Gilded Age interior designers had in mind – cramming foyers and drawing rooms with lush paintings, flashy techno brass furniture, Japanese-style ceramics, art pottery, and fringed upholstered seats decorated with Arts & Crafts tiles that throwback to mythical times.
The mix of styles and techniques – some old and some new – reflect a time when consumption of luxury goods ran wild with the ascension of New York City as the trading and shipping capital of the world. Many of the pieces reflect new machine-made technology mixed in with a bit of medieval nostalgia via the British Arts and Crafts movement.
Although the exhibition is slightly hidden away, the landscapes appearing throughout the show provide windows to lush valleys of the Rockies (thank you, Mr. Bierstadt!), autumn colors of the Catskills, and spectacular, tranquil shorelines on Maine’s rocky coast. All are either in their original fancy frames or reproductions from the era.
Most of the works are oil paintings, but (in case you didn’t know) New York was also the epicenter of the movement to make watercolor paintings the equal of any fine salon work. The curators have included work by the masterful William Trost Williams, so you can enjoy a side-by-side comparison of the techniques he used to give those oil painters a run for their money. Every time we’ve visited this show, visitors simply stand transfixed, drinking in the saturated, tranquil views of the faraway.
The ceramics, cloisonné tabletops, andirons, and many large-scale pieces reflect the period’s mania for anything with a hint of Japanese or Chinese style – delicate birds flitting through bamboo and fierce dragons swirling in magical space. Designers for the upper classes were captivated by images from kimonos, scrolls, screens, and ceramics from the East and made sure that custom commissioned pieces were on trend.
The mesmerizing beacon within the show is the spectacular array of Tiffany necklaces in the center – dramatic opals and sapphires, often encircled by intricate grapevines in gold or another nod to nature-by-design. The effect of these beauties side by side is magical, and you can imagine a Gilded Age beauty making an entrance with one of these dazzlers.
The Met just announced that its September 2022 Costume Institute exhibition would be displayed in the period rooms of the American Wing, so we’ll see if Mr. Bolton and his team deploy any period finery in the more-is-more 19th-century area.
Read more about pieces in this fantastic donation on the MetCollects blog and flip through close-ups of some the featured works.
Kick off April by choosing from many virtual museum events about the latest art shows, women’s history events, and what’s happening here! Here are just a few highlights:
On Tuesday (April 6) at 6pm, meet Julie Mehretu at the Whitney Museum’s annual Annenberg Lecture. Julie will have a conversation with the Whitney’s director about how history, architecture, cities, protest, maps, and geography have influenced her work. Her magnificent mid-career retrospective is a must-see.
At 6:30pm, bring your own pint to celebrate National Beer Day in this month’s Tavern Tastings series with Fraunces Tavern Museum and Connecticut’s Keeler Tavern Museum. The gals will tell you everything you ever wanted to learn about beer in 18th century taverns.
On Thursday (April 8) at noon, join one of the Whitney’s teaching fellows in Art History from Home: Making Knowingto discuss how four artists use the materials and methods of craft to turn the idea of “fine art” on its head. Examples that you’ll discuss are selected from artworks featured in the Whitney’s expansive, fun exhibition, Making Knowing Craft in Art, 1950 – 2019. You’ll enjoy all of the twists and turns.
At 6:30pm, join Paul Shaw at Poster House for a tour of Viennese Lettering by some of the greats of the Vienna Secession movement. Paul will show examples of innovative lettering on posters, ads, and books and explain how all of this had an impact on artists of the Sixties and Seventies. The lecture is part of a series in honor of Julius Klinger: Posters for a Modern Age, currently on view at Poster House.
There’s a lot more happening this week, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.
This week we checked out the new modern ceramics show at the Met, Shapes from Out of Nowhere: Ceramics from the Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection, which showcases 75 works that are promised gifts to the Met. Among the highlights – several works by celebrated ceramicist George Ohr, whose late 19th century works predate midcentury shape, form, and abstraction. Lots of fans present when we visited.