Black Friday is not yet upon us, but the holiday season is well underway in my studio. I have been busy working on holiday portrait commissions and preparing prints and cards to drop off at the Gift Cellar in Baltimore. If you’d like to commission a portrait or other work as a Christmas gift, please get in touch with me by December 1.
This week, I enjoyed a break from painting in the studio at the Baltimore Museum of Art. I serve as the Baltimore Watercolor Society’s newsletter editor, and in this capacity, I was invited to a media & hospitality preview reception of the BMA’s reinstalled American Art collection. I just finished up writing a short blurb about the event for the BWS December newsletter. I thought I would share it here as well.
On November 18, I had the pleasure of attending a media preview of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s (BMA) newly reinstalled American art collection. I was joined by Sharon Green, Baltimore Watercolor Society’s Mid-Atlantic Chairperson.
We were invited to enter the Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing via the newly reopened Merrick Historic Entrance, and enjoyed a tour of the collection led by David Park Curry, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts, American Painting & Sculpture. Curry discussed how the collection was arranged to create a dialogue between painting and the decorative arts, allowing guests to understand the stories and themes within the collection, while also creating their own personal stories of discovery. For example, a portrait of Mary Sterett by Charles Wilson Peale is displayed above a silver dish she once owned. In some cases pieces are grouped by time period, and in other cases, by theme. The Habre de Venture Parlor room features painted American furniture ranging from the Federal style “fancy furniture” made in Baltimore around the turn of the 18th century to Modernist and contemporary pieces, offset by the walls of the room itself, which were relocated from a colonial Maryland house to the BMA in the 1920s and maintain their original paint finish. The Beaux-Arts style of the central BMA building, designed by notable American architect John Russell Pope, encourages visitors to meander between the gallery rooms in a non-linear way, forming their own relationships with the collection not dependent on a strictly historical viewing.
Of course, during the tour we had our eyes peeled for examples of water media that might be of special interest to the BWS membership. Curry explained that the lighting in most of the American Wing is not conducive to the preservation of works on paper. Only two watercolors are currently on display. A View of the Port of Baltimore, 1835, by Nicolino Calyo shows a familiar view looking Northwest toward the Baltimore harbor from Locust Point. In the “Tiffany and Friends” gallery is a rare watercolor by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Algerian Shops, c. 1872, is a light filled market scene, which demonstrates a continuity of vision with Tiffany’s better known decorative glass work on display in the same gallery. Also of interest is 1944 Interior with Flowers by Milton Avery. Although this particular piece is an oil painting, Avery received First Prize for his watercolor work in the Baltimore Watercolor Club’s (the founding name of BWS) 1948 National Watercolor Exhibition hosted at the BMA.
Although not a “water media destination,” the American Wing at the Baltimore Museum of Art is well worth the visit– there is plenty of inspiration for any artist or art lover to enjoy. While you are there, also visit the Contemporary Wing, which re-opened in 2012. And we can look forward to renovated African and Asian art galleries in 2015, as the last phase of the BMA’s ongoing 100th Anniversary Celebration. Entry to the BMA is free. Visit http://www.artbma.org for additional details to plan your visit.
Joanna Barnum, BWS Newsletter Editor