Category Archives: Nelson-Atkins Museum

“Reclining Connected Form” by Henry Moore

Where: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

Photo: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Nestled on the south side of the Bloch Building, Henry Moore’s “Reclining Connected Form” explores the protective relationship between mother and child in this monumental bronze sculpture in the museum’s sculpture garden.

“The siting is so apropos,” says Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland curator of modern and contemporary art.  They actually created a bowl in the ground to create a womb-like experience.  It is almost like Mother Earth.”

Landscape architects Daniel Kiley and Jaquelin Robertson designed the outdoor space.  Though out of frame in this photo, there is a small stone wall in the bowl for sitting and contemplation.

“Visitors feel a sense of solace and solitude in the space,” says Schall.  “They love the idea of maternity and the magic of creation.  It is a universal experience – being born.”

The Henry Moore Sculpture Garden opened at the Nelson in 1989 but the name was changed to the Kansas City Sculpture Park in 1996 after the addition of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Shuttlecocks and other non-Moore sculptures.

There are 32 works in the Sculpture Park, including 13 bronze sculptures by Moore and the new, 56-foot, stainless steel, tree-like sculpture, Ferment, by Roxy Paine.


“Virgin and Child in a Domestic Interior” by Petrus Christus

Virgin And Child In A Domestic Interior

Photo: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Where: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.  

The setting is entirely domestic – not religious – and Joseph has assumed an uncommon position in this particular rendering of Madonna and Child.

“Joseph is subordinated in this painting and appears to be older than usual with a walking stick,” says Ian Kennedy, Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward curator of European Painting and Sculpture for the Nelson.

Virgin and Child in a Domestic Interior was painted in the mid-fifteenth century by Flemish painter and Van Eyck student, Petrus Christus.  It’s more than 500 years old and  in excellent condition, making it one of the masterpieces of the Nelson-Atkins collection.

“The chandelier and very detailed interior are very characteristic of the Flemish and of Christus,” says Kennedy of Van Eyck’s star pupil.  “The painting is very geometric looking, and Christus is trying to get away from the influence of Van Eyck.”

The artist’s hometown of Brugges, Belgium is visible through the window and an apple on the ledge symbolizes the fall of man.  The colors are bright; the green in the bedspread is especially vibrant and Mary’s skirt is painted atypically turquoise.

“Everybody likes it,” says Kennedy.  ”It’s a picture you can keep looking at and find something new to admire each time.”

The painting — a favorite at Christmastime — can be viewed at the Nelson.

“Masks” by Emil Nolde

Masks by Emil Nolde

~photo courtesy Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Where: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.  

“A lot of people look at Masks and are unsettled by what they see,” says Jan Schall, Sanders-Sosland curator of modern and contemporary art at the Nelson.

Masks was painted in 1911 by well-known German Expressionist Emil Nolde as a reflection of his growing interest in non-Western cultures.  Studying the masks at the Berlin Museum of Ethnology, Nolde was able to capture a variety of cultures all on one canvas – carnival masks in the center and the shrunken head of a Yoruna Indian from Brazil in the lower right, among others.

But in 1937 Germany, paintings like these were labeled “degenerate” by a committee working for Third Reich minister Joseph Goebbels.  Nolde was prohibited from painting further and his artworks were seized by the Nazi party.  Museums were forced to purge these paintings, and some ultimately became part of the “Degenerate Art Exhibition” in Munich, which was meant to humiliate the artists whose works were displayed.

But there’s a happy end to this story.  The museum where Masks hung prior to its condemnation – the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany — reconstituted its galleries to their pre-1937 state through the graciousness of museums all over the world for a March 2011 exhibition.  Masks and Schall traveled back to Essen to (re) join the exhibition, too.

See here for more information on the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

“The Sonata” by Childe Hassam

The Sonata by Childe Hassam

Photo: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Where:  The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.  

Exhausted, a young woman collapses into herself after performing Beethoven’s famously difficult and lengthy “Sonata Appassionata.” A delicate yellow rose lies atop the piano, its heady blossom also too heavy to support.

“This was a really important piece to Hassam,” says Stephanie Knappe, assistant curator of American Art for the Nelson.  “He was really attached to it, and it probably served as the model for the thirty other domestic interiors he painted with young women as subjects.”

Attached he was.  He withheld “The Sonata” when he otherwise sold virtually his entire collection, finally letting go 26 years after he painted it.  It eventually found its way into the hands of Washington D.C. collector and tastemaker Duncan Phillips of Phillips Collection fame, but a feud between the two prompted Hassam to reacquire it, anonymously, seven years later in 1928.

Hassam painted “The Sonata” in his New York studio in 1893 at a time when “art for art’s sake” was finding its way into the lexicon of art students, galleries and collectors alike.

“It celebrates beauty and calm,” says Knappe. “It imparts no moral lesson for us to follow and shows us how important the idea of beauty is to our lives.”

See here for more information on the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

“The Garden of Les Mathurins at Pontoise” by Camille Pissaro


Photo: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Where: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.  

“What interests me most is the subject,” says Simon Kelly, associate curator of European painting and sculpture of the home of Maria Deraismes, a prominent author and political figure in 1860s France who fought for women’s rights.

“The ideas she was fighting for put her at the forefront of early feminism,” he says.

Deraismes is also thought to be the woman gazing into the glass ball.  She and Pissarro were friends, and Pissarro, too, was very forward-thinking politically.  It is an unusual painting in Pissarro’s repertoire, as he is mainly known for painting the peasants and laborers of the French countryside.

The Garden of Les Mathurins at Pontoise was painted in 1876 and shown a year later at the Third Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. Importantly, Pissarro holds the distinction of being the only artist to exhibit at all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions.  More broadly, the painting is considered important for its successful use of color and light, and because it reflects Pissarro’s overt political interests.

“It’s a formal painting, but with lively brushwork and beautiful complementary colors,” says Kelly.  “It is one of a strong group of Pissarros on display right now, three of which are hanging next to each other in the same gallery,” he says.

See here for more information on the Nelson-Atkins Museum.