DMA Acquires Painting by Thomas Sully

Dallas, TX, January 28, 2005—The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) has acquired Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, an important genre painting by American artist Thomas Sully (1783-1872). Primarily recognized for his influential work as one of the 19th-century’s finest portraitists, Sully also experimented with genre paintings, which took sentimental and literary themes as their subjects, starting in the late 1830s. Painted in 1843, Cinderella is one of the earliest and largest of Sully’s genre paintings, and its addition to the DMA’s holdings reflects the Museum’s dynamic collection building. The painting is the first work acquired by William Keyse Rudolph, the recently appointed Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art. Cinderella is scheduled to be on view the first week of February in the Arts of Americas Galleries.

“Following the recent acquisitions of a major work by Romare Bearden, a rare West African sculpture by Olowe of Ise, and new works by contemporary artists Tom Friedman, Lothar Baumgarten, Glenn Ligon, and Josiah McElheny, the acquisition of

Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire underscores the DMA’s commitment to developing its encyclopedic collection,” said John R. Lane, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. The Museum’s collection provides a rich context for a range of DMA-organized exhibitions, which have traveled nationally and internationally to critical acclaim and serves as a dynamic resource for the city of Dallas and visitors from around the world.”

Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire depicts a scene from Charles Perrault’s famous fairytale, showing the heroine as she plays with a cat by the hearth while her cruel stepsisters in the background ready themselves for the ball. The painting’s grand scale, as well as its prominent monogram and date, suggest that Sully intended this work for public display (his portraits were rarely signed or dated).

Shortly following its completion, the painting was presented in 1844 in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and again in 1848 in Baltimore at the Maryland Historical Society. American artist John Sartain (1808-1897) made an engraving depicting this work, ensuring its continuing popular recognition. Acquired in the 1840s by a wealthy industrialist, the painting remained in this collection until 1916. It went on to pass through several private collections throughout the 20th century.

“Cinderella shows Sully at the height of his powers, displaying the painterly flourishes, delicate glazes, and rosy palette that characterize his finest portraits,” Dr. Rudolph said. “The artist couldn’t help but make everything—even the stepsisters primping in the background—as beautiful as possible. The work is one of the finest examples of Sully’s genre paintings, a lesser-known facet of the artist’s oeuvre.”

Dr. Rudolph came to Dallas from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and joined the DMA in September 2004. He has extensive knowledge of 18th- and 19th-century American art, with a particular interest in Colonial and Federal portraiture and the art of the American South. He earned his Master of Arts in Art History from the University of Virginia and a doctorate in the History of Art from Bryn Mawr College. Dr. Rudolph’s curatorship is endowed by the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation and an anonymous donor.

The acquisition of Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire was made possible by The Pauline Gill Sullivan Fund for American Art. The painting will join a number of significant works in the Early American Painting and Decorative Arts collections, including Sully’s Portrait of Mrs. Paul Beck, Jr. (Mary Harvey) (1813) and Ralph Earl’s Portrait of Captain John Pratt (1792), also purchased with funds from The Pauline Gill Sullivan Fund for American Art.

American Painting & Sculpture
The collection of American art includes paintings, sculptures, and works on paper spanning three centuries and encompassing the three countries of North America: the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The American collection includes the massive painting The Icebergs (1861) by Frederic Edwin Church. One of the greatest landscapes ever produced in the 19th century, the painting is an icon of American art and has become synonymous with the Dallas Museum of Art in the local community.

In 1953, the Dallas Art Association commissioned Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) to create a painting celebrating the deep ties between Mexico and the United States. The spectacular result, El Hombre, on view at the Museum’s south entrance, embodies humanity’s continual drive to reach for the heavens.

A recent addition to the American collection is Soul Three (1968), a large-scale collage by Romare Bearden (1911–1988), one of the most important African-American artists of the 20th century. Bearden’s inspirations for the work came from his love of music and traditional African art as well as modern art; the figure’s faces are constructed of cubistic fragments from reproductions of African masks and sculptures.