August Director’s Message
I received an enthusiastic email earlier this week from a mother of five who recently brought her children to the Wadsworth for a summer outing and, no doubt, to take advantage of the generous state funding for free museum access for children this summer. Her young family had such a great time they came back again the next day for more. It is a reminder that the Wadsworth entertains over fifteen thousand kids of all ages each year through family visits, school tours, studio art programs, and so much more. Thousands participate in our free Second Saturdays for Families programs where we invite children to create art inspired by current exhibitions. In her message, the mother complimented the museum on its world-class collection of works by Monet, Van Gogh, Matisse—and those examples are just a few of the beloved artists in our diverse collection of objects from antiquity to new and emerging artists. Most importantly, she appreciated the manner in which we seek to not just present the art but tell the broader story of each work and the context in which it was created.
We often quote the statistic that we have a collection of nearly 50,000 objects, a fraction of which are on view. You could instead think of the objects as 50,000 starting points for stories of humanity and self-expression. To find new ways to tell the stories within our collection we continually mount new exhibitions, combining works in new ways, and showcasing artworks that are not regularly on display.
Take our current exhibition, A Remarkable Friendship: Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril, which features lithographs by Toulouse-Lautrec alongside works by his contemporaries rarely seen because of the fragility of works on paper. The pastel by Edgar Degas in the exhibition has not been on display in over eight years, and has never been shown with the Lautrec in this context. This intimate, focused show is part of a series we call Icon Exhibitions, highlighting masterpieces from the Wadsworth collection. A Remarkable Friendship celebrates the unique friendship of dance hall and cabaret performer Jane Avril and artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and the Parisian nightlife at the end of the nineteenth century where they thrived. It’s not to be missed and please note it is only on view through August 29.
Also consider Stories in Ivory and Wood Told by Master Carvers which features two carvings by an artist known only as the Master of the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. These dramatic sculptures, carved in the 1600’s, are two of only twenty works known and to our knowledge have never been displayed together. Individually each is a stunning example by this master but for a limited time you have the opportunity to see them together.
Another must-see exhibition on the third floor of the Wadsworth building is Milton Avery: The Connecticut Years, which has received great reviews. Designed to show the early work of an artist evolving and refining his style, the exhibition is a prequel to a larger retrospective we will be presenting in 2022. The exhibition “is superb in a way that’s as un-show-offish as both Avery and his pictures,”—Peter Plagens, The Wall Street Journal. On August 7, join curator Erin Monroe for a tour of these Connecticut landscapes where Avery acquired the foundation of his groundbreaking paintings.
August is approaching fast and we have a diverse lineup of programs planned, including our first in-person exhibition opening in over a year. Join us Friday, August 13 at 6pm for the opening of Christina Forrer / MATRIX 187. Textile artist Christina Forrer will be here to guide you through her fantastical weavings including Sepulcher, the centerpiece of the show. At nearly eight by fourteen feet, the monumental artwork presents the interconnectedness of all things great and small experienced through the five senses and linked through the natural elements of earth, air, fire, and water. You’ll also find objects from the Wadsworth’s collection in the gallery. Selected by the artist for their relation to her work, you’ll see some unique collection works that are rarely on view, from hooked mats by Grenfell Labrador Industries to a pair of taxidermized hummingbird brooches, among other curious pieces.
With life starting to return to normal, museum admission fees have returned to the previous pricing: $15 adults; $12 seniors; $5 students. There are still plenty of opportunities to visit the museum for free, including the Connecticut Summer at the Museum program which allows kids 18 and under with an accompanying adult to visit free of charge through September 6. For the safety of our guests and our staff we do require that everyone wears a mask while inside the museum.
Finally, I’d like to thank those who support the museum through participation in our Annual Fund campaign or through our varied membership programs. Without your generosity, we wouldn’t be able to have the incredible programming that helps bring our communities together. We hope you’ll take the time to come by and check out some of the programs supported by your contributions this August, including artist and curator talks, Second Saturdays for Families, our summer film series, and a Summer Lawn Party on August 6. It’s a great time to see something both familiar and new at the Wadsworth. What stories will inspire you?
Jeffrey N. Brown
Interim Director & CEO
Installation view of A Remarkable Friendship: Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril. On view through August 29. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Hartford, Connecticut.
Christina Forrer, Sepulcher, 2021. Wool, cotton and linen. 97 in. x 162 in.© Christina Forrer; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago. Photo: Joshua White.