Madonna of Humility is a marble sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary holding her child Jesus closely to her chest. Created in 1400 by Jacopo della Quercia, this piece was one of many Quercia would become known for. After being trained by his father, Piero d’Angelo, and ready to begin making his own work. Quercia was influenced by Nicola Pisano and Arnolfo di Cambio whose art work adorned the Siena Cathedral. Quercia’s early works were in the Gothic manner and he later transitioned to the highly realistic style of the Italian Renaissance.
Quercia was not the first to render the “Madonna of Humility” image; it appears in many artworks from Europe during the Renaissance. Even though there are variations on how the Madonna is positioned with the child in these works, the projected feeling to the viewer remains one of love between mother and child. Pieces such as Madonna of Humility were created heralded a new age coming to Europe in not only art, but culture as well.
Quercia's work is on display at the National Gallery of Art along with many other sculptures and paintings of the era featuring the Madonna and child. Viewing the differences in the artistic rendering of the subject makes a visit worthwhile.
NGA website: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb.html
On display at the Hirshhorn Museum is the Out of the Ordinary exhibit. This exhibition encompasses works of art that use the process of faking, copying and duplicating following in the footsteps of Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns who both used everyday objects in their work. The exhibit focuses on this technique, causing viewers to look closer at the artwork due to the strangeness behind the familiarity.
One of the works on display is Katharina Fritsch’s 1989 which is a tower-like structure composed of yellow Madonna’s (shown below) entitled Display Stand with Madonnas. Fritsch, from West Germany, is a contemporary sculptor known for her work by manipulating everyday objects with shifts in color and scale.
Katharina Fritsch, Display Stand with Madonnas, 1987–1989. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Also on display is Robert Gober’s 1985 Three Parts of an X. This piece pulls in the viewer with its strange familiarity but the slight distortion keeps the viewer consumed and a little obsessed with it. It’s easy to lose a sense of time when staring at Gober’s work attempting to figure out the “puzzle” of exactly what it is.
Robert Gober, Three Parts of an X, 1985. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
This exhibit closes on May 19th and this is one that shouldn’t be missed. Rarely does an opportunity pop up where someone can view works of art as interesting and thought provoking as this exhibit provides.
On April 18th The Smithsonian Associates held an event titled Tattoo: Your Body of Art which was a forum about the significance behind tattoos. This permanent art form is capable of reflecting history and culture on the greatest canvas of all, the human body. As Sam, the moderator said “You want it to represent you. You want it to be something about you”.
Sam Kean speaking at Tattoo: Your Body of Art
Jessing, the public program coordinator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, began her discussion with a story about her current tattoo; at age 15 she and her boyfriend got matching tattoos. Sadly, her boyfriend passed away and her tattoo became a way to remember him. Life events inspired her to add to her tattoo. She incorporated the Western Meadowlark, her home state’s bird. Jessing also told the crowd that her tattoo has “secrets built into it” such as her parents’ & sisters names into the tree. As time passes, Jessing plans to continue adding to her tattoo.
Jessing showing her tattoo
Dr. Lars Krutak, better known as the Tattoo Hunter from the Discovery Channel series, traveled around the world observing different cultures and the meaning behind their tattoos, “it opens a window that you probably couldn’t enter through other means of investigation and it is deeply personal”. During his journey, Dr. Krutak traveled to Papua New Guinea and found the Kaningara Tribe who live in a village in the Sepik Province. He found that they practice skin cutting in order to give themselves “the power of the crocodile” by cutting their bodies in a way that resembles a crocodile and Dr. Krutak became the first foreigner to participate in the ceremony. Further along his journey, Dr. Krutak met Theravada Buddhist monks in Thailand, who practice hand-tapping, giving tattoos that contain magical power.
Dr. Lars Krutak
Paul Roe, proud British Ambassador of The Bristol Tattoo Club, went through the history of tattoo designs between 1870’s to the present. Roe explained the importance of the bat tattoo, the clubs logo, to The Bristol Tattoo Club. Originally, the tattoo had to be done by a member of the Skuse family for the tattoo to be considered legitimate. This changed when the last surviving member of the Skuse family could not travel to the U.S often enough to meet the U.S clubs’ tattoo demand causing Roe to receive the honor of tattooing international members of the club in his place.
Roe is an admirer of “the American style” which is a quick form of tattooing. With thick lines and simple color Roe began to clarify how beautiful these tattoos were in comparison to the thinly lined, highly detailed tattoos dating back to the 1870’s. The new style would set in motion a wave of change in the art of tattoos.
Even though history, culture, and memories can vary from person to person, so do tattoos. However, all of those things are interconnected because they are not only permanent, but they also define who we are, leaving an everlasting impression on us.
The Spirit of War by Jasper Francis Crospey (1851)
"We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." --- Winston Churchill
On April 6th The Smithsonian Sackler Gallery opened the Hand-held: Gerhaard Pulverer’s Japanese Illustrated Books exhibit. The exhibition displays Japanese woodblock-printed illustrated books from the Edo period. The books, originally reserved for the elite during the Edo period, were bought in 2007 by the Freer Gallery and are now made public for all visitors to enjoy.
One of the pieces featured is Odori Hitori Geiko which is a dance instruction manual created by Japanese woodblock print artist Katsushika Hokusai. This dance guide teaches its readers how to move like a Japanese man from the 19th century with illustrated and detailed steps to help people get through the practice.
Photo Credit: Odori hitori geiko (dance instruction manual) Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) Japan, Edo period, 1815 Woodblock printed; ink on paper H x W x D: 18.5 x 12.5 x 0. 9 cm Purchase-The Gerhard Pulverer Collection,
Museum funds, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the
Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard
and his exemplary service to the Galleries as chair of the Board of Trustees (2003—2007)Freer Gallery of Art Study
Another woodblock print that is on display is Ichirō gafu by Yashima Gakutei. This illustration depicts two figures, a woman and a child, walking on a plank bridge overlooking a beautiful lake side community. With the attention to detail that Gakutei had, such as a fisherman in the corner of a lake or the two people interacting through a window on the other side of the lake, makes the scene captivating, making the viewer want to take the whole image in. Images like this demonstrate how much effort, detail, and thought was put into these illustrations in order to entertain the readers and this becomes apparent once they are seen in person. Ichirōgafu by Yashima Gakutei (active 1815—1830's) Japan, Edo period Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper H x W x D: 22.5 x 15.8 x 0.8 cm Purchase-The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Museum funds, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard and his exemplary service to the Galleries as chair of the Board of Trustees (2003—2007) Freer Gallery of Art Study Collection FSC-GR-780.180
There are many more illustrated books that depict different illustrations that are just as entertaining and informative to see now as they were in the 19th century. The exhibit will close August 11th so mark your calendar now and check out these works of art!
Both Members of This Club by George Bellows (1909)
The piece Both Members of This Club by George Bellows is an oil on canvas painting depicting two boxers fighting in the ring. One of the fighters depicted is Joe Gans, who was the lightweight champion famous for his right punch, who inspired Bellows to immortalize him in the painting. The title Both Members of this Club refers to the period in New York City where public boxing was illegal due to corruption. To get around the law, sporting arenas became private clubs who would give boxers 1 day “memberships” for the length of the boxing match.
Bellows, was born in Columbus, Ohio where he attended college at Ohio State University. After graduating, Bellows went to the New York School of Art to learn from William Merrit Chase, and Robert Henri. Bellows made illustrations for magazines like Vanity Fair so he could support himself while he was in college. In 1906, the experience and education he received lead to Bellows owning his own art studio. He would go on to win an award from the National Academy of Design for one of his landscape paintings. Ten years later, Bellows began to dabble in lithography, a method of printing from a metal or stone surface, which shows extreme contrasts of dark and light. This practice can be seen in any of Bellow’s six boxing match paintings he has created such as Both Members of This Club.
There’s more to springtime in Washington D.C than Cherry Blossoms! Surrounding the Enid A. Haupt Garden, the Saucer Magnolias are in full bloom, possible with a variety of colors; white, pink, red, purple or yellow. This hybrid tree blooms in early spring and was created by French plantsman Etienne Soulange-Bodin, crossed the Magnolia denudate and the Magnolia liliiflora to create this lovely variety Magnolia soulangiana.
Visit these beautiful trees in the Enid A. Haupt Garden. The Smithsonian Gardens have much to offer including The Parterre, the magnificent centerpiece of The Haupt garden and The Moongate Garden, a Smithsonian Garden, that was inspired by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China. A visit to the Enid A. Haupt garden is a great place to relax and excellent photo-op for all.