Category Archives: Kansas

“Le Discret” by Joseph Ducreux

Where: Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.  

Le Discret

Photo: Spencer Museum of Art

In Joseph Ducreux’s 18th century oil painting, “Le Discret,” the subject cautions the viewer to be discreet.  Or has the subject – Ducreux himself – transgressed and wants you to keep his secret?

“This painting is extremely popular with our visitors,” says Susan Earle, the Spencer’s curator for European and American art.  “The man’s gesture exhorts us to be quiet, or, perhaps, not to tell anyone what he might be doing.  The sense that the painting speaks directly to visitors makes people respond to it immediately.”

“Le Discret” is part of a series that Ducreux created to convey different human emotions, all of them self-portraits.  He was interested in human physiognomy and how emotions could be portrayed on the face and through gesture.

“Physiognomic studies, as these were called, were popular in the late 18th century as part of a greater understanding of human expression and connections with science and the Enlightenment,” says Earle.

Ducreux was a French artist who served as a court painter to the King and Queen of England prior to the French Revolution.  Fearful for his life because of his position, he fled to London only to return to Paris a short time later where he lived out his life among the company of other artists.

Contact the Spencer for more information.


“Avanim Vetseiadim” by Ilan Averbuch

Photo: April Bishop

Where: 133rd and Mission Rd., Leawood, Kansas.

Dedicated in October 2009, this sculptural addition to Leawood’s Gezer Park is turning heads.

The Art in Public Places Initiative of the Leawood Arts Council commissioned sculptor Ilan Averbuch to create a focal point for Gezer Park, which honors Leawood’s sister city relationship with the Gezer region of Israel.

The sculpture, titled Avanim Vetseiadim, is a 29’ granite ladder placed vertically within the boundaries of the small reflecting pool that surrounds it.  Avanim Vestseiadim is Hebrew for “Steps and Stones.”

“It is visually stunning,” says April  Bishop, cultural arts coordinator for the city of Leawood.  “It’s actually 44 feet when you see it together with its reflection in the water.”

Avanim Vetseiadim is constructed of recycled granite with a steel core, keeping with Averbuch’s preference for using different combinations of common building materials, many of which are repurposed.

Averbuch balances whimsy with architecture in his characteristically large, public monuments.  Born in Tel Aviv, his resume includes commissions in public spaces all over the world.  He works and resides in New York.

“Dinner Conversation with Nancy” by Roger Shimomura

Where: Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.  

~ photo courtesy of the Spencer Museum

Nancy must have been some kind of woman to have inspired Roger Shimomura to have painted and named this painting for her. By all accounts, she was.

Shimomura painted “Dinner Conversation With Nancy” in 1983 as an untitled work, but later re-named it after the death of his good friend and Lawrence arts patron, Nancy Anne Zimmerman.  He donated it in her memory to the Spencer Museum of Art in 1988.

The painting portrays a jumble of images that seem to tumble together and float on top of each other.  And while there are figures peeking through in several places, there does not seem to be any ground plane or standard “figure/ground” relationship that would make the elements cohere into a narrative, or even into a readable space, says Susan Earle, Spencer curator.

“Normal concepts of space are defied,” she says.

Visitors are drawn to the painting because of the density of the images, the colors and the fact that many of the images are recognizable in pop culture, she says.

“It is a great example of the ways in which the artist works with existing styles and idioms, such as pop art from the 1960s,” says Earle.  “He incorporates elements of pop art, but also goes beyond it.”

Shimomura is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of KU’s Visual Arts Department.  His paintings and prints address sociopolitical issues of ethnicity and have often been inspired by the diaries kept by his late immigrant grandmother. He was born in Seattle, Washington and spent two early years away from his home in Minidoka, Idaho, one of 10 concentration camps for Japanese Americans during WWII.

Learn more about the Spencer Museum of Art.