The Jackson Pollock painting at the Joslyn Museum didn’t impress me. Go ahead—gasp. And, yes I know that it is a very important piece in Pollock’s mature style but for my liking, Galaxy from 1947 just didn’t measure up when I viewed it in person. I know that it was a breakthrough work for the American abstract expressionist master and I know it was a gift to the Joslyn Museum from the illustrious and somewhat quirky collector Peggy Guggenheim, but the painting was just too small in scale for me to really get a feel for Pollock’s prowess. I like my Pollock paintings to be heroic, mural size, and imposing. I’m a purist that way.
If you find yourself in Omaha, consider yourself lucky. It is a very cosmopolitan city with a distinctively western feel and an obvious love of the arts. On the streets of Omaha’s downtown business district you will find striking large-scale sculptures of buffalo, Conestoga wagons, and pioneer figures. The public sculpture on Omaha’s street corners offer insight into the beginnings of this truly western city.
When it comes to world class museums, Omaha has the Joslyn. The world-famous Art Deco building of can’t-miss-it pink marble is fabulous. The Joslyn Museum was commissioned by Sarah Joslyn as a gift to the city of Omaha in memory of her late husband George. Arriving from New England to Omaha in 1880, George Joslyn ran one of the largest newspaper service organizations in the world and was, at the time of his death, the richest man in Nebraska. The original building opened in 1931, cost $3 million to construct during the Great Depression, and it is considered a masterpiece of Art Deco architecture. You can see why it was hailed as a marvelous example of American architecture with its Georgia pink marble (Etowah fleuri) façade, period fixtures, Native American abstracted capitals, sculptural panels referencing the European settlers and Native American peoples of the area and other decorative elements. In 1994 and 2009 respectively, the Joslyn expanded to include seven galleries to house modern and contemporary art collections and special exhibitions as well as a major sculpture garden, entrance piazza, and atrium. With major installation works by Dale Chihuly and an inviting sculpture garden, the exterior of the Joslyn is as exciting as the works of art on display on the interior.
The Joslyn showed an appreciation for Omaha and the art of the American west. The art collection has works spanning the ages and the staff had a sincere interest in the viewers’ experience. The exhibition galleries were interactive and informative. The collections were impressive and the installation was thoughtful. The dedication to the history of Western and Native American art was alive and well. The galleries show the depth of those collections via major works by Frederick Remington, George Caitlin, and others. The Durham Center for Western Studies celebrates and interprets the museum’s rich collection of Western and Native American art. Native American objects including a full Omaha body suit, beaded moccasins, and other pieces of Native American apparel are highlighted with care and discussed with information for both the novice visitor and the seasoned collector.
Important pieces in the history of art are on display such as Renoir’s Young Girls at the Piano from 1889 and Degas’ 14 year old ballet dancer in bronze alongside lesser known works like the breathtaking portraits of Native American faces which come alive in the able hands of artist George Caitlin. The American artist, Grant Wood is represented at the Joslyn by a brightly colored landscape painting reminiscent of his well-known masterpiece called American Gothic. Other big names in world art history are on permanent display such as El Greco, Veronese, Monet, Rodin, Benton, Segal, Puryear, and, dare I forget, Pollock.
Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and internationally syndicated columnist, Dr. Lori Verderame presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery’s hit TV show, Auction Kings. Visit DrLoriV.com, Facebook.com/DoctorLori, or call (888) 431-1010.