Iconic Paintings Leave North America for the First Time

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Iconic Paintings Leave North America for the First Time

The Ashmolean (Oxford, UK) will present a major exhibition of works by American artists that have never before travelled outside the USA (23 March–22 July 2018). AMERICA’S COOL MODERNISM: O’KEEFFE TO HOPPER will show over eighty paintings, photographs and prints, and the first American avant-garde film, Manhatta, from international collections.

The Ashmolean (Oxford, UK) will present a major exhibition of works by American artists that have never before travelled outside the USA (23 March–22 July 2018). AMERICA’S COOL MODERNISM: O’KEEFFE TO HOPPER will show over eighty paintings, photographs and prints, and the first American avant-garde film, Manhatta, from international collections. Eighteen key loans will come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and a further twenty-seven pieces are being loaned by the Terra Foundation for American Art with whom the exhibition is organised. Thirty-five paintings have never been to the UK and seventeen of these have never left the USA at all.

COOL MODERNISM examines famous painters and photographers of the 1920s and ‘30s with early works by Georgia O’Keeffe; photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Edward Weston; and cityscapes by Edward Hopper. It also displays the pioneers of modern American art whose work is less well-known in the UK, particularly Charles Demuth (1883–1935) and Charles Sheeler (1883–1965). On show will be major pieces by the so-called precisionist artists. These include Demuth’s I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928, from the Met), the painting Robert Hughes described as the ‘one picture so famous that practically every American who looks at art knows it.’ Made in 1928 and dedicated to the poet William Carlos Williams, the Figure 5, was one of a series of symbolist ‘poster-portraits’ which Demuth made of friends and fellow artists. Consisting of an enormous, stylized ‘5’ that occupies the entire picture plane and painted in bold colours on wallboard, the painting evokes new styles of advertising that were multiplying in American cities in the 1920s – a remarkable anticipation of Pop art later in the century. Another important loan is Sheeler’s Americana (1931, from the Met) which has never been lent outside the USA. The painting shows a traditional American domestic scene with Shaker furniture and folk objects arranged in a near abstract composition – a blend of modernist forms with a historical subject. Other rare loans include a painting by E.E. Cummings (1894–1962), better known for his poetry; and Le Tournesol (The Sunflower) (c. 1920, NGA Washington DC) by Edward Steichen (1879–1973) who destroyed nearly all his paintings before dedicating himself to photography. The Sunflower was exhibited in Paris shortly after it was painted in 1922 and has not been seen in Europe since then.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), Black Abstraction, 1927. Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 102.2 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Dawn in Pennsylvania, 1942. Oil on canvas, 61.9 x 112.4 cm. Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by the Whitney Museum of American Art

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Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

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