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18th-Century American Pewter from the John W. Poole Collection

DATES April 08, 1938 through May 30, 1938
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  • April 9, 1938 The Brooklyn Museum opened four exhibitions today (Saturday, April 9), an Exhibition of Techniques in Chinese art arranged by Laurance P. Roberts, Curator of Oriental Art and occupying the large special exhibition galleries, an Exhibition of Early American Pewter from the Collection of John W. Poole, arranged by John I. H. Baur, an Exhibition of American and European Samplers, arranged by Isabel Scriba, and an Exhibition of Lithographs by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec and His Friends, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, K. Xavier Roussel, Maurice Denis and Paul Signac, arranged by Carl O. Schniewind.

    The Exhibition of Techniques in Chinese Art includes selected masterpieces and typical examples of work in painting, sculpture, woodblock prints, rubbings, jade, ceramics, cloissone, bronzes, costumes, weavings, and embroidery, from the Brooklyn Museum Collection and from the collections of Laurence Sickman, the Rev. Du Bois Morris, George Rowley, J. M. Plummer, C. Edward Wells, Frank B. Lonz, Chi Chen Wang, Ton-Ying, Yamanaka, Roland Koscherak, Ralph
    M. Chait, The Chicago Art Institute, The Metropolitan Museum, Columbia University Library, the American Museum of Natural History, and the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art in Kansas City.

    Tools, materials, Chinese paintings showing artists and craftsmen at work, and photographs illustrating work in the various arts add materially to the interest of the exhibition. Enlargements of photographs lent by several collectors were made for exhibition purposes by Herman de Wetter, staff photographer of the Museum.

    The Poole Collection of pewter is arranged geographically to show typical work of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Northern New England. Rare teapots and communion services are included in the collection, which also comprises bowls, tankards, mugs etc. A selection of representative and unusual pieces has been made from over 200 items in Mr. Poole’s collection.

    The Exhibition of Samplers includes American, Italian, French, Hungarian, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, German and English work, all from the Brooklyn Museum Collection. Two types are featured, those which were collections of needlework patterns for use on purses, household linen, dresses, etc., and those designed for decorative use, chiefly with pictorial subjects. The oldest sample in the exhibition is dated 1727 and is English. Many of those done in America during the second half of the XVIIIth Century and early XIXth Century have the date and the age of the child who made the sampler. The children often copied pictures of their homes and filled in the background with whatever designs suited their fancy. The samplers become more and more pictorial until the fad for embroidered pictures done in Berlin wool took the place of the earlier silk and cotton samplers on backgrounds of cotton and linen. Many of the English border patterns shown were probably copied from Italian pattern books, which were not available in America and wore rare in England.

    The lithographs, chiefly in color, by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec and his friends recall vividly the curious mixture of worldly cynicism and sweet unworldly sentiment of which artists and writers compounded the texture of fin de siecle romance. Most keenly, most bitterly, and yet most tenderly, the nervous hand of Toulouse Lautrec sketched characteristic figures of the stage, the cafe concert and the small stuffy colorful cluttered pathetic and evil rooms of Montmartre. May Belfort, Mlle. Lender, Sarah Bernhard, the female clown, Yvette Guilbert, the mad automobilist (a caricature of Toulouse Lautrec himself), and the nameless women he called Elles may seem to be bitterly and cruelly drawn, with cold precise ironic scrutiny of their weariness, decadence, hardness and unloveliness, they are at the same time made to seem poignantly alive, and picturesque. And they are strangely invested with affection and tenderness, with an aura of wistful romance.

    Toulouse Lautrec alone of this group of artists saw individuals clearly as persons, set down exactly their appearance in unguarded moments, and that momentary betray of intimate character which ho saw there. Signac preferred an unpeopled scene for his decorative effects of light and color. Denis invented strange dim figures apparently with a feeling for the unreality as well as the poetic quality of the life he observed. Bonnard, lover of Paris that he then was, saw everything at a distance, played with intangible textures of shadow and light and handling, shapeless masses, flashing accents of color. Vuillard within doors and without chose odd and oddly empty forms, making an abstract pattern without depth whether he chose even distribution of lighting of masses of lights and dark. There is a suggestion of light and shadow, but as abstract entities, the forms are areas, not solids. His interest was adivision of  surface into willful shapes mottled with vivid sour colors always closely related to hues that would be called sweet. Through these surfaces one now perceives quite definitely the city across which ho spread these surfaces like windows of colored glass and feels his close relation to that city.

    Of them all Toulouse Lautrec is the master draftsman, the more human, more personal artist. His friends, almost equally bewitched by the external appearance of their chosen city and the restless angry experimentalism and sensationalism of their day, are vague in their contact with reality. They are observers of color, values, light and the materials and techniques of their art, not denisens of life.

    The exhibition comprises about fifty lithographs and several illustrated books, chiefly from the Brooklyn Museum Collection, a few lent by Jean Goriany. Some of the finest Toulouse Lautrec’s in this country are included in the exhibition, several of them very rare and of considerable importance. The Museum has recently acquired the lot of lithographs called Elles, which is included in the exhibition. There are only two other complete sets in museums in this country, and this is the only set in a public collection in New York. It has been shown in Chicago, but never in the east. Most of the artists have been neglected by collectors, although they belong to the foremost rank of the Post-Impressionists.

    The above exhibitions are scheduled to run through May.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1937 - 1939. 03-04_1938, 059-61.
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