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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, August 5, 2014

    Standing Turk

    Jean-Léon Gérôme. French, 1824 - 1904. Standing Turk. Black chalk on light stained off white wove paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-9

    Over the course of his career, Jean-Léon Gérôme travelled extensively, with trips to Spain, the Arabian Peninsula, Palestine, Turkey, Russia, Italy, Algeria, Morocco and Spain. The journalist Frédéric Masson, who accompanied the artist on a months-long journey through Egypt and Turkey in 1868, considered Gérôme an energetic companion, writing: “The first to rise in the morning, [Gérôme] superintends the departure; then erect in his saddle, he keeps going through the long hours, smoking, hunting, tracing with a rapid stroke in his sketchbook a monument or a silhouette.”

    Standing Turk is one such travel drawing, presumably from Asia Minor. In it, a Turkish man stands away from the viewer, seemingly unaware of the artist. His jacket hangs rakishly from his shoulders. The work is not a quick sketch, but a full fleshed-out drawing, with careful cross-hatching throughout.

    It was on the basis of such sketches that his contemporaries saw Gérôme as an accurate illustrator of the Middle East, even an “ethnographer” of the region. After all, each revealed a tremendous precision and eye for detail. Likewise, Gérôme admitted to taking photographs and working from those prints, underscoring his reputation for cultural accuracy.

    Detail of Standing Turk

    Such precision seems apparent in Standing Turk—in it, Gérôme focuses on the man’s ethnic costume, from his turban to the saber hanging from the man’s waist.

    Detail of Standing Turk

    Still, Gérôme still played around with what he saw in his travels to create idealized, and even fantastic, scenes from abroad. During the late nineteenth century, artists and writers embraced their own vision of the Middle East, a fantasy of hashish and proud sultans and harems. This attitude, later called Orientalism, deeply affected the art of the period, including the paintings of Gérôme. There is an element of fantasy in all his works.

    At the time Gérôme drew his Standing Turk, the Ottoman Empire was in flux. In particular, Constantinople (now Istanbul) had welcomed many Western fashions and styles. The photographs of Pascal Sebah, for example, show men in suits and traditional garments alike wandering the streets, much to the chagrin of Orientalist artists, who preferred the unaltered Eastern landscape of their imaginations.

    Detail of Standing Turk

    Would Gérôme have met the model for Standing Turk on the street? By this point in Ottoman history, the fez had nearly replaced the turban as the headgear of choice. While Gérôme may have found an individual in this particular get-up, it would not have been a reflection of what most Turkish men were wearing at the time. Perhaps he even paid a model to pose for him.

    Through such vivid imagery, Gérôme added fodder to his peer’s Orientalist visions. To them, a sketch such as Standing Turk became an irrefutable rendering of what all Turkish men wore. The reality is much more complex.

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  • Wednesday, July 30, 2014

    Cartomania

    College Hall, Smith College

    A.J. Schillare, American, 1856 - 1917. Smith College, College Hall, from West Street. Toned gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard as a carte de visite. Gift of Martin Stein. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:4-40

    Cartes-de-visite were a revolutionary form of photography – while earlier methods were expensive or clunky, cartes were small and mounted on card paper, which made them easy to handle. Available for pennies, cartes-de-visite are sometimes called “album photographs,” as many collected the prints in specially-designated albums. By the 1860s, “cartomania” had set in, and between 1861 and 1867 over 300 million cartes were sold every year in England. Pictures of celebrities, soaring vistas, and family portraits were all hugely popular. Cartes-de-visite offered most people their first opportunity to own photographs at all.

    Early photography was an involved process that went beyond shooting the picture - the profession demanded a familiarity with the chemicals and techniques needed to sensitize the glass negatives and paper, develop images and tone the final prints. A. J. Schillare was a local artist who owned a studio on Main Street, Northampton, during the 1870s. Advertisements in local yearbooks reveal that he took studio shots of local college students, likely a major source of business, but he also produced many photographs of the landscape and scenery around him. In the Cunningham Center, we own many of his cartes devoted to Smith College, and the surrounding Northampton. Can you recognize any of these places today?

    Interior of the Art Building

    A.J. Schillare, American, 1856 - 1917. Smith College, Art Building, Interior. Toned gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard as a carte de visite. Gift of Martin Stein. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:4-33

    Dewey House

    A.J. Schillare, American, 1856 - 1917. Dewey House, with lawn, Smith College. Toned gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard as a carte de visite. Gift of Martin Stein. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:4-37

    Paradise Pond

    A.J. Schillare, American, 1856 - 1917. Paradise, Northampton. Toned gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard as a carte de visite. Gift of Martin Stein. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:4-7

    The Parlor of Hubbard House

    A.J. Schillare, American, 1856 - 1917. Hubbard House, Smith College, Parlor toward Main Hall. Toned gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard as a carte de visite. Gift of Martin Stein. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:4-18

    Greenhouse at Capen House

    A.J. Schillare, American, 1856 - 1917. Capen House, Greenhouse, Interior. Toned gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard as a carte de visite. Gift of Martin Stein. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:4-21

    The Northampton Courthouse

    A.J. Schillare, American, 1856 - 1917. Northampton, Court House and First Church. Toned gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard as a carte de visite. Gift of Martin Stein. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:4-43

    Snow bank on Elm Street

    A.J. Schillare, American, 1856 - 1917. Snow bank front of Mansion House, Northampton. Toned gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard as a carte de visite. Gift of Martin Stein. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:4-11

    Main Street in Northampton, looking towards Elm Street

    A.J. Schillare, American, 1856 - 1917. Northampton, Main Street looking toward Elm Street. Toned gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard as a carte de visite. Gift of Martin Stein. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:4-13

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  • Wednesday, July 23, 2014

    Clare Leighton: The blackest black to dead white

    Clare Leighton. American, born in England, 1899 - 1989. Milking. Wood engraving on paper. Gift of Mrs. E. Byrne Hackett (Isabel La Monte, class of 1913). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1973:48-46

    "More interesting are the reasons why the artist wants to do wood-engraving.
    We are more exacting and scientific than our fathers were, and the wood block,
    through its wider range of keyboard from blackest black to dead white, permits
    of far greater precision of tone and of a much stronger rendering of form, which
    is the intellectual element. Compare its possibilities with the relatively restricted
    range of the etching, where the white is never white and the black at deepest
    is a dark brown." -- Clare Leighton, on wood-engraving

    Born in England, a daughter of two writers, Leighton was told early on that “no woman is a lady by reason of being an artist. Only with difficulty can she be a lady in spite of it.” Despite such dire warnings from her mother, her artistic career took off in 1925, when she graduated from the Slade School of Fine Arts, and rented a room as a drawing studio. While she did give private lessons during this time, she was offered a full time teaching position in London and refused. Despite the appeal of a steady salary, she refused, saying that when it came to art and a teaching career, “you can’t do both.”

    Clare Leighton. American, born in England, 1899 - 1989. Gaspé Fisherman. Wood engraving printed in black on white wove paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-411

    Leighton was drawn to wood-engraving, the process of printing from an engraved block of wood. It allowed her to introduce light to the wood block, a spiritual act which she saw as “a sort of Genesis.” Her works were often tranquil contemplations on nature and those who worked it. A pacifist in a time of turmoil -- her nineteen-year old brother and many of her friends died in the first world war -- her prints reinforce man’s connection to the earth, and present a powerful alternative to the destruction around her. She felt compelled to preserve her vision of rural life to paper, too, in light of the rushing industrialism that destroyed the environments around her.

    Clare Leighton. American, born in England, 1899 - 1989. The Net Menders. Wood engraving printed in black on thin, smooth white paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:26-43

    Over her four decade career, Leighton proved to be an enormously productive individual: As an etcher, she created over 700 prints in her lifetime, her output surpassing that of her contemporaries both in plates and impressions. By 1945, Leighton became a US citizen, and settled in Cape Cod, Connecticut. She continued to create tranquil prints that celebrated the people and lands around her.

    Clare Leighton. American, born in England, 1899 - 1989. Winnowers, Majorca, 1939. Wood engraving paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Kent (Sara Evans, class of 1911). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1951:221

    Clare Leighton. American, born in England, 1899 - 1989. Clam Diggers, Cape Cod, 1946. Wood engraving on medium weight, moderately textured, beige paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:26-7

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