Wednesday, September 30, 2009

At the Museum: Albert Bierstadt

If you have been watching the Ken Burns series about our National Parks on
PBS, you’ve heard about artists traveling on many of the earliest expeditions to the parts of the American West that are today part of the park system. One of the artists in the LRMA collection, Albert Bierstadt, traveled with Colonel Frederick Lander’s government-sponsored expedition to map an overland route to the Pacific. In fact, Bierstadt’s career arc was enormously influenced by his participation in that expedition.

Born in Prussia, but raised in the United States, Bierstadt knew from an early age he wanted to be an artist. Unfortunately, it is almost universally acknowledged that his early work as a self-taught artist was really quite awful. It wasn’t until he studied art in Europe as a young man that his skill and talent developed sufficiently to match his ambition. He studied in Düsseldorf under Emmanuel Leutze, the American history painter best known for the iconic painting, “George Washington Crossing the Delaware.” He traveled widely and returned to the United States an accomplished and successful landscape painter in the European mode.

Until his Western travels, Bierstadt’s scenes of Europe and America were serene, luminous, and to some extent pastoral. This would change when, in 1858, he joined Lander’s exhibition. Bierstadt and several other members of the expedition did not stay with Lander all the way to California. Instead he opted to stop in Wyoming and spend the summer sketching in that wilderness. Shortly thereafter, Bierstadt launched a career built on large canvases depicting dramatic scenes of the then-exotic American West. From 1863 to 1883, Bierstadt commanded the highest prices of any American painter, living or dead. He would return to the West multiple times throughout his career, always sketching and preparing for yet another grand statement, usually a sweeping sunset in technicolor setting over the Rockies.

However, in between trips to the West, Bierstadt also visited the White Mountains of New Hampshire for sketching trips. It was on one of these trips, probably between 1857 and 1869, that he would have originated the idea for the Museum’s Bierstadt, “Autumn in New Hampshire.” The Museum’s painting harks back to Bierstadt’s early serene European style, rather than the drama and grandeur of his popular paintings of the American West. By the 1860s, New Hampshire was well-settled and thoroughly populated; it was nowhere near as wild and untamed as the Western half of the continent. The misty mountains in the background are barely visible behind the bright oranges and greens of the autumn foliage of New England. For Bierstadt, New Hampshire was something like home, whereas Wyoming was exotic, dangerous, and distant. Wyoming wasn’t even a state until 1890, years after Bierstadt’s visit; New Hampshire, after all, was one of the original thirteen colonies. Hence Bierstadt’s use of his more traditional mode of painting for this New England scene, which he was probably painting alongside his Western works.

“Autumn in New Hampshire” has been part of the Museum’s collection since it was donated in 1926 by Lauren Rogers’ grandfather, Lauren Chase Eastman. Mr. Eastman had purchased the painting in 1911, not too long after Bierstadt’s death. It hangs in the Museum’s American Gallery today.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Sunday. For more information about exhibitions, tours, and programming, call 601-649-6374 or visit

Jill R. Chancey, PhD, is curator of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.

Heritage Festival coming up!

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel is hosting HERITAGE FESTIVAL this weekend, October 3. It is FREE! We have free art activities, free pizza, music by the Cowboy Blues Band, Choctaw dancers, and more. Saturday from 10 AM-2 PM on the front lawn. (Rain site: Sawmill Square Mall)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Interested in Southeastern Indian basketry?

Our registrar, Tommie Rodgers, will be speaking at a symposium on basketry in Natchez in November. This looks like an excellent program, with something for the collector, the weaver, the museum professional, and anyone with an interest:

2009 Southeastern Indian Basketry Symposium

Co-sponsored by the National Park Service, Northwestern Louisiana State University,

and the Mississippi Department of Archives & History

Except where noted, all sessions to be held at the

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, 400 Jefferson Davis Blvd., Natchez, MS 39120;




Grand Village of the Natchez Indians (GVNI)

5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Informal reception with food and refreshments, display of baskets borrowed from local owners.


GVNI (coffee, bottled water, snacks provided)

9:00 a.m. Welcome and introductions – Jim Barnett, Mississippi Department of Archives & History

9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Informal panel discussion on marketing:

Janice Sago, Sales Shop Manager, GVNI

Kimble Marshall, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, Alcorn State University

Deborah Cowart, Unit Manager, Eastern National Retail Outlet, Natchez National Historical Park

10:30 – 11:00 a.m. Break; informal discussions among weavers

11:00 – 11:45 a.m. Informal discussion on split-cane baskets:

Dustin Fuqua, Cane River Creole National Historical Park

Hiram F. “Pete” Gregory, Northwestern State University (LA)

11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch (catered on-site)

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Informal group discussion on cane propagation research:

Rachel Jolley, Ph.D., Mississippi State University

Dr. Jolley wants to hear from weavers about desirable cane attributes.

2:00 – 2:30 p.m. Break; informal discussions among weavers

2:30 – 3:00 p.m. Tour of the Grand Village (Jim Barnett)

3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Informal discussions among weavers

4:00 – 6:30 p.m. Dinner on own (numerous restaurants available)

6:30 p.m. Basket Conservation Workshop (public invited to bring baskets)

Cindy Gardner, Director of Collections, Museum of Mississippi History, Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Tommie Rodgers, Registrar, Lauren Rogers Museum of Art

* Open to the public (free admission) – location will be GVNI or the Natchez Visitor Reception Center auditorium.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14 “Basket Day” Open to the public (free admission)

GVNI (in case of rain, to be held at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center)

10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Demonstrations and sales by basket weavers

Linda Farve, Mississippi Band of Choctaw will sell fry bread and Indian tacos; soft drinks and bottled water will be provided to participants and visitors.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Guest Blogger: Mandy Buchanan

At the Museum

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is planning fun, fall activities for children and families.

This fall, we will provide a special program for area home school families. Home School Fridays will be offered once a month and feature a variety of art activities. This "make and take" class is offered from 1 until 4 p.m. September 25, October 30, and November 20. No reservations are required and this class is free of charge for home school groups. We hope families will take part in this new program.

For a spooky, good time, please join us for Trick-Art-Treat, Thursday, October 29, from 3:30 until 5:00 p.m. This class is offered for ages kindergarten through sixth grade. We will make Halloween art projects including a paper mache’ pumpkin, a haunted house collage, and a super cool trick or treat bag. Class size will be limited. So reserve your spot early for this spooky art class!

One of our favorite family fall activities at LRMA is our annual Heritage Arts Festival. This festival has been a Laurel tradition since 1993. The LRMA staff and Guild of Docents and Volunteers are all working hard in preparation for this fun day. The 2009 Heritage Arts Festival is scheduled for Saturday, October 3, from 10 am until 2 p.m. on the LRMA front lawn. The theme of this year’s festival is "The Wild Wonders of Mississippi" with the art activities centered around the Mississippi wilderness and its native animals. We will feature Choctaw Dancers and Choctaw basket weaver, Jessica Thomas. Back by popular demand, The Cowboy Blues Band will be our musical entertainment. At noon, we will serve free pizza and soft drinks. This special day is generously sponsored by The Laurel Arts League, Neel-Schaffer, Coca-Cola of Laurel, The First, and Hughes, Inc. The Festival is also supported by the Mississippi Arts Commission.

The Loblolly Festival, formerly called Laurel’s Main Street Festival, will also take place on October 3rd in downtown Laurel. There will be live music, food, fine arts and children’s activities all within walking distance of the Museum. Laurel’s Historic District and downtown area will be the "place to be" to celebrate the arts and have some family fun!

For more information please call the Museum at 601.649.6374 or visit the Museum’s website at

Mandy Buchanan is Curator of Education at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.