Archive for the 'Face Lift: Caption This!' Category

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Eight: Character Study

Halloween is just around the corner. These works of art capture the theme of costume and disguise. Ghosts and gobblins may abound this holiday, but these creative characters—Ichikawa Danjuro VI as Arakawa Taro and the ghoulish mask design by Edward Jennings—should inspire you to think (or dress) outside the box. Give us some candy—Caption This!

Thanks to all who have participated in our contest! Week Eight will be your last opportunity to win free admission to the Gibbes and a chance at a facial from The Spa at Charleston Place.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective

Performance and role-playing has been explored through portraiture since the fifteenth century. Here, Toshusai Sharaku captures Japanese kabuki theater actor, Ichikawa Danjuro VI, playing the dramatic role of Arakawa Taro. Danjuro was one of the chief actors among the most famous kabuki acting clans. He was seventeen at the time of this portrait. Much like Hollywood actors in America today, famous theater actors in Japan were idolized by the people, and portraits of the actors in character sold by the thousands.

Centuries later, artist and stage designer, Edward Jennings, used his theatrical portrait designs for a more personal purpose. From his paintings he created wire and papier-mâché masks to portray dramatic characters. His designs exemplify the intense subjects he produced. Jennings was born with a severe speech impediment and it was from behind these masks that he was able to reveal his dramatic personality. He is known to have performed interpretive dances for groups of friends crowned with his creations.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Seven: The TaTa Sisterhood

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, we propose this pair of nudes from our Face Lift exhibition: on the left, Iaida, by Isabel Cohen Doud and on the right, Nude Woman and Vase of Flowers: Miss Thompson, by Clarence H. White. Although captured in different media and settings, both portraits express the beauty of the female figure. Caption This! (and keep it clean!)

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective
The female figure has remained a constant feature in modern and contemporary art. Here, early twentieth century artists, Clarence H. White, and Isabel Cohen Doud, explore the female nude in their chosen mediums.

Clarence H. White burst on the national scene in the late 1890s, in the first wave of modernist art photography. After opening his own school of photography in New York in 1914, he became one of the most influential photography teachers of the twentieth century. His students included Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Paul Outerbridge, and Karl Stuss. White’s simple subjects, captured in old fashioned, decorative interiors, were transformed into photographic art using only natural light.

Isabel Cohen Doud, daughter of prominent attorney Asher Cohen, grew up in Charleston and attended the College of Charleston. She studied drawing and painting under the tutelage of several French teachers and focused primarily on figure studies and outdoor venues. Doud attended the Art Students League of New York and later moved to Rome to study portrait and figure work. While in Rome, she married fellow painter, Gorda Doud. The couple traveled and painted extensively in Rome, Canada, and New York.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Six: I Spy

In these self portraits, the artists turn the tables and become their own subjects. Let the unusual and somewhat comedic compositions inspire you to “Caption This!”

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective

Like all portraiture, self-portraiture serves many purposes, from advertisements for an artist’s skill to experimentation with new techniques and new mediums. Most of all self-portraiture provides artists a unique opportunity for introspection and self-exploration.

Renowned twentieth-century lithographer Prentiss Taylor created this self-portrait in 1949 as a requirement for admission into the National Academy of Design. The four intertwining faces capture Taylor’s concern with artistic perspective as well as his fascination with the human mind. He was deeply interested in the connection between art and psychiatry, and published the article, “Art as Psychotherapy,” in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1950. In this image, Taylor chose to portray himself from various physical profiles, each one characterizing a different introspective mood.

Legendary photographer for Life magazine, Alfred Eisenstaedt is probably best known for his iconic image VJ Day, The Kiss. Eisenstaedt worked almost entirely with miniature cameras and is known for his use of the fast lens technique and exclusive use of natural light. His ability to capture candid moments in history is revered and he often explained, “I just kept motionless like a statue. For the kind of photography I do, one has to be very unobtrusive and to blend in with the crowd.” In his self-portrait, Eisenstaedt catches himself in the act of his own work. He poses inconspicuously as if he himself is being photographed candidly. Surrounded by steel trashcans, he crouches in a corner, holding one of his miniature cameras to his eye, waiting for action.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Five: Me and My Shadow

Week Five’s comparison shows two very different styles of portraiture, but the juxtaposition of the images makes it appear that there’s a conversation going on. Tell us what you think Otto Neumann’s figure might be saying to Marguerite Miller’s portrait of Jane Allen.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective

During the early twentieth century, the movement toward the modernist ethos of total abstraction and non-objectivity caused portraiture to fall out of favor with many artists. Though fewer artists were exclusively portraitists in the traditional sense, many turned to portraiture at some point in their career including moderns like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. The experience in making portraits played a key role in rethinking issues surrounding representation and artistic interpretation that challenged artists of the avant-garde.

German artist, Otto Neumann, is an example of an artist whose experience with portraiture influenced his later styles. Dedicated to the human form, Neumann’s career reflects a number of distinct, highly articulate styles and techniques. His work ranges from masterful expressionist linocuts to pencil drawings of grotesques, painted portraits, and an extensive series of figurative and abstract monotypes like the one seen here.

In contrast, Charleston artist, Marguerite Miller was best known as a portrait painter. She worked from her studio at the Gibbes Museum of Art in the 1920s and early 1930s and her paintings were featured in exhibitions throughout the Southeast. Her portrait of Jane Allen in both form and pose makes an interesting comparison to the abstracted and anonymous human figure depicted by Neumann.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Four: There was a Little Girl…

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882)

Let your inner-child come out and suggest a caption for this interesting juxtaposition.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective
In portraiture, the relationship between painter and subject can dramatically alter the feel of the painting. Consequently, painting a live model versus painting from a recreated image generates a different pictorial awareness. Charleston artist and writer Mary Whyte says of painting from life, “Everything an artist creates is done in a solitary way except when painting another human being. Then there are two people involved. One who changes the model forever, and one who forever changes the artist.”

Whyte is known for her distinctive portraits. In Artist she depicts a young girl who has completed a drawing of a cat upon an already graffiti-covered wall. As the audience, we have never seen this girl before, however Whyte’s balance of loosely expressive watercolor brushwork and controlled details express a personal familiarity with her subject. The contrasts in brushwork and tonalities—the white of the dress and walls versus the black of her hair and graffiti—ultimately harmonize in a way that enables the viewer to connect to the work of art.

Miss Percy Ferguson, another young girl in a white sundress, is a seemingly similar subject, yet her portrait by William Aiken Walker is devoid of the soulfulness so palpable in Whyte’s portrait. There is no doubt of Walker’s skill in this painting however: the details of the background and dress are meticulously rendered and colored with a sophisticated attention to light effects and texture. Walker, an itinerant painter, often traveled along the Mississippi River. On one of these trips he met General Samuel Wragg Ferguson, a Civil War veteran, plantation owner, and the father of Miss Percy. Walker was commissioned to paint this portrait of Ferguson’s daughter, but given the stiffness of her pose and mask-like face, it is probable that Walker worked not from life but rather from a photograph. Though the landscape is beautifully handled, Miss Ferguson’s face lacks the animation and spirit present in Artist.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Three: Charles and Louis Manigault—Father and Son

This week’s portraits depict a nineteenth-century father and son duo. Charles Izard Manigault and his son Louis Manigault shared an appreciation for art, but chose to explore their interests along different avenues. Parent-child conversations can be full of admiration or tinged with irony. What do you think these two would say to one another (or would be in a bubble overhead)?

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective
In this father and son pairing, the two half-length bodies of the Manigault men are posed to compositionally mirror one another. However, the personality of Louis was hardly a reflection of that of his father Charles Izard, and this discrepancy is represented stylistically in each artist’s handling of his subject.

Though born in Charleston, Charles Manigault traveled to the Far East at an early age and loved the adventure of travel. After making his fortune as a rice planter, he was financially able to continue his excursions abroad. Perhaps his time in Europe fostered his appreciation of art, for Manigault became one of America’s more noteworthy early art collectors. His extensive collection was nationally renowned and garnered him a reputation as an arbiter of taste. Sully’s realistic yet romantic style of painting seems to capture the ambition and confidence befitting such a connoisseur. He completed this portrait just before Manigault embarked on another voyage, and the stormy clouds and sea in the background suggest this setting.

Though the younger Manigault is also depicted at sea, the setting is much more controlled and linear, a style appropriate for both Samuel Stillman Osgood’s artistic training and Louis Manigault’s personality. Osgood left his native Boston in the late 1830s to study painting at London’s Royal Academy of Painting, known for its highly formalized and technical teaching methods. A similar structure predominated Louis’s life: though Louis also traveled extensively, he seemed to lack some of his father’s zeal for adventure. His personality was described in his obituary as “reserved, quiet and unassuming,” which provides an interesting contrast to Charles’s idealism.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Two: Jimmie Daniels—Double Vision

These two portraits of performer Jimmie Daniels are the second set in our Face Lift: Caption This! contest. How do these two portraits—the photograph by George Platt Lynes and the bronze sculpture by Richmond Barthé—convey different aspects of Mr. Daniels’ persona? Imagine the dashing young man in Paris and Harlem. Let your creativity flow and suggest a caption for this double image of the entertainer.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective

Though artists often create portraits with paint, these two works depicting American singer and entertainer Jimmie Daniels (1910 – 1984) employ different media.  In addition to an artist’s technical ability, qualities inherent to the materials also contribute to the efficacy and suggestive power of a portrait.

Jimmie Daniels was a performer and fashionable master of ceremonies in Paris before opening his own supper club in Harlem in the 1930s.  His was a popular stop on the circuit of raucous New York nightlife. Known as a handsome and dashing character, several artists chose to portray Daniels in their work. Harlem Renaissance artist, Richmond Barthé, studied both painting and sculpture, but turned almost exclusively to bronze works after 1927. Barthé chose Daniels as his subject on more than one occasion stating that he found the performer’s smile particularly engaging. As a portraitist, Barthé was considered among the best in New York, his masterful control of his medium enabled him to capture not only the details of Daniels’s facial features, but also the essence of his spirit.

In contrast to Barthé’s straightforward presentation of his subject, photographer George Platt Lynes portrays Daniels from the side, with his head in his hands and surrounded by several shadowed hands in the background. This portrait of Daniels seems to accentuate his theatrical nature. The lighting gracefully captures the smooth planes and contours of Daniels’s body and face.  Though many of his portraits were for commercial use in publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Lynes often incorporated elements of Surrealism or homo-eroticism into his work, especially in his portraits of entertainers.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week One: Ms. Johnson and Colonel Elliott

Ms. Johnson (Estelle) and Colonel Barnard Elliott, Jr.

In conjunction with our Face Lift exhibition, we are launching a caption writing contest and we need your participation! Each week of the exhibition, curator Sara Arnold will present a set of images—as paired in the gallery—and we invite you to submit a clever comment on our blog that expresses your own interpretation of the comparison. The author of our favorite caption each week will receive a free admission pass to the Gibbes. At the end of the campaign, all winning captions will be entered in a drawing for a facial from The Spa at Charleston Place.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Week One: Ms. Johnson (Estelle), 1972, by Barkley Hendricks (American, b. 1945) and Colonel Barnard Elliott, Jr., ca. 1766, by Jeremiah Theus (Swiss/American, 1716–1744). What do you think these two would say to one another at a cocktail party? Or if they met on the street today? Join in the fun and submit your caption by adding a comment below.

Curatorial Perspective

Pose and costume are key indicators of the sitter’s status and identity in portraiture. Analyzing these subtle details of dress and comportment can yield an even more complex reading of the painting and the message that the artist is trying to express in its execution. While the style of dress differs dramatically in these two works, similarities in the subjects’ poses show a similar strength of self-awareness in differing social and cultural climates.

Of Swiss birth, Jeremiah Theus arrived in Charleston in 1735 where he became a preeminent early painter in terms of both productivity and reputation. Known for his portraits of prosperous Charleston families, Theus worked in the limner tradition which emphasized the flat, linear, and above all decorative qualities of the subject. In this portrait of Colonel Barnard Elliott, every detail of the costume’s fabric and texture is exquisitely rendered. Viewed in conjunction with the background of the Classical columns and his assertive pose, Elliott’s costume serves as a declaration of his wealth and prominence in the community. Elliott was a member of the First Provincial Congress of South Carolina, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the American Revolution, as well as a successful owner of rice plantations.

Though Ms. Johnson does not appear to share the prosperity enjoyed by Colonel Elliott, her dress and pose also convey a message. This portrait is part of Hendricks’s “limited palette series” executed after a trip to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. So taken by these artists’ use of draped clothing to reveal solidity of form and the volumes of the body, Hendricks translated these lessons into a contemporary style of painting. Ms. Johnson is set against a solid color, and her closely fitted, black outfit serves to boldly delineate her form against the flat background. From a cultural standpoint, this painting also makes a bold statement about the racial, cultural, and economic divides in America. Painted in the 1970s, Ms. Johnson’s confident pose exudes a challenge to the status quo and is an assertion of minority presence, whereas the pose of Colonel Elliot reinforces the dominance of the white landed gentry.