Museum  April 25, 2019

Cleveland Museum of Art Announces New Acquisitions

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Jacques de Gheyn II (Dutch, 1565–1629), Studies of a Naked Seated Boy, c. 1603. Black and white chalk on antique laid gray-blue paper; sheet: 23.7 x 16.5 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund, 2019.2

CLEVELAND – Significant recent acquisitions by the Cleveland Museum of Art include 17 drawings from the Golden Age of Dutch art; a fine painting by Louis Hayet, a key proponent of neo-impressionism; a contemporary sculpture by American artist Jenny Holzer from her iconic series Laments; and 13 photographs by modern American masters from generous donors Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann.

Seventeen Dutch Drawings

Exceptional works dating between 1600 and 1710, the Golden Age of Dutch art

The purchase of 17 important drawings greatly enhances the CMA’s collection of Netherlandish works on paper and allows the museum more fully to represent the variety of subject matter and styles during this prosperous period in Dutch history. The group of drawings includes natural history scenes, portraiture, genre subjects, figure studies and historical and biblical subjects made in both urban and courtly contexts. Landscape selections strengthen the current collection and include on-site sketches and masterful examples from the height of the landscape school. 

Highlights among the drawings include a figure study by Jacques de Gheyn, a key draftsman from the early 1600s. A young nude male—one of the artist’s frequent models—is drawn from life in various poses. The drawing exemplifies De Gheyn’s astonishing talent through the careful modeling of the youth’s body in two colors of chalk on gray-blue paper. This and a handful of related works by the artist in collections such as the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, are among the earliest known Dutch drawings of posed nude models. A portrait by artist Johannes Thopas is the first Dutch portrait drawing to enter the collection and is among only 60 works known by the artist. Using a combination of lead point and ink, Thopas achieved remarkable tonal subtlety in this image of a well-dressed woman holding a flower in front of an elaborate neoclassical garden. 

The most significant of the four natural history drawings is a watercolor on vellum depicting the metamorphosis of a caterpillar with morning glories by Maria Sibylla Merian, in which the artist demonstrates her unsurpassed skill in miniature painting. Merian was one of the most important entomologists of the 1600s, cultivating hundreds of her own caterpillars so that she could accurately understand their stages of transformation. She demonstrates her skill and knowledge in this portrayal of the life cycle of the magnificent European pink-spotted hawk moth. 

The emergence of the subject matter of everyday life—known as genre—in the Netherlands coincided with the rise of the urban middle class, with whom the style was particularly popular. Three drawings depicting genre scenes add new subject matter to the collection. The most significant is a lively sketch by Gerrit van Honthorst, a Utrecht Caravaggista, which was once part of an album of compositional types that the artist showed to prospective patrons. 

Although the cheerful theme of a man and a woman sharing a song seems innocent, such compositions often had amorous connotations in 17th-century Holland. 

The group of drawings also contains two biblical subjects by Nicolaes Knüpfer and Pieter Fransz. de Grebber, as well as six landscapes including works by Willem van de Velde I and Cornelis van Poelenburch. This acquisition establishes the CMA as a repository for some of the finest examples of Dutch Golden Age drawing in the United States. These works will be featured in a spring 2021 exhibition with an accompanying catalogue highlighting new research on these drawings.

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Louis Hayet (French, 1864–1940), Banks of the Oise at Dawn, 1888. Oil on canvas; 51 x 71 cm.

Louis Hayet, Banks of the Oise at Dawn

One of the artist’s finest paintings and a superb example of neo-impressionism

Louis Hayet painted Banks of the Oise at Dawn (1888) in the radically new style of neo-impressionism, also known as pointillism or divisionism, during the early years of the movement. First developed around 1885–86 by Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro and others, neo-impressionism aimed to bring more order, clarity and luminosity to impressionism by painting in a systematic manner using scientific color theory. The neo-impressionists invented a technique of applying color in small dots or dashes, theorizing that the divided tones would optically unite into a single, powerful hue when viewed at a normal distance. 

Hayet was born and raised in Pontoise, a small town about 25 miles north of Paris along the Oise River. Signs of neo-impressionism are evident in Hayet’s paintings as early as 1886, and his technique was well developed by 1888, the year he painted Banks of the Oise at Dawn. The painting’s surface is covered with a network of small, delicate strokes of color ranging from the complementary contrast of blue and orange in the foreground to the whites, pinks and blues in the sky. 

Hayet was deeply involved in contemporary theoretical debates and researched color theory. He developed a color chart that incorporated gray tones, an original idea for which he received considerable critical praise. He also saw parallels between color harmonies and music, and he used color to evoke a range of emotional moods in his paintings. Scholars consider Banks of the Oise at Dawn an outstanding example of Hayet’s method of combining complementary colors with gray tones. 

This painting enriches the CMA’s overall representation of 19th-century French landscape painting, forming both a complement and an instructive comparison to works by Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh. Banks of the Oise at Dawn is on view in gallery 222, Nancy F. and Joseph P. Keithley Gallery of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art.

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950), Laments: Death came and he looked like . . . , 1989. LED sign, marble; sign: 325.1 x 24.1 x 13.3 cm; sarcophagus: 45.7 x 61 x 137.2 cm.

Jenny Holzer, Laments: Death came and he looked like . . . 

An artwork created in response to the AIDS epidemic from her iconic Laments series

Jenny Holzer is internationally renowned for integrating language and sculpture to address current events. Laments: Death came and he looked like . . . belongs to one of the artist’s most powerful, poignant and iconic sculpture series, Laments. First displayed at Dia:Chelsea in New York in 1989–90, the Laments are based on 13 texts written by Holzer that she has described as “voices of the dead.” The focus on death was a response to the AIDS epidemic, which was rampant at the time. Each text was realized in two forms: as colored light flowing between the ceiling and floor on LED signs and as engravings carved into the tops of sarcophagi made of different types of stone. The CMA’s newly acquired work is one of those pairs.

Initially using printed media to circulate her politically engaged texts, Holzer soon began utilizing LED signs—a technology typically found in advertising—to broadcast her messages, intentionally overlapping art and mass media. As Holzer was exploring the capacities of LED signs in the 1980s, she also turned to the classical tradition of engraved stone, etching her writings into a series of benches and, later, sarcophagi. Laments: Death came and he looked like . . . combines these old and new modes of textual expression. 

Laments: Death came and he looked like . . . is on view in gallery 229C, Toby’s Gallery for Contemporary Art. This work is displayed near Robert Gober’s Untitled (1990) and Felix Gonzales-Torres’ Untitled (March 5th) #2 (1991), which also refer to the impact of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Gober represents a person through a body fragment as a reminder of the lives that were lost, and Gonzales-Torres portrays a couple through a quietly extinguishing pair of lightbulbs. Together Holzer, Gober and Gonzales-Torres form a powerful trio revealing the way the AIDS crisis ushered in new materials and visual metaphors that continue to resonate.

Thirteen Photographs by Modern American Masters

Works gifted by generous longtime patrons Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann

Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann began collecting art in the early 1970s, when fine art photography first became popular. Since then they have assembled what is deemed today as one of the most significant groupings of American pictorialism and modernism—and the transition between the two movements—in private hands. 

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946), The Steerage, 1907. Photogravure; 33.3 x 26.6 cm.

One of the works is Alfred Stieglitz’s own lifelong copy of The Steerage. In this photograph, Stieglitz transformed a scene of impoverished immigrants returning to Europe into a study of shape and form; the image sparked his evolution from a pictorialist into a modernist. Reflecting on his career in 1942, Stieglitz proclaimed the image, shot in 1907, to be an achievement of modern art that anticipated cubism. The print was displayed at the First Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917. This hallmark image in the history of photography is accompanied by an 1892 example of street photography, The Ragpicker, making it the CMA’s earliest work by Stieglitz.

In addition, the gift includes three key modernist images by Edward Weston, as well as other modernist masterworks such as an innovative solarized portrait of Georges Braque by Man Ray (1933) and a luscious early print of Imogen Cunningham’s treasured Magnolia Blossom (Tower of Jewels) (1925).

This gift also contains the museum’s first example of a rare process strongly identified with Edward Curtis: a haunting orotone, in its original frame, of his most popular image, The Vanishing Race (1904). A moody 1910 landscape by Edward Steichen and a nocturnal New York street scene by Karl Struss round out the pictorialist works. Later photographs include Walker Evans’ view of a circus show bill (c. 1930), Weegee’s distorted portrait of Marilyn Monroe (c. 1960) and Richard Avedon’s disarming 1975 portrait of sculptor June Leaf, who is married to photographer Robert Frank.

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