DALLAS – This summer the Dallas Museum of Art will oversee and initiate the conservation treatment of seven rare mural paintings, In Exaltation of Flowers, by the artist most notably known for his photography, Edward Jean Steichen (1879–1973). The seven canvases, part of a private collection, will undergo conservation treatment visible to the public in the Museum’s Cindy and Howard Rachofsky Quadrant Gallery, located on the DMA’s first level. Upon completion of the conservation treatment, the life-size mural paintings will go on view September 5, 2017 through May 28, 2018 in the exhibition Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowers (1910–1914), overseen by The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the DMA, Sue Canterbury.
“The DMA is honored to conduct the conservation on these beautiful and historically significant mural paintings by an important figure in American art history,” stated Agustín Arteaga, The Eugene McDermott Director at the DMA. “The Museum’s conservation department has played a crucial role in advancing the research and practices of conservation in the region, and this project is an example of our endeavors to ensure that wonderful works of art from across time periods and cultures are preserved for future generations.”
In 1911 financier Eugene Meyer and his wife, Agnes, commissioned Edward Steichen to create a mural for the foyer in their new townhouse on Park Avenue and 71st Street in New York City. The Meyers were part of Steichen’s circle of friends, along with Arthur Carles, Mercedes de Cordoba, Katharine Rhoades, Marion Beckett and Isadora Duncan. The group often gathered at Steichen’s house Villa L’Oiseau Bleu near the town of Voulangis, France, which featured a beautiful garden where he planted and cultivated hybrid flowers. There in Steichen’s “Magical Garden,” as it was referred to, members of the group adopted flower counterparts. Beckett, for example, was “Petunia Beckett” and Rhoades and Carles were the “Geranium Club.”
These floral personifications, as well as portraits of many members of this artistic circle, became the subjects of the mural for the Meyers’ house, which was titled In Exaltation of Flowers. From 1911 to 1914 Steichen worked on these panels, portraying his friends among floral motifs, capturing their flower personalities and to some extent the relationships among the group of friends. Due to financial difficulties, the Meyers had to sell their townhouse before the mural could be installed and the panels were only exhibited in their entirety once in 1915 at the Knoedler Gallery in New York.
The DMA’s Associate Paintings Conservator, Laura Eva Hartman, is overseeing a team of four interns from the Winterthur/University of Delaware program in Conservation, all of whom are specializing in paintings conservation, to undertake the conservation of these panels. From mid-June through August the team will study the murals from both an art history point of view and technical perspective, using various analytical tools to examine the paintings and study the methods and materials used. Treatment for the paintings, which are in good condition but have been in storage for a number of years, include the unrolling of the murals and stretching them on new supports, cleaning the painted surfaces, and consolidating any areas of loss or damage. Together with colleagues in the curatorial department, the team will interpret results from the technical study to better understand Steichen’s techniques and the long-term preservation needs of the murals.
About the Paintings Conservation Studio
The Paintings Conservation Studio at the Dallas Museum of Art opened in 2013 as part of the Museum’s initiative to establish a more comprehensive in-house conservation program. The Paintings Conservation Studio features state-of-the-art technology and serves as a center for study and treatment of works of art as well as research into cutting-edge conservation methodologies. An adjoining gallery regularly rotates works of art, providing a space for visitors to explore the conservation process in greater detail through visual representations.
About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country and is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 23,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. Since the Museum’s return to free general admission in 2013, the DMA has welcomed more than two and a half million visitors. For more information, visit DMA.org.
The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Members and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.