Collections

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.

FRAME|WORK: A ceremonial hanging from the Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Department of Textile Arts

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature a superb example of Indonesian weaving from the Textiles Department. This new acquisition is not currently on display, so we hope you enjoy this virtual viewing!

Ceremonial hanging (palepai), 19th century
Indonesia, South Sumatra, Lampung
Handspun cotton; plain weave with supplementary-weft patterning
330 x 69 cm (129 15/16 x 27 3/16 in.)
Museum Purchase, Textile Arts Council Endowment Fund and the Nasaw Family Foundation Fund, 2010.1

Marvelous Menagerie Unmasked

In 1996 construction workers accidentally uncovered a mosaic while widening a road in the modern Israeli town of Lod, near Tel Aviv. A preliminary excavation immediately conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed that three feet below the modern surface there was a mosaic floor dating to about AD 300. The three most complete and impressive panels from the floor are on view at the Legion of Honor through July 24.

Mosaic floor central panel, Roman, ca. AD 300. Excavated at Lod (Lydda), Israel. Stone tesserae. Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. Image courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

FRAME|WORK: Ponds and Streams by Wayne Thiebaud

FRAME|WORK is a new weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week we feature a landscape painted by one of our marquee artists, Wayne Thiebaud.

The Conservator’s Role in Honoring Artistic Intent

When objects conservators design a treatment for a corroded sculpture, they often have to grapple with the issue of the artist’s intent.

For instance, would Henry Moore at age 29, who made a sculpture with a shiny metallic surface, be in agreement with Henry Moore at 75, who, when interviewed about a treatment, stated that he quite liked the idea that surfaces went green, dry and streaky with time?

One way a conservator can help tease out these contradictions is to interview contemporary artists about the materials and techniques they use and then record how these artists would like their sculptures cared for in the future. At the Fine Arts Museums we are developing a database tracking this information for contemporary sculpture under our care.

The artist Al Farrow with

Artist Al Farrow with his sculpture The Spine and Tooth of Santo Guerro previously on view at the de Young

Cutting Edge Photography Technique Comes to the de Young!

My name is Sue Grinols and as the director of photo services and imaging, I witness the intersection of art and technology on a daily basis. This is an exciting time to be working in photography. Just seeing how technology is changing the field can be breathtaking, not to mention challenging.

Photographing artwork is a sub-specialty of studio photography. Here at the Museums, we use the same equipment and techniques as photographers who produce beautiful images of cars, perfume bottles, leather couches, and the perfectly grilled steak. But instead of trying to capture the steak’s sizzle or the couch’s inviting warmth, we attempt to bring out the essential character of the artwork while emphasizing its sublime beauty whenever possible. When we’re not doing that, we can make images that show the hard, cold details of an object in order to help conservators as they work through treating the artwork, or to help curators in their scholarly study of an object. It is this second type of photography that I want to blog about today.

In Memoriam: Merle Greene Robertson, 1913–2011

It is with great sadness that the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco mourn the passing of Merle Greene Robertson. A legend in the world of Mesoamerican studies and Maya epigraphy, Robertson has been a friend and consultant to the Museums for decades. She generously donated many of her unique rubbings made from the monuments of Chichen Itza, a large Maya center that flourished on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico after AD 800. These rubbings provide clear renderings of detailed Maya stone carvings and are an important aspect of the Museums' Mesoamerican holdings.


© 2008 Ron Henggeler
 

Happy Birthday, Richard Diebenkorn!

Today the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco wish a happy birthday to renowned artist Richard Diebenkorn. The Fine Arts Museums have enjoyed a long relationship with the artist since the Legion of Honor hosted Diebenkorn’s first solo exhibition in 1948. From that point on, the Museums were ardent supporters of the artist and his work. Both the American Art Department and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts have compiled significant holdings of his work.

Richard Diebenkorn (American, 1922–1993)
Seawall, 1957, Oil on canvas
Gift of Phyllis G. Diebenkorn, 1995.96
© The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Will Work for Art: Debra Evans

"Will Work for Art" is a new series of blog posts that will take you behind the scenes to meet the people who make the Fine Arts Museums possible. Our inaugural staff member is Debra Evans, head of paper conservation. Originally from Hawaii, she has been at the museums for 28 years.

Our Banner in the Sky

Our Banner in the Sky

Attributed to Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900)
Our Banner in the Sky, ca. 1861
Oil on paper mounted on paper board
7 13/16 x 11 13/16 inches
1994.71

Exactly 150 years ago today on April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began in earnest. At 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries on the shores of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina opened fire on Fort Sumter, the Federal-held fortification that dominated the harbor after commander Major Robert Anderson refused its surrender. The resulting bombardment went on for 34 hours, with Confederate artillerists lobbing over 3,000 rounds of shot and shell in the fort's direction. While the fort's masonry walls were battered and many of its wooden buildings were set alight, there were no fatal casualties on either side during the engagement. Ironically, two Union soldiers were killed when ammunition was accidentally ignited during the 100-gun salute to Fort Sumter's tattered but intact American flag.

It is this flag that is thought to be depicted in the de Young's Our Banner in the Sky, believed to have been created in 1861 by American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. Major Anderson took Fort Sumter's flag with him back to the North, where it became the focal point of numerous patriotic rallies, the first of which took place in New York City's Union Square. With over 100,000 attendees, it was the largest public gathering in the United States to date. The celebrity flag toured countless cities throughout the North, where it raised funds for the war effort by being auctioned off. The winner naturally donated the flag back to the nation to be auctioned off again at the next rally. In April of 1865, Anderson, now a major general, returned to Fort Sumter and raised the flag over its ruins as part of the celebration of the Union's victory.

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