Fritz suggested that since we had to go into Manchester for some shopping, we spend some time at the Currier Gallery, the city's museum of art that has made the list of the ten best small museums in the U.S.. It was good when he introduced it to me fifteen years ago (it owns and gives tours through one of Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Houses) and is better now after a very intelligent expansion a couple of years ago. We take guests there, so he suggested we take out a dual membership and save money on our own visits and on the occasions when we bring others.
The deal is incredible; for $55 per year, we get free admission for ourselves and two guests (four on one occasion), along with discounts in the cafe and gift shop, which we love and where we've done a lot of Christmas shopping over the years.
So, we headed for Poster Mania!, the current main exhibit of American advertising poster art in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I've designed a couple of productions in poster art style over the years, most notably Cole Porter's Can-Can and Puccini's La Rondine, and was looking forward to see the posters up close. We had to pas through one gallery with a very mixed exhibit of furniture, pottery and wall art and immediately found ourselves in front of a work (above) by a close friend of ours, Al Jaeger. Al works in glazed and unglazed pottery with sand, ash, metal, pebbles, etc. to create pieces inspired by the sometimes lush, often rugged New Hampshire landscape. We own four of his pieces.
This highly engineered piece is made of dark walnut. After this we passed into the main exhibit.
One of the most prominent of the American poster artists was Will Bradley. There must have been a half dozen pieces of his on display (the museum's holdings in poster art number two hundred and eighty, bequeathed by a single collector, Orien Dodge in the 1940s). Above is one of his most striking. Because of the reflective glass, several of my shots have reflections superimposed, like the exit signs over the black areas of the poster.
This one was an especial favorite of ours. A large number of of the posters on exhibit promoted magazines, newspapers and book publishers. And as advertising posters were more and more used by the book publishers, women came flooding into the artist pool designing everything from the poster art to book layout and the embossed covers of the books themselves, the design of which was often echoed in the posters.
This one made Ethel Read 's career. Virtually self-taught, she rose to the top of the profession but eventually fell prey to depression, alcohol and died young in England.
One of the great Art Nouveau classics. There are 90 pieces in the exhibit, all framed and displayed well with excellent notes on the artists, the reality of careers in poster art, biographical info on the artists, and a brief history of the craze for collecting posters that swept across the U.S. for about 40 years.
On the way out of the exhibit we passed one of my favorite paintings, this cool, dispassionate view of classic brick mill buildings such as the ones on which Manchester's economy depended in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
We had lunch in the cafe, then bought Christmas gifts in the shop. I ran the figures in my head and came up with $32 as the amount we had saved on our free museum entry, and discounts on lunch and shopping, more than half of the dual membership fee. Not bad, not bad at all!