Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dallas Museum of Art

In a recent visit to the Dallas Museum of Art, where our American Indian Art collection opened the third leg of its national tour last week, I had the pleasure of viewing a couple of grand " canvases." it's nice to see a quilt get equal billing to a major American landscape. This Barn Raising quilt is almost the same size as Frederic Church's famous 1861 painting "The Icebergs".

The latter is a dascinating story of discovery. The great painting, which enthralled thousands when it was exhibited in 1861, was lost for more than a century. It was found, after an exhaustive search, on a liitle-used third floor landing of a large manaion in England that was being used as a home for delinquent boys.

The quilt was made in the 1890s and, as far as I could tell, has a less dramatic history. It was probably a treasured heirloom in a middle-class home until it was given to the museum in 1998.

This disparity in provenance fascinated me. Ordinarily it is folk art that is more vulnerable to the ravages of time. In this case, the folk art textile had far more careful stewardship, while one of the most famous landscapes of its time lanquished for decades in a hostile environment. Delinquent boys are usually not kind to paintings. I guess we owe these boys a debt of gratitude for the survival of "The Icebergs".

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