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VMFA acquires key work by German expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

In September 2020, a private collector in Germany made the fair and just decision to restitute Kirchner’s painting to the Fischer family descendants who have donated it to VMFA through a gift-purchase arrangement.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced this week that it has acquired a major work by German artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The oil painting, completed in 1916, is entitled Taunus Road (German: Autostrasse im Taunus). In September 2020, a private collector in Germany made the fair and just decision to restitute Kirchner’s painting to the Fischer family descendants who have donated it to VMFA through a gift-purchase arrangement.

“We are pleased that this painting, Taunus Road, was returned to the Fischer family and that it joins other paintings by Kirchner in the Ludwig and Rosy Fischer Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “The donation of this painting is the realization of a long-term commitment on behalf of both the Fischer family and VMFA to reunite restituted works from the Fischer Collection.”

In 2016 Kirchner’s painting Sand Hills at Grünau was restituted by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York to the descendants of Max Fischer as the result of a related Nazi era restitution case and acquired by VMFA through a similar gift-purchase arrangement. After this painting was returned to the family, they made clear their commitment to not only reunite it with the Ludwig and Rosy Fischer Collection at VMFA but also any future works from Max’s portion of the family collection that were restituted to the family.

“Having grown up in a home surrounded by these vivid works of art, it was a natural decision to send any restituted works to VMFA, to rejoin the Ludwig and Rosy Fischer Collection at the museum,” Eva Marx said. “By reuniting this work with the rest of the collection, we honor our grandparents’ vision and our parents’ dedication to sharing these works with the public.”

Ludwig and Rosy Fischer were forward thinking art collectors in Frankfurt, Germany, who between 1905 and 1925 built one of the most impressive collections of German Expressionist art of the time, with a special emphasis on the artists of the Die Brücke movement. Their sons, Ernst and Max, inherited the collection of approximately 500 works in 1926. After the Nazis gained power in Germany, Ernst left the country in 1934 and eventually settled in Richmond, Virginia, with his half of the collection. When Max left the following year, he was able to take only a few works out of Germany, and the remainder were presumed lost or stolen. Taunus Road is the second painting that has been recovered from the lost portion of Max’s half of the collection and returned to the Fischer descendants.

“Adding this work to the Ludwig and Rosy Fischer Collection helps us to tell a fuller story of the ways in which Hitler’s rise to power impacted the Fischer family and their collection. Displaying Taunus Road alongside Sand Hills in the German Expressionist Gallery adds significantly to our understanding of Ludwig and Rosy Fischers’ vision as important early collectors of Kirchner’s work in particular,” said Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, VMFA’s Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “It is the enormous privilege of the museum to continue to work with the Fischer family as we steward this phenomenal collection of German art and share it with our public,” added Dr. Michael Taylor, VMFA’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education.

Kirchner was a leader and founding member of the Die Brücke group, formed in 1905. These artists looked at the rampant industrialization of the early 20th century with both fascination and despair. Responding to the changing world around them, they created art characterized by loose, gestural brushstrokes and vivid palettes of bold, saturated colors. While many of the Die Brücke artists depicted urban scenes, they also escaped their city studios to paint rural landscapes as antidotes to the pressures and anxieties of modern life. Landscapes were a central theme throughout Kirchner’s work.

Taunus Road provides a strong example of Kirchner’s vibrant landscapes produced between 1915 and 1918, a period scholars have described as Kirchner’s “crisis” years. He painted the scene in the midst of World War I, during his stay at the sanatorium in Königstein im Taunus, a community in the Taunus mountains north of Frankfurt where, after granted leave from the military, he received treatment following a nervous breakdown. Paint is applied in thin, loose layers to the canvas, producing a quickly executed, dynamic work. The curving trees on the left side and three purple clouds at the top of the composition frame the coral-colored highway. The division created by the roadway produces a tension between the idea of unadulterated nature and the incursion of humans into the landscape.

Taunus Road is currently on view in the German Expressionist Gallery at VMFA.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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VMFA acquires work by abstract painter Alma Thomas

Painting complements works by African American and women artists and artists of the Washington Color School.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) recently acquired Forsythia and Pussy Willows Begin Spring (1970), a painting by African American artist Alma Thomas (1891–1978).

“We are delighted that Forsythia and Pussy Willows Begin Spring has joined VMFA’s Modern and Contemporary art holdings,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “Alma Thomas was a major contributor to 20th-century art. Her nature-based paintings significantly influenced artists who came after her, and her vibrantly colored canvases resonate with viewers today.”

Born in Columbus, Georgia, during the Jim Crow Era, Alma Woodsey Thomas and her family moved to Washington D.C., where more educational and economic opportunities were available for African Americans. By 1921, Thomas enrolled in art instruction courses at Howard University and, by 1924, became the program’s first graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in fine arts. After receiving her Master of Arts degree in education from Columbia University in the 1930s, Thomas taught at Shaw Junior High School in Washington D.C. for 35 years before retiring in 1960 and devoting herself to painting full time.

Thomas had earlier eschewed abstract art in favor of figurative and still life painting. By the 1960s however, when studying at American University in Washington D.C., she admired and responded to the abstract paintings created by Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and other contemporaries in the Washington Color School. This loosely affiliated group of painters applied luminous colorful hues by staining and soaking their raw canvases with thinned oil or acrylic paint.

In 1972, Thomas became the first African American woman artist to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. She was also the first African American woman artist to have her work acquired and displayed in the White House after former First Lady Michelle Obama selected two paintings, Watusi (Hard Edge) and Sky Light, installed on loan to the White House in 2009, before the landmark acquisition in 2015 of Thomas’s 1966 painting Resurrection. Thomas’s works are featured in many museum collections including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art. Her work is the subject of the current nationally touring retrospective entitled Alma Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful.

“Acquiring a painting by Alma Thomas has long been a priority for the museum. We patiently waited for an iconic work and are delighted to bring this vibrant visual echo of Thomas’ garden into our collection,” said Valerie Cassel Oliver, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “Forsythia and Pussy Willows Begin Spring will complement VMFA’s existing holdings of work by African American and women artists, artists of the Washington Color School, as well as the canon’s celebrated masters of abstraction Norman Lewis, Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, whom Thomas noted as significant influences.”

The painting, from Thomas’s Earth series, is a classic example of the unique painting style she developed after encountering the work of the Washington Color School. Her technique of placing precise dabs of vibrant color in a succession of vertical, hyphenated stripes conveys the beauty of a colorful flower garden. The palette of warm browns, fresh greens, bright blues and sunny yellows evokes the blooming flowers, petals, grass, tree trunks and clear skies the artist could see from her bay window, which overlooked the garden at her home at 1530 Fifteenth Street in Washington D.C.

“Alma Thomas applied her radiant colors in a series of vertical, staccato brushstrokes in Forsythia and Pussy Willows Begin Spring to capture, in abstract terms, the beauty and rhythms of the natural world, including the flowers in her garden,” said Dr. Michael Taylor, VMFA’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education. “The white gesso ground that breaks up both the lines and bold touches of color not only helps to organize the composition’s rendering of the diverse shapes and colors of the natural environment, but also illuminates the scene and suggests sunlight peeking through the flowers and leaves. We believe that this joyful painting will be a landmark purchase for VMFA and an iconic work for our visitors to see and enjoy.”

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Dominion Energy Christmas Parade is this Saturday

The weather forecast is looking pretty perfect for Saturday. It’s predicted to be mostly sunny with highs in the 60s.

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The Dominion Energy Christmas Parade kicks off at the Science Museum of Virginia at 10:15 AM. Traveling eastbound on Broad Street, the parade will conclude at 7th Street near the Richmond Coliseum. The parade also airs LIVE on WTVR CBS6.

Over the years, the Richmond Christmas Parade has been known by several names. From the 1950s to 1974, the event was known as the Thalhimers’ Toy Parade. After a 15-year hiatus, the parade was resurrected by the Richmond Jaycees. For 17 years, Ukrop’s Supermarket was the title sponsor until the beloved Richmond icon was sold in 2009. Dominion Energy saved the Christmas Parade in 2010, becoming the next title sponsor, and the parade has been known as the Dominion Energy Christmas Parade ever since.

Over the years, the Richmond Christmas Parade has celebrated a fabulous lineup of grand marshals! Numerous Richmond locals have been featured including NFL Football Player Willie Lanier (1984), The Walking Dead Actor Chad Coleman (2014), and American Idol Finalist Rayvon Owen (2015). Childhood favorites have also made appearances, such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse (2000), Spongebob Squarepants (2002), Disney’s Aaron Carter (2004), and the Harlem Globetrotters (2009). And who could forget when Paul Simon, Steve Martin, and Chevy Chase took over the Christmas Parade to film a music video in 1991?

This year Snoopy is the Grand Marshall and the parade theme is “Bringing Back the Fun in 2021!” The lineup will feature the usual colorful floats, giant helium balloons, college marching bands, local dance troupes, Legendary Santa, and much more! Honorary Grand Marshals include JMU Softball Pitcher Odicci Alexander and Coach Loren LaPorte. Alexander was the starting pitcher for James Madison University from 2017 to 2021, leading the team to their first-ever Women’s College World Series in 2021. She was also named Softball America’s 2021 NCAA Pitcher of the Year.

The route of the parade is below so start planning your ideal viewing spot.

No conversation about the parade would be complete without showing this video of Rudolph meeting a tragic end in 2010.

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Punks for Presents Looking for Donations and Sponsors

A Richmond punk rock Christmas tradition beginning in 2005. Christmas themed punk and metal parody bands putting on shows for charity every year!

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The Punks for Presents lineup is a gift to us all.
  • Thursday 12/9 Comedy Night at Cobra Cabana featuring:
    Kate Carrol, Francesca Lyn, Ry Mather, Sarah Goodwin, Anthony Thompson, Jason Kusterer and James Munoz with special musical guest Brown Frown and The Kisses
  • Friday 12/10 at Wonderland featuring: Imaginary Toys (The Cure), X-Mas (X), Toy Division (Joy Division). 8pm 21+ $10 – Tickets
  • Saturday 12/11 at Fuzzy Cactus featuring: Bouncing Coals (Bouncing Souls), Its A Wonderful Lifetime (Lifetime), Santa Day Real Estate (Sunny Day Real Estate), Internation Superheroes of Glory (New Found Glory).  DOORS AT 7PM $10 21+ – Tickets
  • Thursday 12/16 at Bingo Beer Co w/ Gritty City Records “For Tha Kids” Vol 7 starring… johnny ciggs , skinny v ,rah scrilla, bc music 1st , starr nyce, pt, skinnyy hendrixx, kaifortyfive, ndefru, tennishu, eliturite, t.r.i.g. , skweeky watahfawls , rise rashid, ant the symbol, john canada, profound79 , fan ran, king kong llc. 7pm 21+ $10
  • Friday 12/17 at Richmond Music Hall featuring: Should I Sleigh or Should I Go (The Clash), Operation Icy (Operation Ivy), Shiverdales (Riverdales), Media Blitzen (The Germs),The Jam-gle Bells (The Jam) DOORS AT 7PM ALL AGES $10 – Tickets
  • Saturday 12/18 at Hardywood featuring: High Voltage (AC/DC), Faith Sno More (Fatih No More), Smashing Presents (Smashing Pumpkins), Smooch (KISS), Sledpultura (Sepultura). ALL AGES – DOORS 4PM – $10 Tickets
***All events require proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination OR a negative COVID-19 test result to attend this show.***

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