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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.

  • Friday, May 20, 2016

    Making Space to Talk Back

    Guest blogger Emma Cantrell is the Brown Post-Baccalaureate Fellow in Museum Education.

    The new “Talk Back: Art in Conversation” space – conceptualized and overseen by the museum’s Education department – was developed as an opportunity for focused engagement and interaction with art from SCMA’s extensive collection of works on paper. This newly defined area at the heart of the lower level features a rotating work of art accompanied by a question, inviting people of all ages to post a response on the adjacent wall. Through this short and simple prompt, “Talk Back” invites visitors into dialogue - with each other, with the art, and with the museum.The artworks that populate the space are selected from the Museum’s extensive collection of works on paper. With the help of Aprile Gallant (Curator, Prints, Drawings, and Photographs) the Education team has chosen 3 diverse artworks in the first year of rotations for the space.

     

    Chuck Close. American, 1940–. Lyle. 2003. 147 color silkscreen on paper. Gift of the artist and Pace Editions, Inc. SC 2003:10    

    For the Education team, it was important that the artwork selected and the accompanying questions in “Talk Back” generate open-ended inquiry into both the object itself and the visitor’s relationship with the content of the work. For example, the first artwork displayed was Chuck Close’s Lyle, a enormous portrait of the artist Lyle Ashton Harris. To explore this spectacular 147 color silkscreen, we asked visitors to imagine connecting with the subject with the prompt “If I could ask or tell Lyle anything, I would say…”

    Talk Back responses

    As you can see, participation in “Talk Back: Art in Conversation” has been bountiful and diverse. Responses include writing, as short as one word and as long as a paragraph. Visitors young and old have also responded with drawings, which are used alone or to emphasize a written point. Some participants answer the prompt directly, others respond to a neighbor’s answers, and other responses are seemingly unrelated to the conversation at hand - perhaps just the record of a visitor's time in the Museum. One thing is for certain; visitors are eager to talk back.

    Going forward, “Talk Back” will continue to be an open-ended, participatory space for visitors to engage with works on paper. Flexible and frequently changing, Talk Back can grow and adapt to meet the needs of our visitors, and to explore what it means to be in dialogue with a work of art and with a museum. This week, we posed a new question for Sandy Skoglund’s Squirrels at the Drive-In, in hopes of exploring the visitors’ relationship with the content of this unusual photograph. We hope that the next time you are on the lower level, you will stop by to see what is on view, notice the diverse visitor responses, and to join in the conversation by telling us your squirrel story!

    Sandy Skoglund. American, 1946–. Squirrels at the Drive-In. 1996. Photolithograph printed in color on Ragote paper. Gift of Rita Rich Fraad (Rita Rich), class of 1937. SC 1997:23 

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  • Friday, May 13, 2016

    Reunion Class Gifts

    Judith Linhares. American, 1940–. Monarch. 2000. Gouache on paper. Gift of Susan L. Brundage, class of 1971, and Edward Thorp. SC 2013:802       

    Welcome back, reunion classes! We’re so excited to have you all on campus. Today and next Friday, the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs is open to the public on the second floor of the Museum. Art donated by your classmates is on view for you and everyone to see.

    Anne Brigman. American, 1869–1950. The Soul of the Blasted Pine. 1908. Gelatin silver print mounted on paper and paper board. Purchased with the Elizabeth Halsey Dock, class of 1933, Fund, and gifts in memory of Therese Heyman (Therese Thau, class of 1951). SC 2005:26        

    In addition, admission fees are also waived for both Commencement and Reunion Weekends.

    Stop by between 10 AM – 4 PM today to take a look!

    Bartolomeo Pinelli. Italian, 1781–1835. Cupid and Psyche. n.d. Pen and dark brown ink over pencil on white paper. Gift of Agnes Mongan, (AM) class of 1929, (LHD) class of 1941. SC 1951:116

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  • Friday, May 6, 2016

    The Academic French Nude

    The Smith College Museum of Art is dedicated to bringing out works on paper into the main galleries, where all visitors can see them. Since works on paper are more sensitive to light than other mediums, SCMA has installed special Works on Paper cabinets throughout the galleries for the display of prints, drawings and photographs. Today’s post is part of a series about the current installations of the Works on Paper cabinets, which will remain on view through August 2016.

    Louis Marin Bonnet. French, 1736–1793. After François Boucher. French, 1703–1770. Le Sommeil de Venus(Dream of Venus). n.d. Engraving in the crayon manner on paper. Purchased. SC 1964:8

    Representations of the nude in Western Art have a long history rooted in Ancient Greek culture, in which the athletic nude body was idealized. The nude body within the context of sport or warfare stood for honor, glory and moral superiority.  The Greek athletes and warriors were associated with a myriad of Greek gods, cast in bronze or marble and revered and adored by the masses. Aligning themselves with such godliness, the upper-classes in turn would have themselves portrayed in the guises of their semi-clad gods like Apollo, Mars or Venus, a custom continued by the Romans.

     

    Mars with the face of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and Venus of Capua with the face changed at a later date to represent the Empress Lucille, wife of the Roman Emperor Lucius Verus. First created 120-140 CE modified 170-175 CE in Louvre, France

    With the advent of Christianity, the doctrine of original sin was developed. In the biblical creation story from the Old Testament, Adam and Eve ate from the tree of and were cast from Paradise. In their “sin,” they recognized and were ashamed of their nakedness. The nude body was no longer associated with innocence and idealism but instead was directly linked to sin and guilt through Eve, who tempted Adam to taste the forbidden apple and thus seduced the future of humankind.

    Meister Bertram von Minden (c 1340-1415) Adam and Eve, Temptation and Fall (kunsthalle Hamburg)

    The French Academy

    During the Renaissance, the classical Greek aesthetic was revived, and the nude again found a place in art. Academic French art of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries built upon Renaissance notions of the “idealized body.” In the French academy system, artists acquired their skill by studying classical examples and sketching from live models, in addition to studying anatomy, history, and mythology. This strict academic training was challenged by emerging avant-garde artists beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, as artists turned to realism, modernism, and the ground-breaking innovations of the Impressionists. 

    The Academy was also a strictly male environment, which limited opportunities for women to have a role let alone succeed as artists.

     

    Honoré Victorin Daumier. French, 1808–1879. Fantaisies, No. 1.Combat des écoles - l’Idéalism et le Réalisme. (Battle between the schools of Realism and Idealism). Published April 24, 1855. Lithograph printed in black on paper. Purchased. SC 1928:17-41

     

    Male model posing at the École des Beaux-Arts in the 19th century

    Creating Moral Boundaries in the Visual Arts

    In French academic art, female nudity was permissible within the context of an imaginary fantasy landscape or a mythical or biblical setting.

     

    Unknown artist. After Adolphe William Bouguereau. French, 1825–1905. Cupid and Psyche. 19th century. Black chalk on paper. Purchased. SC 1967:1

    While the threshold between classical nudes and erotica was often crossed, the difference was a matter of adhering to certain rules that determined whether a female nude was an acceptable subject for art or instead an affront to the viewing public.

    Story and setting were primary considerations: the nude figure was placed into a recognized narrative and usually identified with a character.

     

    Théodore Chassériau. French, 1819–1856. Apollo et Daphne. n.d. Lithograph on paper. Purchased. SC 1930:1-3

    Female nudes were often shown with their eyes averted, or completely closed in sleep or dreaming (rendering them even more accessible to the male gaze). In addition, the naked female body was idealized and even infantilized, with soft undulating curves.

    By turning her into a virginal, seductive but distancing bodily “landscape,” the model became an erotic illusion, one without will or personality, void of true emotion. Her passive state approximated that of a marble Greek statue.

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