Archive for the 'Artist Spotlight' Category

Artist Spotlight: Mark Catesby (1683–1749)

In conjunction with the 300th anniversary of Mark Catesby’s first voyage to the New World, the Gibbes is hosting a special exhibition of Catesby’s prints and two rare bound volumes of his work. This British-born artist, scientist, and explorer, set sail for the American Colonies for the first time in 1712. During his seven year stay, Catesby began studies of the natural world that would occupy the rest of his life. He traveled through parts of the Appalachian Mountains and to Jamaica collecting botanical samples and making sketches of American flora and fauna. His discoveries impressed the scientists of his day and after Catesby returned to England in 1719, London’s Royal Society—then led by Sir Isaac Newton—reviewed his findings and raised funds for Catesby to return to the Colonies for further study.

Catesby made his second voyage to British North America in 1722. This time, his port of arrival was Charleston. This four year sojourn, which allowed Catesby to explore and document the natural habitats of the Carolinas, Florida, and the Bahamas, ultimately resulted in the first major work on New World botanical and animal life, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. Catesby personally translated his original watercolor paintings into the 220 engraving plates of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and mammals that illustrate his monumental, two-volume study—a process that took him nearly twenty years. Accompanying the plates, are Catesby’s descriptions of the plants and animals as well as the soils, climate, agriculture, and Native Americans that he observed during his journeys.

Though Catesby considered himself a scientist first and an artist second, his lively depictions of animal and plant life are considered masterful works of art and his meticulous observations served as the foundation for the work of other significant scientists and artists including Carl Linnaeus and John James Audubon.

This special exhibition featuring rarely seen works from both private and public collections will be on view until January 30, 2013.

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Artist Spotlight: Prentiss Taylor

Experience Meeting, Macedonia A.M.E., 1934, by Prentiss Taylor
Experience Meeting, Macedonia A.M.E., 1934

This summer a small exhibition of works by the fascinating American Scene lithographer, Prentiss Taylor, will be featured in Gallery H at the Gibbes. Born in Washington, D.C., Prentiss Taylor (1907–1991) began his art studies at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, followed by painting classes under Charles Hawthorne in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and training at the Art Students League in New York. In 1931, Taylor joined a lithography class at the League and quickly discovered great satisfaction working in this graphic medium, later recalling, “with the first magic feeling of the crayon on the fine grain of the stone, I knew that I was at home in lithography.”* He produced 142 lithographs over the course of his career.

Carpet Bagger's Grandeur, Sullivan's Island, 1937, by Prentiss Taylor
Carpet Bagger’s Grandeur, Sullivan’s Island, 1937

In addition to his interest in the visual arts, Taylor interacted and collaborated with many writers and musicians. His time in New York during the late 1920s and early 1930s coincided with the emergence of the Harlem Renaissance and Taylor was one of a few white artists active in this literary and artistic movement. Among his close friends and collaborators during this period were photographer and writer Carl Van Vecthen, and poet Langston Hughes.

Charleston Battery, 1934, by Prentiss Taylor   Prentiss Taylor, 1933, by Carl Van Vecthen
Charleston Battery, 1934                                     Prentiss Taylor, 1933, by Carl Van Vecthen

At age twenty, Taylor met Charleston novelist, Josephine Pinckney, at the MacDowell artists’ colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Their ensuing friendship prompted Taylor to visit Charleston in 1933; “I arrived on the Clyde-Mallory Line Steamer about the end of May 1933…I was lent the Pink House on Chalmers Street & I was able to stay until Labor Day. I spent most of my time sketching, up one side of the street & down the other.” Taylor returned to the city in 1934 under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) a predecessor to the Work Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. He executed numerous prints and several watercolors of Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry—some for the PWAP and some for himself. He maintained close ties to the city for the remainder of his life.

This exhibition featuring several of Taylors lithographs and watercolors of Charleston will be on view until September 1, 2012.

Sara Arnold, curator of collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

*Prentiss Taylor to Gwen Davis, June 1, 1981, Artists Files, Prentiss Taylor, Gibbes Museum of Art.

Mary Whyte: Working South

By now you have probably heard about our current Main Gallery exhibition, Mary Whyte: Working South. The exhibition has been written up in magazines, newspapers, online newsletters, and even has a billboard on I-26. And if you have seen the exhibition, you know that all of the attention is merited. Working South includes fifty watercolor paintings and sketches that depict blue-collar workers across the American South. The portraits are astonishingly beautiful, capturing weathered hands and timeworn faces with incredible detail and sensitivity.

As our curatorial team unpacked the paintings for installation, I knew the works would be beautiful, but was overwhelmed to see them in person. The scale, the color, the sharp detail contrasted with delicate washes—I couldn’t stop staring at the paintings. And the works are made all the more stunning by the exquisite frames, handcrafted by Whyte’s husband and master gilder, Smith Coleman. Each frame is unique to the painting, picking up on a subtle nuance of the work. The frame surrounding a portrait of a tobacco farmer has the rough hewn feel of an old barn, and the frame for a portrait of a waterman is embedded with fishing net, layered with silver leaf. This exhibition has so many wonderful details to absorb, down to Whyte’s sketchbook, brushes, and palette used to create the paintings.

Frame detail

Handcrafted by Whyte’s husband and master gilder, Smith Coleman, the frame for a portrait of a waterman is embedded with fishing net, layered with silver leaf.

So if you haven’t been to the Gibbes in a few weeks, make sure you get here before Working South closes on September 9. Join us on July 8 for Working South Sunday, when the museum will be open free of charge from 1 to 5pm. And you never know, you may see the artist herself wandering through the gallery!

Pam Wall, curator of exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Seven Reasons to See The Art of Alfred Hutty: Woodstock to Charleston (January 20 – April 22, 2012)

As an intern reporting to Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, I spent the fall at the Gibbes adapting text from the book The Life and Art of Alfred Hutty: Woodstock to Charleston for the exhibit The Art of Alfred Hutty: Woodstock in Charleston. Below are my seven reasons this show is one not to miss:

1. Numbers don’t lie! A banner number—over 400—Gibbes members who came out for the opening of the retrospective cannot be wrong…

2. Alfred Hutty was a foremost figure of the Charleston Renaissance. In the second quarter of the twentieth century, a period with more than it’s share of cataclysmic activity around the world, the Holy City was a hotbed of artistic activity, both home-grown and migrant.

Jenkins Band (no. 2), by Alfred Hutty

Jenkins Band (no. 2), ca. 1933, by Alfred Hutty. Drypoint on paper, 10.5 x 9.75 in. Gibbes Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Alfred Hutty (1955.07.24)

3. Yet, Hutty is UNLIKE many Charleston Renaissance artists. Non-native Alfred Hutty (American, 1877–1954) drew attention to scenes and subjects that his local contemporaries did not. One such subject… the Jenkins Orphanage Band.

4. Hutty was prolific! In his lifetime Hutty produced over 230 works in print, and countless watercolors and oil paintings.

5. The artist’s technical acuity won him high acclaim. Hutty co-founded the Charleston Etcher’s Club and was the first American inducted into the prestigious British Society of the Graphic Arts, amongst other high praise.

Day's End (also known as Close of Day), by Alfred Hutty

Day

6. Genius use of tonality. “Day’s End,” with its exemplary use of dark and light is a must see painting.

7. Scale and Reach of the works on view. This is the largest show of the work of Alfred Hutty that has ever been mounted. This show will travel beyond the Lowcountry to Greenville County Museum of Art (May 15–July 15, 2012) and the Morris Museum of Art (August 4–October 28, 2012).

Susan Kridler, Gibbes Museum Intern and guest blogger

See more works by Alfred Hutty in the Gibbes Collection by visiting our online collection database.

Jill Hooper: Contemporary Realist

Portraits have always played a significant role in the art of Charleston, and the Gibbes collection. The very first work of art accessioned into the collection was a portrait of Benjamin Smith by Jeremiah Theus, an important artist working during the mid eighteenth century. Fast forward some 250 years, and the portrait tradition remains very much alive in Charleston, thanks in part to another artist in our collection, Jill Hooper.

This winter, the Gibbes is showcasing Hooper’s extraordinary talent with the solo exhibition Jill Hooper: Contemporary Realist. On view in the Rotunda through April 22, the show includes landscape and still-life paintings, but primarily focuses on portraiture. Each likeness is beautifully painted, and conveys powerful emotion. A number of the paintings are paired with preparatory drawings that reveal Hooper’s working process, and her mastery of charcoal. The drawings are simply breathtaking. Another highlight is the group of five self-portraits included in the exhibition. Painted over a span of eleven years, they shed light on her development as an artist and tackle her own struggles and insecurities. Hooper’s work is honest and full of life and beautifully expresses what it means to be human.

If you want to learn more about Hooper’s work, please join me for a tour of the exhibition on February 16 or March 15 at 2:30pm.

Pam Wall, curator of exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Artist Spotlight: Corrie McCallum (American, 1914–2009)

Our current exhibition, Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art, features over 30 groundbreaking women artists, each with their own compelling story and artistic vision. Included among this group is Charleston’s own Corrie McCallum. Throughout her long and productive career, McCallum was a fixture in the Charleston art community. As a result, the Gibbes collection includes many of her works, a selection of which are featured above.

McCallum was born in Sumter, South Carolina in 1914. She attended the University of South Carolina and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Following an extended period of study in Mexico with her husband, fellow artist William Halsey (American, 1915–1999), McCallum and her family settled in Charleston in 1942. Though she chose to live in Charleston, McCallum stayed current with the New York art scene. She followed the development of Abstract Expressionism and incorporated the style into her work, as demonstrated by paintings such as View of Toledo and Boats of Nazare that feature gestural brushwork and reduction of forms.

Under the guidance of Corrie McCallum, the Gibbes created and conducted the first comprehensive art appreciation program for Charleston County public school students.

Under the guidance of Corrie McCallum, the Gibbes created and conducted the first comprehensive art appreciation program for Charleston County public school students.

In addition to her vast body of work, McCallum made significant contributions to the Charleston art community as an educator. She held education positions at several institutions, including the Telfair Museum of Art, Gibbes Museum of Art, College of Charleston, and Newberry College, and throughout her life remained an outspoken advocate for the visual arts.

McCallum’s painting View of Toledo will remain on view in Breaking Down Barriers through January 8, 2012—don’t miss this great exhibition! Have you already seen Breaking Down Barriers? Leave a comment here to share your experience with us.

Pam Wall, curator of exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Artist Spotlight: Margaret Bourke-White

Piston Rods, ca. 1927, by Margaret Bourke-White

Since Margaret Bourke-White’s iconic images will be featured in both of the Gibbes’ upcoming exhibitions—Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art and Camera Works: Masters in Photography—we thought her groundbreaking career worthy of the spotlight!

Margaret Bourke-White studied photography at Columbia University under renowned photographer Clarence H. White. She opened her own studio in Cleveland in the 1920s and found early artistic success creating images in factories and other industrial environments. She was conscious of modernist compositional techniques, and had a unique ability to find beauty in the raw materials associated with machinery—as is exemplified in her 1927 image, Piston Rods. However, from the outset of her career, Bourke-White was interested in using photography to examine social issues and she quickly broke into the male-dominated field of photojournalism.

She was a woman of many firsts. In 1929, Bourke-White was hired as the first staff photographer for Fortune magazine. She was also one of the first of four photojournalist hired by Life magazine and one of her photographs appeared on the magazine’s first cover in 1936. Bourke-White traveled throughout the world and was the first-ever Western photographer allowed in the Soviet Union. She photographed some of the twentieth century’s most notable moments, including the liberation of German concentration camps in 1945, and the release of Mahatma Gandhi from prison in 1946.

Two Old Women, 1937, By Margaret Bourke-White

Bourke-White traveled through the American south in the 1930s. Like many of the famed photographers of the era—such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Peter Sekaer—she worked to capture the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Many of her images from this experience were included in the publication, You Have Seen Their Faces, a collaborative project with her future husband, author Erskine Caldwell.

Sara Arnold, curator of collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Breaking Down Barrier: 300 Years of Women in Art and Camera Works: Masters in Photography both open on October 28, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Sam Doyle (American, 1906–1985)

The Gibbes has an amazing collection of 10,000 objects. With so many objects and only so much gallery space, at any given time, the vast majority of our collection remains safely tucked away in storage. But that doesn’t mean we can’t share it online! This post is one in what will be a series of artist spotlights, highlighting a variety of treasures from the Gibbes collection.

In honor of this summer’s focus on vernacular art (see my last post from July), I have chosen to spotlight South Carolina artist Sam Doyle (1906–1985). Doyle was an African-American vernacular artist from St. Helena Island, near Beaufort, and he found artistic inspiration within his community. Settled by the descendants of African American slaves after the Civil War, the residents of St. Helena Island remained largely secluded from the mainland through the mid-twentieth century. This isolation allowed residents to preserve many of the folk traditions rooted in their African heritage. Elements of Gullah culture, oral histories of Southern slavery, and Christian iconography greatly influence Doyle’s work. He is best known for his portraits which most frequently portray significant figures living on St. Helena Island. Using found objects, such as sheets of tin roofing or wood paneling as his canvas, Doyle created full-body portraits that often include text describing the subject’s importance to local culture. The Gibbes owns four paintings by Doyle, three of which you can see above.

And if you like Sam Doyle’s work, you should also check out our current exhibition in the Main Gallery, The Creative Spirit: Vernacular Art from the Gadsden Arts Center. It features work by artists who, like Doyle, are self-taught and live in the rural south. The exhibition closes on October 16, so you have a few more weeks to get here. Godzilla will be waiting!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

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