In 1949, Georgia O’Keeffe made a gift of 101 works of art, ranging from African masks to Modernist paintings, to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Most of the objects had been collected by O’Keeffe’s late husband, Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer, gallery owner and tireless champion of American Modernism. Now, thanks to a partnership developed between Fisk University and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., those artworks will be making their Crystal Bridges debut in a new exhibition titled The Artists’ Eye: Georgia O’Keeffe and the Alfred Stieglitz Collection. The exhibition opens Nov. 9 and will be on view through Feb. 3.
Alfred Stieglitz was not a collector in a traditional sense, but was instead an impresario who supported the artists he felt were most important in developing a uniquely American version of Modernism. This exhibition features artists Stieglitz most favored, including O’Keeffe, Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, and John Marin, among several of the earlier European Modernists who inspired them, including Paul Cezanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The exhibition also includes 19 photographs by Stieglitz himself. The Artists’ Eye celebrates not only the “eye” of Stieglitz and O’Keeffe as patrons and collectors, but also as artists who interpreted America through brush and camera.
This exhibition is sponsored at Crystal Bridges by Morgan Stanley, Blakeman’s Fine Jewelry, The William M. Fuller Foundation, Greenwood Gearhart Inc., Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C., NWA Media/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The Queen Anne Mansion Preservation Trust, and Demara Titzer.
“The opening of The Artists’ Eye at Crystal Bridges will offer our guests the opportunity to not only discover major artists, but also see more work by artists whom they have already met through our permanent collection,” said Director of Education and Exhibitions Niki Stewart. “Experiencing more of their work enhances our understanding about who the artists are and what they are trying to say. That’s when the art and the artist truly come to life for so many of us. In addition, this exhibition shows American art alongside works by European artists, making it easy to see how American Modernism was inspired by art and ideas in other places.”
Expected to draw visitors from throughout the region, the inaugural opening of The Artists’ Eye will celebrate an important partnership between Fisk University and Crystal Bridges that allows this collection to be shared between Nashville and Bentonville. The collection is now jointly owned by the two institutions, and will travel between them on rotating intervals, ensuring that Fisk students will have the opportunity to view or study the artwork for a period during each student’s academic career.
The sharing agreement enables Crystal Bridges and Fisk to co-administer the care and maintenance of the works of art, advance the educational scope of the collection for study and public appreciation, and to expand the artistic legacy of the artists whose works are included in the collection. The agreement also calls for the creation of a Collection Committee to promote the best interests of the collection, with current members including:
“We are delighted to be partnering with Fisk University on the Stieglitz Collection,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director. “By sharing this collection, we are able to expand access to the works throughout the region; encourage additional scholarship, both at Fisk and here at Crystal Bridges; and continue to tell the story of American Modernism through the remarkable selection of artworks that O’Keeffe chose for that purpose. Having a committee of professionals dedicated to the oversight of the collection also ensures the very best conservation care for the works over the long term, as well as an increased academic focus on the collection moving forward.”
A full roster of public programs are planned in conjunction with the exhibition, including a three-part seminar series beginning Nov. 6 on Stieglitz and the artists in his circle; a public lecture by Victor Simmons, Director and Curator of the Fisk University Galleries, on Nov. 8; and ongoing programs for school groups and homeschool children. A full list of programs accompanying the exhibition is available at: https://crystalbridges.org/exhibitions-events/the-artists-eye/