American, Caribbean Additions at the Huntington

Letitia Huckaby, And Thy Neighb(our), Chaulinne and And Thy Neighb(our), Shwanda, both 2020. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. ©Letitia Huckaby.

The Huntington's Art Collectors' Council has acquired a group of works by American artists, including Lilly Martin Spencer, Edward Bannister, Tiffany & Co., and Tyrus Wong. Also added is a unique set of six paintings of 18th-century British Caribbean life by Agostino Brunias.

Agostino Brunias, Free Women of Dominica Bathing in a Stream, 1770–80s. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens 

Born in Rome, Agostino Brunias (about 1730-1796) worked with architect Robert Adam in England and painted Neoclassical murals for stately homes. His career took an abrupt turn when he moved to Dominica in the British West Indies. The six paintings here, each 11-3/4 by 9-1/8 in., appear to be a complete set and are in their original frames. They depict the mix of ethnicities in the British island colonies of Dominica and Saint Vincent. Free Women of Dominica Bathing in a Stream reimagines Diana and Her NymphsYoung Couple and Child Promenading, Dominica recalls the castas paintings of Mexico. The group must have been created for similar purposes, to reassure the Old World about a diverse, race-mixing New World. Brunias' visions of racial harmony were idealized, but Haiti's Toussaint Louverture was among those praising them. 

Agostino Brunias, Young Couple and Child Promenading, Dominica, 1770–80s. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
Lilly Martin Spencer, Strawberries, 1859. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. 

Lilly Martin Spencer (1822-1902) was a pioneering woman artist, active in Cincinnati and New York. Her husband raised their thirteen children while Lilly was the artist-breadwinner. Spencer is best known for genre scenes of family life, but Strawberries demonstrates her skill as a still life painter. By the end of the 19th century, Spencer's accessible art was considered old-fashioned, and wealthy American collectors looked to the European avant garde. Strawberries was auctioned in Oct. 2022 for $19,375. 

Edward Mitchell Bannister, untitled (Walking Through a Field), about 1870s. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828-1901) is one of the first Black artists to make a living painting the American landscape. The Huntington's 22-by-42-in. Walking Through a Field is a major effort and unpublished. Bannister achieved success in his time but was forgotten by art historians and museums after his death. Even Harlem Renaissance critics faulted him for working in "white" styles. 

Bannister studied with William Rimmer in Boston and ultimately drew on the Barbizon School and Millet. Though the Huntington painting avoids explicit politics or narrative, the Rhode Island landscapes Bannister depicted were worked by slaves in the artist's lifetime. In Bannister's mature pictures, America is less a promised land than a landscape of melancholy.

Tiffany & Co., Covered Pitcher, about 1880. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
A Tiffany silver pitcher with copper-detailed carp exemplifies the emerging Aesthetic Movement. A similar pitcher won first prize at the 1878 Exhibition Universelle, Paris, helping to make the American silver firm's reputation. It becomes the earliest Tiffany & Co. work in the Huntington collection.

Tyrus Wong, Dragon’s Den Mural, about 1935. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. Tyrus Wong Family
Tyrus Wong juggled fine art and Hollywood. He was a painter, calligrapher, kite maker, ceramicist, set designer, creator of Hallmark greeting cards, and Disney animator. Wong grounded the look of Bambi in Song Dynasty painting. Dragon's Den Mural was created for a restaurant in Chinatown run by Wong's friend Eddie See. It's a subtle, smoky image of five Chinese-style monkeys in oil and charcoal pencil on two 8-foot high plywood panels. The Huntington bought it from See's granddaughter, novelist Lisa See. The library collection already includes a trove of See family material, including Wong's hand-painted menus for the Dragon's Den. The Mural adds to a group of Asian-American artworks announced in May.

Two works by Letitia Huckaby (top of post) print photo-silhouette portraits onto embroidered fabric. Huckaby studied with Gee's Bend quilter Lucy Mingo during a 2007 residency, connecting these portraits to the Gee's Bend quilts and prints in the collection.


Anonymous said…
The problem with so much art in which "identity" is the overriding concern is that it's both predictable and derivative. The Letitia Huckaby pieces are basically just Kara Walker silhouettes against Kehinde Wiley backgrounds. "Whelming" at best [shrug].
Anonymous said…
^ Moreover, I didn't think the Huntington was into collecting contemporary artworks too. It's not like that style and period (call it circa hipster) among museums in the LA area aren't already too much a case of "been there, done that."
Ho, yeah, I agree.
I looked on these and instantly thought Walker/Wiley, and not in a good way.
The silhouettes don't know what to do: they're not true black, more like bad sepia. Lacking even a scintilla of Walker's dynamism and force.
The background is the opposite of Wiley verisimilitude. More like the paper chosen for my grandmother's bathroom, only with a century of fading.
Spend your money more wisely, Huntington. Better art is out there.
Anonymous said…
^^^I see the MAGA Art Critic is back, spewing the same nonsense about "identity" and "hipster" style.
Anonymous said…
^^^The construction pictures are confusing because of the two levels of shoring.

On second thought, what I think changed is the depth of the cantilever.

At the moment, it looks like the curve was notched because that is where the shoring stops.

We will know for sure once they add the shoring for the roof east of the north stairs

--- J. Garcin
Anonymous said…
> Because the local rags (i.e, LA Times) are so
> bad at covering the architecture and the arts

First of all, you don't by chance happen to be the anti-Save-LACMA-mob person?

Regardless, the LA Times not long ago did post an article from {{{dreadful!}}} Christopher Knight who sniffed about how LACMA had become a half-baked museum of contemporary art. His review of the exhibits of the museum for the past several years seemed to confirm that.

As for the Govan/Zumthor concrete overpass, it's at least not stressing out the budget of LACMA. Whew! The museum continues to have lots and lots of money in the future to buy lots and lots of contemporary art. Yea!

After touring Louvre World in Paris, Florida a few months ago, however, I admit to now being sort of shaken up by how LACMA's Pereira/Hardy-Holzman campus was way too much like an LA tract house from the 1950s, 1960s. But replacing it with a freeway overpass (with lots and lots of concrete walls and lots and lots of picture windows) isn't necessarily just what the doctor ordered either.
Anonymous said…
^^^The rube calls it an "overpass." So that's what it must be... LMAO

Let me add one more thing to what I said above.

I think this is deliberate, but I nevertheless find it curious how Zumthor designed a building that truly "respects" Goff's Japanese Pavilion.

At the Japanese pavilion, the roof is supported by steel cables tied to a central column. It too performs like a suspension bridge.

Great architects see these things.

--- J. Garcin
Anonymous said…
^^^ Snob.