Monday, May 20, 2019

AUGUSTA SAVAGE: Renaissance Woman Review By Polly Guerin

Augusta Savage with "Realization"
"/There is form and color, and rhythm in the work, but most of all , there is Augusta Savage in every bit of it." --- New York Telegram, April 1932.  
     When it comes to success in life, "Timing is Everything," and such was the case with Augusta Savage (1892-1962). Being Black, being a woman and being an artist are challenges that Augusta encountered, yet she overcame poverty, racism, and sexual discrimination to become an instrumental artist, educator and community organizer during the Harlem Renaissance, an artistic and cultural movement during the 1920s and 1930s in which cultural work was produced by Black artists about the Black lived experience. Yet, her work is largely unknown today. 
       To remind us not to forget. this remarkable woman's oeuvre is worthy of new found recognition but she was also the driving force behind the artistic education of  several notable artists in Harlem, including Gwendolyn Knight, Jacob Lawrence, William Artis and Norman Lewis. Image: Augusta Savage with her sculpture "Realization," 1938 Gelatin Silver Print, 10 x 8 in. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York Public Library, Photographs and Print Division, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, 86-0036. Not much has been written or recorded about her 1938 sculpture "Realization" but one can sense both shame and fear in a sorrowful monument that symbolizes the pained bewilderment of the persecuted Negro peon.
      The New York Historical Society presents: AUGUSTA SAVAGE, RENAISSANCE WOMAN through July 29, 2019, "This landmark exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to understand and appreciate the artistic greatness of Ms. Savage's Legacy, as well as the many challenges she
faced as a woman and an African American," said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New York Historical Society.  
     Augusta's commitment to using art to empower an oppressed is at the heart of the exhibition, which features more than 50 works of art and archival materials that explore Savage's legacy
through her own sculptures as well as the work of emerging artists she inspired.
Boy with Rabbit, 1928
As a child, Augusta was so inspired to create art that she used the rich clay deposits in Green Cove Springs, Florida, where she was born in 1892,  to sculpt animal figurines. When her father, a minister, discovered her work, he beat her severely for what he thought "graven images." Alas, her father could not "beat" the art out of her and neither could our imperfect world and society.  

Image: Boy with Rabbit, 1928 reflects the innocence of childhood, a nude boy tenderly feeds apples to a rabbit eagerly standing on its hind legs next to him. This subject demonstrates Savage's ability to sculpt the body and animals into a comprehensive composition evoking innocence and perhaps referencing Savage's childhood in Florida.                 
        Augusta moved to Harlem to study art in 1921 and graduated from The Cooper Union School of Art, where she completed a four-year program in three years. Despite having a prominent scholarship to the Fontainebleau School of Arts in Paris rescinded due to her race---the selection committee declared "it would not be wise to have a colored student," Savage studied elsewhere in Paris  from 1929-31 to further her practice. When she returned to New York, she established her own studio in Harlem to offer free art classes to children and adults.  
      Savage was one of 12 women artists commissioned for the 1939 World's Fair in New York and the only African American woman selected to participate.  She created LIFT EVERY VOICE AND
SING (1939) for the occasion---a 16 foot-tall sculpture of Black youth in the form of a Harp, inspired by the hymn "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," also known as the Black National Anthem. Unfortunately, Savage lacked both the funds to cast the work in bronze and the space to store it, so like many artworks at the World's Fair, it was destroyed when the event ended. Lift Every Voice and Sings exists only in the form of souvenir replicas, like the version on display in the gallery.  Its exhibition marks the 89th anniversary of the New York World's Fair.
     Savage fought to create opportunities for many Harlem artists and became an inspiration  for the community centers nationwide. In Savage's own words, "I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work."  On view in the exhibition are works by Knight and Lawrence as well as Romare Bearden and William Artis.
Lift Every Voice and Sing
     Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, a companion catalogue, published by London-based firm D.Giles Unlimited further explores Augusta Savage's impact and legacy. The book is available in the NYHistory Store and from online retailers. The exhibition was curated by Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.d and organized by the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens with support from the National Endowment for the arts and the Sotheby's Prize.
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  What talent, what perseverance, what a awesome, benevolent artist/sculptor---Augusta Savage nurtured and enabled so many talented Black youth to fulfill their dream. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the links in the left-hand column to women determined to succeed, visionary men, fashion historian and poetry.

Monday, May 13, 2019


The Cradle, 1872
"Berthe Morisot has captured on canvas the most figurative notes with delicacy and skill, and a technique which earns her a place in the forefront of the Impressionists." George Riviere, critic
       Celebrated in her time, French impressionist painter, BERTHE MORISOT's  prolific and daring style set a new trend as one of the revolutionary artists of the French Impressionist movement. As one of the founding members of the advant garde she was renowned as a painter of modern women and captured Parisians life with poignant details and intimate settings. Image: The Cradle, 1872, oil on canvas, Musee D'Orsay, Paris, Dist, RMN Grand Palais/Patrice Schmidt.
      In an acclaimed international touring exhibition, BERTHE MORISOT, WOMAN IMPRESSIONIST, The Dallas Art Museum presents, through May 26, the very first solo exhibition of her work to be held in the United States since 1987. After a highly successful presentations in Quebec, Canada, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States, the Dallas presentation focuses on the artist's figurative paintings and portraits though approximately seventy paintings from both public institutions and private collections. Of special interest. nine of the paintings are exclusive to the Dallas Museum of Art's presentation in North America and will be seen for the first time in Dallas as part of the exhibition. 
       Morisot may not be as well known as her impressionist colleagues, such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-August-Renoir, but her distinct style sheds light on subjects that recorded the lifestyle of women and their servants, babies and children in delicate domestic venues. 
Woman at her Toilette 1875-1880
      ON A RECENT VISIT to the Dallas Art Museum's exhibition, Polly was impressed by the enduring charm of Morisot's oeuvre. Each painting seemed overcast in a creamy white blending of colors, which made an impression of serenity and compassion in the domesticity of everyday life, including tender childhood moments, housework, practicing violin or piano, reading or playing with a little dog. Image: Woman at hr Toilette, 1875-1880, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago, inv. no. 1924.127. Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY.
       Then, too, there is The Cradle, 1872, best know and loved work, as well as Woman at her Toilette 1875-1880 where a woman is seated before a mirror with her back toward us in a swirl of color. Notice that the artist does not show the woman's face reflected in the mirror lending an impression of mystery to the portrait. It is interesting to note that during most of her painting career Morisot did not have a painting studio but produced most of her paintings by setting up an easel in her kitchen or living room.
Eugene Manet ith their daughter Julie 1881
Although many of her paintings were created with interior renderings she also excelled with outdoor themes."En plein air" paintings revealed her innovative treatment of integrating her subjects within the setting with lush brushstrokes and palette.  In 1874 she married Eugene Manet, the younger brother of Edouard Manet and painted this loving scene of Eugene with their daughter Julie at Bougival, 1881. 

       The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with a specific focus on Morisot's pioneering developments as a painter first, woman second. Edited by Sylvie Patry in English, the catalogue was co-published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. and The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. (Hardcover, $55). 
       MARK YOUR CALENDARS. Of special note, The Dallas Museum of Art opens its presentation of the first major U.S. Retrospective of the HOUSE OF DIOR on May 19, 2019. The exhibition celebrates more than 70 years of the French House's legacy and influence and includes New Looks exclusive to the DMA presentation.
       TA Ta Darlings!  I realize that the Dallas Art Museum may not be on your travel agenda, but I trust that this feature has engaged your interest in Berthe Morisot. As a fashionista enthusiast I hope to see you at the Dior exhibition
      Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's other Blogs
at and click on the links in the left-hand column.

Thursday, May 9, 2019


The theme FREEDOM, expressed through the music of three contemporary composers, Duke Ellington, Rollo Dilworth, and Nicholas White, represents a new multi-media concert in the Canterbury Choral Society's 67th season
         FESTIVAL OF GOSPEL MUSIC, a celebration of spirituals, jazz and gospel music at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, 1085 Fifth Avenue at 90th Street takes place next Friday May 17, 2019 at 7 pm.
        Coincidentally adding to this glorious evening is the first installation on the East Coast of Les Colombes (the Birds) by artist Michael Pendry, appropriately titled Freedom and Release. 
Jonathan de Vries, Artistic Director and Conductor
       At the podium, artistic director and
conductor, Jonathan de Vries, has invited several choirs to participate in this multi-media event including The New Amsterdam Boys and Girls Choir, All Soul's Children's Choir, St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's Upper Division Choirs and the Choristers of the Church of the Heavenly Rest. 
      Musical selections include Rollo Dilworth's BOUND FOR GLORY,  which explores themes of redemption and salvation including movements, "This Train is Bound for Glory," and "City Called Heaven." This work was commissioned by Canterbury and was first performed at Carnegie Hall on November 18, 2017. The first movement, "This Train is Bound for Glory," celebrates the influences of African musical traditions on American folk tunes, European melodies, and the American African spiritual. The final movement in a metaphoric sense, the "train" refers to the Underground Railroad (a route of escape for runaway slaves) and "glory" refers to heaven.      
Soloist Janinah Burnett
 Of special note, the renowned 
soloist, JANINAH BURNETT, and celebrated Carlotta from the Phantom of the Opera, performs in the Canterbury Choral Society's final concert of the season. 
       It is significant to also mention that Canterbury's own, the celebrated piano soloist STEVEN GRAFF, will also perform in a jazz selection.
        A FESTIVAL of GOSPEL MUSIC also features selections from Duke Ellington's, Second Sacred Concert including "IT'S FREEDOM" and  "PRAISE GOD AND DANCE, " first performed at St. John the Divine, January 19, 1968.
       Nicholas White's "FULL FREEDOM," a piece for multiple choirs and instrumentalists,  written for the annual choral tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Kennedy Center (Washington DC) on January 13, 2002 features texts derived from the poems: "Peace" by Henry Vaughan,"The Essay on Man" by Alexander Pope, and "Fulfillment" by Ronald K. Orchard.
New Amsterdam Boys and Girls Choir

        TICKETS: $25 General Admission, $20 Seniors, $10 Students with ID.  Tickets also available via SMARTTIX.COM or at the door. 
     Do try to arrive early to acquire the best seats in the open seating in the Church of the Heavenly Rest. Polly is singing in the Canterbury chorus.  Don't forget to say "Hello" after the performance.
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