Written by our curatorial team, who share with viewers some of their favorite works in our collection, their passion projects, and their current research initiatives.
Belgian Royalty "Entranced" with Rookwood Pottery and its Connection to the Taft
What do the Taft Museum of Art and Rookwood Pottery have in common? More than you think. The answer to this question involves the granddaughter of Cincinnati’s first commercial winemaker, a collection of Chinese porcelain, and the “Soldier King” and “Red Cross Queen.” Intrigued?
Chinese Tea Culture
As I begin my thoughts about Chinese tea and its rich history, I start with a quote from the English playwright Arthur Pinero (1855–1934): “While there is tea, there is hope.” Although these words may seem trivial in the face of all the challenges 2020 has given us, I remain optimistic. We can find hope in any number of places. For example, many writers have noted that drinking tea often allows one to find inner peace. In 1937 Lin Yutang wrote in his book The Importance of Living, “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” I encourage you to try and find a moment of peace and hope in perhaps an unexpected place: a cup of tea.
"Excitement of the Quest"—A Neoclassical Vision
Did you know that 2020 marks the bicentennial of the Taft Museum of Art's historic house? Two hundred years ago the oldest part of the museum’s footprint began to take shape. Around 1820, a simple four-sided home was built for Martin Baum (1765–1831) and his wife, Ann Sommerville Wallace Baum (1782–1864), forming the core of what would become one of Cincinnati’s most historic buildings. With that, it seems only fitting that we explore the predominant style of the early 1800s: Neoclassicism—an artistic approach that embraced the ideas of ancient Greece and Rome. Classical ornament and a preference for order and symmetry were hallmarks of this new style, elements that are reflected in the Taft’s architecture and its American furniture.
The Power of Art and Freedom
Taft Museum of Art members and visitors tend to agree: Robert S. Duncanson’s landscape murals make an impression. Painted by Duncanson between 1850 and 1852 as a commission for Nicholas Longworth, then the home’s owner, the spectacular murals don’t reveal what was happening in Cincinnati during the turbulent time of their creation. They also don’t tell us much personally about Duncanson: a man whose grandfather was born enslaved in Virginia, who mostly taught himself to paint, and who became the first internationally recognized Black artist.
Balancing Wanderlust with Stay-at-Home: Two Works by J. M. W. Turner
The English landscape painter J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) found endless inspiration in his travels. On his journeys throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, Turner filled hundreds of sketchbooks with tens of thousands of drawings and watercolor sketches. Back in his studio, he used this material—along with his memory and imagination—to create detailed oil paintings and watercolors. The Taft Museum of Art has brilliant examples of both in its collection.