Did you know that every few months, our collection galleries change? Rotating the selection of artwork on view enables more of the museum’s collection of over 5,000 objects to be displayed, helps to protect fragile works, and creates an ever-changing visitor experience. Last week, museum curators treated staff to a gallery talk about three works recently installed in the museum’s 1899 building. These works are in close proximity to one another, but are very diverse in their subjects and materials.
This is one of the museum’s newest acquisitions and can be seen in the Rory and Dedee O’Neil Lobby. It is made of glass enamel on steel, which means that it is strong enough to survive the high levels of sunlight that fill the lobby, unlike paintings on canvas or other fragile materials. The museum purchased this work in mid-May 2013, partially with funds given by the Northern Ohio Art Dealers Association (NOADA).
Brinsley Tyrrell primarily worked in sculpture while he taught at Kent State University from 1968 to 1996, but started drawing landscapes of his farm in 1975. His drawings spanned all seasons and times of day. In 2007, he began using the large enamel kiln at KSU to work on a commission of artwork for the 117th Street RTA Station in Cleveland. Flooding is one of 102 works created before KSU dismantled the kiln that was so vital to creating his large-scale glass enamel works.
Typically, glass enamel is used to make small pieces such as jewelry. Tyrrell was able to skillfully use this unpredictable medium to create art that conveys the landscape of his farm. Flooding and the other landscapes from its series are strong examples of Tyrrell’s work as well as the glass enamel medium on this unusually large scale.
Since the museum’s new expansion opened in 2007, William Merritt Chase’s Girl in White stood guard over the entry of the C. Blake McDowell, Jr. Galleries, but last week Girl in White moved slightly to the left and Charles Burchfield’s Spring Thunderstorm moved to this spot. For the next six months, it will be on view. This beautiful example of a large watercolor painting can only be displayed for a limited time because it is on paper, which means that it is highly sensitive to light and relatively fragile. Ensuring that art is protected from the elements, so that it will survive in good condition for generations, is one of the major concerns of the museum.
When this painting was reframed in the 1990s, museum staff found that Burchfield had written on the back, “It almost seems as if the thunder-clap caused the peach tree to burst into bloom.” Burchfield was inspired by poetry and music and often wrote short poetic phrases to describe his nature scenes.
Our upcoming exhibition Real/Surreal includes another painting by Burchfield, Winter Twilight, which is a realistic depiction of a snowy street corner painted in oil. Having both works on view will allow museum visitors to compare these two works, which were created about 25 years apart.
There are many interesting stories about how artworks have been accessioned into our collection, and one belongs to this painting. After Clarence E. Van Duzer’s death in 2009, his widow Kathy Lynn invited Akron Art Museum curators to his studio. Van Duzer was a prolific artist and his space was full of paintings and sculptures in a wide array of styles. The curators saw particular connections between Apartment #10 Looking West and other works in the museum collection. the painting needed significant attention by professional conservators before it could be displayed.
Apartment #10 Looking West is an excellent example of a mid-twentieth-century modernist landscape; the artist incorporated cubist, realist and surrealist elements. There are many ways for your eye to enter the painting and no clear way to visually exit. What appears to be a frame turns into a windowsill, which then turns into the roof of an exterior building. This is definitely a painting that in which you can observe something new with each study.