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.

  • Tuesday, October 6, 2015

    Announcing the Student Picks 2015-16 Winners!

    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 Jess Berube

    We picked three winners and an alternate each from the paper and online ballots. This year had our most entries in the history of the program--almost 2000 in total!

    This year’s Student Picks winners are ...

    November 6, 2015 – Amalia Leamon '18

    December 4, 2015 – Stephanie Pinedo '18

    February 5, 2015 – Anna Saunders '17J

    March 4, 2016 – Junmanee Cadenhead '16

    April 1, 2016 – Beryl Ford '17

    October 7, 2016 – Ellen Sulser '18


    Congratulations to the winners!


  • Tuesday, September 29, 2015

    Student Picks: SHE

    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 Yu Yan '18  discusses her show "SHE" which will be on view FRIDAY, October 2 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you here!

    The reason I picked these photographs is simple and direct: to find different “she”.

    Imogen Cunningham, American (1883-1976). Helena Mayer, Fencer, 1935. Gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:19-10

    Judy Dater, American (born 1941). Imogen and Twinka, Yosemite, 1974. Gelatin silver print. Purchased with the gift of the National Endowment for the Arts. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1977:10-6

    How did women evaluate themselves? How did the photographer define the women through the lens? What kind of role was expected to be played by women? And how did women respond to the social expectations that already existed?

    Felice Beato, British, born Italy (1825-1904). At her Toilette, ca. 1868. Albumen print with hand coloring mounted on cream colored paperboard. Purchased with the 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 1982:38-2 (4)

    Among these photographs, women are depicted with diverse values and roles, over a really wide range of cultures, time periods, locations, religions and many other social backgrounds.  In this exhibition, I set up several groups for these photographs about women, so it will be interesting if you could imagine any connections between two photographs in one group.

    Joel Meyerowitz, American (born 1938). NYC Easter, 1984. Vintage chromogenic contact print. Gift of Nicole Moretti Ungar, class of 1982, and Jon Ungar. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2014:53-57


  • Wednesday, September 23, 2015

    Books of Hours

    The Book of Hours was a type of Christian prayer text that was extremely common in the Middle Ages. Unlike most of the religious writing being produced during this time, they were intended for private, individual devotion, meant to imitate the structure of monastic hours in a format more easily accessible to lay folk. They could be lavishly illustrated or left unadorned, depending on how wealthy the owner was.

    Unknown (French). Illuminated Leaf from book of hours, n.d. Color and gold on vellum. Gift of the estate of Mrs. Charles Lincoln Taylor (Margaret Rand Goldthwait, class of 1921). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1994:20-19

    The above example would have been taken from a finer edition; the illustration depicts the Adoration of the Magi, wherein three kings pay their respects to Mary and the infant Jesus. While some of the background details are crude, the figures themselves are well-made.

    Detail of figures

    The kings in particular are lavishly dressed—though their style is certainly more in accordance with medieval fashion than biblical. The crowns, halos, and many of the details on the hair and clothing have been highlighted in shell gold, a kind of paint made by crushing gold leaf in a mixture of water and adhesive. This gives it a wonderfully luminescent quality.

    Unknown (French). Single leaf from Book of Hours, ca. 1480. Ink and gold on vellum. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1950:144

    One can also see the faint margin lines on the outer edges of this page, providing the scribe and artist (these were usually separate roles) a layout to work within. The words in red ink would have actually been done by a third person, generally known as the rubricator. Rubrics were used to indicate titles, headings, or other important words in the text.


    Hardouin, Gillet (published by), French (active 1491 - 1521). Adoration of the Magi (recto); Text with Border (verso), from Livre d'Heures, n.d. Metal cut text with hand illuminated letters in red, blue and gold on parchment. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1950:32

    This page from a later book of hours was not hand-lettered, but made using metalcut prints. Still, it uses many of the stylistic conventions found in earlier manuscripts—the elaborate illustrated borders and the hand-painted red and blue initials, for example. By the early 16th century, printed books could be produced faster, in greater numbers, and at a lower cost than their handwritten counterparts, meaning that elaborately illustrated books were no longer limited to the very wealthy.


    Adoration of the Magi (recto)

    The opposite side of the page also depicts an Adoration of the Magi scene; again, even though the page was made in a completely different way, there are striking similarities between it and the previous image.  However, both the architectural border that “frames” the scene and the image itself are much more detailed, even crowded.

    What is fascinating about Books of Hours is that they were so incredibly adaptable to their audience. Christian worship in the medieval era was institutional, dominated by the clergy and monasteries. The Bible itself was written and spoken only in Latin, rendering it inaccessible to ordinary people without the mediation of a priest. Since religious worship was so important to people of every class, the books reveal as much about their owners as they do their contents.