I know it sounds crazy, but we decided to visit Omaha.
Which, at least for me, meant visiting the Joslyn Museum,
As you can see,
it's heavy handed design somewhat resembles a mausoleum,
and indeed, it was built in 1931 as a memorial
to businessman George Joslyn by his wife, Sarah.
That's a statue by William Zorach in the foreground,
set into a sculpture garden that was opened three years ago.
As you might notice in this period photo,
there's a sculptural frieze high up on the facade.
It was designed by a young sculptor, John David Brcin (1899-1983).
Understandably, it was the high point of his career.
He also designed a free standing Indian warrior on horseback,
echoing Mestrovic's Bowman and Spearman
done for Chicago in 1928..
Apparently, the architects didn't like it,
and it was only executed to scale 78 years later.
I wish they had waited longer!
But here's a closeup of that Zorach statue,
"Spirit of the Dance" (1932)
I've loved this piece from photographs for many years
but this is the first time I've seen the actual thing.
It's nice all the way around
in that New York heavy-figure school
in which I am, perhaps, the last surviving disciple.
The garden also had a cast
of this great sculpture by Rodin.
But alas, it was cast at least 50 years
after the sculptor's death,
and the contemporary foundry
was not equal to the challenges
presented by Rodin's tempestuous surfaces.
John Singer Sargent
Happily my visit coincided with a special exhibition
of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings
from the Dixon Gallery
Above, is my favorite piece from that exhibit,
apparently a plein-air depiction of Venice from a gondola,
done as Sargent and an artist-friend sat in a boat
and painted each other.
It feels so liquid, cheery, and wonderful !
Here's an early Matisse.
This piece was hung right beside the Matisse
and it was so delightful
to go back and forth between the two.
And I liked this little denizen of the ballet
from the Dixon Gallery.
There's so much grim determination in this poor young woman.
This might not be the best Stuart Davis I've ever seen.
Apparently, he made it in 1932
and then reworked it over the next twenty years.
And it looks it.
But maybe that's appropriate for the title:
disintegrating over time
just like "The Picture of Dorian Gray"
It's especially dear to me
because of the motto scrawled near the left edge:
"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing"
The was my father's
motto...... and it probably applied to his generation
more than any other.
Sir Henry Raeburn
These two English portraits
are my favorite paintings in the Joslyn,
but that may be just because
I know these artists so well
from the museums in Cincinnati.
They project such a strong and gentle
image of femininity.
And the applied paint
is so delicious
when viewed close-up.
They were both done in the 1790's,
and as I learned from the signage,
European painters of that decade,
coinciding with the French Revolution,
were reacting against the posh ornate qualities
of the previous period.
Alfred Jacob Miller, 1838
The Joslyn museum,
like the American West of the early 19th C.,
has more empty space than things to fill it.
So, appropriately enough, management seems to have decided
to specialize in early depictions of Native Americans.
Miller's images are quite romantic,
apparently to suit the taste of his patron.
But Miller and that patron actually traveled throughout the West
back before it was especially
safe or comfortable to do so.
If you've ever camped out in a forest
and been concerned with strange noises in the night,
you can imagine how they must have felt
Obviously, this is a European eye
looking at a non-European subject.
But what other kind of eye
could a European have ?
Edwin Lord Weeks
Here's another adventuresome 19th C. American artist.
This fellow visited the Raj
and recorded some spot on views
of local life.
This is a huge, wall size painting, by the way,
and God knows how Lord Weeks assembled it in 1895
without the aid of color photography.
Thomas Moran, 1899
Looks like J.M.W. Turner, doesn't it ?
I suppose that's the point.
This is quite an homage to the great seascapist.
Maybe just one small step behind him.
Mary Cassatt (1878)
I'm not usually a fan of this painter
who makes me think of Degas
but not as strong.
This little trip into a woman's world
has its own kind of strength, though.
William Merritt Chase (1884)
This is quite a large painting
and reminds me of the ennui
I've felt when traveling in Italy
and waiting for the museums to open.
This small piece might express
this very political artist's frustrations
during the year of the Franco-Prussian War
Gustave Dore (1877)
This quiet, mysterious landscape
seems so out-of-character
for this dramatic artist.
Frank Duvenek (1848-1919)
No date was given for this "portrait of an actor"
who seems to be facing the uncertain world
with which actors (and artists) are familiar.
Makes me think of Frans Hals.
FT Johnson "Homecoming" (1934)
Has the horse returned home without its rider?
I like the dark, evening mood
The early generations of cowboy artists
seem to show more depth
than the giddy-yap bronco bustin contemporaries
I saw last Autumn at the
"August Night at Russell's Corners" 1940
I love this guy!
Apparently, he was a troubled soul
from a wealthy family on the skids
(just like the author of "Dream of Red Chamber")
He liked the dark and lonely places.
I can smell the cool, evening air.
This is exactly the kind of thing
in which small art museums
really good paintings
by less-than-superstar artists.
.... as opposed to problematic paintings
by the iconic big names.
This Titian was recently restored
but that didn't seem to help it much.
It was possibly once a fine painting
While this Veronese Venus
cannot compare with this one
Both of the above paintings,
along with this somnolescent El Greco
were acquired in 1942
possibly in the vain hope
that a great European collection was being broken up
under wartime conditions.
"Grief of the Pasha" (1882)
What a hoot!
The poor Pash's beloved pet has just expired
possibly after gobbling up
an indolent slave.
The beast looks like one of those big stuffed animals
that bankers buy for their children.
Jehan Georges Vibert
"The Grasshopper and the Ant" (1875)
Another humorous piece.
I feel so sorry for that poor, shivering grasshopper!
(while taking comfort in being more like the ant)
Come to think of it,
the above two pieces
are in a rather large gallery
devoted to French academic art of the 19th C.
much of which is humorous
but probably not intentionally so.
"Frogtown Lady" (1939)
Here's another pre-war eccentric American artist
looking at the world around him.
Here, he has discovered a woman
who is stronger than he is.
Jacob Van Es (1630)
This is another one of those Dutch still-lifes
whose wonderful parts
don't quite make a whole
but on the other hand....
looking here at the thumbnail version,
it does have a kind of humorous, jumbled, all-togetherness
Robert Henri (1907)
I've seen several Henri portraits,
Chicago and Omaha both has more than one,
but so far this is my favorite.
It seems to strike an instantaneous mood,
the kind that flickers for a moment
and then is gone.
John Walker, 1983
Moving up to contemporary art,
The Joslyn does have
some joke-art and minimalist art
but I tried not to notice it.
Above is a late AB-X piece
from an British painter
who seems to be thinking about
figures in a landscape.
Keith Jacobshagen, 2006
And here's a local boy
who paints the great Mid-Western flatness
in a style that seems to have come
from abstract painting,
i.e. it's more about paint on a surface
than a window opening onto the world.
He's certainly not the only fellow who paints this way,
this kind of painting is often shown in Chicago galleries.
But he is good at it.
I admire the Joslyn
for showing this kind of contemporary work that
the Art Institute of Chicago studiously avoids.
Finally, we get to the indoor sculpture.
It's always good to see
the powerful forms of
the greatest animalier sculptor
in French, if not world, art history.
And what better time
to depict brute nature
than that century that saw the birth
of social Darwinism.
Might has always made right,
at least for some people,
but finally it was proclaimed without shame.
"Indian Hunter and Pronghorn Antelope" (1917)
I've seen this piece many times
in it's small, original desk-top version.
Apparently a collector liked it so much
he commissioned the artist
to scale it up
and these pieces at the Josyln
are the plasters which would have been sent to the foundry.
Manship gave them to the museum in 1956,
possibly to make them regret
hiring an inferior sculptor
for the Indian themes on the facade
20 years earlier.
By the way,
here's a cast of the small original,
so you can see the changes
as Manship made it larger.
And that's my trip to the Joslyn.
It's not going to continue to be an art destination for me,
like the museums in Kansas City or Minneapolis.
But I'm certainly glad I went.