St Augustine
















Saint Augustine of Hippo, Oil on canvas, ca. 1625 - 1630

This work is an oil on canvas painting completed by the school of Jacob Jordaens circa 1625-1630 depicting St. Augustine of Hippo writing in a study surrounded by books. Jordaens is famous for his paintings in the Flemish Baroque style, and commonly designed altarpieces and tapestries, mythological, and allegorical scenes. After the infamous Peter Paul Rubens died in 1640, Jordaens became the most important painter in the city of Antwerp (located in northern Belgium) for large-scale commissions. However, he is best known today for his numerous genre scenes based on proverbs that he painted in a manner comparable to that of his contemporary, Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Jordaens’ main artistic influences aside from Rubens and Brueghel, were northern Italian painters such as Veronese and Caravaggio. Indeed, with its high level of realism, non-descript background, deep, dark shadows, and spotlight-like lighting, this work could be described as Carvaggesque. However, the work was likely not completed, or at least fully completed, by the hand of the master (or Jordaens himself). Like many successful artists of the day, Jordaens had a large workshop, or school, in which many apprentices and students, some of whom became famous in their own right, produced paintings. These paintings can be divided into three categories: those painted by Jordaens himself, those which he painted only in part (mainly hands and faces), and those he merely supervised.

In Saint Augustine of Hippo, the books surrounding Saint Augustine (354 CE – 430 CE), along with the quill in his hand, represent his writings in Christian theology which influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. “Augustine beliefs” included that Biblical text should not be interpreted as literal, but rather as metaphorical, and his liberal doctrines appealed to the Flemish whose Dutch neighbors had embraced the Reform Church. Indeed, he has long been viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christian. His name “Hippo” derives from the ancient name of the modern city of Annaba, in Algeria. Hippo was conquered by the Eastern Roman Empire in 534 CE and was kept under Byzantine rule until 698 CE, when it fell to the Muslims.

1961.20.1 Ritschel

Moonlight at Monterey, Oil on canvas, ca. 1914 - 1920

Beginning in the 17th century, Europeans began to depict the bounty of nature by creating elaborate botanical compositions. These works often depicted the shared traditions between hemispheres and across millennium to demonstrate the commonality of man’s experiences through the interest in flora and fauna, real and imagined. Within these subjects, cultures developed imagery independent of each other yet, at times, with similar meanings. Additionally, exchanged ideas facilitated through trade brought aspects of artistic traditions to other lands and back again. Similarly, techniques, styles and imagery developed in the east were adapted by the west to fit within its cultural confines. The oil on canvas painting entitled Moonlight at Monterey by American artist William Ritschel is a shining example of a work produced in the west that displays an eastern sensibility in both its formalities and its symbolism.

Ritschel worked in the American tradition of Tonalism, an offset-style of Impressionism, which uses tonal variations of color to form a composition. He studied in New York and Europe, yet settled in California, where he drew inspiration from the cypress-covered cliffs. Evident in this work is Ritschel’s influence from eastern art revealed through the square-shaped canvas and foreshortening of the composition, creating an allusion of two instead of three dimensions – an approach evident in Asian ceramics. Additionally, the winding and twisting of the trunks seen in the stand of trees near the forefront makes reference to the belief prominent in many eastern cultures that the most perfect of forms are those that are not straight, symmetrical, or balanced. Such trees were thought to symbolize the ideal human condition – bent, but not broken. In fact, those who had overcome the difficulties of extremely challenging lives were considered to be among the most beautiful, which certainly played into Ritschel’s reasoning for making such forms the focal point of this elegant composition.   

 MG 5922

Lakes of Killarney, Oil on board, 1856

This oil on board painting, entitled Lakes of Killarney, was completed by American Romantic Landscape painter and engraver John Frederick Kensett in 1856. A member of the second generation of the Hudson River School of artists, Kensett’s signature works are landscape paintings of New England and New York State, whose clear light and serene surfaces celebrate the transcendental qualities of nature, and are associated with Luminism. Luminism is an American landscape painting style of the 1850s – 1870s, characterized by the effects of light in landscapes and conveyed through aerial perspective and the concealing of visible brushstrokes. Luminist landscapes emphasize tranquility, and often depict calm, reflective water and a soft, hazy sky. The term itself was introduced by mid-20th-century art historians to describe the 19th-century American painting style that developed as an offshoot of the second-generation Hudson River school. 

Kensett's early work owed much to the influence of his slightly older contemporary Thomas Cole, but was from the outset distinguished by a preference for cooler colors and an interest in less dramatic topography, favoring restraint in both palette and composition. Such tendencies can be observed in Lakes of Killarney, in which the land descends with a graceful sweep from a great height to the broad and level body of water. The composition is furnished it with a charming variety of scenery, ranging from the pastoral-like foreground to the inconspicuous mountain in the distance.  

1996.6G 2

Au Rendez-vous (Tilbury à la hollandoise 1740-1774), Etching and hand-applied watercolor on paper, 1896

Though many would proclaim automotive design a novelty of the 20th century, the story of human transportation is far older than the infamous Model-T. Indeed, the way in which humans travel has been ever evolving since the invention of the first wheel around 3,500 BCE. Over time, the wheel was perfected, and what was once Bronze Age technology morphed into a sophisticated vehicle-like form. Initially designed for the purposes of war and work, the function of these vehicles later shifted, becoming a commodity focused on leisure and convenience. This work, Au Rendez-vous (Tilbury à la hollandoise 1740-1774), is an aquatint and watercolor on paper and is part of the oeuvre of 19th-century French artist Louis Vallet. It belongs to his 1896 portfolio entitled Histoire des Voitures et des Attelages (The History of Coaches and Carriages) which examines the development of the carriage from 1400 to 1895.

The genre scenes that make up this portfolio function together as a narrative, and provide insight into the pre-automotive, horse-dependent designs that would ultimately influence the design of the modern car. By definition, Vallet’s scenes also integrate a great deal of social commentary, and harbor various symbolic meanings pertaining to transportation and movement. A well-known water colorist and illustrator, Louis Vallet (1856-1940) worked primarily in the style known as Art Nouveau. A highly decorative style of art, Art Nouveau was prominent in Western Europe and the US from about 1890 until World War I. The style is characterized by intricate linear designs and flowing curves based on natural forms, along with a soft and subtle use of color. 

Calypso Reef, Han-blown glass anchored , 2007ArtisanWing-CalypsoReef-JordanValleyGlass 2013.1.1

Created in 2007 by artist Jay Bavers of East Jordan Michigan’s Jordan Valley Glassworks, Calypso Reef is a masterpiece in contemporary glass chandelier design. Just one of the members of the Bavers family working at Jordan Valley, Jay has assumed a role as the company’s chief craftsman. Gaining his first exposure to the family tradition from his grandfather at the age of five, he now has more than forty years of experience in glassmaking. During his time at the University of Michigan, Jay studied under Santini and Birkhill as well as Shane Ferro and Paul Stankard. He also worked with Herb Babcock at The Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, and Rhodi Rovner at the Corning Museum in Corning, NY.

A third generation glassworker, Jay’s designs range from functional pieces such as vases, bowls, lighting, and chandeliers, to fanciful items such as  jewelry, sculptures, and wall decorations. In Calypso Reef, one of the artist’s primary focuses is on the play of color and the exquisite effects of light on the individual pieces of semi-translucent hand-blown glass. As its name suggests, the work is designed to recall the vibrant hues and liveliness of a coral reef. Habitation centers for a variety of species, coral reefs and anemone often appear to actively connect with their faster-moving counterparts – an interaction that Jay has conveyed in this work through the sporadic positioning of various fish species throughout the form. Referencing Calypso – a nymph in Greek mythology who lived on the island of Ogygia, where she “kept” Odysseus for several years – and the elaborately organic forms of French Rococo chandeliers from the 18th century, Calypso Reef is composed of 75 individual pieces of glass anchored into a steel sphere at the center, and is designed to be lit from the exterior to create an illusionistic and lifelike glow to the form.

While fine blown glassworks such as Calypso Reef are now produced in many areas of the world, the first evidence of glass blowing was found in Syria around the 1st Century B.C. However, it wasn't until the Venetians mastered the craft in the Middle Ages that glass began to draw a heightened level of attention. By the 1300s, the Island of Murano was the prime spot for highly skilled craftspeople and glass blowers, and Murano glass has remained esteemed to this day, as have works by the famous American artist Dale Chihuly. A huge stylistic inspiration and a personal mentor to Jay Bavers and his work, Chihuly has received acclaim for his massive, playful and eccentric sculptural pieces. With artists like Chihuly and Jay Bavers sparking a new interest in the craft, the popularity and demand for hand-blown glass in America has experienced a significant increase in recent decades.