The Director

November Director’s Message

Dear Friends, 

At their core, art museums are educational institutions. We have an obligation not just to display the art in our collections but to offer multiple ways for people to explore those objects, the stories they tell, the ways in which they were executed, or the broader context of the times in which they were made. To do this we typically display art in galleries grouped around geographical areas and chronological time periods, or in special exhibitions that explore certain themes or concepts in greater detail. We participate in a world-wide dialogue on art by regularly lending works from our collection to other institutions and borrow from them in return. This gives us the opportunity to rotate objects in our galleries, to see works of art in a fresh context alongside others from our own collection or works on loan from elsewhere. For example, we have just installed a beautiful late painting of a bather by Suzanne Valadon in our Impressionist gallery on the second floor of the Morgan building, replacing a landscape by Edvard Munch. The work is on short-term loan from local private collectors and generous supporters of the Wadsworth—a great opportunity to see a painting by Valadon whose work is the current subject of a retrospective at the Barnes Foundation. We also have temporarily added some other works from our collection in the same gallery, such as Cezanne’s sensitive portrait of his son, and a small pastel portrait of Mademoiselle Sarrasin by Eva Gonzales to further highlight the contribution of women artists to nineteenth-century art during the run of our major fall exhibition By Her Hand. Meanwhile, Bob Thompson’s iconic Garden of Music has traveled to the Colby College Museum of Art to be included in the first monographic exhibition devoted to the artist in more than twenty years, while favorites such as Julius Stewart’s On the Yacht ‘Namouna,’ Venice, and Kerry James Marshall’s Baptist will soon be seen at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art as part of the three-venue exhibition In American Waters.  

Interacting with Art and the Artists 

The interactive work by Leonardo Drew that has been a fixture on the museum’s Main Street lawn throughout the summer months will close after November 14. Our art handlers worked with the artist to customize this installation for our front lawn. The sculptural work breaks all the usual museum rules and is meant for you to touch, sit, or dance on as you please. We scheduled outdoor events and lawn parties to invite community members to do just that. It became a site for moments of play, relaxation, and connecting with each other. We recently invited the artist back to the museum to give our annual Emily Hall Tremaine Lecture in Contemporary Art, relaying his personal journey as a creator and the backstory on both the front lawn installation and the explosive wall sculpture he designed for our Main Street lobby. It was fascinating to hear his intent to not just be in dialogue with the massive Sol LeWitt that exists in that gothic space, but to embrace and engage with it.  

Bringing artists to the museum to discuss their work is one of the many opportunities we hope helps you forge deeper connections with works of art. This month, MATRIX artist Christina Forrer will be joined by contemporary poet and fairy tale writer Sabrina Orah Mark for a virtual discussion that draws connections between the visual narratives Forrer depicts in her tapestries and Orah’s imaginative tales. This free virtual program is happening Thursday, November 11 at 6pm. While hearing from living artists firsthand has the ability to bring us closer to their work, so too can we find relevance in works by artists of the past that still captivate us today. This week, Elizabeth Cropper, Dean Emerita of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC will focus on the persistence and fortitude of Artemisia Gentileschi. Cropper suggests that we still have much to learn from Gentileschi’s life and work. Register here to attend in person or virtually on October 28 at 6pm. 

Another way to get an inside look at the work we do in the museum is through our new in-gallery program series, Pop Up Conservation! On November 13 and 19 you’ll find one of the members of our conservation team at work in a gallery. When you do, don’t worry about breaking their concentration. They’re looking forward to answering your questions and showing how they care for the works of art in our collection. Ask for their location at the Info Desk when you arrive at the museum. Beyond physically preserving works of art, our conservation team is constantly adding to our knowledge about our collections, the creation of works of art, and their histories. I encourage you to visit the special gallery on the third floor next to By Her Hand where X-radiography of three self-portraits by Artemisia Gentileschi (pictured below) reveal the likelihood that the artist used a common design or template to lay out the compositions. The X-ray scans also reveal changes the artist made before settling on the compositions we see today. These three significant paintings are on view together here for the first time in the U.S. and will only be here for a limited time.
Let’s Add Some Music 

A number of programs this month celebrate the By Her Hand exhibition through music, giving you a contextual new way to experience art. Live period music performed on the lute by Petra Jenkinson will fill the exhibition on November 4 and 21. What better way to experience our Artemisia Gentileschi Self-Portrait as a Lute Player than by hearing period music on a lute? On Sunday, November 7, CT Lyric Opera performs La Liberazione di Ruggerio written by Italian composer, singer, and poet Francesca Caccini (1587–1640), a contemporary of Artemisia Gentileschi. The following weekend, Sunday November 14, our Sunday Serenades collaboration with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra takes inspiration from Artemisia Gentileschi and Alice Neel, artists who were creating four hundred years apart, and presents musical works by female composers spanning four centuries. 

Specials for our Members 

We would not be able to provide such a rich roster of programs if it weren’t for the support of our members. This month, we say thank you to our members during Member Shopping Days, November 19 – 21. That weekend, member discounts in the shop, which apply year-round, are doubled. We are also scheduling more exclusive member-only tours of 
By Her Hand with curator Oliver Tostmann. Not a member yet but want to join? Simply follow this link  or you can buy a membership when you arrive at the museum.   

Best,

Jeffrey N. Brown
Interim Director & CEO

Images

Visitors enjoy Leonardo Drew’s 81S installed on the museum’s front lawn.

Installation view of three paintings by Artemisia Gentileschi on view in By Her Hand.