Recent Acquisition: John Robinson’s “Outdoor Art Fair”

"Outdoor Art Fair" by John Robinson, oil on canvas, 1946.

“Outdoor Art Fair” by John Robinson, 1946, oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

The Anacostia Community Museum recently received an exciting donation. “Outdoor Art Fair” by John Robinson was painted in 1946 and depicts a scene from an open air art fair in Lafayette Park, here in Washington.  John Robinson was born in Georgetown in 1912, but moved to Anacostia in his youth.  He was primarily a self taught painter and focused on scenes from his everyday life, much of it from Southeast Washington, where he painted for over 60 years.  His technique is realistic, but also stylized with what feels like emotion coming through the canvas.

"Outdoor Art Fair" detail.

“Outdoor Art Fair” detail.

The artist has included a number of art historical techniques that are interesting given his self training. He has included himself in the painting, included a subject staring right at the viewer, and positioned a subject in the foreground with his back turned to the viewer inviting the eye deeper into the scene – reminiscent of Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass” from 1862.

"Outdoor Art Fair" details.

“Outdoor Art Fair” detail.

This painting is a fantastic addition to our collection. In particular, the artist included his portrait of Maud Jones titled “Woman Reading a Bible” from 1940 in “Outdoor Art Fair”.  The staff at ACM was thrilled to see it, because we actually have that painting in our collection.  Maud Jones was a local woman who sold newspapers in Washington and wanted her portrait specifically with the Bible.

John Robinson "Woman Reading a Bible", 1940, oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

John Robinson “Woman Reading a Bible”, 1940, oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

John Robinson was involved with the early Anacostia Museum and this piece is believed to have been exhibited here. ACM is honored to have this work join other works in the collection by this local artist.

 

“Twelve Years That Shook and Shaped Washington: 1963-1975”

Installation shot of works by Lou Stovall. Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens set the placement and installation followed.

Installation shot of works by Lou Stovall. Deputy Director Sharon Reinckens set the placement and installation followed.

"After" pic - from the floor to the wall.

“After” pic – from the floor to the wall.

Another view of the installation.

Another view of the installation.

I arrived at an exciting time here at ACM; just in time for the installation of our new temporary exhibition “Twelve Years That Shook and Shaped Washington: 1963-1975”. As the Registrar for the museum, my role in the exhibition was to prepare and install the artifacts that are on display.  These artifacts are a mixture of objects and paintings held by ACM and material the museum borrowed from other museums, archives, artists and private individuals.  The information presented in the exhibition is punctuated by these artifacts – providing the visitor with historical examples to illustrate the information presented in the exhibition.

We have 13 screen-prints by Lou Stovall on view in the exhibition, illustrating many community themes and events in Washington in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I was fortunate to meet Mr. Stovall when I went to pick the artwork up at his home.  A prolific screen printer, I was invited into his studio to see where he works.  The volume of work in the studio was staggering, and absolutely beautiful.  The works that we borrowed for our exhibition may have been hidden in Mr. Stovall’s basement for years, as foretold by the condition of the plastic protecting the works.  After bringing the prints back to the museum and examining them for condition, I was greeted by bright, vibrant colors so fitting of the time period which would immediately evoke feelings of nostalgia for our visitors.

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