Collection Connection: Fever Within and the Distant Landscape

Ronald Lockett, Traps, 1995.

“Collection Connection” blog essays suggest a motif, style, material, or other element that links works of art on view at the Ackland Art Museum. What connections can you find on your next visit?

*Click images to enlarge*

Currently on view in the exhibition Fever Within, Ronald Lockett’s Traps (right) includes a circular hole in the weathered metal of the upper right corner that reveals a distant landscape scene. Framed by rusted tin, a mountain range and water suggest a setting for the deer seen in the foreground. As the landscape isn’t fully integrated with the rest of the imagery, it also seems like an ornament, an embellishment of sorts, in contrast with the trapped deer.

The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist

Battista Dossi, The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist, c. 1530.

Many Renaissance artists treated distant landscapes in a similar way. In Battista Dossi’s Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist (left), for example, the verdant hillside with Renaissance buildings could be understood as part of the setting – the place Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and John are traveling to or from. The boundary between the foreground and background is not as pronounced as the one we see in Traps, but Dossi’s landscape also functions as a kind of ornament – not essential to a picture of the Holy Family, but a beautiful addition to it that reinforces the notion of a journey.

In Lockett’s A Place in Time (below) the same motif appears, here enclosed in a three-dimensional frame and echoing a second nearby circle in which a skeletal animal appears.

Landscapes painted in a circular format appear in European and American art of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Jasper Cropsey’s Landscape with Mountains at Sunset (below) is one such example. Both artists and art lovers experimented with a device called a Claude glass – a round mirror that reflected the scene behind the viewer’s back. The idea was that the reflection improved the scene by making it more picturesque than what one could see by looking directly at it.

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9-A Place In Time_cropped

Ronald Lockett, A Place In Time, 1989.

Cropsey_Landscape

Jasper Francis Cropsey, Landscape with Mountains at Sunset, c. 1850.

CAROLYN ALLMENDINGER is the Ackland’s Director of Academic Programs.

IMAGES: Ronald Lockett, American, 1965-1998: Traps, 1995; found tin, colored pencil, and nails on wood. William S. Arnett Collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation, L2015.2.1.

Battista Dossi, Italian, c. 1490-1548: The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist, c. 1530; oil on wood panel. Ackland Fund, 85.22.1. On view in Gallery 13.

Ronald Lockett, American, 1965-1998: A Place In Time, 1989; wood, cloth, net, tin, industrial sealing compound, oil, and enamel on wood. William S. Arnett Collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation, L2015.2.10.

Jasper Francis Cropsey, American, 1823-1900, Landscape with Mountains at Sunset, c. 1850; oil on paper. Ackland Fund, 85.19.1. On view in Gallery 16.

 

“America Seen”: Sneak Preview (the intern’s favorite)

This semester at the Ackland, I’ve been conducting research and writing interpretative text for the exhibition America Seen: The Hunter and Cathy Allen of Social Realist PrintsThrough this process I’ve become very familiar with the prints in the show and wanted to share one as a first impression and in advance of the opening reception this evening.

Subway

Fritz Eichenberg, American, born in Germany, 1901–1990: Subway (Sleep), 1935; wood engraving. Ackland Art Museum, The Hunter and Cathy Allen Collection, 2013.21.13.

America Seen features 38 prints from the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s by American artists. The majority of the artists represented in the exhibition lived and worked in New York City. They were inspired by the scenes of everyday urban life they witnessed around them and the subway was a popular theme. One of my favorites prints, Subway (Sleep), falls into this category. Although the print depicts a rather unremarkable moment in the daily life of any New York City subway rider, I’m drawn into the composition through Eichenberg’s use of strong contrasts between light and dark, as well as his careful attention to realistic details inside the subway car, such as the straps, signage, and advertisements.

I can empathize with the occupants of this train car, from the weary, young couple at the far end to the child sleeping in her mother’s lap. I have also been on the subway, tired after a long day, and eager to get home. But where are these people going? What were they doing before? Perhaps the proud and poised woman in a stylish hat is headed to a party or to church. Is the man to her left her companion or a stranger? With a souvenir balloon as a clue, I suspect the collapsed child is returning home from a fun day at the park. While it is impossible to know for sure, the artist, Fritz Eichenberg, invites us to look and speculate about the lives of those pictured. Continue reading