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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, December 3, 2015

    Student Picks: Workers in the Shadows

    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 Stephanie Pinedo '18  discusses her show "Workers in the Shadows: Portraits of Urban Life" which will be on view FRIDAY, December 4 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you there!

     

    Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864 - 1946). The Terminal, 1893. Photogravure on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1950:3-1

    Cities are a subject that continue to fascinate artists. Urban photographers have long been trying to capture the “essence” of the city by emphasizing qualities such as scale, speed, and connectivity. There are some features, however, that go very much unnoticed. 

    Josef Breitenbach (American, born Germany, 1896 - 1984). Construction Worker [Beauty at Work], Bombay, India, 1960. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Peter C. Jones and Charlotte M. Frieze, class of 1974. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2001:20-4

    In this show, I would like to shine light on the work and workers that go unseen in urban spaces. I feel that their presence should be recognized as much as the staggering skyscrapers and bustling roads they build and maintain.

    Danny Lyon (American, born 1942). Beekman Street subbasement,  from The Destruction of Lower Manhattan. 1967 negative, 2007 print. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Nicole Moretti Ungar, class of 1982, and Jon Ungar. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2012:84-7

    Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864 - 1946). Spring Showers, New York from Camera Work #36, 1900. Photogravure on paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-308

     I would like to thank the Cunningham Center and Colleen McDermott for helping me organize this art show as well as my father, a construction worker, for teaching me to give credit where credit is due.

    Andy Warhol (American, 1930 - 1987). People on the Street, n.d. Gelatin silver print. Gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2008:28-145

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    DMF - 04/12/2015

    Congrats

    I love the theme.

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  • Thursday, November 19, 2015

    T. Frantisek Simon

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

    This piece discusses works from the The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection, a collection of prints recently donated to the Museum.

    T. Frantisek Simon, Czech, 1877-1942. Village Market Scene, 1908. Etching with aquatint printed in color on cream laid paper. Gift of the estate of Agnes M. Newborg (Agnes Morgenthau, class of 1914). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1972:14-4

    T. Frantisek Simon was an extremely prolific and intriguing artist active in the first half of the 20th century.  He was born in 1877 in a small town that was part of the Austrian Empire (now Czech Republic).  He showed an early talent for drawing and his parents sent him to Prague for an education focused in the arts.  

    At the Academy of Arts in Prague, he was trained and became an especially proficient painter.  After graduating in 1900, he decided to travel, visiting Italy, Paris and London, where he was fascinated by the ever evolving art scene.

    Simon was known as a painter, but became intrigued by the new methods of printmaking—etching, aquatint, dry point, and woodcut— which were just starting to gain popularity in Bohemia. There were few able to instruct Simon in Prague, so he instead moved to Paris to continue his work focused on graphics.  It is unknown who specifically taught Simon how to create graphic works, but he became especially proficient. In Paris, he bought the tools of print making and began to work.  He most often made aquatints, one of the more complex graphic processes, but which allowed Simon to render prints in half-tones and colors. He even preferred to do his own printing so he was able to print the exact colors he wanted.

     

    T. Frantisek Simon, Czech, 1877-1942. Notre Dame in Rain, 1931. Etching with aquatint printed in color on cream laid paper. Gift of Mrs. William A. Small Jr. (Susan Spencer, class of 1948). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1984:21-15

    He also later learned the processes for woodcuts and mezzotints. In 1905, Simon had his first one-man show in Prague, which was composed of approx. 100 of his drawings, paintings, pastels and etchings.  

    Simon's art focused on depicting the places and people he saw, often busy street scenes or cityscapes.  In the early 1900s, Simon was in Paris for the evolution of Cubism but distanced himself from Modernism and instead continued to develop his own style.  

    By 1913, Simon began to think about moving back to Prague, but during one of his visits there, World War I broke out, preventing him from going back to Paris.  He was not drafted into the military, but the war made it difficult for him to make a living as an artist and he missed France.  He did return to Paris after the war ended.

    T. Frantisek Simon, Czech, 1877-1942. Commercial Street, Kyoto, Japan, 1928. Soft-ground etching and aquatint on medium weight, slightly textured, beige JW Zander paper. The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection. Promised Gift. Photography by Colleen McDermott. SC TR 7604.45

    Starting in 1926, Simon set out on a journey around the world with his artistic tools, taking impressions of the places he visited, from the United States to East Asia, India, Egypt and finally returning to Europe.  He was inspired by the places he had visited and created many works from his traveling sketches and impressions. After returning, Simon took a professorship at the Academy of Arts in Prague (where he was first educated), and taught graphic arts.  He took his job very seriously, teaching his students about all aspects of printmaking as well as teaching them about the history of graphic arts. Unfortunately, he had very little time left over for his own art.  The Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia led to the closing of the Academy in 1939.  The stresses of another war plus a decline in Simon's health led to his death in 1942.

    Up through 1937, Simon had made approximately 626 graphic works, using a wide variety of printing methods.  Even though Simon was a very prolific artist, there is not a lot of information about him.  World War II followed by the Communist regime in eastern Europe reduced western access to many of his works.  With the opening up of Czechoslovakia and modern interest in art from that era, there has been a well-deserved though modest revival of his life and work.

    T. Frantisek Simon, Czech, 1877-1942. Nocturne of Stamberk Village, 1918. Etching with aquatint printed in color on cream laid paper. Gift of Mrs. William A. Small Jr. (Susan Spencer, class of 1948). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1984:21-2

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  • Wednesday, November 11, 2015

    Death Intoxicates

    This piece discusses works from the The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection, a collection of prints recently donated to the Museum.

    From the earth, from the air, sustaining forces pour into us--mostly from the earth. To no man does the earth mean so much as to the soldier. When he presses himself down upon her long and powerfully, when he buries his face and his limbs deep in her from the fear of death by shell-fire, then she is his only friend, his brother, his mother; he stifles his terror and his cries in her silence and her security; she shelters him and releases him for ten seconds to live, to run, ten seconds of life; receives him again and often forever.

    -- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remaque

    Percy John Delf Smith. English, 1882-1948. Death Awed from the series Dance of Death, 1914 - 1918. Etching printed in black on medium weight, moderately textured, cream-colored paper. The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection. Promised gift. SC TR 7604.772

    Percy John Delf Smith (1882-1948), an English artist, printmaker, and expert in typography, was an early WWI volunteer. Eager to join, he was accepted after three tries in October of 1916 as a gunner with a fifteen-inch howitzer crew. As an artist he immediately felt the urge to capture his surroundings. Like many soldiers who would keep a diary or write poetry to help make sense of the utter madness and atrocities of war, Smith wanted to record his experiences on the battlefield.  While it may be hard to imagine, some of his drawings were carved into copper plates right on the battlefield, to be later turned into prints; other works started out as paper drawings and were only later etched.

    Like many other unofficial war artists he had to work discretely lest he be suspected of espionage for his depictions of battle movements or suffer censure for his critical perspective on the war. His great Nephew Peter Delf, founder of the Percy Smith foundation, reports that although he did ask for permission from his superiors, who for the most part turned a blind eye, he was nonetheless arrested twice for trying to smuggle out his works between the pages of the Patriotic King and Country magazines he carried.

    Percy John Delf Smith. English, 1882-1948. Death Waits from the series Dance of Death, 1914 - 1918. Etching printed in black on medium weight, moderately textured, cream-colored paper. The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection. Promised gift. SC TR 7604.773

    In 1917 he fought in Thiepval in Northern France, a place that was completely destroyed during the war: “It was a massacre.” It was this battle that inspired his most notable print series. 

    Seven intriguing works titled The Dance of Death were the result. We were very excited when they recently entered the Smith Collection as part of the Gladys Engel and Kurt Lang gift. Beautifully etched and carefully printed this remarkably poignant series was created between battles, when Smith’s military service brought him to an English coastal town where he managed to gain access to a printing press.  

    These prints are directly inspired by the Medieval themed “Dance Macabre” which became popular in Northern Europe in the 15th century during the era of the plague as death and disease despoiled the landscape. The Medieval works functioned as allegorical reminders of the fragility of life and the democracy of death. 

    The Dance of Death (1493) by Michael Wolgemut, from the Liber chronicarum by Hartmann Schedel [Source]

    Percy John Delf Smith. English, 1882-1948. Death Intoxicates from the series Dance of Death, 1914 - 1918. Drypoint and etching printed in black on thick, moderately textured, white paper. The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection. Promised gift. SC TR 7604.778

    Detail of Death Intoxicates

    The choice and execution of this theme is quite unusual for an English printmaker. Death, as personified in Smith’s work, reigns over the battlefield, first as a shrouded solemn and terrifying figure, representing the omnipresence of death and destruction of war.

    Percy John Delf Smith. English, 1882-1948. Death Refuses from the series Dance of Death, 1914 - 1918. Etching printed in black on medium weight, moderately textured, cream-colored paper. The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection. Promised gift. SC TR 7604.776

    Detail from Death Refuses

    Smith’s Grim Reaper also plays with his victims, almost taunting them in their last moments. Refusing a willing soldier by turning his back to him (pictured above) or taking a soldiers hand, one who reaches up asking help from his fellow soldiers just out of sight, but instead finds death eager to comply (pictured below).

    Percy John Delf Smith. English, 1882-1948. Death Forbids from the series Dance of Death, 1914 - 1918. Etching printed in black on medium weight, moderately textured, cream-colored paper. The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection. Promised gift. SC TR 7604.777

    In the end he revels in deathly ecstasy, “intoxicated”, his white bones bare for everyone to see. Death reigned supreme in WWI; over nine million soldiers were sacrificed on the battlefields of northern Europe. Art works such as Smith’s offer us a far more powerful testimony than anything that could be conveyed in photographs.  Sometimes mere documentary representations of reality are incapable of telling the full story.


    Percy John Delf Smith. English, 1882-1948. Death Ponders from the series Dance of Death, 1914 - 1918. Drypoint and etching printed in black on medium weight, moderately textured, cream colored paper. The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection. Promised gift. SC TR 7604.775

    Selections from Dance of Death are currently on view in the Museum in a third floor Works on Paper cabinet. It will remain on view through mid-January 2016.

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