Saturday, January 7, 2017

America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age

Get tickets here for the Friday, January 20 World Premiere at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  

View film excerpts on Vimeo.

In my new film, America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age, I make the argument that movements in the arts “leach beyond the stiff chronologies we assign to them.” I make this point in America Rising because, in the 45 years between the death of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and the death of Mark Twain in 1910, America came into its own…as an economic and political power, and just as importantly as an artistic force. In painting, in literature, and in sculpture, no period in the history of American art was more fertile or more meaningful, and therefore more relevant to Americans today.

Detail from Diana, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1894. Bronze sculpture. 
Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1985. Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

America Rising ends with Childe Hassam’s flag series and John Singer Sargent’s monumental painting Gassed, and some may feel that, by doing this, I’ve stretched the acceptable boundaries of the period otherwise known as America’s Renaissance. I certainly have, if a discussion of the arts of the Gilded Age is to be defined by and confined to the stiffest of chronologies; but when we entered the First World War in 1917 (something we observe the 100th anniversary of this year), many of the most productive and creative Americans of the Gilded Age were still alive and still working. This is the most simple of points: painters such as Childe Hassam and John Singer Sargent, otherwise thought by many in 1917 as being archaic relics of a prior period in our artistic history, were still showing us how to look deeply within ourselves for the answers to the most pressing issues of our time. Not only were they doing that, but they were doing it more tellingly than were the Modernists, who had supplanted them in our attention. In Hassam’s case, it was simply whether we should become the World’s Policeman; in Sargent’s case, it was whether the first widespread use of poison gas marked the beginning of the end of what we mean when we say the word “civilization.” If you think the debates provoked in 1917 and 1918 by these two old men of the Gilded Age are over, think again…whether we should be the World’s Policeman is still the most important of questions. Whether we should idly stand by as populations are gassed is as important an issue now as it was 100 years ago.

I’m particularly happy that the World Premiere of America Rising will take place at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond on January 20. I’m happy for more than one reason. Not only is it a joy to show our films at VMFA, but it’s a particular pleasure in this case, because VMFA’s collection of important American Gilded Age art is impressive and so illustrative of this important period.

January 20, 2017 is also an important day for America, and I am equally happy that Terri and I will be premiering America Rising on that day. I do not make political films, and America Rising takes no political position…but whatever side of the issue you come down on, I’m urging us all on January 20 to reflect upon America’s greatness. The profound greatness of our American artistic heritage is what America Rising celebrates. When you see this film, and you see the work of Childe Hassam, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Alfred Stieglitz, and Maurice Prendergast, and Mary Cassatt…and when you see, on the screen, Mark Twain walking toward you, ever-present cigar in hand, in the only known film footage existing of the Father of the Gilded Age…I hope you will remember, and then reflect upon, the things that endure in America: our history, our values, and, of course, our art.

Mark Twain, 1907. Photograph. Library of Congress 
Prints and Photographs Division.
Watch clips on Vimeo:

Monday, September 12, 2016

World Premiere Screening: America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age

The Avenue in the Rain, 1917,
Childe Hassam.
Courtesy of the White House.
I'm delighted to announce that the world premiere screening of “America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age” will be held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on January 20, 2017.

Terri and I had been fielding inquiries for the premiere’s location ever since the press release went out over ten months ago…however, after consultation with Trent Nicholas we determined that VMFA was the ideal location for the premiere of this, our seventh film on the arts of America.

Why VMFA?...well, to being with, it houses one of the finest collections of paintings anywhere in the country; and the American works in the VMFA collection, and in particular the McGlothlin Collection of American Art, are matchless. We’ll be using art from the collection of more than fifty museums nationally and internationally as well as many private collectors, but the VMFA collection has at least eight works that we’ll be using throughout the film.

Isles of Shoals, 1912, Childe Hassam.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.
Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund.
For example, in America Rising we devote a long section to the work of the American Impressionist Childe Hassam, and we’ll be using the VMFA’s Isles of Shoals, 1912 as a prominent part of the Hassan section; we’ll also be using Moonlight, New England Coast from 1907 to actually end the section on Hassam’s devotion to these islands off the coast of New Hampshire.

For the opening of our section on John Singer Sargent, we will use Julius LeBlanc Stewart’s Yachting the Mediterranean from 1896 as a way to illustrate the importance of the expansion of travel to Europe by cultured Americans throughout the years of America’s renaissance.

I’m a particular fan of the work of Everett Shinn, and fell in love with his Horsedrawn Bus from 1899, which I think will work particularly well, juxtaposed with a photograph on the same subject, from the same era, by Alfred Stieglitz.

Moonlight, New England Coast, 1907, Childe Hassam.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.
The James W. and Francis Gibson McGlothlin Collection.
Of course, I haven’t gotten to the second reason why we chose the VMFA for the world premiere of this new film. Simply put, it’s the audience. Our last screening there was completely sold out. At the Q&A afterwards, Terri and I took perceptive questions and listened to so many comments that indicated clearly that among the membership of the VMFA are many thoughtful people, who can be counted on not only to support the arts through their VMFA membership, but can support filmmakers who bring films about the American artistic experience to Richmond.

I won’t bore you with what it’s like these days in our studio as we make may editing changes to the film, and work through the hundreds of works of art that we are considering…but I will tell you that what sustains us through this process is looking forward to being in Richmond again and, in particular, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where it is clear every day of the week that “art matters.”

- Michael Maglaras

Horsedrawn Bus, 1899, Everett Shinn.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.
The James W. and Francis Gibson McGlothlin Collection.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

WPA Film to Screen in Fredonia, New York

On September 23, 2016 at 7:30pm the 1891 Fredonia Opera House will screen our film on the arts of the WPA. 

Life of Action by Carl W. Peters, 1937Life of Action by Carl W. Peters, 1937
Featuring Filmmaker Michael Maglaras
General Admission $13, $10 Students
Purchase tickets at this link.
In May 1935, as part of the great return-to-work effort known as the Works Progress Administration, President Franklin Roosevelt put Americans to work in the service of rebuilding a society staggering under the weight of the Great Depression.
Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA celebrates the 80th anniversary of this epic undertaking and the Federal Arts Projects that using art, theatre, writing and music, reignited the soul of an America caught in the Depression's grip.
Featuring more than 70 works of art from this period, including notable works by Rockwell Kent, Dorothea Lange, Stuart Davis and Reginald Marsh, as well as rare footage of WPA artists at work, this film tells the story of how Roosevelt and his New Deal moved art in America out of the rarified atmosphere of the elite and brought it directly to the American people as an inspiration and catalyst for change and recovery.
(One such work, a mural titled The Harvest by painter Arnold Blanch, was installed in Fredonia's Post Office in 1937.  It was cleaned and restored in 1972 and remains on exhibit today.)
Filmmaker Michael Maglaras will introduce Enough to Live On and also will lead a talk-back and Q&A following its screening. 
Michael MaglarasMichael MaglarasOriginally trained as an opera singer in the U.S. and Europe, Maglaras performed widely as a singer and opera director.  He is now the principal of a well-respected international risk management and insurance consulting firm headquartered in Ashford, CT.

He founded 217 Films in 2003 with the aim of introducing a new audience to the rich history of the art of the American experience. His first project was a film about the American painter Marsden Hartley called Cleophas and His Own, which was based on a forgotten personal narrative by the iconic and seminal Modernist.

Since then, he has produced the first ever documentary film about Hartley, entitled Visible Silence: Marsden Hartley, Painter and Poet, which was followed closely by the first feature-length documentary about Hartley's contemporary and friend, the painter John Marin, entitled Let the Paint be Paint.
Maglaras has been called a "filmmaker of nearly Bergman-like gravitas."  His work with producer Terri Templeton has been called "comparable to that of the widely acclaimed Ken Burns."
Enough to Live OnThe Arts of the WPA was released in May 2015.  It is his sixth film.