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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 28, 2014

    Arise Ye Dead

    Ann Parker and Avon Neal, American. Arlington, Vermont: Portfolio of Rubbings from Early American Stone Sculpture Found in the Burying Grounds of New England, 1964. Gravestone rubbing in ink on paper. Gift of Mrs. Harold E. Hodgkinson (Laura White Cabot, class of 1922). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1964:39-11

    Ann Parker and Avon Neal, American. Newport, Rhode Island: 1771; Portfolio of Rubbings from Early American Stone Sculpture Found in the Burying Grounds of New England, 1964. Gravestone rubbing in ink on paper. Gift of Mrs. Harold E. Hodgkinson (Laura White Cabot, class of 1922). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1964:38-12

    Detail of faces (Newport, Rhode Island)

    In the years after 1630, the Puritans settled in what soon became known as New England on the east coast of the United States. Although they were iconoclasts, or opponents of any and all "graven images," within a generation their cemeteries had moved from simple text-only markers to tombstones with intricate folk designs.

    Ann Parker and Avon Neal, American. Sturbridge, Massachusetts: Portfolio of Rubbings from Early American Stone Sculpture Found in the Burying Grounds of New England, 1964. Gravestone rubbing in ink on paper. Gift of Mrs. Harold E. Hodgkinson (Laura White Cabot, class of 1922). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1964:37-6

    While some gravestone artists became well-regarded enough to be remembered by name today, many worked only in their local towns or villages. Style ranges throughout the region.

    Looking at the sermons, letters and the general abundance of written material that the Puritans left behind, their preoccupation with death and the eternal emerges again and again. Their headstones weren't free from this mania: many feature skulls and crossbones, skeletons, written reminders to the viewer that they, too, will die one day. In the gravestone below, even Death himself is personified. An hourglass emphasizes how any mortal's time is slowly running out. To a modern observer, the effect is rather morbid.

    Ann Parker and Avon Neal, American. Salem, Massachusetts: Portfolio of Rubbings from Early American Stone Sculpture Found in the Burying Grounds of New England, 1964. Gravestone rubbing in ink on paper. Gift of Mrs. Harold E. Hodgkinson (Laura White Cabot, class of 1922). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1964:39-1

    Detail of Death (Salem, Massachusetts)

    Detail of Skeleton (Salem, Massachusetts)

    Many gravestones also referenced the Last Judgement, the final day of humanity in the Christian faith when the bodies of the dead would rise from their graves. Below, one tombstone features an angel trumpeting out a message for that fateful day: Arise ye dead.

    Ann Parker and Avon Neal, American. Wakefield, Massachusetts: 1765; Portfolio of Rubbings from Early American Stone Sculpture Found in the Burying Grounds of New England, 1964. Gravestone rubbing in ink on paper. Gift of Mrs. Harold E. Hodgkinson (Laura White Cabot, class of 1922). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1964:38-1

    Ann Parker and Avon Neal captured dozens of these unique gravestones from all around New England through stone rubbings. By placing a piece of paper on a grave and gently rubbing a piece of chalk over it, the image transfers onto the paper, preserving the intricate carving. As the original gravestones are constantly exposed to the environment, which wears down their faces, Ann Parker and Avon Neal saved these ghostly images for future generations to see.

    Ann Parker and Avon Neal, American. Brookfield, Massachusetts: 1798; Portfolio of Rubbings from Early American Stone Sculpture Found in the Burying Grounds of New England, 1964. Gravestone rubbing in ink on paper. Gift of Mrs. Harold E. Hodgkinson (Laura White Cabot, class of 1922). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1964:38-13

    Ann Parker and Avon Neal, American. Spencer, Massachusetts: Portfolio of Rubbings from Early American Stone Sculpture Found in the Burying Grounds of New England, 1964. Gravestone rubbing in ink on paper. Gift of Mrs. Harold E. Hodgkinson (Laura White Cabot, class of 1922). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1964:37-2

    Ann Parker and Avon Neal, American. Old Deerfield, Massachusetts: Portfolio of Rubbings from Early American Stone Sculpture Found in the Burying Grounds of New England, 1964. Gravestone rubbing in ink on paper. Gift of Mrs. Harold E. Hodgkinson (Laura White Cabot, class of 1922). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1964:37-8

    Comments

    john - 26/08/2015

    Say Thanks

    I must hereby stop and say thanks for this historical and informative post about the history. Especially, the images you have shared in this post are really worthy. I will surely share the link of this post with my friends and hope they will find it interesting also.

    Avon Waters - 28/11/2014

    Avon Neal and Ann Parker

    Many thanks to Mrs. Harold E. Hodgkinson for the gifts. My uncle and aunt did great works and many of these I have never seen before. It brought back many fond memories being with them on a couple outings to watch them work. Thanks

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  • Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    Early Acquisitions of Photography

    This post is part of a series about the early years of the print, drawing and photograph collection. Early acquisitions of photography are on view in the Works on Paper gallery (2nd floor) until December.

    Luke Swank. American, 1890–1944. Grains in the Sunshine, Early 1930s. Gelatin silver print. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1933:4-1

    “Fotografie ist Lichtgestaltung.” [Photography is manipulation of light] 

    —László Moholy‑Nagy, 1895–1946

    The Smith College Museum of Art began to acquire photographs in the 1930s under the directorship of Jere Abbott. Abbott was the founding Associate Director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York prior to his tenure at Smith, where he served as the Museum’s second director from 1932 to 1946.

    MoMA was one of the first American museums to establish a photography collection, a program Abbott brought with him to SCMA. The current installation (on view on the Works on Paper gallery, 2nd floor) includes early purchases made for the collection as well as gifts from Abbott and others. They show the range of subjects, styles, and approaches typical of early twentieth-century modernist photography, including portraits, abstraction, nudes, still lifes, and film stills. 


    Paul Cordes. American, b. 1893. Portrait of Gene Loring of the Ballet Caravan, c. 1936. Gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard. Gift of Paul Cordes. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1938:8-10

    Paul Cordes used dramatic lighting and sharp focus to highlight his subjects. Above is a portrait of the dancer Eugene Loring as the title character from his first choreographed ballet, Harlequin for President.

    Many early twentieth-century portrait photographers were as concerned with the visual properties of their images as they were with presenting a likeness of the sitter. The light from the left highlights Loring’s face and hands, while his body is enveloped in darkness. His sidelong gaze, accentuated by the black grease paint covering his face, adds to the brooding and melancholy feeling of the image.

    Grigorij Aleksandrov. Russian, 1903–1983. Untitled film still from Old and New, begun as The General Line, c. 1929. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Jere Abbott. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1937:1-1

    This image (above) is from a Russian propaganda film written and directed by Grigorij Aleksandrov and Sergei Eisenstein, which concerned the modernization of collective farming in the Soviet Union. Originally filmed as The General Line while Leon Trotsky was still an influential force in the government, the film was released in an edited version, under the title Old and New, after Trotsky was officially purged by Joseph Stalin.

    This still captures an important moment in the film in which the heroine offers the fabric from her skirt to help the hero repair the new mechanized tractor.

    László Moholy Nagy. American (born Hungary), 1895–1946. Shadows on Sand (or Play), c. 1929. Gelatin silver print. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1933:4-6

    Moholy-Nagy was an influential teacher at the Bauhaus, becoming a professor at this school of the fine and applied arts in 1923. His photographs display what he saw as a “new vision.” Above, the artist has used a high perspective, a strong contrast between shadows and light, and an emphasis on the surface textures of sand and cloth to transform a scene of children playing on the beach into an abstract image that transcends narrative. 

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  • Thursday, October 16, 2014

    Smith College Studio Club

    This post is part of a series about the early years of the print, drawing and photograph collection. Art donated by the Smith College Studio Club is on view in the Works on Paper gallery (2nd floor) until December.

    Studio Club, 1937. Photograph by Warren Kay Valentine Studios. Smith College Archives, Smith College

    While I was learning about the early years of the art collection, I happened to notice that several early additions to the prints collection came from Smith students, more specifically members of the Studio Club.

    Georges Rouault. French (1871 – 1958). Two Self Satisfied Women, from Reincarnation du Pere Ubu, 1928. Etching on paper. Gift of the Studio Club of Smith College. SC 1940:3

    The Smith College Studio Club began in 1907. Some members were artists; others were more interested in the study of art. They kept busy bringing art to campus: they organized lectures by notable art historians, spoke about jobs opportunities in the field, and put on exhibitions of works by students and faculty.

    At the time, Alfred Vance Churchill was the head of the Art Department. To him, art reproductions and plaster casts of statues were “mere shadows and substitutes for reality,” and during his tenure he brought in many original works for students to study. One such loan exhibition occurred in 1911, with several etchings by Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn.

    One etching, titled Three Crosses, caught the eye of the Studio Club. The Art Department had already earmarked a large amount of its budget for a new lecture hall and couldn’t pay for the print outright, so the Studio Club members resolved to raise $200, the extra funds necessary to buy it themselves. In their words, “everyone knows the value of any original work of Rembrandt’s and we feel that this is an opportunity to procure a masterpiece for our collection at a remarkably low price.”

    Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, Dutch (1606 - 1669). The Three Crosses, 1660. Drypoint and burin in black on cream laid paper. Gift of The Studio Club and Friends. SC 1911:2-1

    The fundraising became a campus-wide effort, with contributions from individual students and other organizations such as the Glee Club, which donated $40 from the proceeds of the Spring Concert. By the end of the year, the Studio Club was able to make their donation, a gift that marked the start of a serious print collection at Smith College.

    Detail of The Three Crosses

    Anthony van Dyck, Flemish (1599 - 1641). Adam Van Noort, ca. 1630. Etching and engraving on paper. Gift of the Senior Members of the Studio Club. SC 1922:5-1

    The next donation from the Studio Club occurred ten years later, in 1922; they gave an etching by Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck. While we don’t have much information about the Studio Club in this period, perhaps this gift was made in honor of the ten-year anniversary of the first. At this point in history, the Museum of Art had only been established three years prior.

    Detail of Adam Van Noort

    In fact, the next gift from the Studio Club was also made ten years later, in 1933, maybe for the same reason: Picasso’s La Toilette de la mère (Mother's Morning Ritual). It was the second Picasso piece added to the collection.

    Pablo Picasso, Spanish (1881 - 1973); printed by Louis Fort, Louis. La Toilette de la mère (Mother's Morning Ritual); from the series Saltimbanques, 1905; printed 1913. Etching on Van Gelder wove paper mounted on heavy white matboard. Gift of the Studio Club. SC 1933:2-1

    André Derain. French (1880 – 1954). Head of a Girl. Lithograph on off white wove paper laid down on board. Gift of the Studio Club. SC 1934:9-1

    By the end of the 1940s, the Studio Club seems to have petered out. Other clubs rose up to fill its role on campus: in 1979, for example, Ars Artis likewise sought “to foster an interest in and appreciation of the visual arts, their origin in the studio and place in history” and “to increase student awareness of fellow students’ and faculty works and studies.” [source]

    Today, there are a number of student organizations that engage with art on campus, and contribute to the Museum’s rapidly growing collection. SMAC (the Student Museum Advisory Council) is the voice of the student body in the Museum, while the Art Resources Committee organizes art events on campus. While the Smith College Studio Club no longer exists, Smithies today are passionate creators and promoters of in the arts, much like their foremothers in 1907.

    Comments

    thalia pandiri - 16/10/2014

    Studio Club

    Fascinating! Not surprising, though. The Art department has a long history of inspiring students (and thus alums) to support the department and the Museum. The influence of the legendary year-long Art 100 survey course is certainly a matter of record.

    Mae Kurkoski - 16/10/2014

    Studio Club

    So interesting !

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