Oil on canvas
As a member of Painters Eleven, a group of Canadian artists founded in 1954 that worked to promote abstract art, Jack Bush (1909–1977) became one of the country's leading painters. Inspired by American Color Field painters, Bush began to reorient his work and became widely known in the 1960s for his spare yet highly colorful abstractions executed in oil paint. Bush believed that colors can trigger profound emotional and intellectual responses. By using warm colors, saturated hues, and strong abstract forms, as in his Tall Green (1965), he sought to delight the eye and provoke a joyful emotive effect.
Gift of Susan K. and Lewis P. Cabot
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Mary Ann and Stanley Snider’s most recent donation to the MFA enriches multiple collections at the Museum. The gift includes five American and European works in ceramic, porcelain, and silver; a contemporary Chinese ink drawing; and fourteen modern and contemporary European prints, a selection of which is shown here.
This is the earliest collected sculpture by the Master of the Flat Hands, an artist active in the late 19th century on or near Bonthe Island, Sierra Leone. The work’s delicate face and smooth surface suggest that it might have been displayed in a chief’s home, but this particular piece was more likely purchased directly from the artist by Dr. Fitzmaurice Manning, an Irish medical doctor who lived in Sierra Leone. Manning’s granddaughter, Helen Howe Braider, gave the sculpture to the MFA after inheriting it from her godmother, the Boston painter Polly Thayer, whose work is also in the Museum’s collection.
Gift of Helen Howe Braider in memory of Fitzmaurice Manning2017.854
Maya, Late Classic Period
Guatemala, Mexico, or Belize
Carved conch shell
This conch shell paint pot is the finest surviving example of Classic Period Maya artists’ equipment. The shell palette illustrates an essential tool of Maya painters, as well as the ingenuity of the sculptor who shaped a conch shell literally into the “hand of the artist,” carved to re-create the formal gesture of courtly painters portrayed in Maya art. Only twenty shell palettes survive, and this is one of only two in the shape of an artist’s hand. This extraordinary artwork enhances the MFA’s strong presentation of examples of Maya painted pottery and resonates across collections, appearing in the 2017 exhibition “Seeking Stillness.”
Elizabeth M. and John F. Paramino Fund in memory of John F. Paramino, Boston Sculptor, John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund, Helen and Alice Colburn Fund, William Francis Warden Fund, Seth K. Sweetser Fund, Helen B. Sweeney Fund, and Harriet Otis Cruft Fund2017.849
Late 17th century Silk damask, resist-dyed, embroidered and trimmed with karoari fabric
Bugaku is one of the oldest dance traditions in Japan and has been associated with the imperial court for more than 1,200 years. The dance involves stately movements that are often likened to natural phenomena such as the leaves rustling in the breeze. This costume was probably made for the Kasuga Shrine in Nara. The Museum received five of the eight parts used in performance; the undercoat (shitagansane) is shown here.
Gift of John C. Weber2016.542.1–5
Made by Höchst Manufactory
This porcelain figure of a dancing Harlequin forms part of the only known complete set of Italian Comedy characters produced by Höchst, a German porcelain manufactory that flourished in the 1750s and 60s. Unusual garden sculptures at Schönborn Palace in Vienna may have inspired the Elector of Mainz, the patron of the Höchst factory, to commission these small-scale works. Earlier this year the Museum reached a financial settlement with the heirs of Emma Lazarus Budge of Hamburg, allowing us to acquire this and six other porcelain figures that had been included in a forced sale of Budge’s collection in 1937 Nazi Germany. All seven porcelain figures are on view in the Angelica Lloyd Russell Gallery, 142.
Kiyi and Edward M. Pflueger Collection—Bequest of Edward M. Pflueger and Gift of Kiyi Powers Pflueger, from the Estate of Emma Lazarus Budge2017.76
Possibly by François-Thomas Germain, Paris
Possibly by Jean-Claude Duplessis, Paris
Gilt bronze, iron
Modeled in clay, cast in bronze, gilded, and selectively burnished, these wall lights are masterpieces of Rococo design. Their twisting branches were designed to catch the flickering illumination of candles and create a sense of movement in a well-furnished room. Wall lights were typically designed in pairs to flank a mirror, thus magnifying the amount of light they provided. This pair, unusual for the life-sized parrots perched on the lower branches, was the largest size available in the 1750s and recalls others commissioned by members of the French royal family. The acquisition of these wall lights places the MFA in the front ranks of American museums with notable holdings of French decorative arts.
Museum purchase with funds donated anonymously and the John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund, Mary S. and Edward J. Holmes Fund, Frank B. Bemis Fund, Arthur Tracy Cabot Fund, Helen and Alice Colburn Fund, Edwin E. Jack Fund, Elizabeth M. and John F. Paramino Fund in memory of John F. Paramino, Boston Sculptor, Harriet Otis Cruft Fund, Frederick Brown Fund, Seth K. Sweetser Fund, Helen B. Sweeney Fund, Susan Cornelia Warren Fund, Samuel Putnam Avery Fund, Jane Marsland and Judith A. Marsland Fund, Alice M. Bartlett Fund, and Mary E. Moore Gift2017.83.1–2
Marked by Gabriel Sleath, London
This ceremonial silver staff was a symbol of the mayor’s authority in the town of Boston, in Lincolnshire, England. It would have been present when civic business was conducted. The seal of George I is at the top, surrounded by emblems of England (Tudor rose), Scotland (thistle), Ireland (harp), and France (fleur-de-lis). The name of the mayor in 1727, Samuel Abbott, is engraved on the end of the handle. The town sold the mace in 1837, after Parliament passed legislation to make local governments “more useful and efficient.” The staff is the first piece of British ceremonial silver to enter the Museum’s collection and a rare link between old and new Boston.
Mary S. and Edward J. Holmes Fund2017.1
Unknown Micmac or Wabanaki artist, Maine
Wool, silk, glass
The first example of Micmac beadwork in the MFA’s collection, this hood is extraordinary for its original applied silk and glass bead designs. Made around 1840 by an unknown female artist from the Aroostook band of the Micmac of coastal Maine, it would have been worn at formal and ceremonial gatherings, probably with a similarly ornamented jacket. Its geometric designs are found in traditional Micmac carving and painting, but the yellow and red silk and white beads would have been highly prized trade items of European manufacture.
Helen and Alice Colburn Fund and Hilsinger Janson Fund for Native American Art2017.488
Inoue Yūichi, (1916–1985), one of the best known Japanese calligraphers from the postwar period, believed in the “unity of body and brush”—a characteristic manifested in this work, made using a large brush to compose the lines of the character. When Inoue exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1954, Robert Motherwell was quoted as saying that he was one of the “few great artists from the latter half of the 20th century.” The admiration went both ways, as mid-century Japanese calligraphers also looked to the works of Abstract Expressionists and were inspired by their new approach.
Charles Bain Hoyt Fund2017.851
Ink, color, and gold on paper
Bapo, or “eight brokens,” paintings depict tattered and deteriorating remnants of cultural treasures. This innovative artistic genre emerged in China during the mid-19th century expressing grief over the disintegration of traditional objects and values. In this fine, realistically rendered work—one of a set of four—the artist presents scattered papers that would have belonged to a cultured man of the era: pages from poetry books, an advertisement for a shop selling scholars’ writing accoutrements, and a painting of a lady. Dominating the composition is a rubbing of an important work by the revered 11th-century calligrapher Mi Fu mourning the burning of a palace building and the antiques within. “China’s 8 Brokens: Puzzles of the Treasured Past,” the first exhibition of this little-known but revolutionary technique, opened in the Lee Gallery in June 2017.
Anonymous gift in memory of William W. Mellins2017.10
Oil on canvas
Théo van Rysselberghe was the most prolific portraitist among practitioners of Divisionism, a painting technique characterized by bold dots, daubs, and dashes. Here, he portrays the esteemed French architect Louis Bonnier, signing the portrait to “his friend.” The two had worked together on the renovation of Siegfried Bing’s Paris gallery L’Art nouveau in 1895, and Bonnier designed Van Rysselberghe’s studio when the Belgian painter moved to Paris. The painting adheres to conventions for portraits of distinguished gentlemen in the figure’s pose and setting, while its vibrant colors are distinctly modern.
Mary L. Cornille and John F. Cogan, Jr. Fund for the Art of Europe2017.853
A leading collector of Latin American art and longtime MFA supporter, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, donated seven works of art and promised two additional pieces in support of the MFA’s colonial Latin American collection to augment our representation of key artistic traditions of the Americas.
Gelatin silver print
This year saw the transformational gift from Trustee Emerita and Visionary Benefactor Saundra B. Lane of 2,287 works of photography by the great California modernist Edward Weston. The works by Weston in the Lane Collection represent a large percentage of the artist’s entire production of vintage prints and range over four decades, from some of his very earliest images to what is thought to be his final picture. These photographs have been housed at the MFA for many years, appeared in numerous exhibitions, and been published in several scholarly catalogues. This is a gift of extraordinary generosity and vision and represents a major addition to the Museum’s holdings of 20th-century American photography.
The Lane Collection2017.1796