Paper + People is a blog about the Smith College Museum of Art’s collection of over 18,000 prints, drawings, and photographs. Here you will find a diverse array of posts written by museum staff, students, scholars, and other paper enthusiasts about anything pertaining to the collection.
Any works you see featured here are available to view by appointment.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
“The possibilities of wood engraving...as a sensitive medium of expression...
have never been exhausted by anyone.”
— Paul Landacre
Paul Landacre, American (1893 - 1963). Black Stallion, 1940. Wood engraving on medium weight, moderately textured, beige paper. Bequest of Henry Latimer Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:26-9
Wood engraving is a slow process. An artist takes a burin, or sharp engravers’ tool, and creates lines and hatches in the wood. When the wood block is inked and sent through the printer’s press, the uncarved surfaces press ink onto the paper, creating the impression. Over the course of his life, Paul Landacre became a master of wood engraving, and a standard for those exploring this printmaking medium.
Paul Landacre’s introduction to art came as a form of self-therapy. A student at Ohio State University, he was student of horticulture when a streptococcusinfection took away the use of his right leg, and severely limited the capacity of his arms. This sudden change in his health compelled him to return home to San Diego in 1917, where he took time to adapt to his new circumstances.
Attracted to the flora and fauna of California, he began to sketch the natural world around him, and discovered a latent aptitude for drawing. It was a period of self-discovery and experimentation: he explored many different printing methods until he finally settled on wood engraving as his preferred medium.
Paul Landacre, American (1893 - 1963). Some Ingredients, 1953-1954. Wood engraving on medium weight, moderately textured, white paper. Bequest of Henry Latimer Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:26-11
Detail of Some Ingredients
While most printmakers in the 1930s and 1940s did not print their own woodblocks, Lanacre was an exception, as he usually pulled his own prints (with the help of his wife, Margaret). His friend Willard Morgan had found a dilapidated iron hand press while he was exploring Bodie, a deserted mining camp, and Landacre rehabilitated it for his own use. Restoring the press was a grueling effort: each greasy part needed to be taken apart and cleaned, the rust removed, a process that took over two months. For Landacre, the difficult work was worth the end result: he could print his own blocks and control every stage of his artistic creation. He insisted that “The blacks should be black, the whites white, and every line or dot engraved on the block should show clean on the proof.”
Paul Landacre, American (1893 - 1963). Laguna Cove, 1941. Wood engraving on cream-colored medium weight moderately textured paper. Bequest of Henry Latimer Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:26-10
Landacre’s devotion to the natural world shines through his prints. His careful lines and hatches, etched into the wood block, create a beautiful range of tone that can mimic the silky light of the moon on calm water, or the shadows on a head of garlic. His wood engraving Laguna Cove (above) reveals his technical mastery. About this work, Landacre said:
"The subject of this present engaving, Laguna Cove, is a favorite spot near Laguna Beach, California. One summer night the moon seemed to illuminate this particular scene and create a pattern of light and shadow that had to be recorded."
Detail of Laguna Beach
Paul Lanacre produced art for nearly four decades to great acclaim: art historian Carl Zigrosser dubbed him “the outstanding wood engraver on the west coast of the United States.”
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Guest blogger Aurelia Grant Wingate is a Smith College student, class of 2016, majoring in Psychology. She wrote this post for Islamic Art and Architecture, a course which surveys the architecture, landscape, book arts and luxury objects produced in Islamic contexts from Spain to India, and from the seventh through the twentieth centuries. The Fall 2014 session was taught by Professor Alex Dika Seggerman, the Five College Post-Doc in Islamic Art & Architecture.
Jean-Léon Gérôme. French, 1824 - 1904. Standing Turk. Black chalk on light stained off white wove paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-9
The French academic painter Jean-Léon Gérôme is known for his hyper illusionistic style, which he used to create detailed paintings of life and culture in the newly discovered East during the nineteen century. Gérôme quickly became a popular Orientalist painter, providing Europe with hyper-sexual and exoticized images of “the Oriental”.
Standing Turk is a detailed sketch of a man wearing the uniform of a Turkish military officer. The image was inspired by Gérôme’s travels East. Although the man in the sketch stands as if unaware of the artist, Gérôme is known for recreating images from his travels inside his studio in Paris. This polished sketch was most likely drawn from a European model wearing authentic Turkish garments. The fine detail and focus on the clothing brings a truth to the staged image, and makes the figure identifiable as a foreigner. The turban and saber are additional markers of the man as “Oriental” to a European audience.
This image can not be found replicated exactly in any of Gérôme’s completed oil paintings, however the painting Young Greeks at the Mosque depicts a man wearing similar styled clothing, and standing in a similar stance as the Standing Turk. Not all of Gérôme’s sketches were turned into finished artworks, but Standing Turk could have been a figure drawing later adapted for this painting.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Guest blogger Azania Toure is a Smith College student, class of 2016, majoring in Art History. She wrote this post for Islamic Art and Architecture, a course which surveys the architecture, landscape, book arts and luxury objects produced in Islamic contexts from Spain to India, and from the seventh through the twentieth centuries. The Fall 2014 session was taught by Professor Alex Dika Seggerman, the Five College Post-Doc in Islamic Art & Architecture.
Saira Wasim, Pakistani (1975 - ). Buzkashi, from the series Musharaff, 2003-2004. Graphite, gouache and gold on wasli paper. Purchased with the Josephine A. Stein, class of 1927, Fund in honor of the class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2004:25
Buzkashi from the series Musharraf is a contemporary Mughal-styled miniature painting by Pakistani artist, Saira Wasim. An integration of Persian and Indian influences, its crowded composition resonates with early Mughal ruler portraits and painting traditions.
The main figure depicted in the center of the piece is former President Pervez Musharraf, who ruled during the nuclear proliferation age from 2001-2007. In the drawing, he becomes a representative of the Hindu god, Shiva, who is known as the destroyer, a source of good and evil, and the balancer of universes. Similar to the Hindu deity, Pervez is illustrated with four arms. Wasim’s satirical interpretation serves to debunk Pervez’s presidential power and allegiance to Pakistan.
Detail of Pervez Musharraf
In side profile, Pervez’s “Shiva-like” depiction intentionally looks to the West as a way to reference his loyalty and biases towards the Western world. Nicknamed the “Cowboy”, Pervez easily aligned himself with Western forces post 9/11 attacks, which sought to “scape-goat” Pakistani citizens such as scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan (shown conspiring at the bottom of the page) for nuclear weapons development. As he gazes to the west, his dedication to America and disloyalty to his nation becomes solidified. Thus, his raised hand salutes the west, while his back faces the proverbial East (Pakistan).
Detail of Abdul Qadeer Khan, on right