Two new additions to the IMA’s renowned Pont-Aven School Collection are now on view in the Jane H. Fortune Gallery. The Corner Cabinet with Breton Scenes by Emile Bernard is a rare example of carved and painted wood furniture from the group of international artists that worked in the village of Pont Aven in Brittany in the 1880s and 1890s. The cabinet was purchased from the collection of Samuel Josefowitz, the distinguished collector who is generously giving the museum the other new work of art on view in the gallery, a preparatory drawing for the cabinet that allows us to see Bernard’s design process at work.
The cabinet and drawing should be familiar to regular blog readers from an earlier post that discussed the visit of an expert in French wood-carving techniques. After the cabinet had been carefully studied in the lab, it was time to figure out how to install it. Ideally, the goal was to place the cabinet in a permanent position, create a small focus area with the preparatory drawing, and situate them in the gallery without displacing many of the paintings already on view.
The cabinet was carefully reassembled and installed on a newly-built riser in the northeast corner of the gallery, adjacent to the drawing and a new introductory wall text written by Ellen Lee, Wood-Pulliam Senior Curator and resident Pont-Aven expert.
Here are some more images of the installation crew, Brose Partington and Scott Shoultz, working with objects Conservator Richard McCoy before transporting the work and then installing it in the galleries.
A painting by Henry Moret went into storage to provide space for the drawing and didactic panel. The paintings on the adjacent east wall were shifted down the wall and moved closer together. The resulting extra inches were enough space for all of the paintings on that wall to remain on view.
An additional problem arose in lighting the two objects to reveal their full aesthetic potential. The drawing is light-sensitive and can only be on view for a limited period of time before it needs to go rest in the dark in storage (The constant cycle of the galleries: when the drawing goes into storage, the painting by Moret that it displaced can come back on view). Additionally, the cabinet’s carving is relatively shallow and the polychromy is subtle, providing another lighting challenge.
On the cabinet, IMA lighting guru Carol Cody used light levels that she normally uses on paintings, hitting the top of the nine-foot tall piece with a little extra light to highlight the carving on the finials and to define the shape. The drawing next door received a lower light, as per conservation requirements for works of art on paper. She kept the brighter lights hitting the cabinet away from the drawing by using several spotlights on the figures. Carol’s biggest challenge was making the subtle paint colors and white areas on the cabinet really “pop,” which she accomplished by using a cooler, bluer light than she normally would use on the paintings in the European galleries. She used slightly raking light to bring out relief and texture of the wood carving.
Now that the work is up in the galleries, please come see it and let us know what you think. We think it complements and enhances the already great Pont-Aven collection perfectly.
Filed under: Art