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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, May 12, 2015

    Standing Turk

    Guest blogger Aurelia Grant Wingate is a Smith College student, class of 2016, majoring in Psychology. She wrote this post for Islamic Art and Architecture, a course which surveys the architecture, landscape, book arts and luxury objects produced in Islamic contexts from Spain to India, and from the seventh through the twentieth centuries. The Fall 2014 session was taught by Professor Alex Dika Seggerman, the Five College Post-Doc in Islamic Art & Architecture.

    Jean-Léon Gérôme. French, 1824 - 1904. Standing Turk. Black chalk on light stained off white wove paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-9

    The French academic painter Jean-Léon Gérôme is known for his hyper illusionistic style, which he used to create detailed paintings of life and culture in the newly discovered East during the nineteen century. Gérôme quickly became a popular Orientalist painter, providing Europe with hyper-sexual and exoticized images of “the Oriental”.

    Standing Turk is a detailed sketch of a man wearing the uniform of a Turkish military officer. The image was inspired by Gérôme’s travels East. Although the man in the sketch stands as if unaware of the artist, Gérôme is known for recreating images from his travels inside his studio in Paris. This polished sketch was most likely drawn from a European model wearing authentic Turkish garments. The fine detail and focus on the clothing brings a truth to the staged image, and makes the figure identifiable as a foreigner. The turban and saber are additional markers of the man as “Oriental” to a European audience.

    This image can not be found replicated exactly in any of Gérôme’s completed oil paintings, however the painting Young Greeks at the Mosque depicts a man wearing similar styled clothing, and standing in a similar stance as the Standing Turk. Not all of Gérôme’s sketches were turned into finished artworks, but Standing Turk could have been a figure drawing later adapted for this painting.

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  • Thursday, May 7, 2015

    Buzkashi from the series Musharraff

    Guest blogger Azania Toure is a Smith College student, class of 2016, majoring in Art History. She wrote this post for Islamic Art and Architecture, a course which surveys the architecture, landscape, book arts and luxury objects produced in Islamic contexts from Spain to India, and from the seventh through the twentieth centuries. The Fall 2014 session was taught by Professor Alex Dika Seggerman, the Five College Post-Doc in Islamic Art & Architecture.

    Saira Wasim, Pakistani (1975 - ). Buzkashi, from the series Musharaff, 2003-2004. Graphite, gouache and gold on wasli paper. Purchased with the Josephine A. Stein, class of 1927, Fund in honor of the class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2004:25

    Buzkashi from the series Musharraf is a contemporary Mughal-styled miniature painting by Pakistani artist, Saira Wasim. An integration of Persian and Indian influences, its crowded composition resonates with early Mughal ruler portraits and painting traditions.

    The main figure depicted in the center of the piece is former President Pervez Musharraf, who ruled during the nuclear proliferation age from 2001-2007. In the drawing, he becomes a representative of the Hindu god, Shiva, who is known as the destroyer, a source of good and evil, and the balancer of universes. Similar to the Hindu deity, Pervez is illustrated with four arms. Wasim’s satirical interpretation serves to debunk Pervez’s presidential power and allegiance to Pakistan.

    Detail of Pervez Musharraf

    In side profile, Pervez’s “Shiva-like” depiction intentionally looks to the West as a way to reference his loyalty and biases towards the Western world. Nicknamed the “Cowboy”, Pervez easily aligned himself with Western forces post 9/11 attacks, which sought to “scape-goat” Pakistani citizens such as scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan (shown conspiring at the bottom of the page) for nuclear weapons development. As he gazes to the west, his dedication to America and disloyalty to his nation becomes solidified. Thus, his raised hand salutes the west, while his back faces the proverbial East (Pakistan).

    Detail of Abdul Qadeer Khan, on right

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  • Wednesday, April 29, 2015

    Figure and Image

    Guest blogger Saraphina Masters is a Smith College student, class of 2017, majoring in Classical Studies and Art History. She is the 2013-2015 STRIDE Scholar in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. Her exhibition Figure and Image, featuring art donated by collector Selma Erving, will be on view through Sunday May 3rd, 2015.

    As a child, I thoroughly enjoyed all the museums my family visited and that enjoyment developed a keen academic interest in institutions of art. In turn, that played a large role in why I chose to attend Smith College. Considering the Smith College Museum of Art as well as the Museums Concentration, it only seemed right to go to a college with interests that matched my own. As the STRIDE Scholar to the Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, I am fortunate enough to have begun working in the museum my first semester on campus. Though I wouldn’t apply to the Museums Concentration until the fall of my sophomore year, I was already gaining experience working in the field I hoped to make a career in. My work as a research assistant to Aprile Gallant has taught me a great deal about the realities and practicalities of museums. I’ve been able to observe the museum’s reinstallation process and learn about all that goes into the words and the art that visitors see on the walls.

    As part of the Nixon Gallery’s first round of reinstallation in 2014, I selected master drawings from the era of previous director Robert O. Parks as well as works in the collection from the early faculty of Smith College. This fall, I was given the opportunity to plan an exhibition for the corridor outside the Cunningham Center. The collection of Selma Erving is comprised of 540 drawings, 74 prints, and 100 illustrated books, the majority of which come from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Needless to say, picking less than twenty objects to hang was a Herculean task, especially for someone as interested in the time period and style that Ms. Erving seemed to favor as I am.

    Odilon Redon, French (1840 – 1916). Printed by Auguste Clot, Fench (1858 – 1936). Beatrice, 1897. lithograph printed in color on chine appliqué paper. Gift of Selma Erving, class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1978:1-40

    I began attempting to familiarize myself with the both the collection and the collector by perusingNineteenth and Twentieth Century Prints: The Selma Erving Collection, a catalogue prepared and published by the SCMA. The highlights of the collection were preface by two essays written by Charles Chetham, the director at the time, and Elizabeth Mongan, the curator at the time, from which I learned a great deal about the fascinating Ms. Erving (class of 1927). Though the book only featured select prints and not the whole collection, I was able to glean a great deal about the sort of collecting Ms. Erving did and what themes I might chose to focus on. With some exceptions, Post-Impressionist France was the main setting of the collection. Additionally, I noticed a great number of pieces that featured the human body, either as seen in portraits, figure studies, or parts of portfolios. These two aspects came together in the first piece that truly stood out to me and would remain the touchstone during the whole process:Miss Loie Fuller, an 1893 lithograph by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French (1864 - 1901). Miss Loïe Fuller, 1893. Brush and spatter lithograph with keystone in olive green, color stone in various colors and gold powder on beige wove paper. Gift of Selma Erving, class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1978:1-45

    From there, I was able to use the museum’s database of compile a constantly fluctuating list of pieces to be displayed in the corridor come spring semester. As I planned, I noticed two separate fields making themselves apparent within the collection. One was dynamic portraits, such as Marie Laurencin’s self-portrait or Edgar Degas’ print of his good friend and contemporary Mary Cassatt as she explores the Louvre.

    Edgar Degas, French (1834 - 1917). Mary Cassatt at the Louvre: The Etruscan Gallery, 1879-1880. Soft ground etching, etching, aquatint and drypoint printed in black on thin Japan paper. Gift of Selma Erving, class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1972:50-17

    The second was more domestic or bathing scenes, exemplified by Camille Pissarro, Pierre Bonnard, and most notably in Suzanne Valadon’s etching featuring two women of separate generations engaged in the ubiquitous practice of cleansing.

    Suzanne Valadon, French (1865 - 1938). The Bath, c. 1910. Soft ground etching printed in black on Rives wove paper. Gift of Selma Erving, class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1972:50-136

    Difficult as it was, I finally pared down my list to seventeen pieces, sixteen of which are prints, that I feel embody both Ms. Erving’s keen collecting practices and the unique genre of depictions of the human form. As a recently declared Museums Concentrator with an interest in curating, this experience has been invaluable in my exploration of the field. I’m still trying to determine precisely what I want to do and what I want to work within a museum setting but what I’ve learned during my time at the Cunningham Center and with the Concentration has certainly affirmed that museums are the place in which I want to stay. 

    Works donated by Selma Erving are now on view on the second floor of the Museum in the Cunningham Center corridor as part of the exhibition Figure and Image: The Selma Erving Collection through May 3rd, 2015.

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