June Director’s Message
Tomorrow we open the doors to a remarkable special exhibition, Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage. More than a tribute to the renowned Hudson River School painter, it provides a window into the profundity of this major American artist’s process by pulling together the major paintings, drawings, and color studies made in the field during his excursions in the Middle East, Athens, and Rome.
Church was born in Hartford and launched his career here–Atheneum founder Daniel Wadsworth arranged for Church’s apprenticeship with the great Thomas Cole, the museum purchased his first large painting (of Thomas Hooker and Company arriving to settle Hartford, no less!), and prominent Connecticut patrons including Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt and J. Pierpont Morgan made Church’s travels possible. You may love the significant works by Church installed in our collection galleries, but do not miss this outstanding exhibition of his views from the Holy Land on view here for the first time. Members, please join us for a fun, family-oriented event and first opportunity to see the show on Saturday, June 2 from 10am-noon.
This spring we examined the Wadsworth’s 100-year history of presenting outdoor sculpture on Main Street. It was striking to see how important works of contemporary sculpture have shaped the public experience; for decades, sculptural interventions in our downtown have enlivened and enriched urban life. And it was the right moment to consider things anew as a pair of fortunate opportunities presented themselves. Sean Scully–who many of you know from the very large painting in the collection, Red and Pink Robe (2008) from his “Wall of Light” series or from the thoughtful audio tour tracks on Zurburán‘s Saint Serapion (1628) that he recorded for our TAP Mobile Tour–has created a significant body of sculpture using the same matrix-thinking seen in his drawings, paintings, and prints. Inspired during a visit last autumn, he designed a towering and colorful sculpture with the Wadsworth lawn in mind in anticipation of his forthcoming Landline exhibition. Look for that sculpture later this month.
Simultaneously a short distance away, an impressive new sculpture standing nearly 20 feet high will welcome and reflect the city and sky. British artist Conrad Shawcross–the youngest member of the Royal Academy and widely known across the Atlantic–conceived of a faceted steel construction that uses moiré patterns to capture and refract light. The aptly-titled Monolith (Optic) (2016) is coming on loan for several years, and will be placed in front of the Morgan Memorial at an angle related to the track of the sun on the solstice, June 21. Inside on that same day Shawcross’s MATRIX 179 exhibition–his first museum show in the Americas–opens with an afternoon of alfresco programming followed by a gallery talk with the artist. This project presents the themes of the sculptor’s work from the past five years in which industrial robotics are hacked to created an aesthetic environment through balletic movements, mathematics, and sound mapped in solid forms. A related, adjacent installation explores the history and impact of our neighborhood’s public sculptures including Tony Smith’s Amaryllis (1965), Alexander Calder’s Stegosaurus (1973) on the Alfred E. Burr Memorial, and Carl Andre’s Stone Field Sculpture (1977) along the north edge of the Center Church’s Ancient Burial Ground.
The summer months will be full at the Wadsworth Atheneum, and your support makes everything possible. The museum’s fiscal year closes on June 30, so it’s not too late to make your gift to the Annual Fund. Thank you for your generosity, and for continuing to invest in art, for everyone.
Thomas J. Loughman
Director and CEO