Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • The Eiteljorg and The Indianapolis Opera Team Up Saturday March 8

    by James Caraher, Indianapolis Opera artistic director and conductor | Mar 03, 2014

    On Friday, March 21 and Sunday, March 23, the Indianapolis Opera will present Giacomo Puccini's The Girl of the Golden West at Butler University's Clowes Memorial Hall.  This Saturday, the  March 8, members of the Indianapolis Opera Ensemble will present a live performance. Then, a lively discussion on The Operatic West | Myths and Realities of the 19th Century West will take place, starring both Eiteljorg and Indianapolis Opera experts. The Eiteljorg performance and discussion is free with museum admission.

    Indianapolis Opera artistic director and conductor James Caraher blogs about the upcoming opera and tells us why some of the music in it landed in a court of law.

    Girl of the Golden West stage pictureEveryone loves Giacomo Puccini and everyone loves a good Western! A handsome outlaw in disguise, the sheriff in hot pursuit, and a garter-snapping, pistol-packing, poker-playing heroine who will do anything to save the man she loves. Giacomo Puccini was fascinated by the American West, and California during the Gold Rush was the perfect setting for one of his most memorable leading ladies. (Source:

    Girl of the Golden West
    holds a very special place in the long list of operas that Puccini composed, coming right after Madame Butterfly. It is unlike any other, combining the intimacy and romance of La Boheme with the grandeur of Turandot, all set in the American West during the gold rush. First performed in 1910, it was the first "commissioned" opera by the Metropolitan Opera, and was also it's first world premier. The opening night performance of Dick Johnson, the tenor lead, was sung by non other than Enrico Caruso, and the conductor for the evening was Arturo Toscanini, with Puccini himself in the audience! Talk about a star-studded opening. While this is one of Puccini's lesser-known operas, audience members will be surprised to hear some snippets of music that sounds surprisingly familiar. During the Act 2 tenor aria "Quello che tacete," there are several measures which can also be heard almost note for note in "Music of the Night" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera! It could be an accidental similarity, but the Puccini folks decided to sue Mr. Lloyd Webber for plagurism. The outcome was an out of court settlement. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not it was an accident!

    About Conductor James Caraher
    Often referred to as “the singers’ conductor,” Caraher is a master at holding all the reins of the many forces of grand opera while seemingly able to clearly communicate his musical desires with each performer. Caraher frequently serves as guest conductor for other symphonies and opera companies and has lent his talents to Opera Company of Philadelphia, Kentucky Opera, Opera Memphis, Buffalo Opera and Nashville Opera. He devotes much of his time to the development of young singers by directing the Indianapolis Opera Ensemble, the Indianapolis Opera Young Artist Program. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two children.

    Indianapolis Opera at the Eiteljorg
    The Operatic West | Myths and Realities of the 19th Century West - A collaboration with the Indianapolis Opera
    Saturday, Mar. 8
    1 p.m. – 3 p.m.
    Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer James Nottage, the Indianapolis Opera’s artistic director and conductor James Caraher and guest stage director John Hoomes discuss "The Operatic West: Myths and Realities of the 19th Century West."  Members of the Indianapolis Opera Ensemble will present a live performance prior to the discussion. This event is free with paid museum admission. To learn more about the Indianapolis Opera and to purchase tickets for The Girl of the Golden West, visit

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  • Eiteljorg Western Collection | Catharine Critcher's PUEBLO FAMILY

    by James Nottage, Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer Gund/Western Art | Feb 27, 2014

    Catharine Carter Critcher
    Pueblo Family
    Oil on canvas, 1928
    Gift Courtesy of Harrison Eiteljorg

                During the first week of March, one of the notable Taos paintings in our collection will be going off of exhibit.  Why? Change in the museum is constant and motivated by many factors.  Sometimes we have an opportunity to show something new, sometimes a work goes off of exhibit for conservation treatment, and sometimes highly important works are loaned to other museums for traveling exhibitions.  Such is the case with Catharine Critcher’s, Pueblo Family, an oil painted in 1928.

                Catharine Critcher (1868-1964) was the only female member of the Taos Society of Artists.  She first visited New Mexico in 1922 and was asked, along with E. Martin Hennings, to join this group of prominent artists in 1924.  For several years, she went to Taos each summer and is reported to have said that “Taos is unlike any place God ever made.  . . . There are models galore and no phones, the artists all live in these attractive funny little adobe houses away from the world, food, foes and friends.” Critcher traveled to the Southwest in 1928  and spent two months sketching and painting among the Hopi in Arizona. She was best known for portraits along with some floral works and landscapes.  Critcher studied art in New York, Washington, D.C., and Paris. In France, she operated an art school for four years, but returned to the United States to teach at the Corcoran School of Art.  The same year she joined the Taos Society she opened her own school in Washington, D.C., where she worked until 1940. 

                Pueblo Family is one of Critcher’s best known Southwestern paintings.  By including portrait and still life elements it combines those genre for which the artist is best known. The first stop on the painting’s up-coming journey will not be that far away.  Eloquent Objects: Georgia O'Keeffe and Still-Life Painting in New Mexico opens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (October 30, 2014- January 25, 2015) and then travels to the Tacoma Museum of Art (March 1, 2015-June , 2015). Upon returning to the Eiteljorg Museum, Pueblo Family will be placed back in the Art of the American West gallery.


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  • Ansel Adams | How the famed photographer got his start

    by Jonathan Spaulding, Guest curator for Ansel Adams exhibit | Feb 24, 2014

    Ansel Adams, photograph by Jim Alinder

    In the spring of 1916, the fourteen-year-old Ansel was in bed with a cold. To cheer his spirits during another of his many illnesses, his aunt gave him a copy of James M. Hutchings’s In the Heart of the Sierras, published in 1886 and one of the classic travel accounts of the region. The boy lay mesmerized by Hutchings’s romantic tales of adventure among the towering walls of the Yosemite Valley. The family had been discussing where to spend their upcoming summer vacation. In years past they had gone to Puget Sound or down the coast to Santa Cruz, but for Ansel there was now no option. They simply had to go to this incredible place called Yosemite.

    Soon after their arrival, Ansel’s parents gave him a Kodak No. I Box Brownie camera. After a brief lesson on its simple controls, he was off to explore the area. On foot, camera in hand, he traversed the valley with characteristic hyperkineticism. He took snapshots with no conscious artfulness, only a desire to record what caught his eye. At one point he clambered atop a rotting stump to shoot across the valley floor to the cliffs above. As he leaned back to take the picture, the stump gave way, sending him plummeting to earth. On the way down he managed to trip the shutter.

    The next day he took the film into the valley’s local camera shop, Pillsbury Pictures, Inc. When he came back to pick it up, Arthur Pillsbury himself presented him with the processed photos. Pillsbury inquired about one shot on the roll in particular. How had it happened to be made upside down? Had Adams held the camera inverse over his head for a better angle? Ansel explained his airborne photograph, adding that it was just a matter of luck that it had been shot at a perfect 180 degrees. Pillsbury gave the boy a skeptical look; here was an odd one indeed.

    Following his first Yosemite trip, Ansel Adams returned home to San Francisco and continued to use his camera. Because of his burning desire to learn more about photography, he went to work part-time as a “darkroom monkey” for neighbor Frank Dittman, who owned a photo-finishing operation.

    Ansel Adams in darkroom, photograph by Jim Alinder

    Ansel was well received by Dittman, the three printers, and the six delivery boys, although his odd ways provoked some ribbling. The skinny, hyperactive Ansel, with his crooked nose, his long words, and his stories about Yosemite, seemed an amusing character. They called him “Ansel Yosemite Adams.” He took it all well, Dittman remembered, and appeared to find the pranks played on him funny, too. He “picked up cussing real fast,” and Dittman thought the job was a good antidote to the music lessons he believed were just another example of the coddling the boy got at home. Dittman recognized that Ansel was in his element in the darkroom. “It came natural to him. I could see right off he was good. Whatever the kid done was done thorough.”

    Adams was fascinated by photographic equipment and begun to prowl the local camera shops to investigate the rows of lenses, tripods, lights, chemicals, printing papers, cameras and film. He read the amateur photographic magazines and whatever technical handbooks he could find. At a local camera club he met W.E. Dassonville, a manufacturer of fine printing papers and an accomplished photographer. Dassonville knew many of the Bay Area photographers and gave Adams an introduction to the practice of the medium as a fine art.

    - From the biography Ansel Adams and the American Landscape by Jonathan Spaulding’s biography contains an extensive bibliography of works by and about Ansel Adams. His detailed descriptions of Adams’ photographs, projects, and relationships offer compelling insights into the man who has come to represent the American West.

    Meet Jonathan Spaulding this Saturday at the Eiteljorg during opening weekend of the Ansel Adams exhibit.

    Saturday, Mar. 1, 2014
    1:30 p.m.
    A Conversation with curator Jonathan Spaulding
    Join Jonathan Spaulding for a behind-the-scenes discussion of Ansel Adams’ life and work - See more at:
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  • Throwback Thursday | 2001 Ansel Adams at the Eiteljorg

    by Jan Eason, Eiteljorg education services coordinator | Feb 20, 2014

     Eiteljorg education services coordinator Jan Eason was there in 2001 when the museum opened its first exhibition of the photographs of Ansel Adams. Jan snapped a picture of the line that formed outside the Eiteljorg. She couldn't believe the amount of people who'd flooded the front of the building to see the work of one of the most celebrated photographers of all time.

    “We need all staff to come to the museum entrance!” 

    Wow!!!! Just getting to the entrance was a challenge with all the visitors in the lobby.  Nothing like this had happened in my time with the museum.  I had to take pictures and so I did with my instamatic camera.  Ansel Adam’s work resonated with our visitors. The galleries were full with intent viewers and conversations on the work, techniques, and wondering if they could take home images.

    The response was truly overwhelming and everyone on the staff was proud.

    All our work and concern was validated.  The dedicated store was a hit. Staff worked the line outside -  welcoming and informing visitors about memberships  - and that they could enter immediately. The wait seemed shorter when they could ask questions and chat. This excitement continued during the run of the exhibit. When departing so many smiling visitors said ,”We’ll be back!”

    I had no inkling that this would be the first of many such successful future shows and events at the Eiteljorg. Ansel Adams returns to the Eiteljorg March 1.

    (Pictured above: Ansel Adams at Washburn Pt., photograph by Jim Alinder)

     - This blog post was written by 23-year Eiteljorg employee and Rose Award recipient Jan Eason.

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  • Ansel Adams | Influence and inspiration in over 80 photographs

    by James H. Nottage, Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer | Feb 18, 2014

    Ansel Adams in Owens Valley, photograph by Cedric Wright, courtesy of the Colby Memorial Library, Sierra Club.

    The photo. It captures life’s moments with just the tap of an index finger. Whether by phone, disposable or interchangeable lens camera, we all start off as amateur photographers – telling visual stories of our personal lives.  Before he became known as the creator of some of the most influential photographs ever made, Ansel Adams, like many of us was an amateur with a simple Kodak Box Brownie camera. But something happened when he was 14 that put Ansel on the path that sealed his destiny. On vacation with his family in the Yosemite Valley in 1916, he took snapshots of the majestic beauty of the land and found the inspiration that later led him to profoundly impact the world of photography as art. On March1, 2014, the Eiteljorg Museum will open Ansel Adams – a collection of over 80 of this legendary photographer’s personally chosen photographs.

    The featured images in this exhibition represent the best of Adams’ career. The photographs focus largely on the vast spaces of the American West, ranging from Yosemite to the Pacific Coast, the Southwest, Alaska, Hawaii, Yellowstone Park, and the Northwest. Referred to as The Museum Set, this lifetime portfolio includes many of Adams’ most famous and best-loved photographs, including architectural studies, portraits and magnificent landscapes. Obtained from the collections of the Capital Group, the images are joined by vintage prints from an important private collection.  Included among these are representations from Adams’ first published portfolios done in 1927 and 1930.

    Ansel Adams is drawn together by guest curator, Dr. Jonathan Spaulding, who writes, “Over the course of the 20th century, no artist had a greater role in the awakening of environmental awareness than Ansel Adams. His legacy is more than a body of beautiful images. Adams changed how we think and how we act. Across the arc of his life, one thing remained constant: to express through his art the forms and moods and ancient forces of our small planet, our only home in a vast universe.” Spaulding is the author of the leading Adams biography, Ansel Adams and the American Landscape, a biography, published in 1995.

    The Eiteljorg first featured Ansel Adams’ photographs in a short-term exhibit in 2001.  Until this past year, it was the most heavily visited exhibition in the museum’s history. In celebrating 25 years as a major Indianapolis cultural institution, we are pleased to feature the work of Ansel Adams until Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014. During the five month run of Ansel Adams, the museum will host documentaries, programs, lectures, and photography lessons focused on Adams and his place in the environmental movement.

    Our hope is to help educate visitors about Ansel’s impact on their lives. From the family pictures in your album at home, to the selfies posted on Facebook and Instagram, Ansel Adams’ influence is everywhere we look. This exhibit could inspire the next Ansel Adams, just like Yosemite Valley inspired an unbridled teenager to change the world of photography nearly 100 years ago.
    Ansel Adams opening weekend schedule
    Friday, Feb. 28, 2014
    7 p.m.
    Ansel Adams preview party
    $45 members, $55 nonmembers

    Saturday, Mar. 1, 2014
    1:30 p.m.
    A Conversation with curator Jonathan Spaulding
    Join Jonathan Spaulding for a behind-the-scenes discussion of Ansel Adams’ life and work.

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