October 11, 2017

Louise Blair Daura: Self-Portraits and Landscapes

Art Notes

“Self-Portrait in Paris” by Louise Blair Daura

Considerably understudied until now, painter Louise Blair Daura offers a glimpse into the Parisian art scene through her work and letters. Currently on view at the Georgia Museum of Art through Sunday, Dec. 10, “Louise Blair Daura: A Virginian in Paris” marks the first time a museum has attempted to examine her comparatively brief (1928–’32) but accomplished career as an exhibiting artist. Pulling paintings, drawings and prints from multiple collections, the exhibition features all of Louise’s known works of art. 

Born in Richmond, VA in 1905 as Louise Heron Blair, Daura graduated with an English degree in 1927 from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. The following year, she set out for Europe to study art by visiting museums and taking private lessons, eventually making her way to Paris. It was here that she met and soon married her art teacher, Catalan artist Pierre Daura, who co-founded a group of abstractionists called Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square) along with Joaquín Torres Garcia and Michel Seuphor in 1929. 

Though her artwork was not abstract and she never joined the group herself, Daura forged ahead with her own unique style of portraiture, which often accentuated certain facial features—slightly bigger eyes, rosier cheeks, poutier lips. The exhibition includes several enlarged photographs of Daura, which makes for fun comparison to her numerous self-portraits. She also created many landscapes depicting the historic architecture, calm waters and rolling countrysides seen around her home and through her travels.

Daura frequently wrote letters to family members, many of which are included in the exhibition’s accompanying publication, that offer invaluable insight into a specific time and place in art history. While exemplifying the experience of a woman artist and relating associated challenges, her correspondence also illuminates the clashing relationships between coexisting art groups like the reactionaries, surrealists and elementarists. She did not identify as belonging to any one group and likely felt disconnected from the art world as a whole, but she expresses intriguing observations and criticisms nonetheless.

The Georgia Museum is home to the Pierre Daura Center, which was established in 2002 as a gift from daughter Martha Randolph Daura. The artist’s archive spans from the 1920s–’60s, with over 600 paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures that reflect an interesting period in modern art. The gift also included an endowment to support the center and the Pierre Daura Curator of European Art, a position formerly held by the exhibition’s curator, Lynn Boland. In addition to promoting the study and contextualization of Daura’s life and influence in art history, the Daura Curator is responsible for directing the museum’s programming in European art. 

Boland, who is now director and chief curator of the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art at Colorado State University, will give a gallery talk on Friday, Oct. 13. at 2 p.m. 

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"Summer" by William Zorach in "Modern Masters"

Also curated by Boland, “Modern Masters from the Giuliano Ceseri Collection” shares 19th and 20th Century pieces selected from the private collection, which has been on long-term loan to the museum since 1995. While 15th Century Italian master drawings are the main attraction, the collection totals close to 1,500 works on paper. This particular exhibition includes artwork by Umberto Boccioni, Pierre Bonnard, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Giorgio de Chirico, Elizabeth Shippen Green, André Lhote, Luigi Russolo and William Zorach. Materials range from pen and ink, charcoal, watercolor and graphite, and the antique frames are also interesting for their craftsmanship. Museum director William U. Eiland will lead a Tour at Two on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 2 p.m., and the exhibition will remain on view through Sunday, Nov. 12.

In addition to “Martha Odum: Art Intersects Ecology,” a collection of paintings and silver celebrating the UGA School of Ecology’s 50th anniversary, the two exhibitions will be highlighted during 90 Carlton: Autumn on Oct. 13 from 5:30–8:30 p.m. Featuring gallery activities, an “Ask the Experts” session, door prizes and refreshments, the evening also offers a sneak peak at “Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs and tête-à-tête,” which opens the following day.