I've been trying to remember which five works of art I first chose to discuss back in the late 90s when I was training (or as my poor practice audience might have said, straining) to give tours at the High. For some of the exercises we were required to do assigned pieces (in my case a Joseph Cornell) but later, when given free reign, I'm pretty certain I picked a Sally Mann from the permanent collection. At the moment, the other four elude me. What I do vividly recall is how one of the more creative docent candidates captivated her audience by working some pop culture -- the Ferris Bueller museum scene -- into her presentation about Pointillism.
[Madame Pierre Gautreau, Antonio de la Gandara, 1897, Gibbes Museum of Art.]
Docents guiding visitors through the Gibbes' galleries this fall should find plenty of engaging jumping off points in Face Lift. In July, I mentioned Barkley Hendricks' Ms. Johnson, a 1972 painting included in the exhibition of American portraiture opening this Friday, September 3, and today there are more fascinating portraits to explore over on the Gibbes' blog.
Curator Sara Arnold explains how her team poured over the museum's strong collection of portraiture from the 18th century to today, narrowing the field to fourteen portrait pairings. One full-length portrait they studied was Antonio de la Gandara's 1897 painting of Madame Pierre Gautreau, aka 19th century 'it girl' Virginie Avegno Gautreau, aka "Madame X." Learn more about the de la Gandara painting, commissioned after Sargent's notorious work, here.