Object of the Month

January 2018–ongoing

In this year-long series, the Museum presents original research and insights on a new object each month, selected from the Museum’s robust permanent collection. Complementing this exhibition rotation, Assistant Curator Ted Barrow will give a public lecture and gallery talk focusing on the object on view.

November 2018

Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917–2000)
The Studio
1996
Silkscreen; edition 51 of 60
Museum Purchase (2018.05)

One of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance, Lawrence was exceptional in his ability to forge a successful art career during the early years of the civil rights movement. His art concerned the genesis, exodus, and eventual apotheosis of the Black subject, and this late print bears traces of this long output. His best known work, The Migration Series, represented the movement of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North.

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October 2018

Elihu Vedder (American, 1836–1923)
Stella Funestra (The Evil Star)
ca. 1892
Pastel and charcoal on paper
Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (55.24c)

Elihu Vedder’s Stella Funesta (The Evil Star) captures the somber ambivalence of the Gilded Age. By the last decade of the 19th century, America enjoyed unprecedented material comfort, rapidly growing cities, and an expanded border westward. This prosperous and modernizing culture was also haunted by the ghosts of the recent past. The rift left by the Civil War, the Plains Indian Wars, economic and social upheaval, and a crisis of faith in the age of Darwin contributed to a mood of nostalgic melancholy in this period, called The American Renaissance.

 

September 2018

Jasper Francis Cropsey (American, 1823–1900)
Greenwood Lake, New Jersey
1897
Watercolor on paper
Anonymous Gift, 2017 (2017.07)

Jasper Francis Cropsey was a surprisingly versatile artist. One of the foremost painters in the Hudson River School of landscape painters, he was also an architect. Born in Rossville, Staten Island, Cropsey received his early artistic training as an architect’s apprentice, where he learned oil and watercolor techniques for architectural drafting. In 1843, the young artist exhibited for the first time at the National Academy of Design with a painting titled Landscape Composition. This early training and recognition led to a long and varied career as a painter, peaking in the 1850s.

 

August 2018

Robert Motherwell (American, 1915–1991)
Summertime in Italy (with Lines)
1966
Lithograph
Gift of Arthur Zankel, 1991 (91.3.1)

Robert Motherwell’s lithograph Summertime in Italy (with Lines), 1966, fuses exterior observation and interior reflection central to his artmaking. As a founding member of The New York School, or the Abstract Expressionists, Motherwell was interested in the subconscious associations with abstract shapes, but also in their formal qualities.

 

July 2018

Kimbel and Cabus (1862–1882)
Secretary Cabinet
ca. 1876–80
Ebonized hardwood, tiles, glass, brass hardware
Gift of Mrs. Joseph Lippman, 1973 (73.39)

The New York-based firm of Kimbel & Cabus led the way in Modern Gothic furniture design through the second half of the 19th century. Formed in 1862 by German-born cabinet maker Anthony Kimbel (ca. 1821–1895) and French-born cabinet maker Joseph Cabus (1824–1894), the firm represented the positive synergy between immigrant craftsmen, many of whom arrived around 1848, and the daring tastes of post-Civil War northeastern industrialists and financiers. The enthusiastic market rewarded their experimentation in tastefully eclectic objects like this cabinet.

 

June 2018

Louise Nevelson (American, b. Ukraine, 1899–1988)
Sky Enclosure
1973
Painted wood
Gift of John I. H. Baur, 1985 (85.16.1)

Louise Nevelson, born Leah Berliawsky in present-day Ukraine, moved to Maine with her family as a child. As a young adult, she moved to New York City in 1920 to pursue her childhood passion of studying art at the Art Students League. Nevelson lacked the money for fine art materials throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and used wood out of necessity. During a period of urban redevelopment in mid-20th century, her practice of reusing architectural salvage was fostered by the demolition of many row houses and tenement buildings in New York City. At first, Nevelson found wood scraps on the street. By the 1960s, she often purchased secondhand furniture, and by the 70s she had wooden objects made to her specifications. The evolving sources of Nevelson’s materials illustrate her ascent as one of the leading sculptors in America.

 

May 2018

Samuel Colman (American, 1832–1920)
Moonlight in Venice
ca. 1885
Ink and wash on board
Gift of the Estate of H. Armour Smith, 1961 (61.13.55)

Born in Portland, Maine in 1832, Samuel Colman moved to New York at an early age, growing up in a literary and artistic environment fueled by his father’s business as a book dealer. His uncle sold art supplies, and it was likely through his family that Colman met Asher B. Durand, under whom he studied painting. At age 22, Colman was elected as an associate member of the National Academy of Design and was firmly established as one of the foremost second-generation Hudson River School painters.

 

April 2018

Robert Indiana (American, born 1928)
Demuth American Dream, No. 5
1980
Silkscreen prints
Gift of Mr. Andrew Lanyi, 1981 (81.11.6 A-E)

Robert Indiana, who is best known for the LOVE insignia, has always had an interest in combining visual art and the written word. In 1980, the artist issued a print series based on his painting, Demuth American Dream, No. 5 (1963), an homage to Charles Demuth’s painting, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928), as well as William Carlos Williams’s earlier poem, The Great Figure. This tribute, repeating Demuth’s visual language with slight variations, devotes each panel to a different word: EAT, HUG, DIE, and ERR.

 

March 2018

Artist and Designer: Winslow Homer (American, 1836—1910)
Engraver: John Filmer (American, active 1863—1882)
The Fishing Party
October 2, 1869
Wood engraving
Supplement to Appleton’s Journal of Literature, Science, and Art
Gift of Dr. Howard Simon, 2002 (2002.11.03)

Considered one of the foremost painters of 19th-century America, Winslow Homer did not benefit from formal academic training early in his career. Instead, his professional experience as an artist was rooted in freelance illustration work for periodicals such as Harper’s Weekly, Century Magazine, and Appleton’s Journal of Literature, Science, and Art, from which this 1869 image comes. An avid angler, Homer made the depiction of fishing a lifelong artistic pursuit. From his earliest days as an illustrator in the popular press, to his watercolors of fisherwomen along the northern coast of England, to his late oil paintings of the sea, Homer kept his eye trained on fishing themes.

 

February 2018

Joseph Cornell (American, 1903?1972)
Untitled (Hôtel de l’Etoil)
ca. 1953—62
Mixed media collage construction
Gift of the C & B Foundation, 1975 (75.22.2)

Joseph Cornell was born in Nyack, NY, and lived most of his life with his family in a small, wood-framed house on Utopia Parkway in Queens. In the early 1950s, Cornell began a series of works that explored the associations of grand hotels in Europe, a subject that proved quite potent for Cornell, who never owned a passport. Cornell’s practice of showcasing delicate vignettes in small, neat spaces that were suggestive, not explanatory, was influential to numerous future artists and filmmakers, from Robert Rauschenberg to Wes Anderson.

 

January 2018

National Chicle Company
Sky Birds
1933—34
Commercial color lithograph on paper
Collection of the Hudson River Museum

Between 1933 and 1934, the National Chicle Company produced the Sky Birds card collection. In a format previously reserved for baseball players, heroes of aviation took center stage, with their daring exploits listed on the back of each card. Distributed in one-cent packs (roughly 18 cents in today’s currency), a total of 144 different cards were produced. The first two dozen cards featured World War I pilots, many of whom were members of the Lafayette Escadrille, a notoriously reckless volunteer brigade of American pilots in support of the French. The National Chicle Sky Birds set was a uniquely dramatic and entertaining way to illustrate the recent history of aviation.

Elihu Vedder (American, 1836–1923). Stella Funesta (The Evil Star) (detail), ca. 1892. Pastel and charcoal on paper. Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1955 (55.24c).

Selected Press

Goings on About Town: Above & Beyond The New Yorker (January 26, 2018)