Marsden Hartley, Fishermen’s Last Supper, Nova Scotia, 1940/41 oil on canvas. 30 1/8 x 41 1/8 inches.
Beginning Spring 2016, the Mississippi Museum of Art showcases an incredible collection of work by some of the 20th century’s most legendary artists. “When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection,” on view April 9- Oct. 30, 2016, illuminates the artistic transformations that took place in the U.S. during the first half of the century and explores the contextual intersections between these iconic artworks and the larger historical shifts that made them possible.
The Mississippi Museum of Art is the first venue on this unprecedented traveling tour. “It is our great pleasure to host this incredible exhibition featuring work by so many of the 20th century’s most dynamic and revered artists,” said Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. “Never before in Mississippi have artworks by this inimitable group of creators shared a museum exhibition space; we’re honored to make them available to art explorers from across the region and beyond.”
This exhibition, hosted by the museum and presented by the American Federation of Arts and the Neuberger Museum of Art, exhibits work from a remarkable selection of modern masters, including Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Marsden Hartley, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and numerous others. Every artwork comes from the prodigious collection of the late Roy R. Neuberger, a financier born in Connecticut in 1903, who developed his passion for art while in Paris in the 1920s. After reading Vincent van Gogh’s biography, he was struck by the fact that Van Gogh died in poverty, yet after his death the artist’s paintings achieved ever-higher prices. Neuberger’s credo, “the contemporary world should buy the work of contemporary artists,” would guide him as a collector, and he often purchased works soon after their creation. As a result, Neuberger acquired extremely important pieces by these mythic artists before many of them reached the peak of their international acclaim.
Charles Sheeler, The Web (Croton Dam), 1955. oil on canvas. 22 1/4 x 24 in.
The education staff at the museum is equally cutting edge in their presentation of this and other exhibitions, providing a space for teachers of all disciplines to use art as a springboard for discussions outside the classroom that are rooted in specific curricula. The object-based pedagogy of the museum’s K-12 interpretive strategies begins with guided looks at the formal elements of a work — working with groups to collaboratively describe what is literally in front of them using and learning language which demonstrates visual literacy. Students and teachers are then guided through group conversation as museum educators introduce contextual information about the work, the artist, the time period and contemporaries, the style, influences, etc. During this process teachers are encouraged to interject object-based contextual information relevant to their current classroom lessons.
With some 50 paintings and sculptures, “When Modern Was Contemporary” is a portal through which educators and students explore the dynamism of the past via the lens of rare and stunning fine art. Just as they did when they were first made, these artworks inspire students and educators to think in new ways about the surrounding world; to find new and fresh connections between the objects of the past and the classrooms of the present.