Art Review at the Woodson

By: Andrew McGivern, curator of exhibitions on January 2nd, 2009

January 20 marks the ninth anniversary of the Woodson Art Museum’s monthly Curators’ Art Review. On each third Tuesday, curator Jane Weinke and I meet with people to discuss artworks they own and want to learn more about. The public is asked to call the Museum at 715-845-7010 to sign up for one of eight half-hour appointments beginning at 4:00 pm.

Over the years we have examined a wide variety of artwork including American and European paintings, a Japanese silkscreen, glass, pottery, embroidery, historic maps, bronze sculpture, photography, and works on paper. We aren’t always able to deliver the words that a collector wants to hear. . . that they own an important artwork.

On numerous occasions, framed works are brought in and believed to be paintings and we have to inform the owners that what they have are printed reproductions of paintings. Photo reproductions are easily identified using a 10X magnifying loop. Often these works are reproductions of important paintings by artists such as Picasso, Miro, Renoir, Pissarro, Whistler, and Maxfield Parrish.

Some of the original artwork making its way to the Museum has been quite interesting. In 2003 a woman brought in a painting by Frank Cyrsky, depicting a lake and shoreline in a pointillist style. Our research revealed that Cyrsky’s paintings could be found in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Miami University Art Museum, Miami, Ohio.

Another interesting painting was a Greco-Roman genre scene of a woman near a woods, a Roman column, and a cherub lying on a lion. It was the work of a Belgian artist, Joseph P. Coomans (1816-1889), who is known for intricately painted fictitious Greco-Roman scenes. I recently spoke to the owner of the painting and learned that it is still in her family.

Over the years Jane and I have met with and reviewed artwork for more than 235 people, many of whom are from the Wausau area. However, it’s interesting to note that almost half of the folks we’ve helped came from the 35 small and large communities that comprise north-central Wisconsin; one person even drove down from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

If you’re curious about the artwork that you own, you can start by looking for the artist’s name and piecing together the history or provenance of the work. With the information you gather, search the internet using Google or try your local library for other references. Also check the websites listed below. These sites offer helpful information about artists and artworks; note that there is often a fee for searching on sites such as these.

Ask Art – Offers information on over 50,000 American artists including biographies, bodies of work, valuation and appraisal techniques, auction records, and publications.

Art Cyclopedia – A good site for biographies.

Art Fact – Includes over 500,000 international artists and more than 30 million auction price results.

Art Net – A source for researching photography, prints, works on paper, sculpture, and paintings.

Art Signatures – An innovative web-based art research and signature verification service.

Find Art Info – Includes information on over 250,000 artists, nearly 100,000 artist signatures, and has over 750,000 photos of artworks.

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