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The Evolution of Rococo

Today’s guest blogger is DAS member Sheri Conner. Sheri is an interior designer who teaches history of furniture and other courses for the Art Institute Online Division’s Interior Design program.

How did we get from this …

Fig: 1, Nicolas Heurtaut, 1755, Suite of four fauteuils à la reine (flat-back armchairs) © 1994 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/set-four-fauteuil-la-reine-armchairs

Fig: 1, Nicolas Heurtaut, 1755, Suite of four fauteuils à la reine (flat-back armchairs)
© 1994 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

… to this …

Fig. 2, John Belter (American), “Armchair,” 1855 Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. C. Harvey Bradley, 80.482

Fig. 2, John Belter (American), “Armchair,” 1855
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. C. Harvey Bradley, 80.482

… to this?!

Fig. 3, Alessandro Mendini (Italian, b. 1931), “Poltrona di Proust” lounge chair, 1978 Indianapolis Museum of Art, Robertine Daniels Art Fund in Memory of Her Late Husband, Richard Monroe Fairbanks Sr. and Her Late Son, Michael Fairbanks, 2013.15 © Alessandro Mendini

Fig. 3, Alessandro Mendini (Italian, b. 1931), “Poltrona di Proust” lounge chair, 1978
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Robertine Daniels Art Fund in Memory of Her Late Husband, Richard Monroe Fairbanks Sr. and Her Late Son, Michael Fairbanks, 2013.15
© Alessandro Mendini

And what the heck does THIS have to do with it???

Fig. 4, François Boucher (French, 1703-1770), “Idyllic Landscape with Woman Fishing,” 1761 Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herman C. Krannert, 60.248

Fig. 4, François Boucher (French, 1703-1770), “Idyllic Landscape with Woman Fishing,” 1761
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herman C. Krannert, 60.248

Rococo style originated in Paris during the reign of King Louis XV. Upon the death of his great-grandfather Louis XIV, the Regent temporarily relocated the aristocratic center from the palace of Versailles to Paris. The new court quarters consisted of townhomes and apartments, creating a need for smaller scaled furnishings. In her book, The Annotated Mona Lisa, Carol Strickland describes the period as, “… a shift in French art and society from the serious and grandiose to the frothy and superficial,” noting that, “… the nobility lived a frivolous existence devoted to pleasure.” Décor took on a light appearance in terms of scale, color and ornamentation to fit with the intimate interiors and care-free lifestyle. Other European countries and the U.S. had their own interpretations of Rococo style.

The name Rococo derives from the French rocaille, which means shell. Rococo style is primarily associated with the decorative arts; however, painters of the time embraced it wholeheartedly. François Boucher for example, was commissioned to paint large-scale bucolic scenes consisting of rosy-cheeked goddesses and putti frolicking in lush gardens and pastoral landscapes (fig. 4). These themes were also translated into furniture design (fig 1). Rococo art and design has been described as romantic, idyllic, curvaceous, naturalistic, and asymmetrical.

Rococo styled seating and case pieces were curvilinear and visually delicate. Carved shells, flowers and botanical forms, scrolls, fruit, cherubs, and serpentine lines are all distinctive features of Rococo furniture. The cabriole leg is highly indicative of Rococo style, often terminating in scrolled, or claw and ball feet. Upon discovery of the ruins of Pompeii, Rococo design fell out of style giving way to the Neoclassic period.

Fast forward 100 years. Rococo is revived! Nineteenth century Rococo Revival furniture is larger, heavier, darker, more symmetrical and heavily carved. Industrial techniques were employed such as mechanical carving, coil springs for comfort, and new methods for laminating and bending wood. Original Rococo furniture was only available to royalty and the wealthy elite. This, along with the affordability rendered by mass production, made the revival version popular among the rising middle class during Victoria’s reign in England.

Pamela Wiggins asserted in her article, Who Was John Henry Belter?, “When it comes to Rococo Revival furniture, John Henry Belter (fig. 2) was no doubt the master craftsman working in the mid-1800s.” He is known for innovations in lamination and carving, securing patents for several techniques and mechanisms related to furniture manufacturing. Belter brought high furniture design to the U.S.; finally we were on par with Europe! Often imitated by his contemporaries, Belter destroyed plans and molds of his furniture so it would be very difficult to duplicate after his death.

Time ticked on … design along with it. Between the wars, furniture designers created radical revolutionary objects for the purpose of mass production. The Modernist Tradition led contemporary design into the later decades of the 2oth century. It viewed design as industry. Stemming from the Bauhaus’ early rejection of historic forms and ornamentation, designers working in the Modern mode embraced geometric forms and new materials like tubular steel and plastic. Form was ever ruled by function.

Along came the Italian design groups Alchemia and Memphis, who promoted a design-as-art ideal in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Based on this new Postmodern approach, design welcomed a decorative, historicizing tradition. Function was secondary. Manufacturers began to hire international designers who were raised to the level of superstars. People like Alessandro Mendini (fig. 3) viewed themselves as “non-designers,” creating personas and brands identifiable as their own style.

Handmade, one-of-a-kind, limited editions replaced mass production. Common recognizable forms and historic styles were resurrected in new and exaggerated ways marked by pattern, ornament, rich color, and luxury. Flexibility and range of materials allowed new sculptural possibilities for furniture. Postmodernist designers in a sense, mined history to conceive works like Mendini’s Proust armchair. Can you see it gestating in Boucher’s idyllic landscape?

Filed under: Art, Contemporary, Design, Guest Bloggers

 

Getting “To The Point”

What do Brussels and Indianapolis have in common? Belgium spawned several artists who fell under the spell of Georges Seurat, the French artist who invented the technique of Pointillism (also known as Neo-Impressionism) upon seeing the ground-breaking painting “Sunday on the Grande Jatte” (The Art Institute of Chicago) at an exhibition in Brussels in 1886. These artists carried on Seurat’s innovative style, and the IMA is proud to have masterpieces in its collection by several of these Belgian masters as well as our own painting by Seurat and his French and Dutch followers.

Photo by David Miller.

Photo by David Miller.

However, our finest pointillist portraits are not on display now because they have made a trip to Brussels to be included in the IMA organized exhibition To The Point – The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886-1904. Angie Day, Associate Registrar for Exhibitions, and David Miller, Chief Conservator and Senior Conservator of Paintings, also made the trip to Brussels to accompany the IMA paintings and install the exhibition at the ING Cultural Center.

Angie was responsible for managing the arrival of the paintings and works on paper that had been lent to the exhibition from prestigious collections in the US and Europe: including transport, unpacking, safe handling, and installation according to the lenders’ requirements and international

ING lighting designer with IMA’s "Portrait of Père Biart" by Henry van de Velde, 79.320. Photo by David Miller.

ING lighting designer with IMA’s “Portrait of Père Biart” by Henry van de Velde, 79.320. Photo by David Miller.

exhibition standards. David performed detailed condition reporting of each artwork to ensure that they had travelled safely and were stable for exhibition, and monitored that light levels, temperature and humidity settings, and security of the artworks were correct. The IMA team worked with Belgian customs brokers, contract art handlers and conservators, lenders’ couriers, and the ING co-curators over six long days to prepare the exhibition for its gala opening on February 17.

Angie and David will return to Brussels to bring the exhibition to the IMA, where it will open on June 15 as Face to Face: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886-1904.

Here it will include some fantastic artworks not shown in Belgium, including a Self-Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh – not to be missed!

Filed under: Art, Conservation, Exhibitions, Guest Bloggers, IMA Staff, Travel

 

Creating an Autoportrait: Alba Fernandez-Keys

Today's blogger, Alba Fernandez-Keys, is the head of the libraries and archives at the IMA.

Obscured beneath the simple words, numbers, shapes, and colors found in much of Robert Indiana’s work are essential memories and symbols of the artist’s life. Indiana’s visual vocabulary is encrypted with personal symbolism. This is particularly evident in his long series of Autoportraits.

To complement The Essential Robert Indiana, on view through May 4, the IMA invites visitors both on-site and online to Create Your Autoportrait using some of the same elements that Robert Indiana incorporates in to his. During the run of the exhibition, IMA staff members will be creating their own Autoportraits and blogging about it.

The fourth in this series features Alba Fernandez-Keys, head of the libraries and archives at the IMA.

autoportrait_afk_031714_01

I’ve spent the majority of my professional career with the IMA Library and Archives so this department figures prominently in my auto-portrait. I have worked at the IMA for almost 14 years in various capacities—I am currently the Head of the Libraries and Archives. I graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson.  It was the job at the IMA that brought me from the sunny Southwest to snowy — but beautiful — Indy.

Ledger dated 1908.

Ledger dated 1908.

The library was first listed in the annual report as an individual department of the John Herron Art Institute in 1908. The first item accessioned in the ledger also dates from this year. What began as a small group of books and magazines donated by members has now grown to be a collection of over 100,000 items in multiple formats and languages. When the new IMA building opened in 1971 (at our current location on the former Lilly Estate) the library was named in honor of Eleanor Evans Stout, trustee and board officer from 1968 to 1972. Green, purple and orange were the three colors used in the original design of the library.

autoportrait_afk_031714_03

The old library on Krannert Pavilion.

This year marks the 4th anniversary of the establishment of the IMA Archives. Starting an archives is a huge endeavor that requires dedicated staff to organize, arrange and process large volumes of historical materials. I think of the Archives as the place where we maintain our institutional memory. Many of the decisions our staff make with regards to our collections and buildings are based on documents and correspondence preserved by our department. Although we still have a lot of work to do, we are proud to have several  fully processed collections accessible to researchers and are in the middle of a large digitization project, Documenting Modern Living: Digitizing the Miller House and Garden.

Filed under: Audience Engagement, Exhibitions, Guest Bloggers, IMA Staff

 

Creating an Autoportrait: Justin Grange

Today's guest blogger is Justin Grange, budget, planning and procurement manager at the IMA.

Obscured beneath the simple words, numbers, shapes, and colors found in much of Robert Indiana’s work are essential memories and symbols of the artist’s life. Indiana’s visual vocabulary is encrypted with personal symbolism. This is particularly evident in his long series of Autoportraits.

To complement The Essential Robert Indiana, on view through May 4, the IMA invites visitors both on-site and online to Create Your Autoportrait using some of the same elements that Robert Indiana incorporates in to his. During the run of the exhibition, IMA staff members will be creating their own Autoportraits and blogging about it.

The third in this series features Justin Grange, the IMA’s budget, planning and procurement manager.

Like many of Robert Indiana’s “Autoportraits,” I’ve decided to make mine personal as it reflects the things that I am most proud of at one of the happiest times in my life thus far.

autoportrait_jg_031014_04

The 3 celebrates my third year working in my dream position with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Most people don’t know this about me, but before I ventured into the professional world of Finance and Accounting, I was a fine arts student double majoring in painting and furniture design. Always curious how I would meld my artistic and business talents, the IMA provided the perfect opportunity and has allowed me to work within an industry in which I am truly passionate.

Justin Grange tackles Autoportraits and budgets at the IMA.

Justin Grange tackles Autoportraits and budgets at the IMA.

ROBIN and EMMA are my wife and daughter. The two most important ladies in my life, they have played and continue to play a big role in shaping who I am today.

The numbers 112 and 909 reflect the date of November 29, 2009. This was the day that a new chapter began in my life, my daughter’s birthday. A day full of emotions (love, hope, excitement, confusion, fear), I never really felt grown up until I realized I was going to be responsible for bringing up another human being; but each day since has been an exciting challenge full of surprises and happiness.

FISHERS is the community where our family has planted roots and where many memories have been formed. We now refer to Fishers as our home and share in that experience with family, friends, and great neighbors.

Crimson and Cream are the colors of my alma mater, Indiana University. GO HOOSIERS! Orange just happens to be my favorite color as it’s warm, but also fiery, exciting, and energetic all at the same time. If I could paint any color as a representation of my personality, it would be orange.

Filed under: Audience Engagement, Exhibitions, Guest Bloggers, IMA Staff

 

Gotta get a little dirt on your hands

Well folks, here I am after being gone for a spell. My last posting was back in June and you all may be wondering as to the why, what for, and so on of my absence. Well, it’s complicated and in many ways hard to explain so let’s get started.

For this week I decided to look at some of the plants we are adding in 2014. I could go on and on about the weather and this winter but hell, it’s been done. Maybe later.

I am doing a major renovation of the Tunnel planting. These are the plants on top of the tunnel leading from the parking garage to the main museum building. It has the paperbark maples and useless skylights that you hopefully notice on your above-ground walk to the museum entrance. The maples I mean, not the useless skylights. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is my favorite tree so I always notice them.

The perennial layer in this area has some Echinacea Big Sky Sundown™ (‘Evan Saul’) and many many self-sown children and grandchildren of Sundown, a few Geranium Roseanne (‘Gerwat’), several Sedum ‘Black Jack’ and ‘Matrona’, a few Agastache. I will say that the ItSaul Plants bred Sundown has been the toughest “fancy” Echinacea to date for me but the whole area needs a major reboot after a decade or so.

I am putting some Echinacea back in. I’m going with what I have heard described as the reddest one currently on the market – Sombrero™ Salsa Red (‘Balsomsred’). I have seen this and it is a beauty. Here are some photos from Boston in 2012.

Sombrero™ Salsa Red (Balsomsred)

Sombrero™ Salsa Red (Balsomsred)

Salsa Red grows to 24 to 26 inches tall. I so want to say to around 2 feet and be done with it. I mean, I’m all about exactitudes. Don’t get me wrong. But let’s get real. For a design, guess about 2 feet and run with it. I want easy viewing of the fountain for passers-by so this height will work nicely. Plant spread should be about one and a half feet (16 to 22 inches).

This is part of the Sombero™ series from Darwin Plants that includes yellows, orange and coral so if you prefer a different color in your garden there may be one you will like. I am definitely deadheading to prevent seedlings. It is a lovely thought to leave seedheads for the birds but I can assure you the birds do not eat all the seeds and you soon have garden full of plants that look far more like the species Echinaceas than your red or orange or double hybrid (see above). It won’t take long for you to have a garden of mixed plants evolving (or de-volving) farther and farther from your fancy originals each year. I would suggest you have a separate planting for feeding the birds.

Echinacea ‘Marmalade’. Photo courtesy Chris Handon.

Echinacea ‘Marmalade’. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen.

I’m also putting in some Echinacea ‘Marmalade’ cause I can’t stand to go another year without it. Thank you, Plants Nouveau, for this introduction.

The National Gardening Bureau has declared 2014 the Year of the Echinacea. I can get behind that. You can go to their website for a very nice history of Echinacea and dozens of photographs. Definitely check them out.

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Kniphofia 'Mango Popsicle'

Kniphofia ‘Mango Popsicle’

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Every year I seem to become a bigger fan of Kniphofia, the red-hot pokers. Plant breeders have increased the bloom time on these considerably while also making them tougher. Many new cultivars will bloom June to October with the heaviest flower production in the first couple months. I am repeating Patty’s near-by selection, ‘Mango Popsicle’. This Terra Nova introduction is a blooming machine in a gorgeous shade of – what else? – mango. It almost glows. Love this plant. L-O-V-E!

Those were tiny plugs when they went in the ground last Spring. They came as 72s – that means 72 plants in a 9X18 tray. Kniphofias want good drainage and especially so in winter. Full sun gives you the best performance. Deadhead as individual stalks finish. That keeps the nice clumps of spiky foliage looking neater.

Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist'

Phlox paniculata ‘Peppermint Twist’

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I’m a big fan of Phlox paniculata for their long period of bloom in summer, usually early July into early September at a minimum. It’s also one of the plants that has performed best in the tough environment of the Mall. I’ve had ‘Peppermint Twist’ at home for a couple years and love the color and the pattern of the blooms so I’m adding it this year.

Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist'

Phlox paniculata ‘Peppermint Twist’

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I’ve not noticed any mildew as of yet. With phlox you can never be certain of absolute immunity from this foliar scourge but by selecting resistant plants you greatly reduce the amount that shows up on your plants. Rarely is any cultivar immune 100 percent of the time but just because one has it this year does not mean it will next year. ‘Peppermint Twist’ is around 3 feet tall and I would space small plants about a foot apart, larger ones 18 inches. I have had reversion on mine at home but love the solid color as well.

In the Northeast Border Garden, Gwyn is doing some rehab work and adding new plants. Including Helleborus x hybridus ‘Sunshine Ruffles’, a member of Chris Hansen’s Winter Thrillers™ series. ‘Sunshine Ruffles’ is a double yellow with some red picotee on each “petal.”

Helleborus x hybridus; L-R: Sunshine Ruffles, Red Racer, Grape Galaxy. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen.

Helleborus x hybridus; L-R: Sunshine Ruffles, Red Racer, Grape Galaxy. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen.

We won’t see blooms this year, but next year the show should begin. I really like the pictures of these so if they are that beautiful I may steal them from Gwyn and put them in one of my areas. We already have a couple cultivars from this series we planted last year. Look for ‘Red Racer’ and ‘Grape Galaxy’ in the Southwest Border Garden as they should bloom nicely this year.

Helleborus x ballardiae HGC® Pink Frost

Helleborus x ballardiae HGC® Pink Frost

Katie is adding to our Helleborus Gold Collection® with some more Helleborus x ballardiae ‘HGC® Pink Frost’ (my favorite).

The “HGC® Pink Frost’ and ‘HGC® Cinnamon Snow’ plants have the heaviest flower production of all the hellebores on the property. They also have some of the best foliage with some silver gray and burgundy on the early leaves. Future years will hopefully see more cultivars from this collection in the gardens. Remember, hellebores are deer proof AND shade loving. You can’t say both those things about hostas.

Scent First® Pot Coral Reef

Scent First® Pot Coral Reef

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The Cutting Garden has slowly lost perennials so I am adding some new plants. There is a ton of Dianthus hitting the market right now. I decided to try one of the new ones from Whetman Pinks in the UK and introduced to the US market by PlantHaven. The cultivar I chose is ‘WPO7OLDRICE’. You may better remember the cultivar name of Scent First® Pot Coral Reef and for our purposes here I will shorten it to Coral Reef.

As the full name implies, these were bred for scent. Coral Reef has 1 to  1.5-inch double coral flowers with a white piccotee edge on each petal and a spicy fragrance. Repeat bloom and glaucous blue-green foliage helped to get Coral Reef a spot in the garden. Heaviest bloom will be in spring and deadheading will help in insuring that reblooming habit. It was also bred for pot or container use so it is a very compact 9x 9-inch plant with flowering stems rising to about 12 inches. The resulting cut stems will be best used in small arrangements or tucked amongst larger cuts I suppose.

Digitalis Goldcrest (‘WALDIGONE’)

Digitalis Goldcrest (‘WALDIGONE’)

More foxgloves are being introduced that are true perennials. The foxglove one traditionally finds is the biennial Digitalis purpurea. For a long time it seemed all one could find in perennial foxgloves were strawberry foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis, a hybrid of D. grandiflora and D. purpurea) and the yellow flowered foxgloves (Digitalis lutea & D. grandiflora). Fine plants, but one desires something fresh for the garden. Jim is introducing Digitalis Goldcrest (‘WALDIGONE’) to the Southwest Border Garden.

This 18 inch hybrid (D. grandiflora x D. obscura) is sterile so it sends all that energy normally reserved for seed production into flower production from early summer into fall. That is considerably longer than the bloom period on traditional foxgloves to say the least. It is another PlantHaven introduction.

We all want perennials with long bloom time so when cultivars are developed or found that extend the color show we are quick to add them to the garden. If that plant also earns a 4.5 star rating from the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Plant Evaluation Program then you definitely want it! Such is the case with Veronica spicata ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ which Chad is putting in the Garden for Everyone this year.

Deadheading will keep this purple-blue speedwell blooming from mid-June to mid-September. Now, they won’t have flowers every day as the new buds need time to develop. So don’t get yourself all worked up if there is a week or two with no flowers. ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ is only about a foot tall when in flower (dwarf!) with a spread just a little wider. Blue is an oft sought color in the garden so a perennial with its extended bloom is most welcome. The low stature of ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ sort of relegates it to the front of the border but that purple-blue color can go with almost every other flowering plant you may have near it be they red, orange, yellow, pink, red, or other shades of blue/purple. That sort of versatility is great to work with.

Royal Candles (‘Glory’)

Royal Candles (‘Glory’); Photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

I could not secure a decent photo of ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf,’ but another Veronica spicata we are adding is Royal Candles (‘Glory’).

Royal Candles is larger at 18 inches tall. I suspect colors of the two are very similar since Royal Candles is called dark purple while ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ is purple blue. We planted some ‘Ulster Blue Dwarf’ last year at Westerley but I cannot for the life of me picture the bloom.

I almost forgot. Royal candles earned a very solid four-star rating in the CBG trials.

I’ve touched on but a few of the new plants going into the IMA Gardens in 2014, and only perennials at that. There will be new annuals, grasses, trees, and shrubs as well, comingling with our already tried and true selections.

Okay, I am way over the suggested 300 to 700 words. No wonder it takes so much time for me to write these things. Time to quit on this and get outside. It’s sunny and headed for the 50s today. Gotta get a little dirt on my hands.

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Greenhouse, Guest Bloggers, Horticulture, Oldfields

 

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