Collecting in Context

December 16, 2015 to April 17, 2016

Museum collections like the McNay’s are built very carefully by their curators to draw connections between objects, to show the evolution of a particular style or movement, or to give fascinating historical context to individual objects. Sometimes these connections are not always that visible or obvious. This exhibition will strive to change that. Drawing from the strengths of the McNay’s print collection and including many recent acquisitions, this exhibition will illustrate the connections a curator sees when making an acquisition, thus providing a fascinating view into how a museum builds its collection.

One wonderful example of how the collection is growing is revealed by the juxtaposition in the show of Mary Cassatt’s masterpiece In the Omnibus with our recently acquired print by Henri Boutet, called L’Averse (Deluge). Both are technically accomplished nineteenth-century color etchings produced in Paris in the 1890s. Yet that is not the really important connection. Cassatt’s image shows a young Parisian mother traveling in an omnibus, an early form of horse-drawn public transportation, with her child and nanny. Boutet’s etching shows people running for cover during a sudden downpour outside the gates of the Louvre. The location he shows is an important transportation hub where people could board an omnibus. One of these vehicles is clearly visible in the background of the composition with the lights of the omnibus shining from within.

Another great example is the pairing of David Alfaro Siqueiros’s Portrait of William Spratling, a masterpiece of the McNay’s outstanding Mexican print collection, with Mabel Dwight’s beautifully and affectionately drawn portrait of Carl Zigrosser. The connections between these two objects might not be readily apparent but there are many. Zigrosser was the proprietor of the Weyhe Gallery in New York and an early promotor of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and Siqueiros in the U.S. William Spratling, the American silversmith who resurrected the silver industry in Taxco, often acted as an agent for Siqueiros in his dealings with Zigrosser.

Other artists to be included are Howard Cook, Jan Wiegers, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Rene Hermann-Paul, Henri Guérard, and Pierre-Georges Jeanniot.