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, July 15, 2016
Guest blogger Maggie Hoot was a Smith College student, class of 2016, with a major in Art History and a Museums Concentration. She was a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
August Sander. German, 1876-1964. The Dadaist Raoul Hausmann, posing, 1930 (printed 1974). Gelatin silver print. Gift of Nicole Moretti Ungar, class of 1982, and Jon Ungar. SC 2014:53-1
Born in 1876, August Sander had wanted to be a photographer since he was a child. However, he worked as a miner and soldier before he was able to pursue his passion in 1899. He worked and traveled throughout Germany, Austria, and Sardinia, but spent most of his life and career near his native Cologne.
Known for photographing people from all social and economic circles during the interwar period, Sander worked with his sitters to create an original, iconic image of the person.
Though many of his portraits were taken in his studio, he also bicycled across the countryside to find his subjects. Over the course of his career, Sander worked on People of the Twentieth Century, a documentary project photographing hundreds of people from around Cologne. He divided his work into seven groups, the Farmer; the Skilled Tradesman; the Woman; Classes and Professions; the Artists; the City; and the Last People (the elderly, deformed, homeless, or unemployed). During the 1920s, Sander spent a great deal of his time with the artists of German avant-garde. Otto Dix, in particular, became a good friend.
In the 1930s, after the Nazis banned his portraits and destroyed his work for not presenting the Aryan ideal, he shifted his photography from portraiture to nature and architectural studies. He was able to save many photo negatives for later reprinting, but of over 40,000 images taken by 1942, only 10,000 survived the war.
Though Sander was fairly well known within Germany, he only gained international attention after his death, when People of the Twentieth Century was published by his son. Sander is now considered a pioneer of documentary photography and his work has served as inspiration for other artists such as Walker Evans and Diane Arbus.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Guest blogger Renee Klann is a Smith College student, class of 2019. She is the 2015-2017 STRIDE Scholar in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. This post discusses the art of Barry Moser, an printmaker and professor at Smith College. A recent gift of 91 of his works was made to the museum by Jeff Dwyer and Elizabeth O'Grady.
“What is the use of a book,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?'"
-Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
After designing and illustrating editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There in the 1980s, Barry Moser was trying to decide what his next project should be. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz seemed like a “logical follow-up,” as he put it, even though he hadn’t read the book. However, he knew that like Lewis Carroll’s stories about Alice, it was an adventure starring a girl in a fantastical land. When Moser read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz he was not especially impressed with L. Frank Baum’s prose or the original illustrations by W. W. Denslow, but he was “struck by the parallels . . . between the stories of the two little girls.” He made the case that Dorothy is an American version of Alice, and he created illustrations that reveal the similarities between them.
Barry Moser, American, 1940-. The Reverie of Alice’s Sister. Two-color wood engraving on medium weight, slightly textured, white paper. Gift of Elizabeth O’Grady and Jeffrey P. Dwyer. SC 2014:54-74
Moser saw numerous elements of the stories that mirrored each other, primarily the heroines themselves. Both Alice and Dorothy are kind, sensible young girls caught in strange places and trying to find a way home. To demonstrate their similarity, Moser used the same model for Dorothy (his daughter Madeline, Smith class of 1994) that he had used for Alice. Another comparison he made between the stories was the way the heroines start their journeys. Alice falls down a rabbit hole and Dorothy is lifted up by a tornado, which, although they go in opposite directions, are both funnel-shaped spaces. In addition, both heroines encounter bizarre people, talking animals, and monsters. These strange and sometimes dangerous interactions made the stories seem more like nightmares than whimsical adventures, so instead of creating typical, cheerful children’s book illustrations, Moser said he “approached the images from a distinctly adult point of view.” He embraced the creepiness of Wonderland long before Tim Burton did in his movies, and made many of the characters, like the Mad Hatter below, look unsettling.
Barry Moser, American, 1940-. The Mad Hatter, 1982. Wood engraving printed in black on medium weight, smooth, cream-colored paper. Gift of Elizabeth O’Grady and Jeffrey P. Dwyer. SC 2014:54-59
Moser also incorporated political satire into the illustrations for both stories. In Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, the figure of Humpty Dumpty is based on former president Richard Nixon. Moser decided to take the satire further in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He said he “peppered it with more than a few political comments, like Ronald Reagan cast as the Wizard—which makes my Oz a bit nightmarish, as so much of politics is.” The absurdity of American politics is a natural fit for the strangeness of Wonderland and Oz.
The physical settings of the stories were very important to Moser, and they provided a way to contrast Alice’s and Dorothy’s experiences. In Moser’s mind, the voyages of the heroines represent the landscapes in which they live, with Alice in the small, enclosed spaces of England and Dorothy on the wide open Kansas prairie. Think of Alice eating a magic mushroom to shrink herself so she can get through the door to the rose garden, and Dorothy walking through the huge field of poppies. Moser referred to these as claustrophobic and agoraphobic spaces, respectively, and contrasted them in both the design and illustrations of the books. The books about Alice have marginal notes that enclose the text, while The Wonderful Wizard of Oz creates a sense of spaciousness through the nearly-square shape of the book and the open margins.
Barry Moser, American, 1940-. Home Again from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1985. Wood engraving printed in black and grey on medium thick, smooth, white paper. Gift of Elizabeth O’Grady and Jeffrey P. Dwyer. SC 2014:54-58
Home Again is an excellent example of Moser’s use of space in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s farmhouse is very small and low in the image, dwarfed by a long, flat prairie horizon and a huge expanse of sky. The sky is not empty, but instead full of faint images of the characters Dorothy met on her journey through Oz. Although it’s crowded with faces, the illustration preserves the sense of vast open space that is integral to Dorothy’s story.
Alice and Dorothy came from different continents and their journeys took them to different magical lands, but the heroines do have a great deal in common, from their personalities to their experiences with strange creatures and nonsensical situations. Barry Moser realized how similar they were and cleverly demonstrated it in his illustrations.
Friday, June 24, 2016
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.
Guest bloggers Madison Agresti ‘19 and Emma Ning ‘19 are Smith College students and two of the authors of this cabinet. This installation derives from a First Year Seminar in Fall 2015, Re-Membering Marie Antoinette, taught by Professor Janie Vanpée. In this seminar the students collaborated to create an online exhibition that examined the economic, social, and aesthetic roles of an array of luxury objects and cultural practices in the late eighteenth century.
Charles Volaire (?). French, 1750-1820. Girl Lacemaker. n.d. Black chalk on off white laid paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Barr Jr. in memory of Ruth Wedgwood Kennedy. SC 1969:13
During the eighteenth century lace adorned almost every ensemble worn by the French aristocracy and the wealthy bourgeoisie. Lace originated in Italy and Flanders in the early sixteenth century, but Colbert, Louis XIV’s finance minister, began to promote it as a French industry to rival that of Venice in the latter half of the sixteenth century. The first cradle of lacemaking in France was Alençon, celebrated for its own particular pattern, the point de France. As plates from Diderot’s Encyclopédie illustrate, lace makers, or dentellières, were mostly women who typically worked at home, sometimes going blind from spending so much time turning thread into intricate designs.
From Diderot’s Encyclopédie. Paris, 1782–1832. Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College
Porcelain also had many uses in eighteenth-century France, from decorative sculptural pieces to more utilitarian cosmetic pots, vases, inkstands, and tableware like wine coolers, tureens, and tiered table centerpieces, as the scene of two couples flirting over a late supper in Moreau le Jeune’s Le Souper fin illustrates well.
Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune. French, 1741–1814 Le Souper fin, from Le Monument du Costume Physique et Moral de la fin du dix-huitième siècle ou Tableaux de la vie. 1789. Engraving on paper Purchased with the gift of Mrs. Charles Lincoln Taylor (Margaret Rand Goldthwait, class of 1921). SC 1964:24-24
The extensive gilding and range of enamel colors on this porcelain cup and plate are typical of the decorative style developed by the Sèvres Porcelain Royal Manufactury after the discovery in the 1760s of the once-secret ingredient, kaolin, used in China to make high-fire, hard-paste porcelain. Unlike the porcelain plates and decorative centerpiece featured in the print, Le Souper fin whose style dates from the late eighteenth-century, this cup and plate reflect the Neoclassical style fashionable under Louis Philippe.