New-York Historical Society Offers New Perspectives On Commemorative Traditions In Two Winter Exhibitions

In Profile: A Look at Silhouettes, Jan. 17 – April 5, 2020

Life Cut Short: Hamilton’s Hair and the Art of Mourning Jewelry, Dec. 20, 2019 – May 10, 2020

This winter, the New-York Historical Society presents an exhibition and a special installation that take a fresh look at traditions of remembrance. The exhibition In Profile: A Look at Silhouettes (January 17 – April 5, 2020) traces the development of the late 18th- and 19th-century art form and how artists are reinventing the silhouette today. The special installation Life Cut Short: Hamilton’s Hair and the Art of Mourning Jewelry (December 20, 2019 – May 10, 2020) displays jewelry featuring human hair that was used as tokens of affection or memorials to lost loved ones.

New-York Historical is taking a deep dive into our expansive collection to explore 19th-century traditions of portraiture and remembrance,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “The art of silhouettes has long been popular, and this exhibition traces both its history and how gifted, contemporary artists are currently revitalizing the art form. Mourning jewelry may have fallen out of fashion, but this installation showcases how it was once the height of elegance.

In Profile: A Look at Silhouettes

Thomas Bluget de Valdenuit (1763–1846) and Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin (1770–1852), Unidentified woman, 1795 Black ink, gouache, graphite on paper laid on thin card. New-York Historical Society, Purchase, The Louis Durr Fund, 1945.344
William Bache (1771–1845), Alexander Hamilton (ca. 1755–1804), ca. 1800. Black ink with touches of white gouache on ivory paper. New-York Historical Society, Z.2459

The art of silhouettes—usually black cut-paper or painted profiles—emerged as a popular form of portraiture in 19th-century America when there were few trained portrait painters. Drawn mostly from New-York Historical’s significant collection by Curator of Drawings Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, In Profile traces the development of this popular art form and explores its contemporary revival through over 150 silhouettes of both famous and everyday people—from a depiction of Alexander Hamilton to full-length silhouettes of the students in a Gramercy Park girls’ school.

Augustin Amant Constant Fidèle Édouart (1789–1861), Philip Milledoler Beekman (1845–1846), 1846. Black prepared paper cut-out with graphite, laid on yellow paper with lithographed background and gray and brown wash. New-York Historical Society, Gift of the Beekman Family Association, 1948.515

The exhibition showcases works by professional practitioners, such as master of the genre Augustin Édouart and Charles Willson Peale (who employed, among others, Moses Williams, an enslaved man who earned his freedom and produced silhouettes at the Peale Museum in Philadelphia). Édouart’s 1846 Philip Milledoler Beekman (1845–1846), which captures a domestic scene of a toddler playing with a jack-in-the-box in a grand drawing room, was created in memory of a child who died when he was just 14 months old.

Unidentified artist, Students and teachers, selections from Miss Haines’s School silhouette series, 1859. Black prepared paper cut-outs laid on beige paper. New-York Historical Society, Z.2611, Z.2613a, Z. 2614a, Z.2617a, Z.2628, Z.2622, Z.2616a, Z.2625b, Z.2637a

Also on display is work from self-trained artists like Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, a gifted paper-cutting artist. Famous for his fairy tales, he also created imaginative, whimsical compositions like Acrobats (ca. 1835–60). Martha Anne Honeywell, a woman born without arms and only three toes, cut profiles for 60 years in America and Europe and managed her successful career. On view are two of her intricate cut-outs of the Lord’s Prayer, one featuring delicate needlework (1845).

Kumi Yamashita (b. 1968), Origami, 2020. Paper, cast light, shadow. Courtesy of the artist. Photo credit: Mitch Ranger

Contemporary featured artists—who are expanding the size, subject matter, and media customarily associated with silhouettes—include Béatrice Coron, who captures the dynamic synergy of New York City; and Kara Walker, who harnesses the silhouette tradition to investigate the legacy of slavery. Coron’s Hi Five! Stories from the Five Boroughs (2019) are hand-cut, eight-foot-long panoramas that capture vignettes from the five boroughs. Walker’s maquette for The Katastwóf Karavan (2017), a public art project created in New Orleans, displays a calliope (steam organ) housed in a horse-drawn wagon, with laser-cut sides that recall cut-paper silhouettes and feature provocative imagery. Also on view is a wall piece by light sculptor Kumi Yamashita, who shapes colored origami papers to cast dramatic shadow portraits of specific individuals.

Kara Walker (b. 1969), Maquette for The “Katastwóf Karavan”, 2017. Painted laser-cut stainless steel. Private collection

Visitors also have the opportunity to “silhouette themselves” as 19th-century practice meets 21st-century technology by projecting their profile onto a screen to create a silhouette that can then be captured by a cell phone camera.

Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795), manufacturer; William Hackwood (ca. 1757–1839), designer. Antislavery medallion mounted as a pin: Am I Not a Man and a Brother?, 1787. Jasperware, metal. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Selma H. Rutenburg, MD, given in memory of Nina & Jack Gray, 2013.21
Continue reading

New-York Historical Society To Inaugurate Audubon’s Birds Of America Focus Gallery This November

Audubon’s Watercolors for The Birds of America and the Corresponding Plates to Rotate Monthly

This fall, the New-York Historical Society will welcome visitors to Audubon’s Birds of America Gallery, an intimate new gallery celebrating the Museum’s holdings of work by legendary artist John James Audubon, the world’s largest collection of Auduboniana. Each month a different watercolor model for The Birds of America will be displayed, paired with its corresponding plate from the double-elephant-folio series engraved by Robert Havell Jr. On November 10, just in time for Thanksgiving, the Wild Turkey will inaugurate the space. It will be the first time since 1827 that Audubon’s watercolor model, the engraved copper plate, and a print of plate 1 from The Birds of America will be reunited. The gallery—offering the only opportunity to see Audubon’s original watercolors with their related prints—is curated by Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, curator of drawings.

1 WildTurkey_1863_17_001

John James Audubon (1785–1851), Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), Study for Havell pl. 1, ca. 1825. Watercolor, black ink, graphite, pastel, collage, and gouache with touches of metallic pigment and selective glazing on paper, laid on card; 39 7/16 x 26 3/8 in. (100.2 x 67 cm). Purchased for the New-York Historical Society by public subscription from Mrs. John J. Audubon, 1863.17.1

In a stroke of marketing genius,” Olson noted, “Audubon organized his magnum opus not by taxonomy, which was traditional, but according to his aesthetic judgment and which watercolors were ready for engraving. He believed this organic order resembled that of nature. It was also far more interesting for his subscribers, who received their prints in fascicles (groups) of five prints each—usually one large, one medium, and three small, all on double-elephant-folio paper.

2 WildTurkey_Copperplate AMNH

William H. Lizars (1788–1859), retouched by Robert Havell Jr. (1793–1878), after John James Audubon (1785–1851). Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), engraved copper plate for plate 1 of The Birds of America. Copper. Copper; 39 3/8 x 26 3/8 in. (100 x 67 cm). American Museum of Natural History Library, New York, Gift of Cleveland E. Dodge

The inaugural centerpiece will be the season-appropriate Wild Turkey: Audubon’s watercolor, together with the engraving and the copper plate on loan from the American Museum of Natural History. Audubon, who agreed with Benjamin Franklin that the turkey should have been selected as America’s national symbol, assigned it the place of honor as the first plate of The Birds of America. “The Gobbler” became his most famous image, and he used it for his visiting card and his seal—engraved with the motto “AMERICA MY COUNTRY.” For the initial exhibition, Audubon’s watercolor of the female turkey with her poults (chicks) joins the flock. Following the Wild Turkey, visitors can expect to see Audubon’s birds in the order that they were engraved, starting with the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Continue reading

Thirteen’s American Masters Celebrates 30 Years of Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking in 2016

Thirteen‘s American Masters has announced the preliminary lineup for its 30th anniversary season on PBS featuring Mike Nichols, B.B. King, Carole King, Fats Domino, Loretta Lynn, Janis Joplin, The Highwaymen, Norman Lear and Maya Angelou. American Masters, THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, celebrates our arts and culture. Awards include 70 Emmy nominations and 28 awards — 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabody Awards; three Grammys; an Oscar; two Producers Guild Awards for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television; and the 2012 IDA Award for Best Continuing Series.

"American Masters," THIRTEEN's award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America's most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation's landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

“American Masters,” THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation’s landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

Launched in 1986, the series is the gold standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim. This prolific series has produced an exceptional library*, bringing unique originality and perspective to illuminate the creative journeys of our most enduring writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, dramatists, filmmakers and those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Balancing a broad and diverse cast of characters and artistic approaches, while preserving historical authenticity and intellectual integrity, these portraits reveal the style and substance of each subject.AboutSeries

The series’ individually crafted films reflect the specific attention deserved by American Masters subjects, including such great talents as Arthur Miller (the series’ first subject), Georgia O’Keeffe, James Baldwin, Diego Rivera, Martha Graham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I.M. Pei, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, John James Audubon, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Johnny Carson, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Einstein, Rod Serling, Bill T. Jones, Lucille Ball, Paul Simon, Richard Avedon, John Cassavetes, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Gehry, Woody Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Curtis, Julia Child, Walter Cronkite, Woody Allen, and Billie Jean King, as well as influential cultural institutions and eras such as the Actor’s Studio, the Algonquin Round Table, the Negro Ensemble Company, the Juilliard School, 60 Minutes, the Joffrey Ballet, and a century of Chinese American cinematic history in Hollywood Chinese.

Fascinating in their individuality as well as in the whole, American Masters has become a cultural legacy in its own right, producing and presenting the extraordinary mosaic of our creative heritage and broadening viewer appreciation of our nation’s traditions and character. An artist’s work can capture, reflect and even shape a society’s experience. Without art, we would lack an identity, a soul and a voice. American Masters exists to give life to that voice.

For this celebratory 30th anniversary season, the offerings are no less fascinating. The season opens with Mike Nichols and concludes with Maya Angelou. How can it get any better than that?

Mike Nichols: American MastersMike-Nichols_end-frame_KEY-ART-FINAL

Season 30 premiere: Friday, January 29 at 9 p.m. Meet one of America’s late, great directors Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Angels in America), who discusses his life and 50-year artistic career, from the comedy duo Nichols and May to his final film, Charlie Wilson’s War. Winner of an Oscar, a Grammy, four Emmys, nine Tonys, three BAFTAs and many other awards, director, actor, writer, producer and comedian Mike Nichols (November 6, 1931 – November 19, 2014) was an artistic trailblazer. As the legendary comedy duo Nichols and May, Nichols and his partner Elaine May revolutionized comedy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Now, May has directed the first documentary about her former partner, Mike Nichols: American Masters, premiering Friday, January 29, 2016, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) to launch the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series.

With charm and wit, Nichols discusses his life and 50-year career as a performer and director. Mike Nichols: American Masters features new interviews with his friends and colleagues, including Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Paul Simon, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Bob Balaban, Tony Kushner, Neil Simon, Frank Langella, James L. Brooks and many others, conducted by film, TV and theater producer Julian Schlossberg (Bullets Over Broadway, American Masters — Nichols & May: Take Two, American Masters: The Lives of Lillian Hellman). Schlossberg also conducted an exclusive interview with Nichols for the film. The documentary features insights and highlights from Nichols’ acclaimed films, including The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Catch 22, Silkwood, Biloxi Blues, Working Girl, Angels In America and Charlie Wilson’s War, as well as his theatrical productions Barefoot in the Park, Luv and The Odd Couple. Directed by Elaine May. Produced by Julian Schlossberg.

American Masters: B.B. King: The Life of Riley

Photo Credit: B.B. King performs on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

Photo Credit: B.B. King performs on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

Friday, February 12 at 9 p.m. in honor of Black History Month. Explore B.B. King’s challenging life and career through candid interviews with the “King of the Blues” filmed shortly before his death and fellow music stars, including Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Ringo Starr, and more.

American Masters — Carole King: Natural Woman

Carole King. Photo: Joseph Sinnott / ©2015 THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC. All rights reserved.

Carole King. Photo: Joseph Sinnott / ©2015 THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 19 at 9 p.m. Delve into the hit singer-songwriter’s life and career from 1960s New York to the music mecca of 70s LA to the present. Carole King joins collaborators and family in new interviews, while rare home movies, performances and photos complete the tapestry. The year 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of King’s landmark, four-time Grammy-winning album Tapestry, which was released February 10, 1971.

American Masters: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Singer-songwriter Fats Domino (b. Feb. 26, 1928), 1970. Photo: Getty Images.

Singer-songwriter Fats Domino (b. Feb. 26, 1928), 1970. Photo: Getty Images.

Friday, February 26 at 10 p.m. in honor of Black History Month and Fats Domino’s birthday. Discover how Fats Domino’s brand of New Orleans rhythm and blues became rock ‘n’ roll. As popular in the 1950s as Elvis Presley, Domino suffered degradations in the pre-Civil Rights South and aided integration through his influential music.

American Masters — Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl

Loretta Lynn. Photo: David McClister

Loretta Lynn. Photo: David McClister

Friday, March 4 at 9 p.m. in honor of Women’s History Month. Explore the country legend’s hard-fought road to stardom. From her Appalachian roots to the Oscar-winning biopic of her life, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn struggled to balance family and her music career and is still going strong after more than 50 years. The documentary premieres the same day Lynn’s first new studio album in over 10 years, Full Circle (Legacy Recordings), is released. Continue reading