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Indepth Arts News:

"Celebrating Art Nouveau: The Kreuzer Collection"
2002-10-05 until 2003-01-19
Virginia Museum of Fine Art
Richmond, VA, USA

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will celebrate its recent acquisition of an internationally acclaimed collection of Art Nouveau jewelry with a major exhibition, “Celebrating Art Nouveau: The Kreuzer Collection.” The exhibition will feature the 484-item Kreuzer Collection, acquired by the museum earlier this year through a gift-purchase arrangement with Dr. and Mrs. Karl Kreuzer of Munich, Germany, who collected Art Nouveau belt buckles and decorative arts for more than 20 years.

“Their efforts produced the greatest collection of its kind in the world,” says Dr. Michael Brand, the museum’s director.

“This new acquisition expands the scope of the museum’s already renowned collection of Art Nouveau decorative arts, established by Sydney and Frances Lewis of Richmond,” Brand says.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has been collecting Art Nouveau works for many years and was the first American museum to devote a permanent gallery to the style. In 1971, the museum presented one of the first major shows in the United States of Art Nouveau furniture and decorative arts. A year later, the Lewises gave the museum $500,000 for the purchase of Art Nouveau objects. In 1985, the Lewises gave the museum their extraordinary personal collection of Art Nouveau furniture and decorative objects, catapulting the museum’s collection into the top rank worldwide.

In addition to the gift-purchase of the buckle collection, Dr. Kreuzer has also given his personal collection of period Art Nouveau publications to the museum’s library this year. It includes rare, complete, bound runs of significant periodicals along with highly prized books from the period. Selections from the Kreuzer library gift will be shown in the exhibition.

“The addition of the Kreuzer Collection and the Kreuzer library confirm the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as the nations premier research and resource center for the study of Art Nouveau,” Brand says.

Featured in the exhibition will be Kreuzer Collection pieces from France, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Great Britain and America, including belt buckles and their accompanying necklaces, belts and buttons.

“These ornaments, the only truly functional jewelry produced in the period between 1890 and 1910, provide examples of the Symbolist, Jugendstil, Art Nouveau and Liberty-style aesthetic current around the year 1900, the high point of Art Nouveau,” says Frederick R. Brandt, the museum’s consulting curator for 20th-century decorative arts, who is organizing the exhibition.

“The high point of Art Nouveau coincided with a vogue for belts and belt buckles in feminine fashion throughout Europe and America because of the introduction of the wasp waist,” he says. “Because of this overlap, the Kreuzer Collection presents a virtual microcosm of Art Nouveau style. This exhibition provides a unique opportunity to see the entire collection.” On display will be buckles shown at the influential 1900 Paris World’s Fair, as well as buckles designed by Josef Hoffmann for the Wiener Werkstätte; by the famed Danish designer Georg Jensen; by Archibald Knox for Liberty & Company in London; and by René Lalique, the most renowned Parisian jeweler of his time.

The motifs featured on the buckles range from abstract or stylized geometric and plant forms to animals, humans and composite creatures. Other pieces feature scenes taken from literature and references to past cultures.

A number of additional examples of Art Nouveau ceramics, metalwork and furniture in the Lewis Collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco furnishings will also be shown. Many of these pieces have not been exhibited publicly before. They include a length of embroidered silk upholstery by French artist Louis Majorelle; a color lithograph of Loïe Fuller by French artist Manuel Orazi; other lithographs by Alphonse Mucha of Czechoslovakia, Louis John Rhead of the United States and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec of France; a bronze inkwell by Sarah Bernhardt; a multi-piece tea service by Maurice Dufrêne of France; and a table clock, a tea set and stemware by Josef Hoffmann of Austria.

“The combination of the pieces in this special celebratory installation and the Art Nouveau works already on display in the museum’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Gallery of Art Nouveau and Art Deco decorative arts creates a unique opportunity to explore a truly remarkable international style,” the museum’s director says. “By viewing the Kreuzer Collection in tandem with other expressions of the Art Nouveau style, visitors will appreciate the unique resource that now exists in Richmond.”

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, an educational institution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, is Metropolitan Richmond’s most popular cultural attraction. The museum is on the Boulevard at Grove Avenue. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to keep the museum free to all by making a donation ($5 suggested). For additional information about exhibitions and programs, telephone 804/340- 1400 or visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Website.

Buckle, ca. 1900,
by Piel Frères (French);
silver gilt, enamel;
2-1/8 x 3-1/8;
(Photo by Katherine Wetzel, © 2002 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

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