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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.

  • Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Odd Couples: Venus vs. Eve

    Albrecht Dürer. German, 1471 – 1528. Adam and Eve,1504. Engraving printed in black on antique laid paper. Bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Murray Seasongood (Agnes Senior, class of 1911). SC 1983:20-4. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe.

    Marcantonio Raimondi. Italian, ca. 1480 – ca. 1535. Venus and Adonis,n.d. Engraving on paper. Purchased. SC 1940:16-1. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe.

    The Cunningham Center harbors a wonderful collection of old master prints that is especially strong in the area of Northern European Renaissance works.  One of the eye-opening experiences you can have when working with old master prints is uncovering their insights into the history and philosophy of a past culture.

    The portability of prints in the early Renaissance made them the perfect medium to propagate cultural beliefs, as well as subjects and trends in art.  Prints travelled easily and were relatively affordable, enabling a cross-pollination of art and ideas between northern and southern Europe.  Relatively egoless, printmakers of the early fifteenth century readily shared with and copied works from other artists. One such well-known and respected copyist was Marcantonio Raimondi, considered an important innovator in the history of Italian printmaking.  While most Italian printmakers of the time copied directly from known painted works, Raimondi was also famous for his free interpretations of works by other artists.

    Raimondi’s Venus and Adonisis a fascinating example of this practice.  Raimondi re-works portions of Adam and Eve,an engraving by the famous German artist Albrecht Dürer. In Venus and Adonis,Raimondi depicts a nude man and woman situated in a landscape composed similarly to Dürer’s in Adam and Eve,and directly copies Dürer’s lazy-eyed stag, which appears in both prints from behind a centrally located skinny tree.

    Detail from Adam and Eve

    Detail from Venus and Adonis

    In a way, these iconographic borrowings transform Raimondi’s Venus and Adonisinto a southern “pagan” equivalent to Dürer’s northern Christian Adam and Eve.

    The correlation between Adam and Eveand Venus and Adonisis not as farfetched as it may seem at first glance. In Ovid’s story of Venus and Adonisit is Venus who actively seduces Adonis. Often portrayed as a manipulative seductress, Venus’s attributes were easily transposed onto the biblical Eve, who, according to Saint Augustine (354 – 430), probably the most influential Christian theologian of all time, used her womanly charms to entice the innocent Adam into sin, ultimately leading to the Fall of mankind.

    That Eve used her womanly charm to achieve this feat leads us to an interesting detail that connects the two stories in these prints even further. In Raimondi’s print, Adonis is holding Venus’s breast. The breast is easily confused in this context with the seductive round apple Eve offers to Adam, a correlation that has been made in other works of art.

    Hans Baldung Grien. German, 1484/85-1545. Adam and Eve,1511. Chiaroscuro woodcut. Rosenwald Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington. 1943.3.907

    Comparing these two works by Raimondi and Dürer reveals how artists of the time made interpretive choices to convey cultural and religious ideas, in this case regarding the cunning and destructive sexual power of women—an idea that had currency in both northern and southern Europe, and that unfortunately still resonates in our time.

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  • Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Announcing Student Picks Winners 2011-2012

    Congratulations to the Student Picks winners for the 2011 - 2012 academic year! These Smith students will get to organize an art show using the Cunningham Center's collection of prints, drawings and photographs.

    October 7, 2011 – Nicole Teitelbaum ‘14

    November 4, 2011 – Elizabeth Stewart ‘13

    December 2, 2011 – Maggie Weiler ‘15

    February 3, 2012 – Margot Lurie ‘12

    March 2, 2012 – Gabrielle Morrison ‘15

    April 6, 2012 – Catherine Popovici ‘13

    May 4, 2012 – Jasmine Setoodehnia ‘14

    October 5, 2012 – Laila Phillips ‘15

    After collecting all five ballot boxes on Friday from their locations around campus, we poured the many entries into our infamous big red bucket (courtesy of the Education Department!). SCMA Director Jessica Nicoll picked the seven names, and two alternates.

    Meanwhile, we're close on the heels of our first Student Picks show of the year. Nicole Teitelbaum '14, whose name was drawn last year, will show her picks on the Friday after next -- October 7, from 12 to 4 PM. The topic is depictions of mental illness and disorder in art, which relates to Nicole's work as the chair of Smith's chapter of Active Minds as well as her Psychology major.

    I will post an invitation on the SCMA Facebook page next week, so remember to "like us" on Facebook if you want to receive updates on upcoming Student Picks exhibitions.

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  • Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Student Picks: Women, Woodblock Prints and Words

    This week you'll see a double-bill of posts about Student Picks, our student exhibition program, to mark this Friday's fast approaching deadline for Smith students to enter to win the chance to organize an art show at SCMA. In today's post, guest blogger Lori E. Harris AC '11 reflects on her Student Picks experience in the spring of 2011.

    Martin Puryear. American (b. 1941). Avey, from 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. SC 2000:36-6

    I was selected to participate in the Student Picks program in the Fall of ‘10. Although I was very excited that I had been one of seven students chosen to develop and curate my own art exhibition in the Smith College Museum of Art’s Cunningham Center, I anticipated that the process would be very structured and formal. However, upon attending my first Student Picks meeting with Amanda Shubert of the Cunningham Center, I soon discovered that the staff at the Cunningham Center’s goal was to make our experience both educational and enjoyable. Amanda let us know early on in the process that each Student Picks would have the full support of not only the staff but also the resources of the Cunningham Center in selecting and organizing our prints for our final exhibition.

    What I found most helpful in this process was that the staff at the Cunningham Center allowed us to define for ourselves what we viewed as artistically creative. The one-on-one conversations with Amanda about my individual interests allowed me to synthesize and focus my ideas and draw on themes and coursework that I had studied throughout previous semesters. I was able to connect that coursework with works of art that make up the vast collection within the Cunningham Center. I became aware that the Cunningham Center owned a volume of woodblock illustrations created by Martin Puryear. By creating abstract portraits of female characters from Jean Toomer’s Cane, Puryear’s illustrations situate the viewer in the historical context of the period, calling attention to the connections between words, community, relationships and culture. Similarly, Japanese Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” was an important vehicle for and reflection on narrative — representing scenes from folk stories and Kabuki plays as well as a cultural narrative of place. Although Puryear’s style is completely different from Ukiyo-e, both can be viewed as the nexus of many complex layers of text, narrative and history.

    The staff of the Cunningham Center gave me an opportunity to develop, shape and curate an exhibition that was a transformational experience for me. By supporting my process from the very beginning until the closing of the show, they gave me the confidence to believe that I could create an exhibition that was not only engaging and educational for the audience but also enjoyable. Student Picks is a unique and progressive concept. I would argue that it is one of the few programs on campus that brings together students from every discipline and gives them an opportunity to integrate their academic interest with art. There were a good number of students who attended my exhibition and the primary question they asked before they left was “how can I become a Student Picks!?” I believe the success of the Student Picks Program is evident in that very question.

    Toyota Hokkei. Japanese, Surimono: The Hell Courtesan (Jigokudayû), from series Three Prints of Courtesans, mid-1820s. Woodcut printed in color on embossed paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Barker (Margaret Clark Rankin, class of 1908). SC 1968:478

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