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Finding Picasso

While the museum is closed to the public most Mondays, it welcomes hundreds of students and teachers to visit special exhibitions, such as Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. You may nostalgically remember this kind of field trip as day off from the classroom, but the education department’s school programs team makes the field trip a “day on” for young learners.

Every Which Way But Up

When installing a painting or sculpture for exhibition, determining the correct orientation of the work is (perhaps obviously) paramount. When discussing modern art, a seemingly simple question like “Which side is up?” can become much more complicated; and occasionally when dealing with abstract art, this determination can be downright perplexing.

Two paintings recently reinstalled in Gallery 50 at the de Young have raised this question for years. Since they first arrived at the Museums, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Petunias and Arthur Dove’s Sea Gull Motive have puzzled viewers and art historians alike.

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). Petunias, 1925. Oil on hardboard panel. Museum purchase, gift of the M. H. de Young Family. 1990.55. © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Discovering Connections: Teaching Institute Hosted by the Asian Art Museum, SFMOMA, and the Fine Arts Museums

For the past three years the education departments of the Asian Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have met to explore how collaborative programming can better support Bay Area teachers. Last week, building on this objective, the museums jointly hosted a four-day institute for high school teachers that focused on the theme of Discovering Connections.

Follow that Art! Balcomb Greene's Six-Sided Planes in Context

Last week, we followed Six-Sided Planes into the photgraphy studio where it was shot for record identification. Today we learn about the history and significance of this painting from the curatorial perspective.

My name is Emma Acker, and I’m a curatorial assistant in the American Art department at the Fine Arts Museums. In May of this year, I presented Balcomb Greene’s Six-Sided Planes as a potential purchase to the Acquisitions Committee of our Board of Trustees.

The World-famous "David" Violin is on View at the Legion of Honor!

For a limited one-month engagement, the famed violin “The David” made by Giuseppe Antonio Guarneri (del Gesú) is on display at the Legion of Honor through August 10!

Bequeathed to the Museums in 1989 by Jascha Heifetz, who was one of the world’s greatest violinists, this instrument currently spends most of its time at the San Francisco Symphony in the skilled hands of Concertmaster Alexander “Sascha” Barantschik.

Guiseppe Antonio Guarneri del Gesu (Italian, 1687–1745). Violin, ca. 1740. Spruce and maple. Bequest of Jascha Heifetz. 1989.6.1

Follow that Art! Six-Sided Planes Gets a Makeover by Paintings Conservation

Last week Balcomb Greene’s Six-Sided Planes made its first entry into the Museums and the acquisitions process via the registration department. This week, the painting heads upstairs to the paintings conservation lab for a little makeover.

My name is Elise Effmann and I’m an associate paintings conservator at the Fine Arts Museums. Conservators are entrusted with the care, treatment and technical study of artworks in the collection. When a painting comes to the Museums as a proposed acquisition, our department must examine it to provide the curators with information about how it was made, and to determine if there are any potential problems with the acquisition due to its condition.

The Lod Mosaic as Muse for Berkeley High School Seniors!

Last week, the Legion of Honor received a special visit from Berkeley High School’s Latin class. This group of thirty-seven seniors took time out of the final, hectic days of high school to see Marvelous Menagerie: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel, which has served as their muse for the past several weeks.

Follow that Art! Balcomb Greene's Six-Sided Planes comes to the de Young

Every piece of art in the Museums has a history. Whether an artwork has a long and storied past or was recently created by a living artist, its journey doesn’t end when it arrives on our doorstep. 

This is the first in a series of posts that will follow a single work of art, Balcomb Greene’s painting Six-Sided Planes, as it moves through the Museums on its way to exhibition. Greene was an artist and intellectual, a founding member of the American Abstract Artists, and a leading writer and proponent of abstraction.

We will follow the painting’s progress from its first entrance into the Museums via the registration department, through the conservation and curatorial review, onto the process of approval by the Board of Trustees, and finally the public display of the painting in the galleries.

Our first stop is the registration department, where the painting is first received and stored:


Balcomb Greene (American, 1904–1990). Six-Sided Planes, 1937. Oil on canvas. Potential Museum Purchase. L11.16

RTI Photography of the Red-Figure Pelike

In my last post, I introduced you to the cutting edge photography Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), a technique invented by Tom Malzbender at Hewlett Packard Labs. Here at the Museums, we have been using RTI to gain better understanding of objects in our permanent collection. We have just completed another round of RTI photography of this 5th-century Greek pelike.

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