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.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Student Picks is a SCMA program in which Smith students organize their own one-day art show using our collection of works on paper. This month’s student curator and guest blogger Marion Gajonera ’14 discusses her show “Mother and Child” which will be on view THIS FRIDAY, April 4 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you here!
Munio Takahashi Makuuchi, American (1934 - 2000). Fairgrounds Called Camp Harmony, no date. Etching, drypoint and roulette printed in black on heavyweight, moderately textured, cream-colored paper. Gift of Jamie Makuuchi. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2012:63-8
While the theme of Madonna and Child is indeed familiar to many of us for its religious connotations, it should not be over-looked for its portrayal of the love and devotion between a mother and her child. Given the universality of motherhood, this exhibition explores the theme of “Mother and Child” across time and cultures.
Willi Hartung, Swiss (1912-1987). Southern Landscape with Mother and Child, 1959. Watercolor on paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Max Seltzer (Selma Pelonsky, class of 1919). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1990:5-21
From the beginning, I specifically chose to include as many works by people of color to juxtapose them with the more conventional representations of motherhood encountered in Western art such as in the Renaissance. In this way, I was able to include the wide-ranging narratives of poverty and oppression.
Yet I also wanted to challenge the notion of what can constitute a “Mother and Child” image. In Jerome Liebling’s Mother, Baby’s Hand, Mexico, we only see a close-up view of the mother’s hand and the baby’s arm instead of their whole figures. Lin Tianmiao’s contemporary lithograph, Focus I B, is an image without a mother, although its only figure—a baby—appears to reflect back their mother’s loving gaze.
Jerome Liebling, American (1924-2011). Mother, Baby's Hand, Mexico; from Photographs, negative 1974; print 1976. Gelatin silver print. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1988:16-10
The icon of Madonna and Child is one that I encountered frequently while growing up in the Philippines. Working on this exhibition has been incredibly exciting and rewarding since I was able to combine my interests in art, women and gender, and the experiences of people of color. Thank you so much to Maggie Kurkoski for her support during the development of this exhibition. To the Cunningham Center and the Smith College Museum of Art, thank you for this unforgettable opportunity. And lastly, to my mother who has always supported me, I love you.
Lin Tianmiao, Chinese (1961 - ). Focus I B, 2006-2007. Lithograph printed in black on STPI handmade paper with embedded thread. Gift of Friedman Benda LLC. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2013:76-4
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Following a long tradition of artists who beg, borrow, and steal elements from other artists, Roy Lichtenstein was a master of creating art about art stemming from both so-called “high” and “low” culture. While he is most famous for his 1960s Pop paintings and prints which appropriate comic strip imagery such as Ship-board Girl (pictured above), he also created a vast body of work which both reference and transform images by other artists. In 1962, only one year following his first comic strip images, Lichtenstein painted pastiches based on works by Cézanne, Picasso, and Mondrian. In 1969, his appropriation (or what he often called “vulgarization”) of other artists’ work continued with his two print series Cathedrals and Haystacks, based on the iconic paintings by French Impressionist Claude Monet. (Click to see examples of Monet’s Cathedrals and Haystacks)
Roy Lichtenstein. American, 1923-1997. Cathedral #6,1969. Lithograph printed in blue and black on special Arjomari paper. Gift of Naomi and Stephen Antonakos. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2002:25-1.
Roy Lichtenstein. American, 1923-1997. Cathedral #3,1969. Lithograph printed in blue on special Arjomari paper. Gift of John Russell. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:43-5.
Lichtenstein’s Cathedrals and Haystacks are immediately recognizable to those familiar with Monet’s Rouen Cathedral and Giverny haystacks paintings from the 1890s, yet these prints are remarkably abstracted and peculiar. As in his comic strip images, the broad areas of color imitate Ben-Day dots, a technique used in newspaper commercial printing in which blocks of colors are broken down into tiny dots. Lichtenstein enlarges these dots so much that the images are difficult to see clearly. Similarly to Monet’s paintings, these prints are most legible at a distance and increasingly abstract the closer one gets to the image. Such close looking reveals Lichtenstein’s intricate and dazzling system of Ben-Day dots which are overlaid to create darker tones (see details).
Details of Ben-Day dots in Haystack #6(left) and Haystack #1(right).
Left to right: Roy Lichtenstein’s Cathedral #3, Cathedral #6, and Cathedral #2 (1969).
Lichtenstein’s complex use of color in his Cathedrals and Haystrackscreate even more confusing visual effects. While he adheres to a simple palette of colors – red, blue, yellow, and black – they are dizzying when combined in each image. For example, in Cathedral #2 (above), the combination of red and blue dots renders the image almost entirely illegible. In these prints, Lichtenstein reduces Monet’s nuanced and varied studies of light to incredibly flat reproductions of paintings, nothing more. Surprisingly, however, they still evoke the visual sensation of distinct times of day as in Monet’s original paintings. In Cathderal #3 (above), blue dots on white paper read as dusk, while in Cathedral #6(below) the combination of blue and black reads as late evening or night. Red and black dots in Haystack #6 create the impression of dusk on a warm summer evening, while in Haystack #1 yellow on white paper evokes the blinding sunlight of high noon.
Roy Lichtenstein. American, 1923-1997. Haystack #6, 1969. Lithograph in red and black on Rives BFK paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1972:5-5.
Roy Lichtenstein. American, 1923-1997. Haystack #1,1969. Lithograph and screenprint in two colors on Rives BFK paper. Gift of Janice Carlson Oresman, class of 1955. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1986:55-3.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Guest blogger Petru Bester is a Smith College student, class of 2015, with a major in Art History. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
While browsing the Cunningham Center’s collection, I happened upon a beautiful portrait of a woman in all white. Out of curiosity I glanced over the catalogue information and found little satisfaction in the information provided. I, of course, immediately turned to a preliminary Google- the bearer of all knowledge- search of the artist's name, Charles H. Hearn, but again found little information of use. Shifting to a more refined and academic source I invested some time into prodding the 5 College library database...still nothing! How could this be? Completely enamored with mystery and intrigue, I became obsessed with the woman in white and was determined to unveil her secrets.
Charles W. Hearn, American. Studio Portrait of a Young Woman, c.1860-70s. Albumen print. Purchased with Hillyer-Tryon-Mather Fund, with funds given in memory of Nancy Newhall (Nancy Parker, class of 1930) and in honor of Beaumont Newhall, and with funds given in honor of Ruth Wedgwood Kennedy. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 4643-801.
The portrait, hidden amongst the 18,000 works on paper housed by the Cunningham center, had not yet been fully processed. When it first entered the museum, an influx of accessioned works made it almost impossible to fully research each work to the fullest extent. Many, like my lady in white, lay in waiting. Excited by the blank slate I surrendered myself to the web and its vast chasm of endless unfettered information.
Detail of Studio Portrait of a Young Woman
Up until this point I had only seen my lady in white, who is actually simply entitled Studio Portrait of a Young Woman within the museum database. Needing to see the photograph in person, I brought it out of storage, and with bated breath lifted the matt and removed the protective tissue paper. Aside from her imposing presence and beauty, my eye was instinctively drawn to the matt information: the handwritten description read “Charles W. Hearn” --The clue and confirmation I needed. With renewed sense of hope I fervently returned to the seemingly less daunting web chasm to explore the discrepant middle initial. Turning up more favorable results, I finally began seeing remnants of the illusive artist.
An hour or two later I had uncovered that Charles W. Hearn was in fact an affluent portraitist and author who owned his own studio. I was, unfortunately, not able to get a hold of a copy of any of his books but found several art journals and magazines in which he was featured or contributed. More interestingly I found a few fun archival pieces that illuminated the career and success enjoyed by Hearn. Below a page from a 1902 edition ofThe Tech, the school newsletter for MIT, illustrates an advertisement of Hearn’s for senior portraits. I was also able to find a listing for Hearn’s studio in a 1922 edition ofThe New England Business Directory and Gazetteerfor the area of Boston. Additionally I discovered an account of the meeting minutes recounted in,The professional and Amatuer Photographer, Volume 8, in which Hearn was elected First Vice-President-elect of the P.A. of A (one of various state associations of Photographers).
Now satisfied with the biographical information obtained about the artist I was still left yearning to know more about the woman that found herself the object of this print and my affection. As would be expected with Hearn’s expertise, the portrait is executed to technical perfection. The sitter’s lower body turns away from the camera as her torso turns back toward it. Her face is in full frontal profile while her hands clasp behind her back. A sense of elegance and effortlessness are evident both in her posture and through her flowing white gown. Her direct gaze meets the viewer directly but remains soft and inviting.
The aesthetics and visual analysis of the portrait only serve to embellish my adoration of the lady in white. All I can do is reciprocate her gaze woefully. I do not know who she is. I do not know for what purpose her portrait was taken. I do not know if she ever saw her portrait or received a copy of it (or even perhaps once owned this copy). She remains elusive to me and will forever haunt me.