- The Washington Times - Friday, September 11, 2009

Impressive exhibitions of borrowed masterpieces will be scarce this season as art museums tighten their belts during the Great Recession. The expense of trans-Atlantic loans has led most institutions to organize thematic shows based on their own holdings.

Paintings and drawings from the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s collection form the centerpiece of “Sargent and the Sea,” opening Saturday at the struggling museum. This show of more than 80 works reveals the little-known marine art society painter John Singer Sargent created while in his teens and 20s.

The National Gallery of Art is scaling back from last season’s Afghan, Dutch and Spanish shows with three exhibitions entirely assembled from the museum’s collections.

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Opening Oct. 1, “The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy” will present an overlooked facet of impressionism through 100 prints, drawings, book illustrations and small sculptures from the gallery’s trove of late-19th-century art. At the same time, French old master drawings from its archives will be shown with modern works from its Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection.

A major exhibition of Henri Matisse’s prints will open at the Baltimore Museum of Art on Oct. 25. About 150 pieces created between 1900 and 1951 will represent every printmaking technique used by the French artist.

Similarly monographic exhibits are being staged at several Smithsonian venues. On Oct. 2, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will unveil a retrospective of the humorous art created by Californian William T. Wiley. Through 88 works from the 1960s through the present, the exhibit explores how Mr. Wiley uses wit and wordplay to leaven messages about war, pollution and social issues.

The Hirshhorn Museum is staging the first retrospective devoted to the minimalist work of D.C. artist Anne Truitt. This major survey of sculptures, paintings, drawings and film, opening Oct. 8, aims to show how this underrecognized artist, who died in 2004, made important contributions to postwar abstraction.

British-born artist Yinka Shonibare, who grew up in Nigeria, will be the focus of a show at the National Museum of African Art, opening Nov. 10. Mr. Shonibare explores issues of race and class through figures clothed in European-style costumes made of African fabrics.

At the Kreeger Museum on Oct. 3, works by contemporary South African artist William Kentridge will be paired with the graphic creations of Russian Oleg Kudryashov to reveal similarities in themes and techniques.

Indigenous Australian art is the subject of two exhibits on view in September and October. Earlier this week, American University’s Katzen Center opened a multimedia show of Aboriginal works that debuted at the National Gallery of Australia in 2007.

On Oct. 9, the National Museum of Women in the Arts will open “Lands of Enchantment,” a display of 27 paintings by female Aboriginal artists from a local private collection.

Photography is big again this season in shows of historic and contemporary imagery. The Corcoran will continue its focus on present-day photographers starting Oct. 3 in an exhibit of Canadian Edward Burtynsky’s large-scale color prints, all focused on the topical subject of oil.

On Oct. 11, the National Gallery will unveil 33 recently acquired portraits by New York photographer Robert Bergman. That show will be followed on Oct. 25 by “In the Darkroom: Photographic Processes before the Digital Age,” an examination of the medium’s origins through prints from the collection.

Cowboys and Indians band together in “Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits From the American West, 1845-1924” at the National Portrait Gallery. This exhibit, opening Sept. 25, traces the tumultuous history of the region through images of legendary figures such as Geronimo, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley and Kit Carson.

Photographs of the African art collected by artist Man Ray, a key player in the dadaist and surrealist movements, will go on view at the Phillips Collection on Oct. 10. The exhibit intends to show how these photos influenced Western perceptions of African art.

Exotic images from Turkey and Iran will be presented at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Opening on Oct. 24, “Falnama: The Book of Omens” showcases manuscripts painted during the 16th and early 17th centuries as tools to foretell the future.

Influential treasures from earlier times will be arrayed in “Heroes: Mortals and Myths in Ancient Greece,” opening at Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum on Oct. 11. This show promises to be the only blockbuster of the season, with more than 100 classical statues, reliefs, vases, jewelry and other artifacts. It combines loans from leading American and European museums but also draws from the Walters’ own collection, like so many of the exhibits opening this fall.

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