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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.

  • Thursday, June 19, 2014

    Reinstall, Revive!

    The Museum Reinstallation & Reinterpretation Project is in full swing! Those of us in the prints room have been getting ready for even more change: we moved everything out of the way for our floors to be refinished. Here's a rare look into an empty Cunningham Center.

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  • Thursday, June 5, 2014

    St. Jerome in his Study

    Take a moment to examine these two prints.

    Albrecht Dürer, German (1471 - 1528). St. Jerome in His Study, 1514. Engraving printed in black on antique laid paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-48

    Johan Wierix, Flemish (ca. 1549 - after 1618), after Albrecht Dürer. Saint Jerome in His Study. Engraving on paper. Gift of Mrs. Charles Lincoln Taylor (Margaret Rand Goldthwait, class of 1921). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.  SC 1992:25-31

    The first piece is an engraving titled St. Jerome in his Study, by the German master, Albrecht Dürer. The second looks almost exactly the same – but it’s not. In fact, it’s an exact copy of Dürer’s work by Johan Wierix.

    Despite his print’s remarkable similarity to Dürer’s own print, however, Johan Wierix was not attempting to trick anyone into mistaking his prints for Dürer’s actual work. Instead, his goal was much more innocuous – along with his brother Hieronymous, he was an apprentice learning how to engrave by copying a master’s work.  Like other young apprentices in the large Antwerp Print houses during the mid-16th century, the Wierix brothers learned from an early age how to engrave and to use the burin to create technical masterpieces.

    At the early ages of 12 and 16, respectively, Hieronymous and Johan could create technically perfect copies of the works of Dürer, and in the following centuries some unscrupulous dealers have even tried to pass off their work as originals. Careful examination reveals differences between the two, as you can see when you examine the window reflection below.

    Comparison detail of window reflection, both Durer (left) and Wierix (right)

    Although Wierix did his best to capture every detail, here his circles are not quite the same shape as those in the original. Art historians use records about these differences to identify prints and their makers accurately.

    As Wierix had no intention of passing off his own work as one by Dürer, he did not hesitate in signing his own piece, making the work of the curator that much easier.

    Detail of the signature of Johan Wierix

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  • Wednesday, May 28, 2014

    Tolman Collection: Reika Iwami

    Reika Iwami. Japanese, born 1927. Eclipse of the Moon over the Sea, 1982. Woodblock and collagraph printed in black, red, and metallic ink with embossing on medium thick, slightly textured cream-colored paper. The Hilary Tolman, class of 1987, Collection. Gift of The Tolman Collection, Tokyo. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2014:12-18

    Gifts are the lifeblood of any Museum collection. It is exceptionally gratifying when donors make a commitment to regular gifts of works by specific artists. Not only do such gifts bolster a particular area of study within the collection, they also allow visitors a deeper look into an artist’s work and process.

    This spring, SCMA was pleased to receive a gift of 50 prints by 5 different Japanese artists from The Tolman Collection, the largest publisher of contemporary editions in Japan. These gifts were made in honor of the 50th birthday of Hilary Tolman, Smith College class of 1987, and join 30 other prints made in Ms. Tolman’s honor within the past 7 years.

    The five artists included in this recent gift—Shinoda Toko, Iwami Reika, Shuji Wako, Hiramitsu Takahashi, and Hasegawa Yuichi—each exemplify graphic excellence in a particular printmaking medium. As a group, these prints form a vital and useful teaching collection.

    The first artist in this gift to be featured in paper + people is the woodblock artist Reika Iwami.

    Reika Iwami. Japanese, born 1927. Dream of Water, 1997. Woodblock and collagraph printed in black, red, and metallic ink with embossing on medium thick, slightly textured cream-colored paper. The Hilary Tolman, class of 1987, Collection. Gift of The Tolman Collection, Tokyo. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2014:12-12

    Iwami uses simple materials—ink, wood, and metal leaf—to create abstract compositions that capture the subtle qualities of nature. Using woodblocks with distinct textures as her matrices, the artist creates exquisitely crafted prints combining sensitively printed areas of black, white, and grey with blind embossing, metal leaf, mica, and handmade paper. According to collectors Mary and Norman Tolman, “Iwami’s subject is water and its flow, and her genius lies in the almost mystical ability to transmute the grain and texture of pieces of wood she has found into visual images of patterns of water.”

     

    Reika Iwami. Japanese, born 1927. Autumn Waves, 1981. Woodblock and collagraph printed in black, red, and metallic ink with embossing on medium thick, slightly textured cream-colored paper. The Hilary Tolman, class of 1987, Collection. Gift of The Tolman Collection, Tokyo. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2014:12-16

     

    Detail from Autumn Waves

    Initially trained in doll-making at Bunka Gakuen University in Tokyo, the artist refocused her creative energies on printmaking during the mid-1950s, studying with three of the most important modern printmakers in Japan: Onchi Koshiro, Sekino Jun’ichiro, and Shinagawa Takumi. In addition to making woodblock prints, Iwami is also a poet, and sees a distinct relationship between her two art forms: “Haiku is a disciplined study. It forces one to eliminate what is not necessary, and that’s why I use it as a spiritual exercise for my prints.”

     

    Reika Iwami. Japanese, born 1927. Autumn, 1978. Woodblock and collagraph printed in black, red, and metallic ink with embossing on medium thick, slightly textured cream-colored paper. The Hilary Tolman, class of 1987, Collection. Gift of The Tolman Collection, Tokyo. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2014:12-11

    This new gift allows greater insight in to Iwami’s technique and imagery. Three prints as part of the recent gift, Autumn (shown above), Poem of the Sea (shown below), and Water and the Moon all feature a floating net-like form. This texture was taken directly from life: the artist used a piece of fishing net, attaching it directly to the plate where it was inked and printed as a collograph (a form of relief printing using collaged elements).

     

    Reika Iwami. Japanese, born 1927. Water and the Moon, 1972. Woodblock and collagraph printed in black and metallic ink with embossing on medium thick, slightly textured cream-colored paper. The Hilary Tolman, class of 1987, Collection. Gift of The Tolman Collection, Tokyo. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2014:12-14

    Detail from Water and the Moon

    Reika Iwami. Japanese, born 1927. Poem of the Sea, 1982. Woodblock and collagraph printed in black and metallic ink with embossing on medium thick, slightly textured cream-colored paper. The Hilary Tolman, class of 1987, Collection. Gift of The Tolman Collection, Tokyo. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2014:12-17 

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