RSS Feed

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 4, 2014


    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 Emily Kim '15 discusses her show “ALWAYS CONTAINER, SOMETIMES CONTAINED” which will be on view FRIDAY, December 5 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you here!

    Chester J. Michalik, American (1935 - ). Untitled (Las Vegas), 1983. Color photograph on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1985:28-2

    Architecture today is often seen less as an art form and more as articulated spaces tailored to human needs.  It can be hard to see the beauty in a glass curtain wall skyscraper or a cookie-cutter motel when compared to, say, a Van Gogh. 

    Juan Laurent, French (1816 - 1892). Interior of the Mosque Cordova, ca. 1860s. Albumen print in bound photograph album. Purchased with Hillyer-Tryon-Mather Fund, with funds given in memory of Nancy Newhall (Nancy Parker, class of 1930) and in honor of Beaumont Newhall, and with funds given in honor of Ruth Wedgwood Kennedy. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1982:38-1224

    But being able to find and capture the beauty of a seemingly generic space is an art in and of itself.  Architecture is (or if not, should be) first and foremost about functionality.  That being said it is still an art form - an outlet for creative minds to rethink how we live our everyday lives and how we can improve them.

    Unknown artist after Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese. Storm, early 20th century. Woodcut printed in color on paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-461

    Always Container, Sometimes Contained attempts to celebrate “the box” as an art piece, a stimulating and intriguing ode to something often thought of as a simple "container."


  • Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    Guerrilla Girls and the Art of Sarcasm

    Guest blogger Anya Gruber is a Smith College student, class of 2016, majoring in Art History. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

    Smith College students are no strangers to wit and well-timed sarcastic comments. Nor are we strangers to feminism and fighting for equality of all kinds. The Guerilla Girls, a group of women who remain anonymous by taking on the name of dead female artists, seem like they would fit right in at Smith. They create posters with sharply satirical messages and images, cutting straight to the heart of the deeply ingrained sexism and racism that is all too characteristic of the art world. They focus primarily on the underrepresentation of women and people of color in galleries and museums, but also comment on Hollywood, playwriting and art publications. They criticize the imbalance of politics, and defend women’s rights. The Guerrilla Girls themselves seem like a very interesting, dedicated group of people – to maintain anonymity, they wear gorilla masks to every public appearance. 

    Guerrilla Girls, American 20th century. Hormone Imbalance, Melanin Deficiency, 1993. Offset lithograph printed in black on medium thick, smooth, white paper. Purchased with the Josephine A. Stein, class of 1927, Fund in honor of the class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2014:31-32

    For the past week or so, I’ve been helping to catalogue 68 Guerrilla Girls prints that the Cunningham Center recently purchased. I was familiar with the Guerilla Girls before I started this project, but the only one of their posters I could readily recognize was the most famous one, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” with the image of the nude woman with the ubiquitous, delightfully monstrous gorilla head.

    Guerrilla Girls, American 20th century. Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? from Guerrilla Girls, Most Wanted 1985 – 2006, 1989. Photolithograph printed in color on paper. Purchased with the gift of the Fred Bergfors and Margaret Sandberg Foundation. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2006:44-7

    Now, looking at all the prints as I’m cataloguing them, I feel like I’ve learned so much. They make use of a lot of statistics and other factual information to make their point which, alongside incredibly pointed remarks and bold headlines that capture your attention, makes quite a memorable combination. 

    Guerrilla Girls, American 20th century. Bus Companies are More Enlightened Than NYC Art Galleries, from Guerrilla Girls, Most Wanted 1985 – 2006, 1986. Lithograph printed in black on paper. Purchased with the gift of the Fred Bergfors and Margaret Sandberg Foundation. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2006:44-4

    The Guerrilla Girls are bringing attention to very serious issues in concise, daring posters. The posters make their point quickly, and their sharp sarcasm makes the facts all the more shocking, knowing that what they’re saying is absolutely true. 


  • Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    Silverpoint: Metal on Paper

    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.

    Dieric Bouts, early Netherlandish, ca. 1415 - 1475, active Leuven (modern-day Louvain) by 1457. Portrait of a Young Man, late 1460's-1470's. Silverpoint on ivory prepared paper mounted on paper with several later touches in graphite laid down on stiff paperboard. Purchased with the Drayton Hillyer Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1939:3

    The history of the graphite pencil stretches back to the mid-16th century in Europe.  Before the wide availability of pencils, silverpoint was a very popular medium for creating reasonably permanent sketches and drawings (charcoal and chalk were both available, but not very stable over time). Silverpoint was used as early as the 12th century for both record keeping and the creation of art. In this medium, a line is produced by pressing a metal stylus (most often silver, but also gold, copper, and lead) to a specially prepared surface. In the early 15th century, the artist Cennino Cennini wrote Il Libro dell'arte, a how-to guide for Renaissance art creation. He recommended using a paste that included burned and ground fowl bones applied to paper, although many other methods were used.

    Detail of Dieric Bouts' Portrait of a Young Man

    In the Renaissance, silverpoint drawings were not considered completed works of art, and the medium was typically used in preparatory sketches for a painting.  It was also used as a common starting point in the education of young artists. It taught them how to draw with precision and patience before they moved on to more advanced media.  Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Durer were both taught in and taught their students via silver point.

    Silver point was a difficult medium to master because you could only produce one shade, no matter how much force was applied to the stylus.  Also, it could only be used on specially prepared ground and was impossible to erase. In comparison to the chalks and inks that were gaining popularity at the time, silver point had the advantage in terms of precision.  Chalk had an added disadvantage in that it was easy to smudge.


    Alan James Robinson, American, b.1950. Self-Portrait. Metal point on treated paper. Gift of Priscilla Paine Van der Poel, class of 1928. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1983:44-30

    The creation of the graphite pencil changed everything.  The markings were relatively permanent, yet could be erased.  A fine, even line could be created with little effort.  By the 1600s graphite pencils had completely replaced silver point in just about all applications.  Silverpoint was rarely used and works in silverpoint were largely ignored.  However, a few artists educated in silver point, such as Rembrandt, still used the medium occasionally.  Thanks to the inherent permanence of silverpoint, many works from the Renaissance are still in fairly good condition. 

    There were several minor revivals of the artistic use of silverpoint in the succeeding centuries.

    The first occurred in England in the 1800s with several of the Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Frederic Leighton. There was another revival in the early 20th century associated with Joseph Stella. He was an American modernist artist and draftsman. He once described silverpoint as “the clearest graphic eloquence.”

    In the modern era, one of the challenges for creating silverpoint has eased as commercially prepared papers and styluses are available (of course, you can still prepare your own paper using one of the many recipes that can be found on the internet).