Telling tales

Museum opens show of 100 works

Museum opens show of 100 works

September 28, 2008|Story by CHRIS COPLEY

Romantic love. War-frightened fugitives. Sexual frustration. The vast American wilderness. Inflated ego. The Ascension of Christ. And a tough, young boy getting his first pair of glasses.

These are only a few of the images depicted in "One Hundred Stories," the show opening next weekend at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown.

Elizabeth Johns served as guest curator for the show -- a display of 100 works from the museum's collection -- and edited a book published by the museum in association with the show.

Typically, she said, a catalogue about a museum show is published after the show is conceived and assembled. Not this time.


"It started with the book," Johns said. "(Museum supporter) Jeannette Rinehart thought the museum should be better known. And I certainly agreed with her."

Rinehart agreed to fund the book, and Johns gathered a team of colleagues, including Joe Ruzicka, WCMFA director at that time. The team selected works they wanted in the show. The list was pared down to 100, and book production began.

The production was an international project. Edward Owen, a Czech photographer raised in Bethesda, Md., photographed the art at WCMFA. Photographs were sent to fine-arts publisher D Giles Ltd. in London, England. The book was printed in Hong Kong and shipped to Hagerstown. The book is available at the museum's gift shop.

"We had three audiences in mind for the book," Johns said. "Local, with local interest such as (the painting) 'The Burning of Chambersburg'; regional, where curators of regional museums might see the book and say, 'I didn't know they had that painting'; and the scholarly audience."

And as Johns saw the quality of the book, the idea came up to organize a show.

"We decided we wanted to exhibit the objects in the book," she said. "Once we got the book put together and we saw how good is was going to be ... I thought, 'This is going to be fabulous.'"

Johns will speak on Sunday, Oct. 5, about the process of developing the book and the exhibit.

If you go ...

WHAT: "One Hundred Stories," an exhibit of 100 artworks from the permanent collection of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 4, through Sunday, Jan. 4; the museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays.

WHERE: Washington Museum of Fine Arts in City Park, Hagerstown

COST: Admission to the museum and the exhibit is free; a donation is requested.

CONTACT: Call 301-739-5727 or go to

MORE: At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, exhibit curator Elizabeth Johns will present a lecture, "One Hundred Stories: Behind the Scenes." She will discuss the details involved in curating the exhibit and producing the book. A public reception will be from 2:30 to 4.


Photos by Edward Owen

"Ascension of Christ"

Benjamin West was one of the New World's best early painters. Born in Pennsylvania in 1738 in Colonial America, West studied art in European capitals, then settled in London. He produced monumental canvases of scenes from history and the Bible. Curator Elizabeth Johns said this 16-inch-by-20-inch drawing is a study for a painting West never completed. But in contrast to West's paintings, in which figures have a stiff, posed look, this oil-on-canvas drawing is fluid and energetic.

Album quilt

Quilting was raised to a high degree of artistry in Maryland in the middle part of the 1800s. At that time, the port of Baltimore provided Maryland women with a wide variety of imported textiles. Bright colors were used to augment plain white bedcovers. This Baltimore album quilt was created by Sarah Jane Bower when she was about 18 years old. The quilt has an astonishing level of detail both in the images and in the "plain" white background.

"White House, Gloucester"

Childe Hassam was born in Massachusetts in 1859 and studied art in France during the 1880s. He denied that painters such as Claude Monet and Camille Pisarro had influenced his work, but Hassam's style of light-colored, distinct brush strokes places him among the Impressionists. He returned to his native New England and, in 1895, painted this American scene.

"The Oculist"

Norman Rockwell painted "The Oculist," one of the most popular paintings at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, in 1956 as a cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post. It is one of more than 300 magazine covers Rockwell painted between 1916 and 1963, most of them for The Saturday Evening Post. Fans of the popular artist can look closely at the painting to see how Rockwell created his realistic folds, wrinkles, reflections and textures.

Art Nouveau vase

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