Go West This Summer
A Place in the Sun opens Sunday, May 22nd
May 16, 2016 (Tulsa, Okla.) This summer Philbrook spotlights Western American art in the original exhibition A Place in the Sun: The Southwest paintings of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings organized by the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum. Featuring 36 works by Taos Society artists Walter Ufer (1876–1936) and E. Martin Hennings (1886–1956), this presentation outlines the path taken by these American artists studying in Chicago and Munich before finding inspiration in the Southwestern landscape among the Native American and Spanish cultures. On view in Tulsa May 22 – August 28, 2016, Philbrook serves as the second and final stop for this exhibition.
DAM curator Thomas Brent Smith reached out to Philbrook Chief Curator Catherine Whitney knowing of her expertise and interest in early twentieth-century Southwestern art. In addition to serving as the only exhibiting partner and coordinating curator, Whitney wrote a scholarly essay for the accompanying catalog.
A Place in the Sun is the first exhibition to present the major award-winning paintings by Ufer and Hennings together. By examining the artists as a pair, the exhibition tells a complex narrative about aspects of American society during the interwar period and moves beyond their lifelong friendship, shared training and artistic aspirations.
Curated by Thomas Brent Smith, Director of the Petrie Institute of Western American art and curator of Western American art at the Denver Art Museum, the exhibition is a culmination of six years of scholarly research exploring the parallels and differences between the personal and artistic journeys of Ufer and Hennings. Today, Ufer and Hennings are primarily known by audiences well versed in western American art. A Place in the Sun aims to rectify this by contextualizing these artists within the larger scope of American art and examining issues of nationality, region, and modernity thus placing these artists back within the pantheon of great American painters.
“Though these two artists were closely connected and painted in the same place and time, my hope is that visitors will walk away seeing them as individuals,” said Smith. “This exhibition also will help visitors understand each artist’s place in the larger context of American art.”
The Tulsa exhibition varies slightly from the Denver installation as Whitney chose to explore distinct themes common to both artists as opposed to offering a chronological and biographic presentation. Philbrook visitors will find an introduction and five sections: “The Road to Taos,” “Scenes of Passage & Change,” “Performance & Spectatorship,” “Inside/Out: Framing a View,” and “Labor & the Landscape.” While the exhibition focuses on the works created in Taos, New Mexico where Ufer and Hennings established their national reputations in the years surrounding World War I, the introduction and early sections of the exhibition outline the artists’ parallel pathways as German-American artists through Chicago, Munich, and ultimately the American Southwest. In New Mexico they both found inspiration from the scenic landscapes as well as the tri-cultural traditions of the Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo Settlers, who chose rural, nature-based lifestyles over the industrialized lifestyles of popular urban centers.
“This project appealed to me and, ultimately Philbrook, for a number of reasons,” reflected Whitney. “Not only are these large, gorgeous paintings but they also won some of the most prestigious awards of their time, representing some of the best early twentieth-century works from this region.” The show also made sense for Philbrook as the Museum has two important works by these artists in the Eugene B. Adkins Collection, which Philbrook shares with the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at Oklahoma University, as well as one Walter Ufer in the Philbrook permanent collection, all of which are featured in the exhibition and catalog.
Similarities between the two artists extend beyond their German-American heritage and their decision to train in Munich. Both artists hoped to build their careers in the spirited art environment of Chicago, but ultimately established themselves in Taos, New Mexico. Both artists gravitated toward subjects drawn from the region’s rich Native American and Hispanic culture, using the serene landscape and vibrant light of the Southwest.
While the artists painted similar subjects, it is Ufer and Hennings’s artistic styles that truly differentiate their work. Ufer painted alla prima, in which layers of wet paint are applied to previous layers of wet paint. Hennings adopted the German version of art nouveau called Jugendstil, a style of art that is inspired by natural forms and structures in flowers, plants, trees, and curved lines.
Ufer and Hennings’ bold, bright paintings of the Southwest were well-received in the West, Midwest, and beyond. As a result, the artists climbed the ranks of the greatest contemporary American painters, winning top honors at the nation’s most prestigious juried competitions where artists were expected to present their most notable work. Competitions were evidence of their stature and importance among American artists during their time.
A Place in the Sun debuted in Denver Dec. 13, 2015 through April 24, 2016 before traveling to the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, May 22 through August 28, 2016.
A 250-page fully illustrated publication co-published by DAM and University of Oklahoma Press accompanies the exhibition and features abundant new research and scholarship revealing many previously unknown aspects of their life and work, in particular their time studying in Munich. Authors include DAM Curator Thomas Brent Smith and Philbrook Chief Curator Catherine Whitney.
A Place in the Sun: The Southwest Paintings of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings is organized by the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum. It is presented with generous support from James J. Volker Family Trust, Mary and Gary Buntmann, Carolyn and Robert Barnett, the donors to the Petrie Institute of Western American Art endowment. Additional support is provided by the Philbrook Exhibition Series Sponsors including Underwriting Sponsors Ralph & Frances McGill Foundation, Nancy and Peter Meinig, and the Sherman E. Smith Charitable Foundation.
About the Coordinating Curator:
Philbrook Chief Curator and Curator of American Art Catherine Whitney leads the distinguished curatorial team while specializing in American paintings, modernism, and Southwestern art from 1890-1940. Prior to joining the curatorial team at Philbrook, Whitney held various positions at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC and the Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe and currently serves as president of the Southwest Art History Conference Board in Taos, New Mexico. Whitney has originated numerous Philbrook exhibitions including: From New York to New Mexico: Masterworks of American Modernism from The Vilcek Foundation Collection (2015, traveled to Phoenix Art Museum and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum); Hard Times Oklahoma 1939-1940: The Documentary Photographs of Russell Lee (2014); Models & Muses: Max Weber and the Figure (2012-13, catalogue); Black on Black-&-White: The Southwest of Laura Gilpin and Maria Martinez (co-curated in 2012, traveling); and A Legacy of Art: Paintings by N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth from the Cowan Collection (2010). “The Philbrook permanent collection, energetic staff, and expanding stature enable me to match my areas of interest with exciting, in-depth exhibitions and important national partnerships,” remarked Whitney.
A Place in the Sun: The Southwest Paintings of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings is organized by the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum.
Sunday, May 22 – Sunday, August 28, 2016
Philbrook Museum of Art
2727 S. Rockford Rd., Tulsa, Okla.
Rooted in the beauty and architecture of an historic home gifted by the Phillips family in 1938, Philbrook Museum of Art has grown to become one of the preeminent art museums across the central United States. Highlights of the Museum’s permanent collection include Renaissance and Baroque paintings from the Kress Foundation, one of the greatest surveys of Native American art anywhere, and growing modern and contemporary collections. The Philbrook main campus spans 25 acres of grounds and formal gardens, and features an historic home displaying the museum’s permanent collection, as well as a modern museum complex. The satellite location in downtown Tulsa showcases Philbrook’s modern and contemporary art collections, as well as the Eugene B. Adkins Collection and Study Center of Native American art.
Philbrook Museum of Art is open Tuesdays – Sundays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. CST. Philbrook Downtown is open Wednesdays – Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays, 12–5 p.m. Museum admission runs $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and university students; Philbrook Museum Members and youth 17 and younger are always free. For additional information, visit www.philbrook.org.
- May 16, 2016