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SAVANNAH, GA – JULY 27, 2023 – Telfair Museums announces two exhibitions to open at the Jepson Center in August. Richmond Barthé: Harlem Renaissance Sculptor opens to the public on Aug. 4 and Created Beasts: Sculpture by Ulysses Davis will be presented on Aug. 25.
Richmond Barthé: Harlem Renaissance Sculptor (Aug 4–Nov 9) will celebrate Richmond Barthé (1901–1989), one of the foremost African American sculptors of the 20th century, noted for his portraiture work and idealized nude figures executed in cast bronze. This exhibition presents a survey of Barthé’s career through two dozen of his finest creations, organized by Los Angeles-based Landau Traveling Exhibitions, under the curatorial supervision of esteemed art historian Dr. Samella Lewis. Known for showcasing the beauty of the black body, Barthé joined the chorus of artistic voices around the Harlem Renaissance. “Barthé understood the beauty and elegance of bronze, its potential for smooth curves and warm tones of brown and gold,” says Telfair Museums Director of Curatorial Affairs and Chief Curator Alex Mann. “By working in this material, he was speaking the language of Donatello and Rodin, but telling new stories, the stories of his people.” His sculptures include visions of heroic workers, elegant dancers, and children, while also depicting religious subjects and icons in black history like Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson. Through their stories and through the sculptor’s sensitive treatment of polished bronze, each of Barthé’s statuettes will offer viewers a beautiful and dynamic work with layers of historical and artistic power.
In addition to the exhibition, Telfair will be presenting a series of programs that includes the museums’ 2023 Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Lecture and a Pride Week curator’s tour in collaboration with First City Pride Center.
Following the opening of Richmond Barthé, on August 24, Created Beasts: Sculpture by Ulysses Davis will open and remain on view through Dec 17. The exhibition will highlight depictions of creatures, real and imagined, in the work of Savannah woodcarver Ulysses Davis (1914–1990). Born in Fitzgerald, Georgia, Davis began carving wood as a child and relocated to Savannah in 1942. This exhibition explores Davis’ carvings of animals inspired by biblical stories and popular culture, as well as fantastic creatures that sprang entirely from his fertile imagination. His sculptures and walking sticks representing reptiles connect him to traditional woodcarving motifs, and to the work of other Savannah artists, to whom Davis became an inspirational figure. Davis’ imagination reached its fullest expression, however, in his whimsical carvings of animal/human hybrids, extraterrestrial beings, and horned, often reptilian creatures that he dubbed “created beasts.” The exhibition invites audiences to explore Davis’s creatures in some forty works drawn from Telfair Museums, the Beach Institute, and other private and public collections.
About Telfair Museums
Opening in 1886, Telfair Museums is the oldest public art museum in the South and the first U.S. museum founded by a woman. The museum features a world-class art collection in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District and encompasses three sites: the Jepson Center for the Arts, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, and the Telfair Academy. For more information on Telfair Museums, please visit www.telfair.org.