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Blog Category: Highlights

October 6, 2014

Holding dolls at arm’s length

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Byron Company, New York Association for the Blind, Two Children at Table, 1933. Museum of the City of New York

When I was a child in the mere single digits, my family sat down to a Twilight Zone marathon. It was my first time watching the show, and I was introduced to aliens, pig people, post-apocalyptic towns, and, most frightening of all, dolls that came to life.

It was the ventriloquist dummy and the chatty doll that gave me nightmares. Just remembering the line “My name is Talky Tina and I don’t think I like you” still gives me shivers. There’s something about those inanimate objects with their stiff movements, glassy eyes, and blank faces that creeps me out.

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September 2, 2014

Together again: the complete “Migration” series by Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, The Migration of the Negro Panel no. 3: In every town Negroes were leaving by the hundreds to go North and enter into Northern industry, 1940 – 1941. Image and original data provided by The Phillips Collection, © 2005 Estate of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence / Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Jacob Lawrence, The Migration of the Negro Panel no. 3: In every town Negroes were leaving by the hundreds to go North and enter into Northern industry, 1940 – 1941. Image and original data provided by The Phillips Collection, © 2005 Estate of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence / Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Jacob Lawrence painted “The Migration of the Negro,” a series of 60 small panels describing the passage of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North, in 1940 and 1941. The works combined the vibrancy of modernism, the content of history painting, and the urgency of political art. The electrifying results catapulted the young artist into fame and the history books.

Lawrence saw the series as a single work, but a year after its completion the Museum of Modern Art acquired the even-numbered pictures and the Phillips Collection in Washington the others, and opportunities to see all the paintings together have been rare. Which is a pity. As art critic Holland Cotter wrote in The New York Times“…only in the complete series can we fully grasp the sinewy moral texture of art that is in the business of neither easy uplift nor single-minded protest.”

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July 7, 2014

Celebrating the storming of the Bastille

Maurice Prendergast, Bastille Day; Le Quatorze Juillet, 1892. Image and data from The Cleveland Museum of Art

Maurice Prendergast, Bastille Day; Le Quatorze Juillet, 1892. Image and data from The Cleveland Museum of Art

No matter where you were in the U.S. this Fourth of July, you probably had the opportunity to enjoy the Independence Day fireworks. Now it’s our friends’ turn in France to enjoy their revolution celebration with fireworks. Bastille Day, or Le quatorze juillet, commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789. The capture of the prison marked the beginning of the French Revolution and the end of Louis XVI’s absolute monarchy. Three years later the First Republic was born.

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April 17, 2014

Beyond Fabergé’s Easter eggs

Peter Carl Fabergé; Henrick Wigström, (Workmaster) | The Rose Trellis Easter Egg | 1907 | The Walters Art Museum

Peter Carl Fabergé; Henrick Wigström, (Workmaster) | The Rose Trellis Easter Egg | 1907 | The Walters Art Museum

As we get close to Easter, you’re sure to run into at least a few mentions of the renowned Fabergé eggs. And rightly so, as these decorative objects are ingenious and rich with history. But did you know there is much more to Fabergé than just eggs?

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April 14, 2014

Gaultier in Artstor – not just for fashionistas

Exhibition: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk | Exhibition on view: November 13, 2011-February 12, 2012 | Exhibition Location: Dallas Museum of Art; dma.org

Exhibition: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk | Exhibition on view: November 13, 2011-February 12, 2012 | Exhibition Location: Dallas Museum of Art; dma.org

Since its opening in 2011 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the haute couture and prêt-à-porter designs in “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: from the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” have been electrifying audiences in Montreal, Stockholm, Brooklyn, and Dallas—and now, London.

Designer: Jean Paul Gaultier | Two Ensembles; Group | Fall/Winter 1994-1995 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; metmuseum.org

Designer: Jean Paul Gaultier | Two Ensembles; Group | Fall/Winter 1994-1995 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; metmuseum.org

I had the opportunity to see the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum this past March. I’m no fashionista, but I could certainly appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity of an absurdly talented artist. Credit is also due to the curator, Thierry-Maxime Loriot. I admittedly rarely read museum labels, but I was so impressed and eager to learn more that I read all of the wall text. All of it.

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April 11, 2014

Here be dragons

Raphael | Saint George and the Dragon | c. 1504 | Musée du Louvre | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Raphael | Saint George and the Dragon | c. 1504 | Musée du Louvre | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Carlo Crivelli | Saint George | ca. 1472 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Carlo Crivelli | Saint George | ca. 1472 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Saint George’s Day is celebrated on April 23. I know this because as a child I was obsessed with the world of make-believe. While my sister was collecting books on the natural sciences, I had a whole shelf devoted to children’s versions of Greek mythology, fairy tales, and folklore. The stories I loved best involved magic and monsters. To this day my mother will buy me used books if they have a dragon on the cover. And this is where Saint George comes in.

In the 13th century, Jacobus de Voragine wrote in The Golden Legend that Saint George was a Christian knight who in his travels came across a city called Silene that was being plagued by a dragon that lived in its pond. Silene’s inhabitants were forced to appease the monster by sacrificing their children. The victims were selected through a lottery system, and one day it was the king’s own daughter who drew the last lot.

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March 27, 2014

From Babylon to Berlin: The rebirth of the Ishtar Gate

Neo-Babylonian | Ishtar Gate | 604-562 BCE | Berlin State Museum | Vorderasiatisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin | Image and original data provided by Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz; bpkgate.picturemaxx.com/webgate_cms

Neo-Babylonian | Ishtar Gate | 604-562 BCE | Berlin State Museum | Vorderasiatisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin | Image and original data provided by Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz; bpkgate.picturemaxx.com/webgate_cms

Travelers to ancient Babylon were met with an astonishing sight: a gate nearly 50 feet high and 100 feet wide made of jewel-like blue glazed bricks and adorned with bas-relief dragons and young bulls. Dedicated to Ishtar, goddess of fertility, love, and war, the main entrance to the city was constructed for King Nebuchadnezzar II circa 575 BCE.

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February 11, 2014

Dürer and the elusive rhino

Albrecht Dürer |

Albrecht Dürer |”Das Rhinocerus” | 1515 | Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; smb.museum

Albrecht Dürer created his famous woodcut of a rhinoceros in 1515 based on a written description and an anonymous sketch of an Indian rhino that had arrived in Lisbon earlier that year. The animal was intended as a gift for Pope Leo X from the king of Portugal, but it never reached its destination, perishing in a shipwreck off the coast of Italy.

Dürer’s image is less than accurate, depicting an animal covered with an armor of hard plates, scales on its feet, and a small spiral horn on its back. This is not exactly surprising, considering the artist never saw the actual specimen. What is surprising is that his depiction served as a scientific reference for centuries, despite the existence of a similar but more accurate print by Hans Burgkmair, also from 1515. The similarities between the two images suggest that Burgkmair may have also based his woodcut on the same anonymous sketch.

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January 8, 2014

In the news: polar vortex

Byron Company | Madison Square |1896 | Museum of the City of New York | mcny.org

Byron Company | Madison Square |1896 | Museum of the City of New York | mcny.org

In an unusual event, temperatures dropped below freezing in all 50 states Tuesday after a polar vortex swept southwards. As NBC New York explains, “The polar vortex forms every year to the north, but large blocks of high pressure over Greenland and the Southwest weakened the jet stream in recent days, allowing part of the polar vortex to break off from a parent system and dip in to the US.”

While the worst of it is over, we highly recommend you stay indoors and just look at winter images:

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January 2, 2014

Add color to your winter with the Brooklyn Museum Costumes collection

Unknown, British | Gloves (Gauntlet Gloves) | 1690-1710 | Image and original data from the Brooklyn Museum | Image ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Unknown, British | Gloves (Gauntlet Gloves) | 1690-1710 | Image and original data from the Brooklyn Museum | Image ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art

By Ayesha Akhtar, User Services Assistant

What winter in the Northeast means for most is being able to get away with wearing black and gray, staying home in lieu of going out for fear of catching a cold, and wearing a troublesome amount of layers. But for me, grey winter skies provide the perfect backdrop for vibrant colors, I indulge in winter walks on snowy evenings, and layers mean ample opportunity to show off my keen fashion sense. After all, more clothes equal more fun. However, after festivities end the trend is a downward slope into a lackluster bowl of winter blues— and this decline of spirit reflects itself in one’s wardrobe.

This winter, with inspiration from the plethora of fashion images in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Brooklyn Museum Costumes collection in the Artstor Digital Library, it’s easier to fight the urge to blend in with the seasonal black and gray.

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