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, February 27, 2015
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 Samantha Page '17 discusses her show “Clutter + Collage: Mixed Media on Paper” which will be on view FRIDAY, March 6 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you here!
Anne Ryan, American (1889 - 1954). Collage, no date. Paper and cloth collage with watercolor on heavy textured white wove paper. Gift of Mrs. Alfred H. Barr Jr. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1979:8-2
Across medium and aesthetic mood, these works on paper evoke stories and senses through layers, both visual and material. Although we can’t touch Anne Ryan’s tender patchwork or Jiri Kolar’s decoupage, the textures and colors resonate in the mind. The limitations on our interactions with art objects that beg to be touched push us to engage with them in new realms of our imaginations.
Jiri Kolar, Czechoslovakian (1914 - 2002). Wine Press, 1967. Paper bits collaged to wood backing and to attached wine press. Gift of Virginia Dwyer Caruthers. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1995:39
By creating depth in the layers of materials, as in Qiu Deshu’s Blue Mountain and Reika Iwami’s Autumn, the artists and their works expand our sense of space and bring us to a unique place in which we view each piece of art.
Qiu Deshu, Chinese (1948 - ). Blue Mountain, late 1990s. Collage and acrylic on paper. Gift of Joan Lebold Cohen, class of 1954, and Jerome A. Cohen. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2007:59-8
Reika Iwami, Japanese (1927 - ). Autumn, 1978. Woodblock and collograph printed in black and metallic ink with embossing on medium thick, slightly textured cream-colored paper. Gift of The Tolman Collection, Tokyo, in honor of Hilary Tolman, class of 1987, on the occasion of her 20th reunion. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2007:10-4
The counterintuitive nature of this visual disorder also appeals. The clutter draws us in, as we get lost in the remnants of someone else’s life. If I made a collage like Thomas Barrow’s or Moyra Davey’s, what would it look like? What does the chaos of my life say about my time or me?
Thomas Barrow, American (1938 - ). FILMS, 1977. Photolithograph printed in color on paper. Gift of Nicole Moretti Ungar, class of 1982, and Jon Ungar. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2007:60-27
Moyra Davey, Canadian (1958 - ). Untitled from 16 Photographs from Paris, 2009. Folded digital c-print with paper tape, postage, and ink. Purchased with the Dorothy C. Miller, class of 1925, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:19-14
The fun in creating this exhibition was largely in the diversity of interpretations that we can apply to collage. Every artist brings his or her own ideas and experiences to each creation, ultimately benefitting us as viewers by opening our minds to the wealth of materials, subject matter, and methods that can create something jarring, beautiful, or confusing.
I hope this exhibition and its strange, funny, and stunning selection of works surprises and inspires viewers.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Guest blogger Anya Gruber is a Smith College student, class of 2016, with a major in Art History. She was a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
The painter Hokasai was given the name Katsushika Hokusai, but repeatedly reinvented himself by taking on new names throughout his life. Each time, these rebirths were followed by a renewed artistic style and spirit. When he was young and first started studying under the famous Japanese artist Katsukawa Shunshō, Hokusai called himself Shunrō, adopting the last letter of his master’s name. After adopting a half a dozen other names throughout his youth and middle age, he began to call himself Gakyōjin. Gakyōjin means ‘an old man mad about painting,’ a fitting epithet for an artist who was absorbed in perfecting his craft, and hardly ceased to continue learning and reinventing himself.
Hokusai was born in 1797 in Edo, a pastoral region of Japan, during the Tokugawa Shogunate. Nakajima Ise, a silver polisher, took a very young Hokusai under his wing. With the help of Nakajima, Hokusai found an assortment of different apprenticeships which apparently didn’t work out for him; by age 15, he moved out of the Nakajima household (though his adopted family remained very dear to him) and found himself working under Katsukawa Shunshō. Here, he mostly helped make portraits of the famous actors of the time. After fifteen years or so, the Katsukawa School began to lose prominence, and Hokusai left to continue making art on his own, and to illustrate novelettes. He began to intensely study a great variety of artistic traditions, including Dutch engravings. Hokusai’s interest in Western-style art had a great effect on his own work and set him apart from his contemporaries.
Beginning in 1753, Hokusai produced many western-influenced pieces that mainly depict landscapes of his hometown, the rural and rugged Edo. Most of the works from this time are created with a perspective that is unusual for traditional Japanese art, and Hokusai employed characteristically European techniques, such as chiaroscuro, which is so closely associated with Renaissance art.
The Cunningham Center has a number of Hokusai prints that exhibit Hokusai’s characteristic blend of East and West. The print below, entitled Suruga Street at Edo, comes from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji. Here, you can see how the sky in the background is softly shaded, and the mountain are stark but still natural-looking. Here, you can see how Hokusai uses on low view point, which was a very Western technique, rather than a more traditionally Japanese flat viewing plane.
Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese (1760 - 1849). Suruga Street in Edo, the Mitsui Shop, No. 21 from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, ca. 1832. Woodcut printed in color on paper. Gift of Mrs. Arthur B. Schaffner in memory of Louise Stevens Bryant, class of 1908. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1959:268
As he grew older, Hokusai became more and more prolific. He predicted in his autobiography that by the time he was an aged man‘each dot, each line shall surely possess a life of its own.’ By this, I think he meant that by devoting his entire life to his art, his work would be animated so much by his own passion, it would gain its own life. When he was seventy-four years old, he wrote that he thought that no works he produced before the age of seventy were any good; he pushed himself incessantly to become the best artist he could. He was rather an embodiment of the stereotypical artist, in fact; he was focused on his art, and his art only. He lived up to his name Gakyōjin, as he became rather eccentric, still changing his name and moving to new cities in a restless search of perfection. He prayed to live to at least one hundred years old and, in honor of that hope, he created a new seal which read ‘hyaju,’ or ‘one hundred.’ However, he passed away at the age of eighty-nine. Though his life had not spanned a century (as he had hoped), he left behind an incredible trove of artwork and is still renowned not only in Japan but throughout the world.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The Smith College Museum of Art is dedicated to bringing out works on paper into the main galleries, where all visitors can see them. Since works on paper are more sensitive to light than other mediums, SCMA has installed special Works on Paper cabinets throughout the galleries for the display of prints, drawings and photographs. Today’s post is part of a series about the current installations of the Works on Paper cabinets, which will remain on view through April 2015.
A visitor looking at art in the second floor Works on Paper cabinet.
Photograph by Lynne Graves
Smith College is home to the Mortimer Rare Book Room, which takes care of our literary manuscripts and rare books. Sometimes, though, a book finds its home in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. Such is the case with Prométhée, a livre d'artiste with a star-studded pedigree.
The story told in Prométhée emerges from the sprawling mythology of Ancient Greece and revolves around Prometheus, a powerful being who is infamous for one crime: he stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humanity. In some stories, Prometheus is also the creator of humankind, whom he sculpts out of clay. Perhaps the most famous rendition of his story is the ancient tragedy Prometheus Bound in which (as one might guess from the title) Prometheus spends the entire play chained to a rock in punishment for his transgressions.
German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) was fascinated by this age-old myth. A major player in the Sturm und Drang literary movement, which celebrated the power and emotions of the individual, Goethe saw Prometheus as a courageous rebel who fought against the tyranny of Zeus’ rule. Throughout his life Goethe began three different Prometheus plays, but he never completed any of them. Interestingly, he never depicts Prometheus as chained, in sharp contrast to Prometheus Bound.
One fragment by Goethe was later translated into French by André Gide (1869–1951), who titled his translation Prométhée.
Henry Spencer Moore, English (1898 - 1986). Four Statuettes from Promethée, 1950. Lithograph on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1951:277-4
In December 1949, near the end of Gide’s life, the British artist Henry Moore was visiting Paris, and it was on this trip that Moore met Henri Paul Jonquières. Although Moore is most famous for his monumental abstract sculpture, the French publisher and typographer proposed that the two men turn Gide’s translation into a livre d’artiste, or artist’s book, and Moore agreed to illustrate it. Ultimately, Moore produced eight full-page lithographs and multiple design elements for Prométhée, which became his first graphic book.
Henry Spencer Moore, English (1898 - 1986). Prometheus Instructing Another to Build Shelter from Promethée, 1950. Lithograph on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1951:277-9
Moore’s choice to illustrate a narrative story may surprise those who are familiar with his sculpture, which is best described as semi-abstract -- more Cycladic figurine than Hellenistic Bronze. Early in his career, Moore rejected the dogma asserting that art needed to emulate famous Classical masterpieces: “I thought that the Greek and the Renaissance were the enemy, and that one had to throw all that over and start again from the beginning.”
After the end of World War II, however, he began to experiment with traditional Greek literature and, eventually, some visual motifs from the Classical era. This shift is evident in both the subject matter and illustrations of Prométhée. Although Moore’s lithographs are grounded in his typical style, with its rounded abstract shapes and bold forms, certain elements emerge from ancient art.
Henry Spencer Moore, English (1898 - 1986). Prometheus and Minerva Before the Statuette of Pandora from Promethée, 1950. Lithograph on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1951:277-5
For example, in the print above, Prometheus and Minerva Before the Statuette of Pandora, Prometheus and Minerva appear unclothed at first, but sweeping strokes along their torsos suggest the thin, draping garments of antiquity. The two look at a statue of Pandora, who resembles in many ways early archaic Greek statues: her pose is forward-facing and static, without the naturalism or contrapposto of later eras. This similarity turns up again in the print Pandora (below), as Pandora stands with her left foot forward, nude, both characteristics of early archaic sculpture.
Henry Spencer Moore, English (1898 - 1986). Pandora from Promethée, 1950. Lithograph on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1951:277-11
It's possible that the myth of Prometheus held a special resonance for Moore. Prometheus creates mankind from clay, so like Moore, he is a sculptor himself. Moore’s illustrations of Prometheus underscore the mythical character’s nobility and courage, rather than his suffering; he is not the tortured hero chained against the rock, but the strong hero.
Henry Spencer Moore, English (1898 - 1986). Prometheus "Couvre Ton ciel O Zeus" from Promethée, 1950. Lithograph on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1951:277-14
Henry Spencer Moore, English (1898 - 1986). Arbar and the Fainting Mira from Promethée, 1950. Lithograph on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1951:277-10
Of course, an artist’s book is more than just its illustrations. One central feature is often overlooked: the appearance of the text itself. For Prométhée, the French typographer Henri Paul Jonquières worked closely with Henry Moore to create a beautiful display of text that would complement the book’s meaning. Jonquières set the text in Romain du Roi, a classic typeface originally made for King Louis XIV. Conceived by the Academy of Sciences, Romain du Roi was envisioned as a scientific typeface, with each individual letter designed in a strict grid, unlike earlier styles based on handwritten models.
Henry Spencer Moore, English (1898 - 1986). Act III, Figured Capital "P" from Promethée, 1950. Lithograph on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1951:277-13
From the beginning, Jonquières involved Moore in the design of the text. In addition to his full-page illustrations, Moore also created design elements such as the large letters at the start of each act. Jonquières imagined these oversize letters with “sculptural constructions in mind.” Manifesting Jonquières’ vision, Moore created the letters from intertwined human bodies, as seen in the illustrated “P” above. In Prométhée, both typography and illustration come together as a complete work of art.
Henry Spencer Moore, English (1898 - 1986). Study for Three Standing Figures in Battersea Park, London, 1946. Bronze. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC SC 1951:199
Prométhée isn’t the only work by Moore in the collection. The Smith College Museum of Art owns Study for Three Standing Figures in Battersea Park, London (shown above), which Moore created in 1946 as a preliminary small bronze study for a monumental public artwork. Much like Prométhée, this work recalls ancient Greece, as it features three female forms in draping garments that resemble ancient attire. Study for Three Standing Figures in Battersea Park, London is currently on view in the third floor gallery.
Want to see Prométhée in person? Selections from this livre d'artiste are currently on view in the Museum, in the second floor Works on Paper cabinet. It will remain on view through April 2015.