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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.

  • Friday, September 26, 2014


    Jean-Michel le Jeune Moreau. French, 1741 — 1814. La dame du palais de la reine, from Monument du Costume Physique et Moral de la fin du dix-huitieme siecle 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 1964:24-12

    For the past few months I have been working on my corridor show, BOW DOWN: Queens in Art, now on view in the second floor of the Museum. Curating this exhibition was a completely new experience for me. I’ve never worked on a show of prints, drawings and photographs before, nor have I drawn from such a large collection of works. The Cunningham Center has over 18,000 pieces of art, and at first it was overwhelming: how could I possibly know where to start?

    Salvador Dali. Spanish, 1904 — 1989.Queen of Spades, Part of Playing Card Suite, 1970. Lithograph printed in color on paper. Gift of Reese Palley and Marilyn Arnold Palley. SC 1991:49-2c

    Inspiration came in the form of a donation from the Andy Warhol Foundation, two prints from the artist’s Reigning Queens series. Entranced by the image of Queen Elizabeth II, reproduced and manipulated by Warhol, I began to think about the issue of representation: who controls the visual legacy of a royal woman? The seed of the exhibition had been planted.

    With the help of my colleagues, I sought out other queens in our collection, and compiled a selection of art that spanned centuries of Western monarchies.

    Queen Victoria - Her Latest Portrait, 1900. 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. Half tone on paper mounted on paperboard. SC 4643-566

    There are fewer queens in the world than a century ago, but our fascination with royal women has continued. Teenagers still swoon over the fashions of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, while paparazzi take endless shots of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, never quite satiating our desire to see the newest pictures of this fashionable member of the British royal family.

    Although queens have been prominent figures in Western monarchies for the past five hundred years, their authority was often limited. Kings ruled as heads of state, while queens were responsible for continuing the royal family line. When women such as the long-reigning British Queen Victoria and Queen Marie de Medici of France did gain power, they were careful to represent themselves as both royal and maternal, in keeping with the gender norms of their time. Likewise, the ideal queen was beautiful. Artists emphasized the attractiveness of Her Majesty, often improving on her actual appearance.

    Rene Portocarrero. Cuban, b. 1912. Queen #2, 1949. Crayon and ink on paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cantor. SC 1955:57

    For some queens, control of their image was the greatest influence they had on their courts and their kingdoms. No portrait was just a likeness, but a record of court culture and a piece of propaganda that still reveals the mindset of artist and patron alike.

    Before the age of photography, prints spread these visual messages about the appearance and life of royals. Often, a painted portrait of a royal was only visible to the court and visiting dignitaries. By translating the painting into a print, artists made these visions of sovereignty available to a wider audience. Many of the works in this show are prints made after large paintings, such as L'Accouchement de la Reine, an engraving on loan from the Mead Museum, Amherst College (shown below).

    Jean-Marc Nattier. French, 1685–1766. Printed by Benoît Audran. French, 1661–1721. After Peter Paul Rubens. Flemish, 1577–1640. L’Accouchement de la Reine. c. 1707–10. Engraving. Mead Art Museum, Amherst College. Gift of the Wise Arts Council. AC 1976.90.11

    The painting on which this print was based was part of a group of works commissioned from Peter Paul Rubens by Marie de Medici, queen of France, in 1621. It was later reproduced by Jean-Marc  Nattier; This cycle highlights the major events and accomplishments of Marie’s life through a mythological lens.  This engraving celebrates the birth of her son, the future Louis XIII.

    Detail of L'Accouchement de la Reine

    Marie de Medici, lounging on her throne, is flanked by gods and goddesses from Roman mythology. Her new role as mother to the heir is clear as she looks at her infant. Next to her, a goddess offers her a cornucopia bursting with flowers and baby heads, a gift of future fecundity. The queen has crafted an image of herself as devoted mother and powerful regent.

    L'Accouchement de la Reine and the other works in this exhibition reveal the power of art to define our perceptions of public figures. I hope you have the chance to see them yourself!

    BOW DOWN is open from September 12 through January 4. 


    Robin Whitham Acker - 22/11/2014

    "Bow Down"

    Robin Whitham Acker - 22/11/2014

    "Bow Down"

    Really brilliant work, Maggie - and well done - never saw the Dali, Portocarrero, and others before. One could spend years searching in the Cunningham Center and never tire of it! Hope to see you all again, soon!

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  • Wednesday, September 17, 2014

    Announcing the 2014-2015 Student Picks Winners!

    Photography by Maggie Kurkoski

    The Student Picks Sweepstakes ended last Friday, and we have our six winners!

    Student Picks gives students the chance to curate their own personal, individual art show using works from the Museum, on view for one day in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings and Photographs. Six lucky students are chosen by lottery as part of a campus-wide sweepstakes that takes place each September.

    Photography by Maggie Kurkoski

    Jessica Nicoll, director of the Museum, came by the Cunningham Center this past Monday to pick our six winners and two alternates, drawn from 525 ballots in all!

    This year’s Student Picks winners are ...

              November 7, 2014 – Kyle Boyd '15

              December 5, 2014 – Emily Kim '15

              February 6, 2015 – Yu Yan '18

              March 6, 2015 – Samantha Page '17

              April 3, 2015 – Niyati Dave '15

              October 2, 2015 - Hui Yan '17

    Congratulations to the 2014-15 winners!

    Photography by Maggie Kurkoski

    The first Student Picks show of the year is fast approaching. Lingxuan Li ’17 will present her art exhibition from 1-4PM on October 3, delving into the world of sarcastic and pointed political art. We hope to see you there!


  • Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Reinstallation & Reinterpretation

    The Works-On-Paper Gallery, 2nd floor
    Photography by Henriette Kets de Vries

    Summers at the Smith College Museum of Art are usually tranquil, but this summer we've been busy with Phase I of one huge project: the Reinstallation and Reinterpretation of the permanent collection! It all started when our director and chief curator, Jessica Nicoll, decided that the Museum's walls needed a fresh coat of paint (after all, it had been over ten years since the opening of the new building). As all the art would need to come down from the walls anyway, she realized that it was a great chance to look at the collection in a new light.

    For the past two years, we've been discussing and planning just how to do that. It's a two-part process: this summer, we focused on the second and third floor galleries, where we house works spanning ancient Egypt through eighteenth-century Europe. Next summer we'll renovate the lower level and first floor of the Museum.

    Aprile Gallant, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, hangs a work with Stephanie Sullivan, Assistant Preparator
    Photography by Henriette Kets de Vries

    For those of us in the Cunningham Center, the Reinstallation is an opportunity to bring even more prints, drawings and photographs out to the public. On the second floor, in the works-on-paper gallery, we will have a show about the origins of the Museum's paper collection, with art from professors, alumnae, students, clubs, and everyone else who planted the seeds of the Cunningham Center.

    Photography by Henriette Kets de Vries

    Photography by Henriette Kets de Vries

    Displaying paper can be tricky: too much light damages photographs, prints and drawings relatively quickly, so these works cannot be in the galleries as long as a painting or a statue. Limiting their exposure to light is essential.

    Still, we wanted to bring even more artworks on paper into the permanent galleries. Our solution: works-on-paper cabinets with drawers, so that visitors can open and see the art themselves.

    A Works-On-Paper cabinet on the second floor

    The art in the cabinets will build on the ideas and themes of nearby art on the walls on the second and third floors. They will change once or twice a year, so even more paper-based objects can be seen by visitors.

    The second and third floors will both be open to the public tomorrow, September 12th. We can't wait for you to see it yourself, and we look invite you to share your comments via the new Visitor Survey area on the second floor!

    Read more about the Reinstallation project on the Grécourt Gate, news and events for the Smith College community: Gallery Redesign at Smith College Museum of Art Puts Collection in a 'New Light'