Life, Love, Death: The Ballantines at Home in Newark

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To help mark the City of Newark’s 350th anniversary, the Newark Museum has launched a new story line into the “House & Home” installation of the Museum’s 1885 National Historic Landmark Ballantine House.

Life, Love, Death: The Ballantines offers, by means of interactive touch screens, a closer look at four aspects of the Ballantine house and its family. The Ballantines were in many ways very much like other wealthy families of America’s Gilded Age (1865–1915), and they experienced their own joys and sorrows as any family does.

In a city like Newark, the source of the wealth that built a house is always important. With the Ballantine House, the source was beer. From the time Peter Ballantine moved his young family to Newark in 1840 to the time his sons built their own houses on Washington Park, beer brewing had become a powerful force in American industry. Millions of factory workers across the nation—many of them German and Irish—drank beer as much for its nourishment as for its alcohol. The Ballantines, with access to plenty of fresh water and an immigrant labor force, became the most powerful brewers in Newark. A touch screen in the Dining Room looks at the beer industry in Newark.

ballantine-picnicThe house that Peter’s son, John, and John’s wife, Jeannette, built was the setting in which their children matured. In 1899 their daughter, Alice, was married in the house to a young Newark lawyer named Henry Young. A touch screen in the Reception Room explores Alice’s wedding and the social setting in which her marriage took place.

But not every story in the Ballantine House was happy. The two restored bedrooms upstairs tells a different kind of tale. Both John and Jeannette died in this house; John in 1895 and Jeannette in 1919. During this era, 82 percent of Americans died at home. Doctors visited the sick in their homes—especially if they were wealthy—and often the body was prepared for burial there. A touch screen in the Master Bedroom looks at death in America in more detail.

The one great tragedy in this house was the suicide of the Ballantines’ second son, Robert, in 1905. News of his death was reported in newspapers all over the United States, but the real reason behind it was never made public. A touch screen placed in Alice’s bedroom discusses Robert’s death and looks at the possibilities of what drove him to take his own life at the age of 35.

Ulysses Grant Dietz, Chief Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts

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January 31, 2017 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

New Permanent Installation: Native Artists of North America

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One of the big and exciting changes at the Newark Museum is our brand new Native American galleries, titled Native Artists of North America. Newly installed in the Mary Sue Sweeney Price and Clement Alexander Price Atrium galleries, at the entrance to the American art collection, this permanent installation showcases more than 100 works of Native American art, representing numerous tribal nations throughout the United States and Canada. Bringing together a wide range of historical and contemporary works, the show presents a diversity of types and styles of art: meticulously rendered watercolors; rare wood and stone carvings; handcrafted clothing and accessories; and exquisite examples of basketry, textiles, pottery, instruments and other objects, both beautiful and useful.

Rather than a comprehensive survey of all indigenous cultures, the new installation is designed to spotlight strengths of Newark’s unique collection, with a focus on Northwest Coast (Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian), Northern California (Pomo) and the Southwest
(Pueblo watercolors and pottery, and Navajo and Hopi textiles). The Native American collection, which for many years was located on the second floor of the South Wing of the Museum, has not simply moved to a new space. Most of the material in Native Artists
of North America will also be new to most visitors. The works have been carefully selected from storage, studied, cleaned and repaired, and are looking their very best.

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Whether one is an expert on indigenous art or enjoys these works on a purely visual level, visitors to Native Artists of North America are treated to a rich range of textures, colors, materials and techniques. One of the gallery’s highlights is Newark’s excellent collection of Pueblo watercolors, a modern approach to painting taken up by many Native American artists in the early 20th century. Newark has works by several of the acknowledged masters of this style, ranging from documentary subjects to abstract designs. With works like Kachinas Distributing Gifts, artists like Fred Kabotie (Hopi) documented the public dances of their communities at a time when ceremonial activities were being
repressed by government policies of assimilation. The vitality of the living traditions and unique stories these objects tell comes further into focus through the interpretive gallery text, written by a diverse team of Native American artists and curators.

Studying the collection over the past year and a half has led to some exciting re-discoveries and new attributions, largely thanks to the work of Adriana Greci Green, Ph.D., the lead curator on this project. One of the masterpieces of Newark’s Northwest Coast
collection is a Bear Rattle that came into the collection in 1955 with no known artist, and is now understood to be the work of Sdiihldaa/Simeon Stilthda, a revered 19th-century Haida chief. Newark’s Bear Rattle is one of only six known examples by this master carver. Dr. Green has worked closely with Newark’s registrars, conservators, designers and curators, and with the distinguished team of Native artists and scholars she assembled to research and produce this exhibition. The curatorial team includes Sherrie Smith-Ferri, Ph.D. (Dry Creek Pomo-Coast Miwok), D.Y. Begay (Diné), Susan Sekaquaptewa (Hopi), Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota) and Mique’l Dangeli, Ph.D. (Tsimshian and Tlingit Nations). Having these colleagues visit and lend their expertise to our collections has been a wonderful experience.

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Recognizing that the indigenous art of New Jersey is underrepresented at the Museum, building our collection to better represent Lenape art and culture has emerged as an important goal for the future. Working on Native Artists of North America has allowed us to meet and begin building relationships with the Nanticoke Lenne-Lenape and the Ramapough Lenape Nations.

— Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D, Curator of American Art

 

January 11, 2017 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

The Newark Memorial Building

One hundred years ago, as the City of Newark concluded its 250th anniversary, it held an architectural contest for a “Newark Memorial Building” to house a public auditorium; meeting rooms for civic organizations; gallery space for its museum of art, science and industry; an art school; and a public university. The director of the museum at the time, John Cotton Dana, even called for “a roof garden” with “a restaurant with modest prices” as well as “public baths” in the basement. The Newark Evening News proposal a grand Italianate palace akin to the Free Public Library to which it would be joined by a bridge; it was to be built on the site at the corner of Washington Street, Broad Street and Orange Avenue (where the Rutgers Business School is currently located).

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The City Planning Commission had different ideas. It purchased land on Broad Street between Camp Street and Pennington Street near Lincoln Park, and it invited well-known architects, like McKim, Mead & White; Cass Gilbert; John Russell Pope; and others to submit drawings and plans. McKim, Mead & White won the competition.

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Soon thereafter, though, controversy erupted over the means by which the city acquired the site. It was suspected that some of the commissioners profited by the sale of the land. More importantly, however, Dana did not like the location, the size, the style or the purposes of the proposed building; it did not meet his definition of a “new museum.” Finally, the First World War intervened, and the project died quietly.

A new museum building had to wait until 1923 when Louis Bamberger, the department store magnate, agreed to construct a building on the former estate of Governor Marcus L. Ward. It was Bamberger who hired the architect, Jarvis Hunt from Chicago; appointed his facilities manager, Abraham Schindel, to oversee the project; paid the bills; and presented the building to the City for the use of the Newark Museum Association. The doors opened in March 1926.

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Through the generosity of the Estate of Ellen Keely Hunniken – a fund established for the purchase of materials relating to Essex County – the Newark Museum’s Library and Archives acquired this year the 16 plates and the 3 pages of text descripting the competition for “the Newark Memorial Building” that were published in The American Architect in October 1916. This is a fitting acquisition for the celebration of Newark’s 350th anniversary.

— William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist

January 4, 2017 at 10:44 am Leave a comment

Newark in Nashville: Buddhist Art on the Road

buddhist2While famous the world over for our outstanding collection of Tibetan Buddhist art, the Newark Museum also houses superior collections of both Japanese and Korean Buddhist art. The exhibition Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan & Korea demonstrates these combined strengths and will premiere at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee from February 10-May 7, 2017. The Frist commissioned this pan-Buddhist exhibition for its 10,000 square feet main exhibition spaces, knowing of Newark’s collection riches. Newark Museum staff has been busily preparing 126 works for travel—researching and writing label copy, conserving and framing works currently unframed, planning and implementing specialty mounts for display, and preparing works for crating and shipping. Much of this conservation work would not have been possible without the support of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation that has funded the Museum’s first ever in-house conservator, Linda Lin. As an object conservator, Ms. Lin dauntless has taken on numerous detailed tasks not only treating objects herself, but also managing contract textile and paintings conservators and consulting with lacquer experts about the Museum’s treasures.

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One of the challenges of responsibly housing and exhibiting the Museum’s treasures is just this conservation work. With over 33,000 works of art from Asia, the Newark Museum’s collection of Asian art ranks as one of the largest collections of this material nation-wide—more than double that of the Asian Art of San Francisco and one-third larger than the Freer Sackler Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art. Traveling exhibitions, like this one feature special exhibition spaces that double the Museum’s own providing a wonderful showcase of Newark’s collection riches to a national audience.

– Katherine Anne Paul, Curator, Arts of Asia

December 20, 2016 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

In Remembrance: Dorothy “Dottie” McNally (July 5, 1917-August 5, 2016)

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Dottie Dowling (before her marriage) in historical costume for an event at the Newark Museum, ca. late 1930s.

In late 1936 Dorothy “Dottie” Dowling began working for the Bach Society which rented space in the Newark Museum. Soon, in early 1937, she was hired to work in the secretarial pool for the Museum itself. In those days, she operated the switchboard, answered telephone calls, took dictation, typed letters, ran the mimeograph machine, among other duties. It was “a smoke-free, lipstick-free, fingernail-polish-free” environment, but it proved to be the beginning of a life-long career.

In 1945, five years after her marriage to George McNally, she became the secretary to the director, a position she held under four different directors until 1970 when she was appointed Assistant to the Director. She retired in 1982 but continued to work as a volunteer until 2004 – 68 years after first coming to the Newark Museum.

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Dottie McNally with Directors Mary Sue Sweeney Price and Samuel C. Miller, ca. early 2000s.

According to Mrs. McNally, Miss Winser, the first director she worked for, was “a vivacious woman – rather robust – a dear woman.” “I loved working with her – once I got used to her – it took some doing!” Miss Kendall, the second director, was “a shy, quiet New England type, reserved and tight.” She retired after only a year and was succeeded by Miss Coffey who “had a whole different approach to things.” An “outgoing” woman, very active in professional organizations, Miss Coffey encouraged Mrs. McNally to expand her knowledge of museum administration, and she, thereafter, assumed responsibility over several projects designed to improve the physical spaces of the Museum.

Under Director Samuel C. Miller, after her promotion to Assistant to the Director, Mrs. McNally become one of his “triumvirate”. She was in charge of personnel, buildings and grounds, city and state budgets, and special capital projects. In particular, she was responsible for overseeing the first restoration of the Ballantine House in 1976. “No major crisis or minor detail in the museum escaped her assiduous attention or the exercise of her unfailing energy,” Miller declared at the time of her retirement. “Her loyal devotion, sound judgment, and personal concern for people have been invaluable to our operations.”

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In the words of Director Emerita Mary Sue Sweeney Price: “Dottie was an exemplar of that generation, shaped by the Great Depression and World War II, which took nothing for granted. She personified loyalty and devotion, and valued family – including her museum family. That she accomplished so much speaks volumes about her innate intelligence and common sense. Nor will we ever forget her sly wit and generous sense of humor.”

On August 5 Dorothy McNally passed away at the age of 99. Trustees, staff, and members – the entire Newark Museum community – have lost “a marvel far greater than her diminutive stature, and central to the success of our beloved museum,” as Mrs. Price put it so eloquently.

William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian

 

 

November 14, 2016 at 10:47 am Leave a comment

Inspired by the Museum’s Collections, Visitors are Encouraged to Become Makers

 

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Since its founding more than a century ago, the Newark Museum has been an institution of art, science and industry. These principles, guided by the philosophies of self-guided, hands-on and interactive learning have come together, once again, in the newly expanded MakerSPACE at the Newark Museum.

The facility inspires visitors to be artful, scientific and industrious in order to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the objects on view in the Museum’s galleries.

Visitors of all ages are encouraged and guided in the making of art that is inspired by explorations of the Museum’s collections and by their own interests. By using low-cost everyday tools and materials — as well as state-of-the-art technology — participants can develop innovative designs and solutions for creative problems, scientific inquiries and design challenges.

MakerSPACE invites users to both play and discover. Equipment and supplies range from everyday castoffs, such as cardboard and plastic, to traditional art materials such as silk screens, pottery wheels and sewing machines, as well as the newest technology, including 3D-modeling software and printers and laser cutters. By utilizing rapid fabrication equipment and recyclables, visitors have the freedom to experiment, fail and try again. While the high-tech tools in the MakerSPACE are accessible, they are not essential for creating innovative designs and engaging works of art.

The artifacts in the science collections and the works of art in the Museum’s historic and cultural collections provide a unique environment and serve as inspiration for today’s makers. We invite visitors to explore and understand how things were traditionally made—and challenge them to find new ways to transform materials.

Museum educators facilitate the experience and guide makers through the creative process, leaving ample room for experimentation, concrete experiences, critical reflection and refinement of concepts and techniques. This maker-led process helps visitors connect more deeply with the Museum’s collections and cultivates critical observational skills, which will, hopefully, enable them to view the objects in the galleries with a greater understanding of the tools and techniques used, as well as the historical, political and social contexts in which the works were made.

Ryan Reedell, MakerSPACE Manager and producer of the Greater Newark Mini Maker Faire, held annually at the Museum. He is also a maker.

September 9, 2016 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

On View ~ Newark Stories: Four Newarkers Who Made a Difference

As part of the City of Newark’s year-long celebration of the 350th anniversary of its founding, the Newark Museum, one of the oldest cultural anchors in the city, showcases four Newarkers who were key benefactors of this institution in a special exhibition. Each of these individuals brought to the Museum different interests and perspectives; and their collections—as well as their ideas—helped shape the Museum in the first half of the 20th century.

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Xhosa artist, South Africa. Necklace, 1930s, Glass beads, agapanthus root, button. Gift of Lida Clanton Broner, 1947 47.94

Lida Clanton Broner was an African-American resident of Newark, who traveled to South Africa in 1938 with savings from a lifetime of work as a hair stylist and housekeeper. The trip was motivated by not only a sense of ancestral heritage but also by Broner’s involvement in the Council on African Affairs, an important anti colonialist organization based in New York City and led by Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois. During her nine months of travel, she circulated among South Africa’s black intellectual elite and lectured at schools and universities. She also assembled a collection of more than 100 works of pottery, beadwork, mission school crafts and other personal items, carefully noting where she acquired each object and who the makers were. In 1943 the Museum displayed her collection in what was possibly the first exhibition of South African art in an American museum. Broner subsequently donated much of her collection to the Newark Museum, a gift that has been augmented by her diary, photo albums and other mementos recently bequeathed by her grandsons.

Lida Clanton Broner’s story is remarkable and in many ways unprecedented, providing a unique window into black South Africa in the years leading up to apartheid and its connections to African- American political and social concerns of the time.

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John Sloan. Picture Shop Window, 1907. Oil on canvas, 32 x 25 Gift of Mrs. Felix Fuld, 1925. 25.1163

Caroline Bamberger Fuld was the sister of Louis Bamberger, and a co-founder of Newark’s L. Bamberger & Company, one of America’s most famous department stores. She was also the wife of Louis Meyer Frank, and later Felix Fuld, both partners in the hugely successful store. Mrs. Fuld served on the Newark Museum’s Board of Trustees from 1929 until her death in 1944. She was an important supporter of Jewish charities as well as a fervent patron of the Museum, her numerous gifts supporting the young institution’s desire to acquire the work of living American artists with numerous gifts. In 1924, anticipating the completion of the Museum’s new building (funded by her brother), Fuld donated $10,000 for the purchase of works by living American artists. After her husband’s death in 1929, She established a memorial endowment that has funded the acquisition of hundreds of works.

Caroline Bamberger Fuld’s support of the Museum’s modern art acquisitions followed the Museum’s founding commitment to the “art of today,” supporting living American artists at a time when most museums in the United States were focused on acquiring European Old Master paintings.

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Meiping Vase with Five Horses and Willow Tree, China, Kangxi period (1661–1722). Porcelain, underglaze cobalt blue and copper-red, 18 ½ x 9 in. Gift of Mary Vanderpool Pennington, 1949. Howard W. Hayes Collection. 49.482

A dynamic Yale-educated attorney, Howard W. Hayes was a celebrated litigator, Newark judge and New Jersey Assistant District Attorney in the late 19th century. But it was as a patent lawyer that he attained an international reputation, becoming the personal counsel for Thomas Alva Edison’s massive manufacturing enterprises. Maintaining offices in
both New York and London, Hayes built an international reputation as a patent lawyer and was celebrated for his ability to navigate the complex legal issues surrounding technology patents during the industrial expansion of the Gilded Age. Hayes was a passionate art collector and had a particular love of Asian works in porcelain and bronze. For a collector like Hayes, Chinese porcelains and bronzes were as much works of art as paintings and sculptures. By the time of his untimely death at the age of 45 in 1903, Hayes had amassed a fine collection, which was given to the City of Newark. Because Hayes died before the Newark Museum was founded, his collection was for many years on deposit at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark. By the 1940s it was clear that the collection didn’t fit the society’s mission, and the city, in collaboration with Hayes’ widow, Mary Vanderpoel Hayes Pennington, ultimately decided that the collection should be transferred to the Newark Museum, where it became a gift in 1949.

The gift of the Howard W. Hayes Collection amplified the important holdings of Asian art that began with the Museum’s founding in 1909, adding individual masterworks as fine as any in the country.

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Eliza Godfrey, London, Basket, 1743. Silver. Gift of W. Clark Symington, 1959. 59.106

W. Clark Symington was a Newark industrialist and a longtime trustee of the Newark Museum during the 1940s and 1950s. A graduate of Yale, with business interests in New England as well as in Newark, Symington traveled extensively and collected objects specifically for the Newark Museum’s growing decorative arts collection. One of his passions was English silver. Unlike other American collectors of his generation, Symington was not interested in noble provenance. Influenced by the Newark Museum’s focus on art in the design and production of everyday objects, Symington paid particular attention to the way silver objects were made, how they expressed the artistic skill of their makers and how they were used in a domestic setting.

Symington’s gifts were displayed in the Museum’s 1953 exhibition An Introduction to Silver, which was organized by Decorative Arts Curator Margaret White as the first in a series of projects known as “dictionary exhibitions.” They were intended to explain the design, making and use of a wide array of household objects for the general public. After his death, Symington’s widow created an acquisition fund in her husband’s memory, which has made possible the purchase of many important additions to the collection over the past 50 years.

As the City of Newark celebrates this important historic milestone, all Newarkers—indeed all New Jerseyans—can be proud of the Museum’s vast collections showcasing artistic endeavors from every part of the globe. Thanks to people like these four Newarkers, the Museum now has one of the largest art collections among American’s museums and is internationally known for the treasures in its care. Every one of us continues to benefit from the generosity of hundreds of individuals over the course of the Museum’s 107-year history.

This article originally appeared in Dana magazine, an exclusive benefit for Museum members. For additional information or to become a member, visit newarkmuseum.org.

August 29, 2016 at 11:03 am Leave a comment

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