Cleveland Museum of Art's Two Major Fall 2018 Exhibitions: Georgia O’Keeffe and Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries

Blog Date: 
Mon Dec 10th 2018

I was very fortunate to receive an email invitation to arrive early for the November 29, 2018, Cleveland Museum of Art's preview event:

Due to high demand, we’ve secured early and exclusive access for media and social influencers to CMA’s fall preview event. Please arrive at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, November 29 for your chance to see Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern.

"...high demand..." -- there is a lot of interest in the newly opened exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art (@ClevelandArt)! The tickets for the weekend following the preview ended up selling out, and the night I attended brought in a good-sized crowd of Museum members to see the two major fall 2018 exhibitions:

The Cleveland Museum of Art Presents Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries and Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern

About the Exhibitions

Shown exclusively at the CMA, Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries unveils the recently restored Valois Tapestries, on view for the first time in North America. This unique set of 16th-century hangings was commissioned by Catherine de’ Medici, the indomitable queen mother of France. This rare opportunity is made possible by the generous cooperation of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence. Woven with wool, silk and precious metal-wrapped threads, the tapestries are rich in both their materials and intricate subject matter. Life-sized, full-length portraits of the French king, princes and princesses, situated prominently in the foreground, lock eyes with the viewer and present detailed scenes of court pageants and festivities. Accompanied by exquisite drawings, paintings and decorative arts, the tapestries reveal the magnificence of life at court. Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries will be on view in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern offers a fascinating look into the connections between the paintings, personal style and public persona of one of America’s most iconic artists. Showcasing several of her paintings alongside her garments—many shown in Cleveland for the first time—and photographic portraits of her as a subject, the exhibition reveals O’Keeffe’s determination to be strikingly modern not only in her art but in her life. Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern will be on view in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Gallery.

(Read Communications and Media Relations Manager Kelley Notaro Schreiber's (@KelleyNotaro), full press release The Cleveland Museum of Art Presents Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries and Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern with all the details here.)

In this blog post, I will share what I and others observed and shared on Twitter (including photos of the artwork), along with some other comments and resources about these two exhibitions. I like that the museum is featuring both their Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries and Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern exhibitions together, and offering special combined ticket pricing for the public (museum members get free tickets and their guests get discounted tickets).

To start, here are tweets that I shared via @sos_jr before attending the preview. I highly recommend that you take special note of @Steven_Litt's tweet, and share it with others by retweeting it after you read the article to which it links.

 

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern - #CMAokeeffe

If you are a fan of Georgia O'Keeffe's artwork, then Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern is a must-attend exhibition. It will be open through March 3, 2019.

Not only does the exhibition include O'Keeffe's paintings, drawings, and sculpture, but also her garments and photographic portraits of her. The addition of the clothing and photographs adds historic context that complement her displayed works, and extends the exhibition further to understand her life.

Black Pansy & Forget-Me-Nots (Pansy), 1926. Georgia O’Keeffe
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Black Pansy & Forget-Me-Nots (Pansy), 1926. Georgia O’Keeffe
Photo from Brooklyn Museum provided by the Cleveland Museum of Art

After seeing Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern at the Cleveland Museum of Art, I was reminded of the type of art my sister had decorating her room in our home growing up. I don't know if it was the work of Georgia O'Keeffe, or that of someone mirroring her style, which became popular at the time. I called my mother and sister, but they did not remember this. My mother did say that Georgia O’Keeffe is one of her favorite artists. She has toured the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (@OKeeffeMuseum) in New Mexico, and she already has tickets to go with a friend to see Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

See Georgia O'Keeffe collection at Cleveland Museum of Art
See Georgia O'Keeffe collection at Cleveland Museum of Art

I think that I have not fully appreciated Georgia O'Keeffe's artwork. Between seeing her paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art (click here to view the seven objects created by Georgia O'Keeffe that are in the Museum's collection), and associating her work with art that was common when I was growing up, I have taken her work for granted. I did not see her artwork as the modern, unique work that it is. I did not understand how her work would have been considered a very unique, modern vision for her time period until I read Steven Litt's (@Steven_Litt) article before attending the preview.

Steven Litt's (@Steven_Litt) article was very helpful in understanding her work. He wrote:

Think of Georgia O’Keeffe and images of flowers, canyons and cow skulls come to mind.

But there’s more. O’Keeffe’s art was part of a larger creative vision that encompassed where and how she lived, how she dressed, and how she presented herself to the world.

That’s the premise of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s fascinating new exhibition on how O’Keeffe fused art, personal fashion, and the way she modeled for generations of photographers, into a unified aesthetic statement.

I recommend reading Steven Litt's Georgia O'Keeffe's mastery of 'living modern' celebrated at Cleveland Museum of Art before attending Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern.

Here are my @sos_jr tweets and retweets which include photos of what I and others saw at the preview. Since Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern continues until Sunday, March 3, 2019, please share any tweets that interest you by retweeting so others will learn about this exhibition. You can follow and share the #CMAokeeffe hashtag on all forms of social media to learn/share what others experienced at this exhibition.

 

Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries - #CMAtapestries

Portrait of Catherine de' Medici by Germain Le Mannier
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Portrait of Catherine de' Medici by Germain Le Mannier
Photo of painting from Gallerie degli Uffizi, Galleria Palatina di Palazzo Pitti provided by Cleveland Museum of Art

After touring the Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern exhibition, I continued on to the east-side half of the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall to tour Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries, which will at the Cleveland Museum of Art through Monday, January 21, 2019.

Upon entering, I was greeted by a huge family tree taking up the first wall, followed by a room full of large portraits of some of Catherine de' Medici family members. The Cleveland Museum of Art provides a free"Visitors Guide to a Renaissance Drama" that gives you background about the family. Since I wanted to use my time at the museum seeing the art, I did not take the time to read all the details in the visitor guide, but would recommend reading them before you arrive. Thank you to Communications and Media Relations Manager Kelley Notaro (@KelleyNotaro) for emailing me a PDF version of the "Visitors Guide to a Renaissance Drama" to share with you in this blog post, so you can read it at leisure before going to the exhibition.

Click to read Visitor Guide
Click to read
Visitor Guide

When I first heard of the Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries, I thought I would view each tapestry as one big image. As I began to see them, I was drawn to all the detailed pictures within the large tapestry. See my photos in the tweets below that include close-ups of the details within the tapestries.

The details within the Valois Tapestries reminded me of the Museum's spring 2018 featured exhibition of Eighteenth-Century Europe art. In my blog post Cleveland Museum of Art's "Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe," I wrote "The second thing that I did not expect was finding smaller stories within the big stories of the paintings. ... I found it engaging to see that there were multiple stories in addition to the main story of these paintings." The six Valois Tapestries displayed from c. 1576, representing art from the European Renaissance period (14th–17th centuries), reminded me of this use of art to tell stories of important people who commissioned the art.

Here is some interesting information about the Valois Tapestries that I found in Wikipedia. Note that Wikipedia reports that the Valois Tapestries are not on public display, but here we are in Cleveland with this incredibly rare opportunity to view these four-century-old tapestries from Florence, Italy.

Valois Tapestries
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Valois Tapestries are a series of eight tapestries depicting festivities or "magnificences"[1] at the Court of France in the second half of the 16th century. The tapestries were worked in the Spanish Netherlands, probably in Brussels or Antwerp,[2]shortly after 1580.

Scholars have not firmly established who commissioned the tapestries or for whom they were intended. It is likely that they were once owned by Catherine de' Medici, but they are not included in the inventory of possessions drawn up after her death. She had probably presented them to her granddaughter Christina of Lorraine, for her marriage to Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1589. The tapestries are now stored at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Tuscany, but are not on public display.[3]

Be sure to follow and share on all social media the #CMAtapestries hashtag, so more people can learn about Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries. Here are my @sos_jr tweets and retweets that I shared the evening I visited for the preview. Note the details captured in the photos:

 

Video: Conserving the Valois Tapestries

While I was at the Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries exhibition preview, a Museum member I had met earlier, came up to me and said I had to see the video that was being shown at the end of the exhibition. I shared part of the video she recommended on Twitter about how the gilded silver metal-wrapped silk thread was cleaned.

As I was writing this blog post, I found that the full video, Conserving the Valois Tapestries, was made available on the Cleveland Museum of Art's YouTube Channel. Even though I have included it here, I recommend that you see the video at the end of the Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries exhibition, since it will have more meaning after seeing the tapestries in person. What I did was watch the video after viewing the tapestries, and then went back a second time to look at the tapestries' colors and other details featured in the video.

Here is the video's description and useful links:

Conserving the Valois Tapestries

Cleveland Museum of Art
Published on Nov 16, 2018

On view for the first time in North America, the recently restored Valois Tapestries, a unique set of 16th-century hangings, are unveiled in "Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries." These fascinating and enigmatic tapestries were commissioned by Catherine de’ Medici, the indomitable queen mother of France, to celebrate the royal Valois dynasty against a backdrop of great political strife and social upheaval. This film explores the steps taken to clean and repair the Valois Tapestries.

The Uffizi Galleries and the Cleveland Museum of Art are profoundly grateful to Friends of the Uffizi and their major benefactor, Mrs. Veronica Atkins, for their generous support of the restoration of the Valois Tapestries.

More info/tix: http://clevelandart.org/exhibitions/renaissance-splendor

Uffizi Galleries: https://www.uffizi.it/en

 

#CMAokeeffe and #CMAtapestries Members Party!

After the touring the exhibitions, it was great to see friends who were enjoying the food, drink and music at the members party! The Ames Family Atrium, with catering by Provenance (@ProvenanceatCMA), is a great place for a party! (See my #MIXatCMA blog posts for some of the many events I have written about that took place in the Atrium.)

 

More #CMAokeeffe and #CMAtapestries Tweets

Cleveland Museum of Art's Two Major Fall 2018 Exhibitions: Georgia O’Keeffe and Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries
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Here are my @sos_jr tweets and retweets that I shared after the #CMAokeeffe and #CMAtapestries preview. Many not only show photos of the exhibitions, but also link to full articles with excellent detailed information about the exhibitions.

Be sure to check out Cleveland Scene's (@ClevelandScene) A Peek at the Renaissance Splendor and Georgia O’Keeffe Exhibits at CMA, and you will see that photographer Emanuel Wallace (@MannyWallace) included a photo of me.
Stuart O. Smith, Jr., touring Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern
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Related Blog Posts

There are many more blog posts that I have written about the Cleveland Museum of Art (read them here), and the museums in University Circle (read them here).

In addition to following the museum's @ClevelandArt twitter feed, I also recommend following @InTheCircle on Twitter, and exploring University Circle's website: UniversityCircle.org

 

 

Thank You!

Thank you, Cleveland Museum of Art, for bringing both Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries and Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern to Cleveland! I look forward to coming back to the museum to see the exhibitions again with Julie, my co-blogger and wife. A special thank-you to Communications and Media Relations Manager Kelley Notaro Schreiber (@KelleyNotaro) for inviting me to the preview.

Party after Preview of "Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries" and "Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern"
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Disclosure: Jule and I were invited by the Cleveland Museum of Art's communications department to attend the November 29, 2018, Media & Influencers Exhibition Preview for the Renaissance Splendor: Catherine de’ Medici’s Valois Tapestries and Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern exhibitions. Only I was able to attend, and I was given an admission ticket to this preview to be one of the first to view the new exhibition the evening of the preview, before the general membership arrived for members night. (As a member of the Cleveland Museum of Art, I was already entitled to tickets to both exhibitions for a future date, but the members night activities price started at $25.00.) I was also given a drink ticket and the Museum's late night refreshments for the evening.

We were approached to attend the preview because of our support of the Cleveland Museum of Art via our @sos_jr Twitter feed, and our sosAssociates.com blog posts about the museum. I enjoyed the preview, and wrote this blog to share my experience at the event, and to thank the museum's communications department for inviting us to the preview.