Cleveland Museum of Art Announces Newest Acquisitions

The Cleveland Museum of Art Announces Rare British Miniature, an Op Art Masterpiece and a Fifteenth-Century Engraving as Newest Acquisitions

A rare portrait miniature by nineteenth-century British artist John Linnell, a boldly designed Op Art painting by Cleveland artist Edwin Mieczkowski and a fifteenth-century engraving of which only five exist are among the latest works approved by the Collections Committee of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees. C. Griffith Mann, Ph.D, deputy director and chief curator states, “These acquisitions reflect the museum’s willingness to seek acquisition opportunities in public auctions, to build on historic strengths of the collection, and to make purchases that complement and strengthen the exhibition program.”

Portrait of Anne Law (née Towry), 1st Lady Ellenborough (1760-1843)
Rare Linnell portrait miniature is one of the only examples outside of Britain

The miniature, Portrait of Anne Law (née Towry), 1st Lady Ellenborough (1760-1843) (British, c. 1815; watercolor on ivory in gilt metal frame; 4 5/16 in. high) is by British artist John Linnell, known mostly for his landscapes but who also executed fine portrait miniatures during the first two decades of his career. Linnell was a celebrated portraitist, and miniatures by the artist are quite rare. There are a few examples of Linnell’s portrait miniatures in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Royal Collection and the National Portrait Gallery in London. It is uncommon to see Linnell’s portrait miniatures outside of Britain and the objects seldom make it to the art market. This miniature was featured in a recent auction, where it was acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Linnell’s stipple technique of painting miniatures is distinctive, and he incorporates the use of rich jewel-like tones. He preceded the Pre-Raphaelites, whose attention to detail and lush colors call to mind Linnell’s artistry and who looked to him as a model. In his early career, when this portrait miniature was created, Linnell was studying and copying the old masters, like Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, while simultaneously exploring his innovative application of paint and artistic language. Portrait of Anne Law (née Towry), 1st Lady Ellenborough (1760-1843) pays homage to the grand tradition of portraiture in which the artist captures the essential nature of the sitter through superb technique – but in miniature.

In addition to Portrait of Anne Law (née Towry), 1st Lady Ellenborough (1760-1843), the Cleveland Museum of Art owns another work by John Linnell, a landscape titled Noah, the Eve of the Deluge. The museum also owns a number of works by Linnell’s contemporaries, such as William Blake and Samuel Palmer, and the new acquisition complements this area of the collection. The portrait miniature may also be viewed in context with several nineteenth-century British portraits by Frederick Sandys, William Holman Hunt and George Richmond in the museum’s permanent collection.

Blue Bloc
Cleveland Op artist’s masterpiece

Blue Bloc by Edwin Mieczkowski (American, c. 1967; acrylic on canvas mounted to board; 121.9 x 121.9 cm.) has come to be recognized by historians and critics as the artist’s masterpiece and a key work of Op Art in general. Mieczkowski was an important figure in the Cleveland art scene for three decades and achieved international renown for his groundbreaking Op Art creations. While teaching at his alma mater the Cleveland Institute of Art, he co-founded the Anonima Group, the only collaborative in the United States devoted to the Op Art movement. His achievements contributed to placing Cleveland as a vital center for the global Op Art scene during the 1960s, a time when the city operated as both training ground and residence to some of the most significant and successful Op artists, including Julian Stanczak, Francis Hewitt and Richard Anuszkiewicz.

Taking cues from theories in perceptual psychology, Op artists exploited visual ambiguities in their work with a goal to match objective knowledge against sensory observation so that viewers experience and acknowledge unstable aspects of visual phenomena. A clear representation of these ideas, Blue Bloc seemingly vibrates in-and-out of focus while at the same time generating a sensation of the canvas pulsating from within. A rigorously rendered square-format abstraction, the composition features more than 1,200 three-quarter circles in hues of yellows, greens and blues arrayed against a checkerboard background with gradations of black, gray and white. The painting is generously scaled, dazzlingly hued and boldly designed and it ranks among the most visually dynamic and appropriately eye-popping Op Art paintings.
Blue Bloc exemplifies the goals of Op Art to stimulate, challenge,—and even confound—vision. Its addition to the permanent collection augments an already strong collection of Cleveland Op Art works, many of which were acquired around the time of their creation.

Blue Bloc by Edwin Mieczkowski will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland Op Art will be on view from April 11, 2011 to February 26, 2012.

The Lovers (after the Master of the Housebook or Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet)

Engraving impression is in excellent condition and one of five in existence

In the fifteenth century, little value was placed on artistic originality. Once a successful motif was introduced, there was no stigma attached to the imitation of one artist by another. Wenzel von Olmütz was an engraver whose 91 prints are careful copies of the work of other masters, especially Martin Schongauer, the Housebook Master.
The Lovers (after the Master of the Housebook or Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet) by Wenzel von Olmütz (Bohemian, c. 1490; engraving; 16.7 x 10.9 cm.) depicts a well-known motif. The garden of love was a popular setting for romance in chivalric literature and so was the most frequently represented secular subject in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Olmütz’s image is a visual interpretation of the literary ideal of chivalric love as a noble and inspiring relationship. The tender feelings of the couple are evident in this engraving; the young woman has a lapdog, a symbol of faithfulness, and gently covers the young man’s hand on her knee with her own hand. Olmütz’s copy is very faithful to his model and preserves the charm and delicacy of the original. The Lovers is in excellent condition and one of only five impressions of this scene in existence, with one other (in the Albertina, Vienna) being as fine an example as this engraving.

A notable strength of the museum’s print collection is the superb group of fifteenth-century Italian and German engravings and woodcuts that represent the beginning of printmaking in Europe. The collection includes the only first-state impression of Antonio Pollaiuolo’s Battle of Nude Men and ten outstanding engravings by the Master ES among other significant works. In fact, The Lovers by Olmütz offers a vivid contrast to a print in the museum’s permanent collection, the Master ES’s The Garden of Love from about 1465. In this impression, the Master ES satirizes the ideals of courtly love and warns against the immoral behavior outlawed by the imperial cities of Germany at the time.

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published.