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.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Postcards are an enormously popular way to share the memories of your journey with other people, and nearly all of us have received a postcard at one time or another. Like many people, I have a postcard collection, full of images from places I’ve gone or where my friends have travelled. My postcards are a physical reminder of memories I treasure.
The Hagia Sophia
Pascal Sebah, Turkish (1857 – 1886) Mosquee de Ste. Sophie, ca. 1860s. Albumen print. 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 1982:38-968
At the beginning of the 19th century, improved travel by train and by steamship offered Europeans greater access to Turkey and to Constantinople, then the capital of the Ottoman Empire. A traveler no longer needed to be wealthy to go in comfort throughout the near East. Now, a middle-class German could sign on for a planned tour that embarked from Italy, stopped at the pyramids of Cairo, traveled to the holy sites of Palestine, and finally landed in Constantinople. With this influx of European travelers came a greater demand for art souvenirs, particularly photographs that could capture the sights and cultures of these far-off locales.
The Blue Mosque
Jean Pascal (Turkish, 1872 – 1947) of Sebah & Joaillier. Mosquee du Sultan – Ahmed, c. 1860s. Albumen print. 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 1982:38-970
One photographer who took advantage of this growing market was Pascal Sebah. Under the Muslim Ottoman Empire, Constantinople was a thriving city with a multiethnic population, and Pascal’s family reflects this diversity: his father was a Syrian Catholic and his mother was Armenian.
Sebah opened his first studio in 1857 at the age of thirty-four. His reputation quickly grew, earning accolades from the Société Française de Photographie in Paris. During the height of his career, he collaborated with innovative Turkish painter Osman Hamdi Bey, and exhibited works at the 1873 Ottoman exhibition in Vienna.
Interior of the Blue Mosque
Jean Pascal (Turkish, 1872 – 1947) of Sebah & Joaillier. Interieur de la Mosquee Ahmed, c. 1860s. Albumen print. 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 1982:38-971
Spurred on by his increasing reknown, Sebah opened a second studio abroad in Cairo. His photographs now included the sights and streets of Egypt. Pascal Sebah continued to travel between these two cities, and to show his work at international exhibitions, until he passed away in 1886 from the debilitating aftermath of a brain hemorrhage.
Still, his legacy continued. His son Jean Sebah took up his father’s business, partnering with fellow photographer Policarpe Joaillier. In 1893, Sultan Abdulhamid made a gift of fifty-one photographic albums representing the span of the Ottoman Empire, two of which were produced by Sebah & Joaillier (as their studio came to be known). The albums, now housed in the Library of Congress, were received by then-president Grover Cleveland.
The Galata Tower and the Beyoğlu neighborhood
Jean Pascal (Turkish, 1872 – 1947) of Sebah & Joaillier. Yüksek Kaldırım, c. 1860s. Albumen print. 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 1982:38-976
Many of the sites Pascal Sebah and his successors captured – the Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the Galata Tower– are still instantly recognizable to any modern person in Turkey. The clothes many have changed, and the advertisements, but the bones of this age-old city still remain.
Bazaar in Istanbul
Jean Pascal (Turkish, 1872 – 1947) of Sebah & Joaillier. 440. Bazar a Istamboul, c. 1860s. Albumen print. 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 1982:38-975
Thank you for your comment - I'm glad you liked the piece. I've updated the post to reflect your concerns. It's my understanding that the name Istanbul was used for Constantinople sometimes before the official name change - the work "Bazar a Istamboul" (SC 1982:38-975) which was taken in the 1860s, has its title written on the negative (it's hard to see online) which suggests some use of the name.
We have listed Pascal Sébah as Turkish because of his listing in the Getty's ULAN database, which we view as the standard for nationality and birth/death dates. That said, no database is perfect. I'll continue to look into it.
Take care and I appreciate your eagle eye!
Very nice and descriptive piece, but why not use the names that were used at the time you are describing? Constantinople and Palestine, for example. Pascal Sébah was not ethnically Turkish, rather he was Syrian-Armenian. You could accurately call him Ottoman, however. Best wishes for your travels ahead-
Fabulous city, wonderful project!
Constantinople/Istanbul has an amazingly rich history and is still one of the world's most fascinating cities. Paintings and drawings from the 18th and 19th centuries, and 19th-century photographs, always seem magical to me. This is a great article! Thank you, Maggie, for sharing your love of Turkey after your Fulbright year there! I hope you can go back soon, and often.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Nusra Latif Qureshi, Pakistani (1973 - ). Tropic of Capricorn, 2002. Siyah-qalam, gouache, liquid gold, and gold leaf on wasli paper. Purchased with the Janice Carlson Oresman, class of 1955, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2004:4
The tradition of Mughal miniatures first appeared in South Asia in the mid-16th century, under the patronage of Emperor Akbar. In the spirit of cultural tolerance, this Muslim ruler commissioned his court artists to produce manuscripts illustrating Hindu epics, historical narratives and personal biographies; these works blended the local Jain manuscript tradition with Safavid (Persian) miniatures. The result was opulent, precise, rich in color and in detail. We have some examples in the Smith Museum collection, such as this portrait of Emperor Akbar painted after his death.
Unknown artist. Mughal Emperor Akbar, 17th century. Opaque water base colors and gold on paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Kenneth Galbraith (Catherine Atwater, class of 1934). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1981:27-9
This rich tradition still lives on, although only a few practice it. Nusra Latif Qureshi is a leading figure in the contemporary miniature scene, having studied the art at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan.
Three Songs of Desire reveals Qureshi’s mastery of the miniature style, in the beautifully rendered figure of a woman. The colors are as deep and saturated as the portrait of Emperor Akbar. She even painted the work on wasli, the delicate handmade paper created for traditional miniatures.
Nusra Latif Qureshi, Pakistani (1973 - ). Three Songs of Devotion, 2002. Gouache on wasli paper with tan-colored paper frame. Purchased with the Janice Carlson Oresman, class of 1955, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2004:5
That said, her work is decidedly untraditional. As a woman engaging with an art form dominated by men, she plays with those images and motifs gone unquestioned in miniature art for centuries. Often, she draws focus back to female figures in her work, something you can see clearly in Three Songs of Devotion. The man and woman embrace, a typical romantic intimacy, but the man is blotted out in black, a silhouette. All detail and individualism belongs to the woman, who sits straight and barely supported by her lover.
Detail of couple from Three Songs of Devotion
In this piece, Qureshi has also stripped out the typical opulence of a Mughal miniature, and replaced that environment with flat plains of color. Layered above the main scene are lines of white, forming new images entirely.
Detail of birds from Three Songs of Devotion
These untraditional additions actually have their basis in a different era of Indian art. Starting in the late 18th century, the British East India Company began to expand further into South Asia, and with it came an influx of British employees. With this migration was a demand for art that recorded these unfamiliar settings and Indian artists were hired to paint local monuments, flora and fauna. Watercolor was the medium of choice, as this type of paint is quick to dry, and easy to carry around. Eventually, Indian artists began to produce these works in large numbers to sell as souvenirs to foreign travelers.
Detail of a putto (cupid) from Three Songs of Devotion
The style became known as ‘Company painting,’ and these realistic, detailed watercolors have their echoes in Qureshi's works. In Three Songs of Devotion, ghostly white outlines form birds that overlap each other and the larger image, flanked by the winged putti (or cupids) so often seen in European Renaissance art.
Nusra Latif Qureshi, Pakistani (1973 - ). Of Birds and Fourteen Year Olds, November 2003. Gouache on paperboard. Purchased with the Richard and Rebecca Evans (Rebecca Morris, class of 1932) Foundation Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2004:6
Qureshi's drawing Of Birds and Fourteen Year Olds likewise references these Company paintings; she even renders a crane’s body with watery brushstrokes, reminiscent of the preferred medium for these early ornithological souvenirs.
Detail of bird in Of Birds and Fourteen Year Olds
A major part in Of Birds and Fourteen Year Olds is the ghostly outline of a group sitting and standing together, posed for a photograph. Qureshi has taken what seems to be a colonialist photograph from the early 20th century and recreated it here, although she has omitted many details.
Detail from Of Birds and Fourteen Year Olds
The light color makes the figures difficult to see against the white background. I wonder if they are the fourteen-year-olds referenced in the title, but I can’t tell from the image alone. Indeed, they are faceless, their identity obscured, an omission made more powerful by the text floating above them: “But the poor orientals have a collective identity…”
Detail from Of Birds and Fourteen Year Olds
Qureshi is telling a story of erasure, both present and past. Her art speaks to a history some would prefer to forget, and racist attitudes that still pervade.
There are purists who prefer the unadulterated miniature style. In her own way, however, Nusra Latif Qureshi carries on the spirit of experimentation foraged in the artists’ studio of Emperor Akbar, creating a hybrid art that weds the complex cultural interactions that still influence South Asia today.
Awesome pic! I love it, I am so glad that you have shared such a beautiful & informative post with us. I enjoy it a lot!
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Guest blogger Jennifer Guerin is a Smith College student, class of 2014, majoring in American Studies and History with focuses in Public History and Social Movements. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
William Henry Brown, American (1808-1883). Thomas Cooper, from Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, 1844. Lithograph printed in black on medium thick, smooth, cream-colored paper. Gift of Mrs. Chester Dale. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1963:106-4
I've been fascinated with silhouette portraiture for a large portion of my life. As a kid, I went to Disneyland with my family fairly regularly, and one of the Main Street shops had an artist that made cut-out silhouettes. Somewhere in the depths of my closet I have several silhouettes done of me, or of me and a friend. Younger me was interested in the speed with which the silhouettes were made, and now as a student of art and culture, I'm particularly interested in how that short time frame of creation interacts with our subconscious ideas about what art is, as I personally find that many people automatically see art as a time consuming process by necessity.
William Henry Brown, American (1808-1883). Martin Van Buren, from Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, 1844. Lithograph printed in black on medium thick, smooth, cream-colored paper. Gift of Mrs. Chester Dale. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1963:106-9
Silhouette portraiture is an artistic style which involves representing the profile or shadow of an object as a solid shape, without any internal detail; it became popular in the 1800s, though there are certainly examples prior to that period. Though the style was sometimes used in painting, silhouettes were most often cut out from black paper or heavier black card. Because a skilled silhouette artist could produce a number of portraits fairly quickly, it seems to have been a reasonably reliable form for artists looking to make a living in a more commercial way. Additionally, because artists could do a lot of sittings and make a lot of portraits in short periods of time, they did not necessarily need to charge particularly high prices, which also allowed a larger sector of society to have access to this type of art.
William Henry Brown, American (1808-1883). John Tyler, from Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, 1844. Lithograph printed in black on medium thick, smooth, cream-colored paper. Gift of Mrs. Chester Dale. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1963:106-5
The Cunningham Center owns a particularly interesting set of silhouettes, done by an artist named William Henry Brown. Brown was a popular silhouette maker in the 1800s, and was thus able to get a number of famous Americans to sit for him. In 1845, he created the Portrait Gallery of Distinguished American Citizens, which featured prints of 26 of his silhouettes, which were attached to lithographed backgrounds before a print of the entire image was produced for the book. The prints were accompanied by short biographies of these people and a printed copy of some sort of correspondence to provide an example of their handwriting.
William Henry Brown, American (1808-1883). Henry Alexander Wise, from Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, 1844. Lithograph printed in black on medium thick, smooth, cream-colored paper. Gift of Mrs. Chester Dale. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1963:106-12
Some of these figures are still well known today, such as former Presidents Van Buren, Tyler, Quincy Adams, and Jackson, while others have faded somewhat in the historical memory, such as Samuel Southard (a U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Navy, and the tenth Governor of New Jersey) or Henry Wise (a United States Congressman and governor of Virginia, who would go on to be a general in the Confederate States Army). While many silhouette portraits traditionally depict the profile of the figure from the shoulders up, Brown’s silhouettes are full body, which is an interesting choice for depicting these highly respected people, as full body images can be decidedly less flattering (take, for instance, Dixon Hall Lewis, who is partially known for having weighed somewhere in the area of 500 lbs., and is clearly shown as such in Brown’s portrait).
William Henry Brown, American (1808-1883). Dixon Hall Lewis, from Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, 1844. Lithograph printed in black on medium thick, smooth, cream-colored paper. Gift of Mrs. Chester Dale. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1963:106-15
The choice to do full body silhouettes is, however, potentially helpful for distinguishing the different figures from each other, since silhouettes are necessarily missing so many other details that could clearly identify their subjects.
The history behind the specific prints owned by the museum is somewhat unclear. The confusion stems from the fact that Portrait Gallery of Distinguished American Citizens was reprinted in the 1930s, and the reprint does not appear discernibly different from the original printing. Neilson Library owns a copy of the 1930s printing which is missing all its plates, so I thought, briefly, that perhaps the museum has the prints from the book in the library. However, the museum file on the prints includes donor information, so we know that the prints were donated specifically to the museum whereas the book in the library was purchased with money from a fund named for President Seeyle, which leaves us with more questions and no answers. If necessary, we might be able to pin down the date of these prints by analyzing the age of the paper they are printed on. For now, however, they remain a mystery.
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My Library also has a set of prints without the accompanying text. Ours are dates as being part of the reprint. If you would like, I could send you some photos of the volume that might help identify your own set of prints. iok4(at)pitt.edu.