Monday, March 5, 2018

The Hawthornes Visit St. Petersburg. The Museum Of Fine Art.

Welcome to the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts.
I could have spent a week in here,
but Mr. Hawthorne has a limited attention span,
so I had to do the abridged walk-through.

The Saint Petersburg Museum of Fine arts has an encyclopedic collection covering ... oh ... about 5000 years of civilization represented by more than 20,000 objects.  It contains a legendary permanent collection along with a regular schedule of special traveling exhibitions.  Classic ancient Greek and Roman, Asian, Egyptian, pre-Columbian, African, and Native American art are represented, along with one of the largest photographic collections in the Southeast, and also works by some of my favorites, including Wyeth, O'Keeffe, C├ęzanne, Renoir, Gauguin, and Monet.  Unfortunately, the museum will be losing some of its major impressionist works 
as they're being reclaimed by the estate of the deceased owner, Hunt Henderson, who placed them on loan in the 1970s.  The estate plans to auction them this spring at Christie's in NYC.
The museum was founded in the 1960s by philanthropist and art collector, Margaret Acheson Stuart, who pledged $150,000 for construction costs, contributed works from her own collection, and provided a $1 million endowment fund, and at least a $10,000 annual contribution for operating costs.  Stuart was in her 60s when she had the idea of providing a fine arts museum for St. Petersburg.  Her family had visited the area for years and St. Petersburg had been her primary residence for about 10 years when Stuart developed the idea of a museum.  A wealthy woman, she had the means to travel anywhere to visit a museum, but her love of St. Petersburg encouraged her to provide a cultural resource to provide the joy for her beloved city that art had always given to her.  In 1961, Stuart approached city officials with her proposal and they conveyed (for $10) a 4-acre parcel of land overlooking the waterfront for the museum.  She organized civic leaders and important business people in the community to be the first trustees and traveled to New York to copy the charter of the Metropolitan Museum of art to use as a basis for her museum.  John Volk, a prominent architect often called the "father of Palm Beach architecture" was retained for designing the building.  Stuart invited wives of prominent businessmen to join the prestigious Stuart Society, a women's auxiliary which remains a major source of funds and volunteers.  Although wealthy, Stuart didn't have the resources to buy Art for the museum, but she did have friends with exceptional collections, and they provided long-term loans.  Also, major institutions, impressed by the efforts of Stuart, stepped forward to send their own treasures.  The Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the National Gallery of Art all contributed, along with private lenders.  Approximately 80 public and private lenders contributed about 100 works valued at around $3 million. The museum triumphantly opened February 7, 1965, and an estimated 10,000 people visited that first day.  The collection has steadily grown from a small inventory of several hundred works of art to a comprehensive inventory, representing human history.

Mrs. Stuart's ashes, per her wishes, were interred in an unmarked spot in the Sculpture Garden at the Museum.

Photography by Aaron Siskind.
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation
Siskind was one of the foremost photographers of the 20th century, progressing from early social documentary work in the 1930s to groundbreaking abstract photography associated with the abstract expressionists.  While teaching at the Chicago Institute of Design in the 1950s, he photographed these figures mid-leap at the Chicago waterfront.  Captured against a blank white sky, the divers represent both freedom and daring risk.

O'Keeffe is one of my favorites.

Jacques-Emile Blanche
French (1861-1942)
Contemplation, 1883
A socialite, writer, and artist, Blanche is most noted for uniting earlier traditions of portraiture with the subtly modulated painterly approach of Edouard Manet and the Impressionists.  Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Henry James are among his most celebrated sitters.  Blanche received no formal training aside from a few lessons.  "Contemplation" reflects the early influences of his mentor, Manet.  Blanche shares Manet's painterly brushwork, subtle palette, and perhaps also the model in this particular case.  She gazes out at us in a reverie, the pose and still life elements breaking up the gridded structure of the composition.  Perhaps a memorial to Manet who died that year, "Contemplation" is one of Blanche's finest works.

While we were there, museum volunteers were discussing the art works
with a class of school children.
I wanted to be in that class.

Francis Picabia
French (1879-1953)
The Church at Montigny, Effect of Sunlight, 1908

I could have spent days in here...

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