Sunday, January 24, 2010

Metropolitan Museum of Illustration

In 1907 The New York Herald invited N. C. Wyeth to write an article in support of “a movement in N. Y. city to have the Metropolitan Art Museum set aside a gallery for the best example of illustrations.”

The Herald solicited the opinion of Howard Pyle and a few other eminent illustrators to make the case. Wyeth acknowledged that “the men at the head of the museum are not at all in favor of it.”

It never happened. Contemporary narrative art was overlooked by the Met for a hundred years. Edwin Austin Abbey’s Daughters of King Lear was banished in hallways for years.

But the tide has turned. Smart museums, including the Met, are now welcoming art that tells a story. The exhibit “American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life,” which closed yesterday, brought together more than a hundred paintings that even New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl called “a great show.”

Meanwhile the Museum of Modern Art is hosting an exhibit of movie-related art by director Tim Burton (through April 26), focusing on his characters and stories. The show is so popular that visitors need advance reservations.
American Stories Exhibit
Tim Burton Exhibit.
The Wyeths: The Letters of N.C. Wyeth, 1901-1945, edited by Betsy Wyeth, 1971, page 232.


Unknown said...

Every good picture, whether it be a painting or a simple drawing, should have a story behind it. When making a picture, the artist should not merely copy what he sees, but must create added value. This can be done by recreating the background (changing the setting) or putting the characters together in such a way that a story is told. Even a humble portrait painter can distinguish himself this way. And when done with great expertise, this will separate the artists from the copyists and the craftsmen. And justify our place next to photographers.


Begnaud said...

That particular Abbey painting has been a favorite of mine for years! Also a huge fan of his Holy Grail murals in the Boston Public Library.

Gordon Napier said...

I love the Edwin Austin Abbey piece. Very preraphaelite, but richer in colour and more theatrical. The deep reds and golds he uses are splendid.

My Pen Name said...

and rockwell has two shows touring the US.
I went to the American stories exhibit several times, I really enjoyed it. the best piece, however was that sargent Venetian

Unknown said...

When I was in my first year of art college, I was deeply upset when my instructor told me that illustration has no place in the art world, or in art history. Not only upset, I was completely baffled. Since grade school, I've been a mythology nut, and the first fundamentals of art history that I was taught in post-secondary centered on Egyptian and Greco-Roman frescoes, sculpture, and iconic figures. The evolution of such media as tapestries, woodcuts, and printing are married to illustration. The biblical iconography that runs rampant through pretty much every era of painting, the tiny nuances of classical symbolism even in such things as portraits... in my mind, it's next to impossible to completely eliminate narrative from art, because that is how the human mind has recognized art for thousands of years. It boils down to continuing the phrase of 'Let me show you what I saw, what happened, how it looked...'

It's so very heartening to see such collections coming together at the Met.