Fish’s decision to focus on still life painting was an interesting one. For centuries there has been a hierarchy of subject matter in art – histories or dramas have been the most highly regarded, followed by portraiture, and then the lowly still life. This latter genre was often viewed as quaint and trite, something light and palatable that female painting hobbyists could do in their spare time when not taking care of the home or their children. While some artists have attempted to raise the status of still lives through history – 17th and 18th century Spanish and Flemish still life painters, for example, whose paintings rival photography in their level of detail and perfection – the genre failed to ever move up the ladder. Fish likely knew that she was tackling an almost impossible subject, but it’s possible that that’s what drew her to it: in a modern world with an abundance of abstract painters, still life painting was a true challenge that she could make her own.
Burroughs’ work in the visual arts took the form of painting, some sculpture, and a large body of relief prints. In Black Venus, Burroughs surely sought to reinterpret Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s iconic Birth of Venus. Dr. Alain Locke, along with other Harlem Renaissance intellectuals and writers, set out to redefine their image as the New Negro, which would counter the stereotypes associated with Jim Crow America. They challenged artists to forge a new, authentic iconography for a re-envisioned identity. The arts would draw inspiration from the South, the Caribbean, and pre-colonial Africa—their true cultural roots. Burroughs borrowed compositional elements from Botticelli’s painting of the classical goddess rising from the sea, but provides a renewed definition of beauty by replacing her fair hair and complexion with a rich, dark skin tone.
Over the course of his 30+ year career, Stackhouse has refined his style. He almost exclusively crafts around the forms of ships and snakes, believing that a great artist doesn’t need an abundance of new information. He’s found what works for him, and if it’s not broken, he doesn’t plan on fixing it.
Today, we are more accustomed to posting digital images on social media than printing photographs and putting them in albums. Recently, companies like Polaroid and Fujifilm have manufactured a line of retro looking cameras, like the Fujifilm Instax Mini, that produce prints almost immediately without the need for a darkroom. Perhaps it is a mixture of nostalgia and novelty that has caused a resurgence in popularity with these instant print cameras.
This week’s treasure is a peculiar curiosity. Instead of a painting or print, this week I present a Concert Roller Organ! What is a Concert Roller Organ you ask? Well, it was only the most fashionable form of entertainment for working class Victorian Era Americans. See and listen to FWMoA's Concert Organ play you a tune in the video at the end of this post!
Our first official installment of Treasures from the Vault features one of FWMoA’s original treasures: Snails on Rhubarb. Painted in 1919 by German painter Richard Müller, Snails on Rhubarb is a whimsical study of foliage and the critters inhabiting this small ecosystem. Scattered over several large rhubarb leaves are snails, and a frog who seems to be mid-jump. A glimpse of a pond is seen in the background, which we can imagine as the home of our amphibious friend, his gastropod companions, and other creatures out of sight.
Today’s featured work is General Anthony Wayne, a painting by Edward Percy Moran. Moran completed the work in 1923, and he’s depicted General Wayne at the side of a wounded Revolutionary soldier who is holding the new American Flag. The two are overlooking an unknown battlefield, but, since they’re holding the flag high, we can assume that it was a victory for our fledgling nation!