MIA Stories

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Matisse dances with language: Are words worth a thousand pictures?

Save for the occasional children’s book authors who can write as well as they draw—Maurice Sendak, Eric Carle—the disciplines are generally kept separate by a matter of competence. Yet artists have blended pictures and words, if not usually their own, since the very beginning of art. The current MIA exhibition Matisse: Masterworks from the Baltimore . . . Keep reading »


Matisse and the odalisque: odes to beauty or sexy pin-ups from another era?

In the current MIA exhibition Matisse: Masterworks from the Baltimore Museum of Art, running through May 18, there are quite a few examples of “odalisques,” semi-nude images of women reclining in exotic, vaguely North African garb. It was a popular genre in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, particularly among French painters. But what . . . Keep reading »


Art Inspires: Novelist Norah Labiner on the mystery of the vanishing curator

I never knew my great uncle Barton Kestle. He disappeared before I was born. He belongs, too, to a disappeared world of typewriters and teacups. In old family photographs he is captured in profile, always off to the side, distant, blurred, as though trying to escape the camera. On a Saturday night in March 1954, . . . Keep reading »


Saved from the salt mines: Part II of rediscovering an incredible 1948 exhibition of art stolen by Nazis

Last week, I recounted how a phone call launched a research project deep into the archives of the MIA, where I uncovered information about a 1948 exhibition of Berlin paintings saved by Monuments Men from the salt mines of Germany and Austria. Here’s part II: the story of how the paintings ended up in the . . . Keep reading »

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Saved from the salt mines, part I: A phone call sparks the rediscovery of a historic MIA exhibition that captivated the country

On February 28, I received a voice mail from Ann Pflaum, the University of Minnesota historian. With all the recent talk of the Monuments Men and looted art during World War II, Ann recalled seeing an exhibition at the MIA of paintings rescued from the salt mines of Germany and Austria. Only it wasn’t a . . . Keep reading »