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August Issue 2006

Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, Offers an Exhibit of Portrait Miniatures

Small is big this fall at the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC. The exhibit, Perfect Likeness: European and American Portrait Miniatures from the Cincinnati Art Museum, opens to the public on Aug. 18 and runs through Oct. 22, 2006. More than 180 of these intimate and sentimental paintings will be on display, all drawn from the Cincinnati Art Museum's premier collection of portrait miniatures, considered to be one of the top five in the United States.

The Perfect Likeness exhibition provides a window onto the creation and varied meanings of a little-known art form," said Marjorie E. Wieseman, curator of European painting and sculpture. "Through one of the only exhibitions of portrait miniatures ever mounted in the United States, visitors will have the opportunity to learn about these extraordinary, gemlike paintings."

Portrait miniatures were personal mementos created to commemorate life's most significant events, such as the birth or death of a child, a marriage or the departure of a loved one for war. These treasured keepsakes were created in a variety of media ranging from watercolor on ivory to enamelwork, and were often housed in exquisite lockets to be worn close to the body as jewelry. Others were hidden in folding cases and slipped into a pocket or a drawer. Miniatures could also be displayed more publicly atop small, decorative boxes; larger ones were framed to hang on the wall in a home.

"Intimate and immediate, the portrait miniature was the wallet photograph of its day - a beautiful way to keep people close," said Julie Aronson, curator of American painting and sculpture. "The artistry of these diminutive masterpieces is amazing, in their extraordinary precision and delicacy of technique."

The exhibition explores the art of the portrait miniature beginning with its origins in the European courts of the 16th century through its international resurgence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The display is augmented by paintings, prints, costumes, hair jewelry and other materials to provide historical context for the works, along with interactive discovery stations for all ages.

Artists featured in the exhibition include Richard Cosway, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Sarah Goodridge, Nicholas Hilliard, Edward Greene Malbone, James Peale and John Smart.

"The Cincinnati Art Museum's collection of portrait miniatures is important for anyone interested in this field of art," said Sarah Coffin, curator, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution. "Along with the Metropolitan Museum, Cincinnati holds one of the largest collections in the country with many important and rare artists and subjects."

The exhibition is generously supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation with additional funding from the George and Ellen Rieveschl Fund and the Benesse Endowment in memory of Yasuo Kuniyoshi.

The exhibition is organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum.

The Columbia Museum of Art is South Carolina's premier international art museum with extraordinary collections of European and American fine and decorative art that span centuries. Founded in 1950, the museum opened its new building on Main Street in 1998 by transforming an urban department store into a sleek and airy, light-filled space with 25 galleries. The collections include masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, works by significant furniture and silver makers, as well as modern and contemporary art from the present time. Of particular interest are Sandro Botticelli's Nativity, Claude Monet's The Seine at Giverny and art glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The museum also offers changing exhibitions from renowned museums and educational programs that include group and public tours, lectures, films, and concert series. The Museum Shop is open during museum hours. Generous support to the museum is provided by the City of Columbia and Richland County Council.

A number of programs will be offered by the Museum in conjunction with this exhibition, contact the Museum for further details.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 803/799-2810 or at (www.ColumbiaMuseum.org).



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