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In Memoriam: Merle Greene Robertson, 1913–2011

It is with great sadness that the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco mourn the passing of Merle Greene Robertson. A legend in the world of Mesoamerican studies and Maya epigraphy, Robertson has been a friend and consultant to the Museums for decades. She generously donated many of her unique rubbings made from the monuments of Chichen Itza, a large Maya center that flourished on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico after AD 800. These rubbings provide clear renderings of detailed Maya stone carvings and are an important aspect of the Museums' Mesoamerican holdings.


© 2008 Ron Henggeler
 

Happy Birthday, Richard Diebenkorn!

Today the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco wish a happy birthday to renowned artist Richard Diebenkorn. The Fine Arts Museums have enjoyed a long relationship with the artist since the Legion of Honor hosted Diebenkorn’s first solo exhibition in 1948. From that point on, the Museums were ardent supporters of the artist and his work. Both the American Art Department and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts have compiled significant holdings of his work.

Richard Diebenkorn (American, 1922–1993)
Seawall, 1957, Oil on canvas
Gift of Phyllis G. Diebenkorn, 1995.96
© The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Will Work for Art: Debra Evans

"Will Work for Art" is a new series of blog posts that will take you behind the scenes to meet the people who make the Fine Arts Museums possible. Our inaugural staff member is Debra Evans, head of paper conservation. Originally from Hawaii, she has been at the museums for 28 years.

Our Banner in the Sky

Our Banner in the Sky

Attributed to Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900)
Our Banner in the Sky, ca. 1861
Oil on paper mounted on paper board
7 13/16 x 11 13/16 inches
1994.71

Exactly 150 years ago today on April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began in earnest. At 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries on the shores of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina opened fire on Fort Sumter, the Federal-held fortification that dominated the harbor after commander Major Robert Anderson refused its surrender. The resulting bombardment went on for 34 hours, with Confederate artillerists lobbing over 3,000 rounds of shot and shell in the fort's direction. While the fort's masonry walls were battered and many of its wooden buildings were set alight, there were no fatal casualties on either side during the engagement. Ironically, two Union soldiers were killed when ammunition was accidentally ignited during the 100-gun salute to Fort Sumter's tattered but intact American flag.

It is this flag that is thought to be depicted in the de Young's Our Banner in the Sky, believed to have been created in 1861 by American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. Major Anderson took Fort Sumter's flag with him back to the North, where it became the focal point of numerous patriotic rallies, the first of which took place in New York City's Union Square. With over 100,000 attendees, it was the largest public gathering in the United States to date. The celebrity flag toured countless cities throughout the North, where it raised funds for the war effort by being auctioned off. The winner naturally donated the flag back to the nation to be auctioned off again at the next rally. In April of 1865, Anderson, now a major general, returned to Fort Sumter and raised the flag over its ruins as part of the celebration of the Union's victory.

Julian Cox in conversation with Collection Connections artist Marco Breuer

In the midst of the 48-hour installation of Line of Sight, Founding Curator of Photography and Chief Curator at the de Young Julian Cox sat down with Marco Breuer to discuss his artistic practice.

Inauguration Day for Honest Abe, 150 Years On…

Abraham Lincoln, 1860

Alexander Hesler (American, 1823–1895), Abraham Lincoln, 1860 (printed ca. 1881)
Albumen print from glass plate negative, framed, 9 1/4 x 7 1/2 inches
Museum purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund. 2007.38

Today, March 4, 2011, is the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. At this time in 1861, the nation was deep in the throes of political and social upheaval, with the recent secession of seven southern states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, who had already selected Jefferson Davis as the provisional president of the Confederate States of America only three weeks before. The American Civil War soon started in earnest, with the bombardment of Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861.

Portraits of George Washington for Presidents’ Day

George Washington

Rembrandt Peale (American, 1778–1860), George Washington, ca. 1850.
Oil on canvas. 53.15.1

Presenting the first blog post by communications intern Gauthier Melin.

Inspiration: New Works Created after Paintings in the Legion's Collection

In preperation for the exhibition Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave at the Legion of Honor, artist Isabelle de Borchgrave created five new works inspired by paintings in the European paintings collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Selected by de Borchgrave during a summer 2010 visit to the Legion of Honor, the paintings include Anthony van Dyck's Marie Claire de Croy, Duchess d'Havre and Child (1634), Massimo Stanzione's Woman in Neapolitan Costume (ca. 1635), Konstantin Makovsky's The Russian Bride's Attire (1889), and Jacob-Ferdinand Voet's late 17th-century Anna Caffarelli Minuttiba.

All five of de Borchgrave's life-sized interpretations are on view in the last gallery of the exhibition. After taking in Pulp Fashion on the Legion's lower level, head upstairs to find three of the four paintings. (The portrait of Anna Caffarelli Minuttiba is not on public view, as it's currently being worked on in our conservation studio.)

Marie Claire de Croy and Child

Marie Claire de Croy and Child, 2010
 

Marie Claire de Croy and Child by Van Dyck

Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599–1641), Marie Claire de Croy, Duchess d'Havre and Child, 1634.
Oil on canvas, 81 1/2 x 48 1/2 inches. 58.43
On view in Gallery 14.

In the Galleries: Robert, Calvin, Martha, and William Scott and Mila (ca. 1843–1845)

Robert, Calvin, Martha, and William Scott and Mila, ca. 1843–1845

Regulars to the permanent galleries at the de Young will notice a new addition to Gallery 23 on the upper gallery level—the anonymous painting titled Robert, Calvin, Martha, and William Scott and Mila, ca. 1843–1845. The painting depicts the children of Reverend William Anderson Scott (1813–1885), a Presbyterian minister in New Orleans from 1842 to 1854. The spire of the First Presbyterian Church where Dr. Scott was pastor is visible at the center of the city’s skyline.

Another Wave

The Wave, 2005, by Kay Sekimachi

In 2005, Bay Area artist Kay Sekimachi gifted the museum a seminal work, a miniature book—The Wave. The Wave comes from her series of accordion books that were inspired by the Japanese artist Hokusai prints from his own series Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji. Woven in natural linen, Sekimachi used a painted-warp technique to imprint the repetitive pattern of the wave on the book’s covers and pages and a double-weave technique to create the accordion folds. The meditative quality of Sekimachi’s work belies the complexity of her techniques. Her work reflects a combination of influences— from the Japanese aesthetic comes her purity of form and reverence of nature and from her early Bauhaus training the control of geometry and symmetry, as well as, the exploration of the double-weave technique. 

Jill D'Alessandro, Curator, Textile Arts

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