@Curate Reynolda

Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Art History in Action: The Case of Re-dating our Maurer

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Reynolda House curator Allison Slaby shares a tale of pure detective work that resulted in a new date for the Museum’s Alfred Maurer painting.  The story begins in early 2012 with an email to Diane A. Mullin, curator at the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.

Dear Diane,

I’m hoping you can help me solve a curatorial puzzle regarding dating works by Alfred Maurer.
I have been working on the Maurer in our collection, entitled
Landscape: Provence [Pictured below].

Dating the piece is proving challenging.

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[Alfred Maurer, Landscape: Provence Courtesy of Reynolda House Museum of American Art]

While doing research for the Museum’s Electronic Cataloging Project, Allison was struck by the large date range assigned to the Museum’s Maurer painting.  The dates in the Museum’s records varied—sometimes circa 1912, sometimes circa 1912–22.  At some point, art dealers in New York had looked at a transparency (similar to a slide, but not the actual painting) of Reynolda’s Maurer and dated it to the early 1920s—1920–24. It’s likely that that’s when the Museum assigned a date of circa 1912 — 22 rather than just circa 1912.  Allison continued in her email to Diane:

Elizabeth McCausland reproduces a landscape in her Maurer biography that looks very similar and dates it circa 1916 ….  As you know, the date is significant — 1912 is when he was still in France —1916, 20, and 24 is after he returned to the States, never to return to Paris.

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Conducting research in the Reynolda House Library, Allison came across an article by Stacey Epstein in the American Art Review entitled “Alfred H. Maurer Reconsidered” (2004) which pictured a strikingly similar Maurer painting Landscape that was part of the Weisman Museum’s collection. [Pictured below] Like a detective following every lead, Allison wrote to Diane Mullin at the Weisman to inquire:

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[Alfred Maurer, Landscape. Courtesy of Weisman Art Museum]

In appearance, Reynolda’s painting very much resembles yours, which I believe dates to 1916.  Is your painting dated?

In fact, the Weisman’s Maurer was dated to 1916. Following her instincts and committed to solid scholarly standards, Allison decided to see the Weisman’s Maurer in person to confirm her suspicions.

My inclination is to date our painting circa 1916, but I would like to have some evidence to back that up.  I will be in Minneapolis (and at the Weisman!) April 28-30 for the AAM/AAMG meeting…. If you have any time…to meet, or if you could simply set aside any material that might be helpful for me to review, I would be very grateful!  I would, of course, love to see the painting as well if possible.

With thanks and best wishes,

Allison Slaby

While attending the meeting of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG), Allison met with Diane and reviewed the Weisman’s Maurer.  She then followed up her investigation.

Thanks so much for meeting with me yesterday.  After reviewing the Maurer landscape in your collection and reviewing images of the undated Maurer in our collection, would you agree with me that assigning a circa 1916 date to the work in our collection would be more accurate?

Thanks again, and I look forward to being in touch!

Diane’s response:

Dear Allison,

Very nice meeting too.  Yes, I agree that the date of circa 1916 is a more accurate assignation for your Maurer work.

Take care and please do stay in touch.

All best,

Diane Mullin, Senior Curator, Weisman Art Museum

With solid evidence and scholarly research, Allison wrote to Reynolda House’s collection department on December 7, 2012.

I would like to re-date Reynolda’s Alfred Maurer painting Landscape: Provence from “circa 1912-1922” to “circa 1916.”  I am basing this decision on the research that I did for the ECP last spring.  At the time, I was struck by the visual similarities between our painting and one at the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.  I had the chance to see the Weisman’s painting in April and to confer with their curator, Diane Mullin.  Diane agrees that a date of circa 1916 is more accurate.  So does Stacey Epstein, the author of an article in American Art Review entitled “Alfred H. Maurer Reconsidered” from 2004.  See below for my correspondence with Diane and Stacey.

Alfred Maurer is a unique artist whose style changes dramatically over the course of several years.  By 1922, he had moved from the Fauvist-inspired landscapes (like ours) to painting after painting of the heads of women.  So, 1922 is much too late a date for our work.

Please let me know if you agree to this change.  Since the painting will be on view in the Armory Show exhibition, it’s a good time to change the date officially.

And so the case of the re-dating of Reynolda House’s Alfred Maurer Landscape: Provence can confidently be resolved to circa 1916! …for now.

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Learn more…
Gallery Talk: “The Armory Show: 100 Years Later”
Sunday, February 17, 2013, 2:30 p.m.
Members/students free; non-members free with Museum admission. Free for Wake Forest University Faculty/Staff/Students
On the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Armory Show in New York, Managing Curator Allison Slaby will speak about the exhibition’s reception in 1913, which ranged from marvel and appreciation to outrage and derision.

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The Armory Show: One Hundred Years Later
Ongoing through June 23, 2013
The groundbreaking Armory show opened in New York City in February of 1913, and introduced paintings, prints, and sculpture by modern American and European artists. The Armory Show: One Hundred Years Later features works by American artists who participated in the original 1913 exhibition