Category: Research Notes

While organizing the 2017 permanent collection reinstallation at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Mythmaking and Truth-Telling: American and Regional Art, I made discoveries in the artist’s papers at the Archives of American Art that allow us to precisely date Miss Maude Adams, as “L’Aiglon” and to better contextualize the painting within the intellectual milieu of its creation.

The apparent plaintiveness and autobiographical transparency of Should Love Come First?, and its early prominence in the then unknown Rauschenberg oeuvre, felt intensified by its obliteration by the artist himself. If ever an artwork had a story worth sleuthing, I figured it was this one, even if it was just the story of its own production.

I immediately recognized that the instruments of his labor—brushes and a bucket of whitewash, used to brighten the walls of soot-filled homes—were often the stuff of racial satire and caricature in the nineteenth century. Was this a sympathetic portrayal of an African American or something much more complicated?

To anyone who had the temerity to press a nose against the picture, to sniff at or try to smell it, he gave a clear message. . . . Just below his signature and the painting’s date, Homer wrote in light-colored script, as if it were flotsam from a wreck: “At 12 feet from this picture/you can see it.”

Elizabeth Welch, PhD Candidate, Department of Art and Art History, University of Texas at Austin

The box commemorates, nearly to the day, the ninth anniversary of Cornell’s relationship with [Lillian] Moore, encapsulating a bit of the sparkle that she had lent to him with her positive response to his early ballet work.

Two of the most prominent Native-made objects in Jefferson’s original hall were a pair of male and female figures that Jefferson had received several years prior to Lewis and Clark’s shipments. Curiously, the figures had disappeared from the historical record with Jefferson’s death in 1826. It came as quite a surprise, then, that during my internship I reidentified two stone heads that today sit in the hall display cases and are what remain of Jefferson’s original statues.

Trying to square oddball works against thoroughly convincing interpretations of the rest of the oeuvre can be a fruitless exercise. At the Huntington, there is one such painting by William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), “The Inner Studio, Tenth Street,” which offers a counter narrative to prevailing interpretations of his work.