Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowers

September 20, 2019 – January 12, 2020

EDWARD STEICHEN: IN EXALTATION OF FLOWERS presents paintings and photography from the collections of Art Bridges, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, George Eastman Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on view from September 20th – January 12th, 2020 at the Mennello Museum of American Art in partnership with Orlando Museum of Art. 

Co-organized by the Mennello Museum of American Art (MMAA) with Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) and in partnership with Art Bridges, a pioneering new foundation dedicated to dramatically expanding access to American art across the country, this exhibit includes 20 photographs and a rare large-scale mural by groundbreaking, turn-of-the-last century artist Edward Steichen. Through fashion and flowers, Steichen presents portraits of the cultural luminaries of the day: actors, writers, dancers, and singers of the early 1920s in intimate black and white photography and seven stunningly grand, large-scale gold-leaf mural paintings filled with portraits of his friends (the creative icons) and their floral counterparts. The murals, In Exaltation of Flowers, had not been seen in over 100 years, until Art Bridges purchased them from MoMA who was gifted the murals from the Meyer family who commissioned them from Steichen in 1910.  Art Bridges supported their conservation at Dallas Art Museum where they were unveiled again in 2018.  

This innovative collaboration between MMAA and OMA is only made possible by Art Bridge’s visionary mission to make collections of American Art more accessible through the forging of collaborations and partnerships with collection-rich museums and our smaller museums in Orlando. The exhibition, Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flower brings the multi-disciplinary art of Edward Steichen to our communities in Central Florida for the first time, through a tightly-focused consideration of his masterpiece painting, In Exaltation of Flowers (1910-13; Art Bridges Foundation) and related photographs from 1906-1923 handpicked for their close association with the murals. The seven-panel mural will be shown at OMA and twenty photographs from the collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, George Eastman Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be presented at the MMAA.  The two presentations, together explore the important relationship between the artist’s painting and his early photography, and give an in-depth look at the world in which Steichen made his art.

The murals tell the story of philanthropists Agnes Ernst Meyer, Eugene Meyer, Jr. Charles Lang Freer (Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art), the mezzo soprano and dancer Mercedes de Cordoba, the artists Katharine Rhoades and Marion Beckett, and the dancer Isadora Duncan, along with their floral counterparts, inspired in part by the Symbolist writer Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1907 book The Intelligence of Flowers. The photographs feature the same friends along with multiple images of Steichen’s wife, his most beloved muse, Dana Steichen.

 Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowers shares multiple facets of Steichen’s early work as a photographer and painter while also sharing a symbolic narrative about his circle of friends in both intimate and grand iterations. The exhibition seeks to celebrate Steichen’s genius in both mediums.

Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowersis co-curated by Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Mennello Museum and Coralie Claeysen-Gleyzon, Associate Curator, Orlando Museum of Art.

This exhibition and education programs are made possible with the generous funding support of Art Bridges.