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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.

  • Thursday, October 24, 2013

    Surreal Dreams and Nightmares

    Guest blogger Maggie Hoot is a Smith College student, class of 2016, with a major in Art History. She was a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

    Odilon Redon, French 1840 – 1916. Printed by Auguste Clot, French 1858 – 1936. The Buddha, from L'Estampe Originale, 1895. Lithograph printed in black on Chine appliqué on heavy white wove paper. Purchased with the Museum Acquisition Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1956:3 

    Odilon Redon was born in 1840, the same year as Monet and Rodin. Though he was a contemporary of the Realists and Impressionists, Redon took a very different path, both in becoming an artist and what he created. While the Realists and Impressionists were concerned with capturing what they saw and the present moment, Redon instead drew on his fantasies and dreams (and often nightmares).   

    Redon had a sickly and lonely childhood in the French countryside, which is considered the origin of his overactive imagination. In school, he tried and failed to become an architect and then had a disastrous stint studying painting under Jean-Léon Gérôme, a well-known Academic Painter. Only after serving as a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War did he become a professional artist, though he had dabbled for many years.

    Though Redon came late to his profession, he took to it with a passion. Redon is considered one of the preeminent artists of Symbolist movement, which originally began in the 1880s as a French writers’ movement. Symbolists focused on crafting allusions and hints to a theme without stating the overarching message outright. The Symbolists often depicted literary, mythological, and religious scenes; Redon, however, drew on his imagination to interpret (rather than simply depict) sources to create what he believed were unique works, completely independent from the source material. 

    Odilon Redon, French 1840 – 1916. ...Les bêtes de la mer rondes comme des outres, Plate 22 from La Tentation de Saint-Antoine, 1896. Lithograph printed in black on Chine appliqué on heavy white paper. Gift of Priscilla Paine Van der Poel, class of 1928. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1977:32-212

    His oeuvre can easily be divided into two periods. Initially, he worked only in black, using charcoal and lithography, saying that  “One must admire black… It is an agent of the spirit far more than the fine color of the palette or the prism.” These works are known as his noirs. The second period of his artistic style was a drastic departure from his opinions of the first.  In the 1890s, he began using bright pastels and oils in his works. He even colored in some of his old noirs so their former shading was completely obscured. While the noirs often felt nightmarish, the pastel works were more like surreal dreams, though still filled with the imaginative and invented characters present in his previous work.

    Odilon Redon, French 1840 – 1916. Printed by Auguste Clot, French 1858 – 1936. Beatrice, 1897. Lithograph printed in black on Chine appliqué on heavy white wove paper. Gift of Selma Erving, class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1978:1-40

    Redon was out of sync with his own time, but his work was loved by Fauvists such as Matisse, and served as inspiration for many in the Surrealist movement. Though well known during his lifetime, after his death, Redon’s influence dissipated and his name became relatively obscure. Redon has finally resurfaced in the public eye and is receiving long overdue attention for his enigmatic and influential works.

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  • Thursday, October 17, 2013

    What’s your ART STORY?

    President Kathleen McCartney visiting her "Art Stories" exhibition with Jessica Nicoll '83, Director and Louise Ines Doyle '34 Chief Curator of the Museum of Art

    Art is powerful. It leads us to new ideas, challenges our set opinions, invokes grief, delight, contemplation. Art has been reported to cause severe dizziness, even fainting, when individuals encounter particularly beautiful works (an unusual circumstance known as Stendhal Syndrome).While most of us haven’t passed out in front of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring,we can all recall works that make our heart beat a little bit faster.

    President Kathleen McCartney visiting her "Art Stories" exhibition with Jessica Nicoll '83, Director and Louise Ines Doyle '34 Chief Curator of the Museum of Art

    This upcoming weekend, Smith College will formally welcome Kathleen McCartney as the 11th President of Smith College. The Museum is celebrating her inauguration with ART STORIES,a special exhibition featuring art that has left a lasting impression on the widespread Smith community.

    We received stories from faculty and staff, alumnae and students. Highlighted here are select stories about works on paper, usually housed in the Cunningham Center.

    Sandy Skoglund –Walking on Eggshells

    Sandy Louise Skoglund. American (1946 - ). Walking on Eggshells, 1997. Cibachrome. Purchased with the Janet Wright Ketcham, class of 1953, Acquisition Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1997:20.

    From Cynthia Allen, Smith College class of 1983: “My 3-year-old daughter Isabelle saw the Sandy Skoglund exhibition in 1998 at my 15th reunion. Two of the pieces from the exhibition caught her eye-The Cocktail Party and Walking on Eggshells. Her godmother went down to State Street and bought her a bag of Cheetos, which until that day had not passed her lips. The caveat was Isabelle had to eat them the way the mannequin in the cocktail party room did - with a stiff, robotic bag to mouth motion.”

    (Want to see “The Cocktail Party” by Sandy Skoglund? Click here for a video of its installation at the McNay Art Museum!)

    “The second piece she was entranced with was Walking on Eggshells. So much so that when we went home she arranged all her stuffed bunnies in our bathroom, along with a few rubber snakes, and I then had to blow several eggs for her to step on. Life imitating art.”

    Martin Puryear - Cane portfolio

    Martin Puryear. American (1941 - ). Portfolio for suite of prints from Cane, 2000. Tan cloth covered cardboard folder. Purchased with the gift of the Arch W. Shaw Foundation, through the courtesy of Nancy Simonds Shaw, class of 1972, administrator, and other individuals. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2000:36a.

    From Daphne Lamothe, Smith faculty member: “Knowing my interest in the writing of Jean Toomer, a giant of the Harlem Renaissance, Alona Wilson, spouse of my colleague Louis Wilson and a former museum employee told me about Puryear's illustration of a special edition of Cane, Toomer's collection of short stories and poems.”

    Martin Puryear. American (1941 - ). Karintha, from the portfolio Cane, 2000. Woodblock printed in black ink on Kitakata paper. Purchased with the gift of the Arch W. Shaw Foundation, through the courtesy of Nancy Simonds Shaw, class of 1972, administrator, and other individuals. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2000:36-1.

    “This is a gorgeous, lyrical book, which students can also find challenging and opaque. Taking them to the museum to visit the Puryear prints and spending time discussing what of the stories's themes and symbols he captured in his abstract drawings makes the book come alive for my students.”

    Martin Puryear. American (1941 - ). Esther, from the portfolio Cane, 2000. Woodblock printed in black ink on Kitakata paper. Purchased with the gift of the Arch W. Shaw Foundation, through the courtesy of Nancy Simonds Shaw, class of 1972, administrator, and other individuals. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2000:36-5.

    “We spend time looking at the multiple shades of the wooden box he carved for the book; and talking about the shapes, shades of black and white, and lines etched in the abstract woodblock illustrations. The visual language of the illustrations provides a gateway into thinking about the themes of multiracial identity, racial segregation and strife, connection and disconnection which run throughout Cane.”

    Martin Puryear. American (1941 - ). Avey, from the portfolio Cane, 2000. Woodblock printed in black ink on Kitakata paper. Purchased with the gift of the Arch W. Shaw Foundation, through the courtesy of Nancy Simonds Shaw, class of 1972, administrator, and other individuals. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2000:36-6.

    ART STORIESwill be on view until February 9, 2014. You can find more personal accounts from the Smith community in the Nixon Gallery, second floor, and spread throughout the Smith College Museum of Art.

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  • Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Student Picks: Brahma Vihara - The Sublime States

    Student Picksis 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 Mina Zahin ‘15 discusses her show “Brahma Vihara: The Sublime States” which will be on view TOMORROW, Friday, October 11 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you here!

    Peter Max. German, 1937 - . Prana,1967. Photo lithograph in color on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:38-93.

    Brahma Vihara is a show inspired by a series of four Buddhist virtues and the meditative practices that cultivate them. Making and viewing art can be meditative and create a sublime and euphoric feeling. These artworks invoked those feelings in me. There is something mystical about these pieces and the way your eyes move from one artwork to the other, bringing fluidity to the visual experience. 

    W. Dayle. American, 20th century. Untitled (seated Buddha),before 1968. Screenprint in green and red on black paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:38-135.

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