Packers, Steelers, and Impressionism

Gustave Caillebotte. Boating on the Yerres (Périssoires sur l'Yerres), 1877. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Milwaukee Journal Company, in honor of Miss Faye McBeath. Photo credit John R. Glembin

All of my friends and coworkers can attest to just how ridiculously excited I was after the Packers and the Steelers won the playoff games. Full confession, though–it’s not because I’m a football fan. Nah. It’s because I knew this meant my current workplace, Milwaukee Art Museum, of course, and my former workplace, the Carnegie Museum of Art (yep, I’m from the ‘Burgh), would be pitted against each other in the now-annual Super Bowl Art Bet.

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the coverage, which began on art critic Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes blog, but here’s a quick overview of the situation. Last year, Green egged on the directors of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art to put one of their masterpieces on the line, to be loaned for three months to the losing team’s home museum. I watched it happen on Twitter and it was, to put it plainly, awesome. This year, within minutes of the Steelers’ win against the Jets, Green called to us on Twitter. I shot off an overly excited email to our director and marketing team, and watched the ball get rolling from behind the scenes, as speculation and excitement outside the Museum mounted (make sure you check out the Journal Sentinel’s coverage at Art City). Just a few days later we published a press release, wagering our Caillebotte painting, above, against the Carnegie’s Renoir painting, below.

Pierre Auguste Renoir. Bathers with Crab, ca. 1890-1899. Oil on canvas. Acquired through the generosity of Mrs. Alan M. Scaife and family. Image © 2009 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: Tom Little.

Pierre Auguste Renoir. Bathers with Crab, ca. 1890-1899. Oil on canvas. Acquired through the generosity of Mrs. Alan M. Scaife and family. Image © 2009 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: Tom Little.

What’s the big deal? Caillebotte and Renoir were both Impressionist painters, big names in the art world, for sure (we’ve got our own Impressionism show coming down the line next fall). Caillebotte was known not for dabbling in abstracted brushstrokes of color like Claude Monet and other Impressionist painters, but rather for playing with how his paintings were cropped. He was heavily inspired by photography, an artform that played with image cropping and was just beginning to revolutionize the art world. Meanwhile, Renoir was known for depicting women and leisure scenes–celebrating the female nude or the little happenings of everyday, aristocratic life.

You know I wouldn’t leave you without a little extra behind the scenes info–not yet seen in any article! Vicki Scharfberg, our Senior Director of Marketing, told me that originally the Carnegie had gone after our famous Fragonard The Shepherdess painting(check it out on our Collection website, or read about it from Third Coast Digest’s Tom Strini). We agreed–on the condition that the Carnegie put their Vincent Van Gogh Wheat Fields after the Rain on the line. At that, they balked and the Renoir and Caillebotte were decided upon. Vicki is convinced that this betrays the Carnegie’s lack of confidence in their football team, and I’m pretty sure the majority of Museum staff would agree… Burn!

Which team will prevail in the Super Bowl this Sunday? What artist will grace whose halls? Whose playful trash-talking will not be in vain? I’m trying to remain unbiased, but hey–you don’t need to. Share your team pride in the comments! (Or, if you’re like me, your Museum/artist pride. Either way.)

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