When Photography Became Art: Pictorialism

Today I would like to consider two photographs by American photographers, The Red Man by Gertrude Käsebier and Ziletta by F. Holland Day. The two images are remarkably similar, presenting close-up, cropped depictions of the human face. Both photos, reproduced

Robert Henri, William Merritt Chase, and Artistic Rivalry

The art world is no stranger to controversy. Recently, a number of major museums on both sides of the Atlantic have decided to postpone a major retrospective of the work of the American painter Philip Guston, citing the necessity for

Joseph Cornell, Earl Cunningham, and Collecting

In my research into the CFAM American collection, I have been moving more-or-less alphabetically by century, with occasional detours to consider specific objects and themes that interest me. That means my day-to-day experience is somewhat eclectic, jumping around in terms

A Minor Jacob Lawrence Mystery Solved

Back in June, I wrote about Jacob Lawrence’s silkscreen practice, relating it to his long-running immersion in Black life and history. At the time, I wanted to write about the other work by Lawrence in the collection, Harlem Scene (The

Oil Sketches at CFAM

In July you may have seen me deliver a Collections Conversations talk on one of my favorite objects in the collection, Shoshone Indians Rocky Mountains, an 1859 oil sketch by the American painter Albert Bierstadt. In it, I talked about

Jean Charlot and the Joy of Discovery

As I have written this blog, I have tended to highlight recent scholarship that sheds new light on artists on the collection, or on interesting connections between and among artists and works. Sometimes, however, I find myself simply stopping to

Blackness and Abstraction, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the African American abstract painter Sam Gilliam and his sometimes uneasy relationship with the artistic style of Black activists in the 1960s and 1970s. This week, I ran into some of the same

Connoisseurship, Part 2: Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

In the very first entry in this blog series I wrote about connoisseurship, one of the processes art historians use to help determine which works of art are by which artists. I was reminded of that post this morning, as

Sam Gilliam and Blackness

Sam Gilliam has long been one of the foremost American abstract painters, as well as one of the most successful African American artists. He was the first Black artist to represent the United States in the Venice Biennale in 1972.1

On the Direct Encounter with the Work of Art

I live in a smallish college town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, far from the bustling museum and gallery scenes of New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., three places I have lived over the years. Still, D.C. is about four