Curating A Splendid Century
Three years ago, I was asked to put together an exhibition of Cincinnati art to celebrate the bicentennial of the Taft Museum of Art’s historic house. One of the first steps, of course, would be locating works of art that were beautiful, compelling, and rarely exhibited. One of the questions I often hear is, “How did you go about choosing the works for the exhibition?” Here I hope to shed some light on that process.
Belgian Royalty "Entranced" with Rookwood Pottery and its Connection to the Taft
What do the Taft Museum of Art and Rookwood Pottery have in common? More than you think. The answer to this question involves the granddaughter of Cincinnati’s first commercial winemaker, a collection of Chinese porcelain, and the “Soldier King” and “Red Cross Queen.” Intrigued?
Chinese Tea Culture
As I begin my thoughts about Chinese tea and its rich history, I start with a quote from the English playwright Arthur Pinero (1855–1934): “While there is tea, there is hope.” We can find hope in any number of places. In 1937 Lin Yutang wrote in his book The Importance of Living, “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” I encourage you to try and find a moment of peace and hope in perhaps an unexpected place: a cup of tea.
"Excitement of the Quest"—A Neoclassical Vision
Did you know that 2020 marks the bicentennial of the Taft Museum of Art's historic house? Around 1820, a simple four-sided home was built for Martin Baum (1765–1831) and his wife, Ann Sommerville Wallace Baum (1782–1864), forming the core of what would become one of Cincinnati’s most historic buildings. With that, it seems only fitting that we explore the predominant style of the early 1800s: Neoclassicism—an artistic approach that embraced the ideas of ancient Greece and Rome.
Limoges Meets Beijing
In 2014, the Taft Museum of Art accepted a remarkable gift of 89 pieces of Chinese painted enamel copperware. The late Reverend Compton Allyn left these rare treasures to the Museum in his will. Made by painting colorful diluted glass paste onto copper forms, the enamels in Reverend Allyn’s collection illuminate a story of cultural exchange between East and West.
The Power of Art and Freedom
Painted by Duncanson between 1850 and 1852 as a commission for Nicholas Longworth, then the home’s owner, the spectacular murals don’t reveal what was happening in Cincinnati during the turbulent time of their creation. They also don’t tell us much personally about Duncanson: a man whose grandfather was born enslaved in Virginia, who mostly taught himself to paint, and who became the first internationally recognized Black artist.
The Tafts and Cincinnati Art
The special exhibition A Splendid Century: Cincinnati Art 1820–1920 highlights the impact made on art in the city by the former residents of the Taft Museum of Art’s historic house. Charles and Anna Taft were the last of these residents. In 1900, after Anna inherited her father David Sinton’s $20 million estate (over $500 million today), the Tafts became philanthropists and art collectors who made a lasting mark on visual art in the Queen City.
A Splendid Century
By the 1840s, artists had begun coming to Cincinnati from the surrounding region to learn more about art, as well as to exhibit and to sell their work, and many born in the city enjoyed success. In 1840, a writer for the New York Star asked, “Cincinnati! What is there in the atmosphere of Cincinnati, that has so thoroughly awakened the arts of sculpture and painting?
Balancing Wanderlust with Stay-at-Home: Two Works by J. M. W. Turner
English landscape painter J. M. W. Turner found endless inspiration in his travels. On his journeys throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, Turner filled hundreds of sketchbooks with tens of thousands of drawings and watercolor sketches. Back in his studio, he used this material—along with his memory and imagination—to create detailed oil paintings and watercolors. The Taft Museum of Art has brilliant examples of both in its collection.