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

pissarro-garden-of-les-mathurins

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.

“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.

“Anne Geht Baden (Anne Goes Swimming)” by Susanne Kuhn

Photo: Kemper Museum

Where: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri.  

An acquisition by the Kemper arrived just in time for summer.

Anne Goes Swimming by German painter Susanne Kuhn is large — more than 7 feet high and 5 feet wide – and hangs in the museum’s atrium.

The subject of the painting begins to undress in a pine forest in this surrealistic artwork.  A lake beckons behind her; stylized splashes of water sit on the painting’s surface.  Like many of Kuhn’s artworks, elements of Japanese art are also woven into the design —  a towel with a geisha motif and Japan’s “rising sun” emblem in the background.  As in this painting, most of Kuhn’s works combine elements of landscape, architecture, abstraction and reality.

Kuhn was born in 1969 in Leipzig in the former East Germany where she earned her MFA in Painting and Graphic Arts.  She came to the United States in 1995, completing postgraduate studies at the School for Visual Arts at Hunter College in New York.  She returned, ultimately, to Frieburg, Germany where she now lives and works.

Anne Goes Swimming was a gift of Dean Valentine and Amy Adelson in 2009.  It is the only publicly displayed Kuhn in a museum in the United States.

Learn more about the Kemper here.

Samurai Sword

Samurai Sword

Photo: Truman Library

Where:  The Truman Library, Independence, Missouri.  

Just a few months into his presidency, President Harry S. Truman was presented a gift so rare that only ten of them are known to exist in the world – a samurai sword made by Masamune, a legendary sword smith from the Sagami Province of Japan.  The swords are considered national treasures in Japan, according to Clay Bauske, curator at the Harry S. Truman Library.

“While most objects in the Truman Library museum collection date from mid-20th Century America, some have deep significance to other cultures and other times,” says Bauske.  “The Masamune sword is an example.  Although we deal specifically with a 20th Century president, through the gifts he received, we are exposed to a much wider world of historical traditions and cultural materials.”

Masamune worked nearly 750 years ago fabricating blades of high workmanship.  The tang of the blade on this sword has gold, inlaid characters that indicate the sword was authenticated by a representative of the Japanese emperor in the 16th Century.  The disks on the handle are bronze covered in gold; the black scabbard signifies formality.

The sword was presented to President Truman on March 4, 1946 in the Oval Office by General Walter Krueger, commander of the 6th Army occupation forces in Japan following the Second World War.  General Kreuger was given the sword by a Samurai family in Japan.

Find out more about the Truman Library here.

“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.

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