March 1–June 23, 2013

Exploring Art of the Ancient Americas: The John Bourne Collection

  • Burial Urn, K’iché Maya, Southern Highlands, Guatemala, Late Classic Period, 550 – 850 CE, Earthenware, post-fire paint, 55.8 x 67.4 x 57.9 cm, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, gift of John Bourne, 2009 (2009.20.41), Photo © The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

  • Exhibition Curator Dr. Dorie Reent-Budet presents a lecture about the Exploring Art of the Ancient Americas exhibition on March 1, 2013. 

  • Seated Figure, Colima, Mexico, 100 BCE – 300 CE, Burnished earthenware, 16 1/2 x 7 5/8 x 8 3/4 in., The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, promised gift of John Bourne (TL.2009.20.212), Photo © The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

  • Effigy Bottle, Recuay, Northern Highlands, Peru, Early Intermediate Period, 200 BCE – 500 CE, Earthenware, slip paint, Height 28.3 cm, diameter 20.6 cm, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, gift of John Bourne, 2009 (2009.20.37), Photo © The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

  • Howling Dog Effigy, Jalisco, Mexico, 300 BCE – 200 CE, Earthenware, slip paint, 24 x 32.1 x 14.8 cm, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, promised gift of John Bourne (TL.2009.20.148), Photo © The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

From 3000 BCE until the year 1492 CE when Europeans accidentally encountered the Western Hemisphere, the cultures of Mesoamerica, Central America, and Andean South America forged innovative paths of social, intellectual, spiritual, and artistic development. They created marvels of engineering, constructing the hemisphere’s tallest building at Teotihuacan in central Mexico (surpassed only in 1931 by the Empire State Building) and devising irrigation systems that moved water more than 160 miles from an altitude of 18,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes Mountains to the Pacific Coast. In Mexico and Guatemala, writing systems recorded history and astronomical data that accurately tracked planets and predicted eclipses. Long-distance travel from as far north as present-day Illinois to the Caribbean Islands and the Amazon Basin not only transported commodities but also practical, religious, and artistic knowledge. In every way, the ancient Americas constitute one of the world’s majestic cradles of civilization.

The John Bourne Collection is the creation of one man whose life was transformed in 1945 by a remarkable trip into the jungles of southern Mexico. On one expedition, he and another explorer  are believed to have become the first non-Maya to see the ruins of Bonampak, a Maya city in southern Chiapas where now-famous painted murals were found only a few months later. Returning to the United States, Mr. Bourne (b. 1927) embarked on a lifelong love of collecting art from this region and others in the ancient Americas. At this time in the 1950s, only a handful of people, including the Mexican artists Diego Rivera (1886–1957) and Frida Kahlo (1907–1954), recognized pre-Columbian artifacts as fine art, equal to that of any culture. This exhibition features select pieces from the John Bourne Collection, presented both as beautiful art forms and as insightful expressions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

 

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This exhibition was organized by The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Location: Upper-Level Galleries

MNAC

Supported in part by

TAC

Supported in part by

NEA Artworks

Supported in part by

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