FOUR NEW ACQUISITIONS
Gauguin's "Eve" enhances the Drawings Collection; Claude Lorrain's "Coast View with the Abduction of Europa" augments the Paintings Collection; and 834 photographs by Beato and Hawkinson's "Octopus" join the Photography Collection
September 24, 2007
LOS ANGELES—The J. Paul Getty Museum has announced today the acquisition of several important works of art: Eve ("The Nightmare") (c. 1899-1900), perhaps the most extraordinary of the “transfer drawings” by renowned Post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), joins the Drawings collection of 19th and 20th century modern masters; Coast View with the Abduction of Europa (c. 1645) by Claude Lorrain (c. 1604/5–82), one of the greatest masters of landscape painting, augments the Paintings collection of Baroque masterpieces; and 834 photographs by Felice Beato (1825-c. 1908) and Tim Hawkinson’s (b. 1960) Octopus (2006) join the Photographs collection.
Gauguin’s Eve will be a central work in an upcoming exhibition celebrating the Getty Center’s 10th anniversary by looking at ten years of drawings acquisitions by the Getty Museum. The exhibition will be on view from January 29 through May 4, 2008 in the Museum’s West Pavilion. Claude Lorrain’s Coast View with the Abduction of Europa will be placed on view in early 2008 in the Museum’s East Pavilion, where it will hang with other Baroque masterpieces in the collection, including Poussin’s A Calm and Holy Family, Rubens’s Calydonian Boar Hunt, and Rembrandt’s Abduction of Europa.
“It has been an extraordinary end of summer for the Getty as these four new acquisitions complement three major collecting areas for the Museum,” explains Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “We are fortunate to have the chance to acquire such a rare and powerful drawing by Gauguin and a brilliant example of French classical landscape painting by Claude Lorrain. In addition, we have added a photocollage by the internationally acclaimed Los Angeles artist Tim Hawkinson, recently featured in a solo exhibition at the Getty, and expanded our holdings of work by the important 19th century documentary photographer Felice Beato, giving us the most comprehensive holding in the world of this pioneer photojournalist.“
Paul Gauguin’s Eve ("The Nightmare")
French artist Paul Gauguin was a key figure in establishing the notion of the modern artist—having quit his successful banking job to dedicate himself to painting in 1885. As part of his total commitment to his artistic career, he spent significant periods of time in remote, often primitive places that fed his artistic spirit, such as Tahiti, Pont-Aven and Brittany. Drawing always occupied a central role in Gauguin’s artistic production, but he perpetually pushed to develop revolutionary, experimental techniques unique to his practice. In 1899, he created a new process which he called “transfer drawings,” which involved covering a piece of paper with printer’s ink, laying a second sheet on top of the inked sheet and drawing upon it with graphite and blue crayon. This pressure resulted in an ink imprint on the reverse side, which ultimately became the “finished” work—but both sides remain visible. He experimented with the types of inks he used, particularly tacky black printer’s ink and ochre ink, and varied the amount of pressure he applied to create lines of different values and textures. Gauguin wrote to his dealer Vollard in 1900 that he was sending him ten drawings using this newly invented approach. Of the ten experimentations, Eve is the most monumental and compositionally complex.
The subject of the work is Adam and Eve’s fall from grace as described by the book of Genesis in the Bible, but he has infused the Christian imagery of the Fall with Polynesian mythology to form a unique rendering of the subject. Eve is the main figure and she is represented as a nude Tahitian woman frowning as she touches her cheek and covers her genitalia with a cloth—conveying that guilt and shame have come into her consciousness since her decision and indicating that she has begun to menstruate and will give birth in pain. The snake—whose encouragement caused this debauchery—slithers towards Eve in the lower right of the drawing.
The character of Eve shares the center of the composition with one of Gauguin’s archetypal images of Death—an ominous, hooded figure sitting on a ferocious steed that seems to move away from Eve, while simultaneously emanating from her. Death’s stony, mask-life face appears in profile and contains elements of Gauguin’s own features. At the back right, Adam is depicted nude and descending into a black pit—the pit of transgression—with his hands clinched above his head in agony.
Eve joins the Museum’s collection of impressionist and modernist drawings by Gauguin’s contemporaries, including Cezanne’s Still Life with a Blue Pot (c. 1900), van Gogh’s Arles: View from the Wheatfields (1888), Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Circus: Entering the Ring (1899), Bonnard’s Le Moulin Rouge (1891), and three Seurat drawings. In addition, this work joins two important Gauguin’s already in the Museum’s collection, including his black-chalk drawing from his first trip to Tahiti, Portrait of a Tahitian Girl (c. 1892), and his wood sculpture, Head with Horns (1895-97). Eve will be shown as a double-sided drawing when it is exhibited at the Getty.
Claude Lorrain’s Coast View with the Abduction of Europa
Considered one of the greatest landscape painters of all time, Claude Lorrain transformed the genre and influenced the course of painting with the refined “ideal” landscape where the representation of nature was seen to surpass nature’s own beauty, order and harmony. His unrivalled command of light and atmosphere imbued subjects from classical poetry and biblical history with a lyricism that delighted his elite patrons, and raised the status of landscape painting in Rome to a highly collectible genre. Lorrain’s vision, based on the assiduous study of the Roman countryside and judicious command of compositional structure, was respected and imitated across Europe over the succeeding centuries—leaving an indelible impact on the genre.
Painted in 1645, Coast View with the Abduction of Europa tells the ancient tale of Jupiter—who disguised as a magnificent white bull lured Europa, princess of Tyre, to climb upon his back and whisked her away to Crete—on an outdoor stage, against the backdrop of a fortified harbor. Lorrain dresses Europa in delicate lilac and vivid blue and depicts her sitting demurely on the bull’s back, while her four attendants adorn her and the bull with wreaths and flowers. He uses familiar architectural features of the port city of Tyre to depict it in the misty atmosphere in the distance: the distinctive square tower (right), stone bridge with two round towers (center, right), and the imposing watch tower, with its minutely described rusticated base and partially crenellated top. Numerous small figures populate the port and fill the rigging of ships at anchor.
Coast View is the first painting by Lorrain to enter the collection and joins Poussin’s A Calm and Holy Family, Rubens’s Calydonian Boar Hunt and Rembrandt’s Abduction of Europa as a cornerstone of the collection of Baroque art and one of the Museum’s most important paintings. It also complements the Museum’s substantial holdings of Lorrain’s drawings, including: a related harbor scene, Figures in a Landscape before a Harbor (c. 1630s); the atmospheric View of Tivoli (1640); a remarkable scene of contemporary toil, Landscape in Latium with Farm Laborers (1660-63); and, a large figure composition with inscriptions, Apollo and the Muses (1674).
Felice Beato Photographs
Felice Beato was one of the first photographers to chronicle war and social upheaval—no one before him was present with a camera at so many different conflicts ranging from the Crimea, to India, to China, and finally Korea. He was the first to understand that photography could be a tool for propaganda and was one of the first to experiment with ways to manipulate photographs to skew a story. For example, he rearranged human remains in India and physically altered some negatives made in China to remove and replace elements. He was one of the first to systematically make new negatives copied from prints to extend the life of the original negatives and to use the copying process to enable changes in the subject. He made pictures that attempted to achieve spontaneity before the hand-held camera existed. His strong sense of political relevance is complemented by his highly intuitive sense of composition.
Beato had a long and varied career photographing throughout the Near and Far East, frequently in conjunction with military expeditions. In partnership with James Robertson, he photographed the Crimean War in 1856. He traveled to India through the Middle East, where he photographed Egypt and Syria and documented the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny, in the 1850’s, which present day historians record as the first war of Indian independence. In 1860 he accompanied the British-French Expeditionary Forces in the Second Opium War. He opened a studio in Yokohama, Japan, in 1863, where he made costume studies and photographs of the trades of Japan for tourists. He was hired to accompany the American force to Korea in 1871, where he made the first known photographs of Koreans. In 1874 he sold the Yokohama studio and his Japanese negatives to Baron Raimund von Stillfried-Rathenitz and went into the furniture export business, which failed. In his later life he settled in Burma and operated a furniture export business there.
In addition to being significant in its size and overall quality—it includes more than 834 photographs—this acquisition is also unusual in that many of the photographs acquired have been removed from their typically damaged albums, which allows further conservation of the works, as well as matting and framing for individual exhibition.
Collecting work by individual photographers in-depth has been an important goal of the Department of Photographs at the Getty. The Beato photographs will join the Museum’s already significant holdings of Beato’s contemporaries, Gustave Le Gray, Roger Fenton, and Carleton Watkins.
Tim Hawkinson’s Octopus
Los-Angeles based artist Tim Hawkinson intentionally leaves his work open to individual interpretation and experience. Many critics perceive themes of mortality, temporality, and spirituality in Hawkinson’s art, particularly in those works which incorporate temporal and physical measuring devices and evocations of the human body. Many of his pieces are mechanized, and their movements are sometimes keyed to musical compositions, emit sound, emulate breathing, cause the release of water, or record the passage of time. Other works result from a reconfiguration of reality.
For his photographic collage Octopus, Hawkinson reshuffles details of human anatomy. Photographs of his own fingers, hands, and lips create a consumptive carnivore whose seductive tentacles and pulsating beauty belie its destructive power. This mutation of body parts mirrors the octopus's prodigious talents for continual refiguration as it extends and contracts in movement. In this disembodied and reconstructed portrait of self, the artist also invokes his own powers of reinvention and transformation.
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