What is most wonderful about the newly opened exhibit at the Nassau County Museum of Art, “The Moderns,” is that there are works by all the most important artists who defined The Modernists and revolutionized art – Picasso, Miro, Dali, Chagall, Matisse – but works that would have been in private collections, so are unfamiliar to us and we can revel in these to better know the ones we thought we knew so well. Even more exciting is to see for the first time masterpieces from artists you may not be familiar with at all – Claude-Emile Schuffenecher, Maximilien Luce, Victor Brugariolle. Taken together, the exhibit expresses The Moderns, in context to the social and political currents of the times that produced such revolutions in art as Cubism, Fauvism, Expressionism and Surrealism.
“Beginning with Impressionism, art becomes largely an end in itself, rather than being an adjunct to storytelling, or official political and cultural ideologies,” writes Franklin Hill Perrell, guest curator for “The Moderns: Long Island Collects Modern Art.”
“Cubism’s premise of multiple vantage points to comprehend its subject furthered the break away from descriptive …. Next, surrealism, which elevated imagination as a valid source of artistic imagery. In Expressionism, emotion and intuition prevail over rationality … recurrently surfaces throughout the modernist epoch.”
The centerpiece of this special exhibit, THE MODERNS: Selections from the Saltzman Family Collection, which continues celebrations of the Museum’s 25th anniversary year, honors the Museum’s Founding President, the late Ambassador Arnold A. Saltzman, who during his life formed one of America’s great private collections of early modernist painting and sculpture. The exhibition includes works by well-known modernists such as Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Constantin Brancusi, Edgar Degas, Robert Delaunay, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger and many others.
It is more than complimented by a companion exhibition, THE MODERNS: Long Island Collects Modern Art, organized by guest curator Franklin Hill Perrell, which draws together choice examples of 20th-century art from significant Long Island collections. This special presentation embraces a wide range of treasures by pioneering artists of the modernist era, among them Matisse, Monet, Renoir, Dali, Léger, Chagall, Miró, Toulouse-Lautrec and others.
Saltzman Family Collection include powerful pieces, like George Grosz (German, 1893-1959) “World of Asphalt” (1931), and stunning pieces like Robert Delaunay (French, 1885-1941), “Femme lisant (“Woman reading” 1915), and surprising pieces, like Marc Chagall’s “Les Chardons” (“The Thistles,” 1931), remarkable for its subdued palette for the artist better known for jarringly bright colors (and can be compared to Chagall’s “The Green Clown” (1970-75) in a gallery devoted to art works declared “degenerative art” by Nazi Germany, where the notes describe Chagall as “a unique artistic personality”.)
What is most interesting here are the notes from the artists themselves, describing their work or their philosophical approach to their art – something that intrigued Arnold Saltzman himself (and I wonder if it was Saltzman who collected the quotes).
At the opening reception, Saltzman’s daughter, Mimi, said, “Collecting was for him a wild pursuit, worldwide, three-dimensional chess game. He went to tremendous depths to understand art history, the artists and their lives.”
“He began collecting as a very young man with the first money he made. He was a businessman, a political animal but his true soul was art – collecting and understanding. He wasn’t simply an art collector, but a philanthropist, seeing ways to improve lives.
“He was sympathetic to zNazi Degeneratez art. He had an aggressive nature, and a profound need to follow his vision in all aspects of his life. He really felt George Grosz’s disgust with Germany, and the impressionists’ delicate, nuanced relationship with nature.”
“He was instrumental in establishing this museum. Arnold inhabited this museum, his soul is here,” she said.
The riches continue in galleries devoted to “Long Island Collects Modern Art” – pieces loaned from private collections.
On one wall: Paul Cezanne’s “Near to Aix en Provence” (1865-7); Camille Pissarro’s “The Flood at Ermagy, A Study” (1892), a ballet dancer by Degas, Pierre August Renoir’s “Paysage” (1905), a sweet, small landscape as well as a charming portrait of a young girl.
The opposite wall has an equally stunning display: Jean Gabriel Domergue (French 1889-1962), “Racing at Longchamp,” Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) “Mere et enfant” (1951 a line drawing, and Henri Matisse (French 1869-1954) “Interieur rouge” (1920).
Also in this gallery is Toulouse Lautrec, and Maximilien Luce’s pointillist portrait of Rodolphe Pissarro.
In one remarkable room, Victor Brugariolle (French, 1869-1931): “Place de la Concorde” (1890), Claude-Emile Schuffenecher (French 1851-1931), “In the Isle of France, (1897) and Maximilien Luce (French 1858-1941) “Port of Rotterdam” (1905), a gift to NCMA from Saltzman.
There are two rooms devoted to Surrealism, with marvelous works of Salvadore Dali, Joan Miro (1881-1973, “Une tale et son petit (1970), which would suggest it was created right before Miro died and “Babere dans la nuit (1976), a lithograph published after his death.
“Surrealism was much more than an art movement,” Hill writes. “Its establishment in 1920 was a corrective to the perceived failures of the social order represented by the violence of World War I.” What is more, “Art’s mandate to portray the external world was usurped by photography.”
Several of these works, including two Dali sculptures (melting clock and woman with a piano) were lent by Dr. Harvey Manes, a museum trustee, who at the opening reception, July 24, spoke of what drew him most to acquiring Dali’s “La Promenade Figures et papillons” which is about metamorphosis, and how he gilded the frame of another Dali, perfectly setting off the image.
In another gallery, devoted to artists whose works were persecuted as “degenerate art” in Nazi Germany (where Chagall’s “Green Clown” is to be found), Dr. Manes has other pieces, including a Picasso with the notation, 25D43, indicating it was made (hastily and is unfinished) as a Christmas present for his mistress.
This sweeping showcase of modern art, Selections from the Saltzman Family Collection and Long Island Collects Modern Art, which together lets you understand the transitions and the context as well as the personalities, is on view through November 8, 2015.
Also on view:
Posters of the Russian Revolution: 1917-1921: In stark contrast to the “art for art’s sake” that is the essence of “The Moderns, in the stormy period that began with the 1917 October Revolution, poster art became a principal means of communicating the ideals of Communism to the largely illiterate peasantry of Russia. Graphic, inexpensively produced posters carried the Revolution’s message and served to capture the minds and souls of the masses. These vibrant posters, depicting the new collective means of production in mines, fields and factories, were designed and executed by some of the foremost Russian artists of the time. Offered in conjunction with Selections from the Saltzman Family Collection, this exhibition is comprised of a collection of Russian revolutionary posters that was gifted to Nassau County Museum of Art by the Arnold A. Saltzman Family Foundation.
And, in the museum’s Contemporary Gallery, Frank Olt: New Works. A product of New York’s minimalist tradition, Olt was an artist in residence at MoMA’s famed PS 1 gallery. A Long Islander, Olt’s abstractions form a hybrid of ceramics and painting.
The Museum is offering several public programs that will serve to enhance and illuminate the works on view. The Brown Bag Lecture series of exhibition talks will be presented on August 27, September 24 and October 29. Jake Gorst, author of a book on his grandfather, modernist architect Andrew Geller, presents a talk on his famous relative on September 26. Art historian Miriam Brumer discusses works in the Saltzman family collection on October 17. On November 7, Shirley Romaine discusses Serge Sabarsky, who mounted exhibitions of German and Austrian Expressionist works beginning in 1989 when he was the first director of the newly privatized Nassau County Museum of Art. A 30-minute documentary, Edgar Degas of Dandies, Ballerinas and Women Ironing, screens daily. (Visit nassaumuseum.org/events for details and registration information.)
Edgar Degas of Dandies, Ballerinas, and Woman Ironing: This documentary follows the trail of the painter Edgar Degas through nocturnal Paris at the turn of the century, in the Paris Opera and the concert cafes. Edgar Degas, the son of an Italian banker, had stopped studying law to become a painter. Degas was a brilliant portraitist, but even more than this he loved to paint the dynamics of movement in horse races, to sketch the milliners on the boulevards, to depict with his paintbrush or pastel crayons the young women who worked as laundresses and water-carriers. Similar to but unique within the Impressionist art movement he helped to start, his art captured the fleeting moments of movement and light in the flow of modern life. Free with museum admission. (July 25-November 8, 2015, 30-minute documentary, 2011, Tuesday-Saturday: Screenings at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. & 12 p.m.
SUMMER ART & SCIENCE DAY CAMP
Summer Art Lab (Session I: July 27-August 7, Session II: August 10-August 21, Classes for 5-8 and 9-13)
Look at Art • Explore Nature • Discover • Have Fun: Indoor and outdoor adventures that offer playful and creative opportunities for children through a mix of art making, science activities, group projects and more. Activities include h ands-on art making (printmaking, sculpture, painting and more), sketching, gallery games, story time , outdoor scavenger hunts, hiking and journaling. Customized classes for children 5 to 8 are held from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and for ages 9 to 13 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. To learn more or to register, log onto nassaumuseum.org, Summer Art Lab tab upper left-hand of page.
Joe Dubs and The Jazz Connection: Join Nassau County Museum of Art’s own house band, Joe Dubs & The Jazz Connection, celebrating the timeless music of great American composers such as Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Ellington and many others. The Jazz Connection plays traditional swing and jazz of the 30s, 40s and 50s and can slide into the Bop world of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis as well as the unique rhythms of Antonio Carlos Jobim. These talented musicians have been featured at the Museum and at libraries, restaurants and private parties. Free with museum admission. Reservations not needed. (Sundays at 3 p.m. August 2, 16, 30).
FOR THE FAMILY
Family Sundays at the Museum: Converse, collaborate and create together during Family Sundays from 1 to 4 pm. Family Sundays begin with exhibition-based gallery conversations. Families then go on to explore new art materials, vocabulary and ideas with our museum educator. Family Sundays provide children and the adults in their lives with the opportunity to reconnect while talking about and making art together. New projects are featured every week! Reservations not needed. Free with Museum admission (Sundays, 1-4 p.m., Family Tour at 1 p.m., August 2, 9,16, 23, 30)
Hear It! See It! Draw It! A morning program that invites young children ages 3-5 and their caregivers into the galleries to listen to stories, explore works of art and create drawings inspired by what they see and hear. A different story is read each week. Limited to 20 children and their adult companions. Free with museum admission but registration required. Write to email@example.com, indicate how many in your group and desired date (Fridays, 10-11 a.m., August 7 & 14)
Brown Bag Lectures, Riva Ettus, Thursdays, 1-2 p.m. August 27, September 24, October 29: Bring a sandwich and enjoy lunch with friends as Museum Docent Riva Ettus presents an informative talk on the extensive range of art included THE MODERNS: Chagall, Degas, Léger, Miró, Picasso, and more….Selections from the Saltzman Family Collection and Long Island Collects Modern Art. Afterward, join the 2 p.m. public exhibition tour. Free with museum admission. Reservations not needed; first come, first seated.
Exploring the Grounds
Be sure to make time to explore the grounds of this magnificent estate (and take advantage of the museum’s cafe to make a full day of it):
Sculpture Park: Approximately 40 works, many of them monumental in size, by renowned artists including Fernando Botero, Tom Otterness, George Rickey and Mark DiSuvero among others, are situated to interact with nature on the museum’s magnificent 145-acre property.
Walking Trails: The museum’s 145 acres include many marked nature trails through the woods, perfect for family hikes or independent exploration.
Gardens: From restored formal gardens of historic importance to quiet little nooks for dreaming away an afternoon, the museum’s 145 acre property features many lush examples of horticultural arts. Explore expanded gardens and beautiful new path to the museum.
Most of the 145 acres originally belonged to poet, lawyer, conservationist, political activist, patron of the arts and preservationist William Cullen Bryant, who settled in Roslyn in 1843. The long-time editor of the New York Post built his home, Cedarmore, and founded Roslyn’s public library. In 1862, he built a cottage for his friend and fellow poet, Miss Jerusha Dewey (you can see the cottage when you explore the hiking trails). In 1900, Lloyd Stephens Bryce purchased Bryant’s ‘Upland Farm’ and commissioned architect Ogden Codman, Jr. to design Bryce House, the present mansion. Henry Clay Frick, co-founder of US Steel Corporation purchased Bryce House in 1919 as a gift for his son, Childs Frick, a Princeton graduate who became a vertebrate paleontologist and naturalist and art collector.
A private, not-for-profit institution, the Nassau County Museum of Art is ranked among the nation’s largest, most important suburban art museums. Seeing the paintings hung on walls or in cases within the mansion rooms, you feel an intimacy with the objects that you don’t get at the major museums, as if for that moment in time, they are yours.
Nassau County Museum of Art is located at One Museum Drive in Roslyn Harbor, just off Northern Boulevard, Route 25A, two traffic lights west of Glen Cove Road. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Call (516) 484-9338, ext. 12 to inquire about group tours. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and above) and $4 for students and children (4 to12). Members are admitted free. The Museum Store is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 516-484-9337 for current exhibitions, events, days/times and directions or log onto nassaumuseum.org.
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