Object of the Month

January 2018–ongoing

In this series, the Museum presents original research and insights on a new object each month, selected from the Museum’s robust permanent collection.

September 2019

Leslie Darrell Ragan (American, 1897–1972)
The Century in the Highlands of the Hudson
ca. 1938
Chromolithographic poster
Gift of Henry S. Hacker, 1996 (96.14.9)

In the early twentieth century, railroad posters tempted travelers with colorful and dynamic compositions of idyllic landscapes, featuring powerful locomotives. This poster, which offers a dramatic perspective of sun gleaming on the streamlined form of a steam engine, is an excellent example of the machine-age aesthetic of the Art Deco period. Leslie Ragan was born in Iowa, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and went on to become one of the most celebrated commercial artists of the twentieth century, creating more than one hundred posters for the New York Central Railway alone. The 20th Century Limited was one of the most famous passenger trains in America at the time, offering luxury accommodations and express travel between New York and Chicago. The first Century train ran in 1902, taking passengers to their destination within twenty hours.

 

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August 2019

Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987)
Untitled (Peter Beard with dog) in Red Book #124
July 1972
Photo album filled with twenty Polaroid photographs
Gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., 2013 (2013.04k-l)

© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Courtesy of Peter Beard Studio and www.peterbeard.com

Between 1969 and 1975, Warhol prefigured the smartphone by documenting his life with thousands of instant Polaroid photographs. He meticulously catalogued the images and stored them in individual red Holson Polaroid albums. Subjects ranged from friends and celebrities to his dogs and the landscape. Many of these photos served as source material for his silkscreen paintings. The Polaroid camera spoke to his fascination with the nature of modern consumerism and the photograph as a readymade, a machine-made object presented as a work of art.

 

July 2019

Rudolf Eickemeyer, Sr. (American, b. Germany, 1831–1895)
Model: Combined Stretcher for Hat Making
ca. 1869
Bronze, iron
Gift of Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr., 1928 (28.213)

Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. (American, 1862–1932)
Rudolph Eickemeyer, Sr. and his British Agent
1890
Albumen photograph
Gift of Mrs. R. W. Eickemeyer, 1942 (42.91b)

Rudolf Eickemeyer, Sr. was a prominent figure in Yonkers commerce during the second half of the nineteenth century. As an engineer and factory owner, he obtained more than one hundred patents ranging from industrial sewing and harvesting machines to electromagnets and electric trolleys. Many of his inventions were hat-making machines, and the Museum owns several models he kept for his own use. This combined stretcher performed two separate steps in forming a hat, which started as a damp cone of felt; it pulled out the brim and shaped the crown. His son, Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. was a well known photographer. He began his artistic career by working as a draftsman for his father and took his first photographs to document the firm’s inventions and momentous occasions, such as the contract signing pictured here.

 

June 2019

Mickalene Thomas (American, b. 1971)
Clarivel with Black Blouse with White Ribbon
2016
Epson Inkjet print with HDR Ultrachrome inks
Published by the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in consortium with the Benefit Print Project, Edition of 25
Museum Purchase, 2019 (2019.01)
© 2019 Mickalene Thomas / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

One of the premiere American artists of the twenty-first century, Mickalene Thomas explores issues of race, gender, and beauty through striking portraits of women in studio sets filled with color, pattern, and popular culture references. Thomas works in photography, mixed media painting, and digital prints, often combining these elements to lush effect. Her work reveals an admiration for the abstracted figural collages of African American artist Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988).

On this fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in Greenwich village, the June Object of the Month is dedicated the brave individuals who stood up for their civil liberties—our civil liberties—and boldly ushered in the Gay Rights Movement.

#HRMPride

 

May 2019

Thomas J. Hill (American, b. England, 1857–1886)
Glenwood Station
1882
Oil on cardboard
Gift of Mrs. John Stevenson Watt, 1929 (29.189)

Between 1850 and 1900, the railroad became a source of industrial and suburban commuter traffic along the Hudson River, and Yonkers transformed from a village into one of the largest cities in New York State. Thomas J. Hill’s painting—among the smallest in the Museum’s collection—depicts one of the only known views of the first Glenwood train station, which stood at the bottom of Point Street, two blocks south of Trevor Park. The stop was always called Glenwood, referring to the neighborhood not Glenwood Avenue, where the current station was rebuilt in the early-twentieth century.

The May Object of the Month is dedicated in fond memory of Docent Marilyn Maloff, who welcomed thousands of children with an open heart over the course of twenty-six years of service to the Museum.

 

April 2019

Attributed to Helena de Kay Gilder
Cover Design for “The New Day: A Poem in Songs and Sonnet” by Richard Watson Gilder
New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Company, 1875
Museum Collection (INV.10731)

Helena de Kay Gilder was a pioneering artist, book designer, and suffragette. She helped to organize the Art Students League and took lessons from Winslow Homer and John La Farge at the Tenth Street Studio Building in Manhattan, where she had a studio of her own. Homer painted a portrait of the artist in the early 1870s, illustrated in the label to the right. He also painted Moonlight, 1874, on view downstairs in The Color of the Moon: Lunar Paintings in American Art, the very same year Helena de Kay married writer poet, journalist, critic, and editor Richard Watson Gilder. The Gilders became a power couple in the Gilded Age art world of New York. In 1878, they helped to found the Society of American Artists, a progressive group of largely European-trained artists who found the strictures of the National Academy of Design stultifying. Their marriage was defined by artistic collaboration between partners.

The April Object of the Month is dedicated in fond memory of Docent Judith Auerbach, whose service and commitment over the course of thirty years made the Hudson River Museum a better place.

 

March 2019

Mary Frey
Girls Sunbathing
From the Domestic Rituals Series, 1979–83
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the Artist, 1984 (84.22)

Fascinated with the role of documentary images in modern culture, Frey began the Domestic Rituals series after getting her MFA at the Yale University School of Art in 1979. As she described, “the pictures, which have a quasi-documentary look about them, resemble a kind of tableau-vivant.” During her four-year project, she won the first of two photography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1984, she exhibited the series at the Hudson River Museum. In The New York Times, William Zimmer described how, through Frey’s lens, “we are always brought back to earth by a specific, though universal, incident.”

 

February 2019

Derrick Adams (American, b.1970)
Orbiting Us #18
2018
Mixed-media collage on paper
Museum Purchase, 2018 (2018.07)

Drawing from such divergent sources as Star Trek and Sun Ra’s Afrofuturist science fiction film Space is the Place (1974), Adams deploys modern associations with space travel while also incorporating ancient motifs and imagery. Orbiting Us #18, with its silver mat frame, can be read as a spaceship window offering us a view of the galaxy. In front of the planet Jupiter, the crowned head of the Egyptian King Amen-em-hat III floats in space with a space suit and NASA technician facing it. The modern scene, captioned “Top Sergeant Julie Barrows prepares a pressure suit for presidential inspection,” was culled from a 1960s article about the space race in Ebony Magazine. With this pairing, the artist collapses ancient mythical and modern American conceptions of space within the portal window of an imaginary vessel.

 

January 2019

Harold Knickerbocker Faye (American, 1910–1980)
Moonlight
ca. 1935–38
Intaglio on Rives paper
Gift of Helen S. Faye, 1990 (90.10.8)

Moonlight strikes an industrial scene, where gravel or sand covers the ground. The artist, Harold Knickerbocker Faye, was born to a wealthy family—his father was vice president of Western Pacific Railway—but spent his short yet dynamic career depicting the other side of the tracks. While many artists of the period romanticized poverty, Faye turned a Realist eye towards New York City during the Depression, seeking formal beauty in otherwise bleak, depopulated scenes.

 

December 2018

Dora Wheeler Keith (American, 1856–1940)
Publisher: Louis Prang & Co. (Boston, Massachusetts)
Christmas Card: Shout with Joy
1882
Chromolithograph, silk fringe
Collection of the Hudson River Museum (INV.10397)

Trained under the prominent artist and instructor William Merritt Chase, Dora Wheeler was a painter and tapestry designer for the decorative firm American Artists, founded in 1883 by her mother. In 1893, she executed a large series of murals for the ceiling of the Library of the Woman’s Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Along with Mary Cassatt, who also painted murals for the Chicago fair, this commission was a pioneering achievement for a female artist in the 19th century, an era where social boundaries largely determined the type of artwork created by women.

 

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.

 

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.

Leslie Darrell Ragan (American, 1897–1972). The Century in the Highlands of the Hudson, ca. 1938. Chromolithographic poster. Gift of Henry S. Hacker, 1996 (96.14.9).

Selected Press

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