Archive for January, 2012

Collection Mystery Drawing…Who is the Artist?

 
WAM Collection mystery drawing...who is the artist?

WAM Collection mystery drawing...who is the artist?

Stieg Larsson’s investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist definitely has talents I don’t possess.  For the last two weeks I have been trying intermittently to determine who drew this portrait.  It came to us as part of the Etta and Claribel Cone collection in 1950 and has been attributed to Mersyes based on the inscription. Unfortunately no such artist exists. Is the inscription a signature or a title? The drawing is in the style of Jacques Villon, whose work the Cones collected and the Weatherspoon owns, but he typically signed his work. Likewise the inscription is not in the style of Jean Metzinger, a fellow cubist. The drawing is adhered to a mat that has the words “Safsa (Trinini)” inscribed on it (by whom?) as well as the date 1926. The face looks Algerian or Moroccan and I’ve learned that there is a place in Algeria called Safsaf, but what does Trinini mean? The only other clue is the word Tefúgahe (?) inscribed in pencil on the drawing’s upper right corner. I’m not giving up yet, but I hope some Lisbeth Salander will read this post and provide some much needed help.

UPDATE:

Mystery Solved!!

This was a good week for art sleuths out there, and thus for WAM.  While visiting the Museum for another project, paper conservator Jane Sugarman looked at the mystery drawing and figured out that the inscription did not read “Trinini,” but rather the country Tunisia. From that, I was able to decipher part of the upper right inscription to read “Gafsa.”  The town of Gafsa, also spelled Qafsah, has been around since Roman times when it was known as Capsa.

The next day, I got a post from the Ackland Art Museum’s Chief Curator, Peter Nisbet, who identified the signature as “Medgyes.” Better known as a furniture and stage designer than as an artist, Ladislas Medgyes was born in Hungary but worked in New York from the 1920s until his death sometime in the late 1940s.

Many, many thanks to both Jane and Peter for helping identify this wonderful drawing and for confirming that a career in the visual arts is never dull.

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Artist Helen Frankenthaler

 
Artist Helen Frankenthaler

"Snow Pines" by Helen Frankenthaler, from the Weatherspoon's collection; the artist at work in her studio.

During the bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to lose track of important news events. The death of pioneering post-World War II artist, Helen Frankenthaler on December 27 may have been such an event, but her achievements deserve to be acknowledged.

Beginning in 1952 Frankenthaler took abstract art in a new direction by pouring thinned paint directly onto unprimed canvases.  Applauded for its lyricism and luminous color, Frankenthaler’s work not only gave rise to the Color Field movement, but also has remained vital throughout the years.

Frankenthaler was equally talented as a printmaker, and the Weatherspoon is privileged to own a 34-color Ukiyo-e style woodcut entitled Snow Pines, 2004.  The art world definitely has lost a significant talent.

Image:  Helen Frankenthaler, Snow Pines, 2004, 34-color Ukiyo-e style woodcut, Ed. 6 out of 65, 37 1/2 x 26 in. Museum purchase with funds from the Weatherspoon Art Museum Acquisition Endowment, the Louise D. and Herbert S. Falk Acquisition Endowment, the Lynn Richardson Prickett Acquisition Endowment, the Weatherspoon Guild Acquisition Endowment, and a bequest by Hubert Humphrey, 2011.

Read about this new WAM acquisition in our Winter newsletter on page 9 here.

Wikipedia article about Frankenthaler.

More photos of Helen and her work on the blog Habitually Chic.

And more on the site TheArtStory.org.

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