Published: April 27, 2004
The Allentown Art Museum has announced the acquisition of several important works.
A Twentieth Century American watercolor “The Emperor Jones (1947)” by Frederick D. Jones, Jr (1914-1996), is among the highlights. This stunning Cubist watercolor was painted by an African American artist who has been included in a number of exhibitions and publications devoted to African American art but whose life and work remain largely unknown. Born and raised in North Carolina, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and Rhode Island School of Design. Known mainly as a muralist and printmaker, Jones was strongly influenced by the Harlem Renaissance painter Hale Woodruff.
In “The Emperor Jones,” he chose to paint one of the most famous African American cultural figures of the Twentieth Century: Paul Robeson (1898-1976).
The museum has also acquired “Return of the Prodigal Son,” circa 1772, by Benjamin West (1738-1820), on view in the Trexler/Butz Gallery.
A principal focus of the museum has always been the work of artists associated with Pennsylvania by birth or domicile. Undoubtedly one of the most famous Pennsylvania artists of all time, West rose from an unremarkable background to become a brilliant painter in the Grand Manner, history painter to King George III of Great Britain and a founder and president of the Royal Academy.
Although an accomplished portraitist, West’s most sought-after compositions are historical, literary and religious. The biblical story of the return of the prodigal son was a popular theme for a number of painters, notably Rembrandt, Murillo and Greuze. West’s “Return of the Prodigal Son,” completed in 1772, a decade after his Roman sojourn, shows an accomplished but still young artist, fast developing a command of figure painting and the communication of emotion.
Another acquisition was a late Nineteenth Century decorative coffee service made by Whiting Manufacturing Co, New York City and dated about 1880.
Inspired by its Frank Lloyd Wright library from the second Francis Little House, the museum acquires decorative arts related to Wright’s work from roughly 1875 to 1925. Like Wright, Whiting’s designer was strongly influenced by Japanese aesthetics. In this case, the use of mixed metals to render flowers (dogwood) and insects (beetles and flies) borrows from contemporary Japanese silver styles.
Also added to the museum’s collection was an early Twentieth Century Modernist work, “Geometric Abstraction,” circa 1930, by Charles F. Ramsey (1875-1951) of New Hope, Penn., and a late Nineteenth Century American Carrara Marble sculpture, “Pocahontas,” circa 1870s, by Joseph Mozier (1812-1870), currently on view in the Trexler/Butz Gallery.
The museum is at North Fifth Street. For information, allentownartmuseum.org or 610-432-4333, ext 10.
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