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Vault Vantage - Degas and Cassatt OR Impressionist Besties

This story is part of our Vault Vantage series, which takes you inside the Museum Vault for a look at works not currently on view.

By Caitlin Podas, Museum Registrar

Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) Mary Cassatt at the Louvre, 1879-1880 etching (cancelled plate) 13 x 10in. (unframed) Collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson. Museum Purchase. 1966.005

At first glance, this black and white etching doesn’t look like much. Admittedly, when I saw it laying in a drawer in the Vault I couldn’t really tell what it was at first because of the dark color and narrow view point. As I looked closer I detected the silhouette of a lady with an umbrella and her friend sitting on a bench, and perhaps there was art on the wall? Could they be visiting a museum?

Indeed, they were. And the figure was not just a visitor turned model, it was famed impressionist Edgar Degas’ fellow artist and friend Mary Cassatt. Cassatt apparently had posed for Degas “once in a...

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Posted on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 by MMA


By MMA Registrar Caitlin Podas

Longer days. Humid nights. Ice cream cones melting. The smell of sunscreen. The sound of seagulls and ocean waves. Together, these things mean summer is here. Summer always meant lots of beach days – and lots of sunburns – when I was growing up. This woodcut print by Mildred Nungester Wolfe brings back fond memories of sitting on the boardwalk watching seagulls poach fish from the fishermen’s lines. I can’t tell you what seaside inspired Mildred’s artwork, but it sure does remind me of the Newport Beach pier. The museum has several woodcuts in the permanent collection. Woodcuts are a technique of printing designs from planks of wood incised parallel to the vertical axis of the wood’s grain. It is one of the oldest methods of making prints from a relief surface. Woodcuts have been used to decorate textiles in China since the 5th century AD, but gained popularity in the United States in the 1920s and 30s through artists working in the Work Projects Administration. After World War II the method was further developed in the US...

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Posted on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 by MMA


By Caitlin Podas, MMA Registrar

James Tooley, Jr. (1816 – 1844) Portrait of Thomas Sully, 1843. oil on ivory. Museum purchase, 2015.025

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” A phrase we hear often, and that I try to remember when I’m shopping for my next read. I think this phrase can also be applied to artworks, perhaps with a slight tweak – “Don’t judge an artwork by its frame.” I’m afraid I’m guilty of doing just that. The museum recently acquired a miniature portrait by Mississippian James Tooley, Jr., now holding the distinction of being the oldest work in the collection created by a Mississippian of European descent. The sitter is a former teacher of Tooley’s and fellow portraitist Thomas Sully. It’s a perfectly nice portrait, and yes, miniatures can be very impressive (they usually show every little detail, even down to the sitter’s eyelashes, painted with excruciating precision using equally miniature brushes and magnifying glass) – but it’s just another portrait of, for lack of a better description, another old white guy. Or so I thought.


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Posted on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 by MMA

#VaultVantage - Salvador Dali

By Caitlin Podas, Registrar

So much of my job is black and white – there’s very little room for interpretation. Shipments need to get from point A to point B, paperwork has to be signed, and thorough note taking is a must. I love these aspects of my job, don’t get me wrong, but I am also very thankful I get to handle artworks that help stretch my imagination.

Enter Salvador Dali. The museum has 9 artworks by the Spanish surrealist master and each one is more fantastical than the next. Surrealism emerged in the 1920s as a forum for literary critics and poets and derived its position from neurologist Sigmund Freud’s teachings on dreams and the subconscious. In the 1930s surrealism evolved to reflect romantic fantasy and magic realism. Dali and other artists including Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro studied the works of Freud and sought to document his theories through art.

This lithograph first caught my eye simply because of the title. The translation of the...

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Posted on Monday, February 2, 2015 by MMA

#VaultVantage - Crop Rotation

By Caitlin Podas, Registrar

My first job in Mississippi was at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum. What does an Orange County native and art aficionado know about agriculture, you may ask? Not a whole lot. But, I was fresh out of grad school and wanted to put my education to use and the Ag Museum took a chance and hired me as their Collections Specialist. Thanks to the other Ag Museum staff and a reference book or two, I learned how to identify different kinds of plows, wood planes, wagons, tractors…the list goes on.

I didn’t think my new-found knowledge of agricultural artifacts would come in handy at the art museum, but it just so happens that we have a large collection of works that depict agricultural scenes. Several of them are in the Mississippi Story exhibition, but we also have a number of prints and drawings by Thomas Hart Benton who pioneered the American Regionalist movement. The movement glorified rural American scenes and rejected avant-garde...

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Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 by MMA

#VaultVantage - Elaine Galen

By Caitlin Podas, Registrar

Elaine Galen, Hellenic Source, 1989-1993. oil on canvas. Gift of the artist, 1997.089

Elaine Galen, Skysweep, 1991. oil on canvas. Gift of the artist,1997.088

My taste in art has changed significantly in the last couple of years. Actually, I can say that it has changed in the last couple of months since I’ve been working at the museum. Being exposed to so many different kinds of artwork, processes, mediums, and artists themselves has helped develop my interests. While I used to only care for Realism, I am now slightly obsessed with abstract paintings.

We have several abstracts in the collection, as well as abstractions.Yes, there is a difference. An abstract painting is one without a recognizable subject and does not try to look like something else. An abstraction, on the other hand, is a simplification of reality where the detail is eliminated but you can still see some degree of recognizable forms. I’m...

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Posted on Friday, November 14, 2014 by MMA

Art Sojourn

By Caitlin Podas, Museum Registrar

Jessica in her crate, travelling to Omaha

As I’m sure you are aware, our dear museum visitor, this Fall is all about artist Robert Henri. Between the two companion exhibitions, Spanish Sojourns and Face to Face, there are currently 41 artworks by Henri on view at the museum. Soon, there will be 42.

The Museum’s own Robert Henri painting of model Jessica Penn, titled Young Woman in Yellow Satin, will be returning to us at the end of October and will be the highlight of the November session of Unburied Treasures. Where has she been, you may ask? On a tour of Nebraska, curiously enough. Well, perhaps it is not very curious. Henri was born in Cozad, NE and his father established and built the town. Their family home is now an historic house museum. A separate art gallery has recently been erected on the grounds where some of Henri’s drawings, paintings, and Jessica Penn have been hanging since August.

Before I started...

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Posted on Thursday, October 9, 2014 by MMA

#VaultVantage - Alfred Hutty OR “having a moment with a painting”

By Caitlin Podas, Registrar

When you are a graduate student and writing a thesis, your topic usually takes over your life. I can fully attest to that statement. I wrote my graduate school thesis about Edwin A. Harleston, an African American portrait painter, who was active in Charleston, SC in the 1920s. For the last year of my program Mr. Harleston and the other southern artists that were active during the Charleston Renaissance occupied my every thought. It’s been about two years since I graduated now, but my topic still seems to be a part of my life; probably because I work in an art museum in the South, go figure.

Last week as I was putting new acquisitions away in the Vault, I noticed the label on another artwork that brought me back to my graduate school days. I had stumbled upon Alfred Hutty’s In Magnolia Gardens, Charleston, S.C. which has been in the Museum’s collection since the Museum was the Mississippi Art Association. The painting and I had what can only be described as ‘a...

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Posted on Thursday, September 4, 2014 by MMA

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