Thursday, April 7, 2016

Gladys Engel Lang: Scholar, Author, and Collector

We are saddened to report the passing of Gladys Engel Lang on March 23, 2016.

Born in 1919 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Gladys Engel studied sociology at the University of Michigan and the University of Washington, Seattle, before entering government service, working in Office of War Information from 1942-1943, then later in the Office of Strategic Services (a predecessor to the CIA) from 1943-1949. She entered a doctoral program in sociology at the University of Chicago in 1949, where she met and married fellow student Kurt Lang.

Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang on their wedding day, June, 1950

In the early 1950s, the Langs began their productive careers as collaborators, authoring the ground-breaking study “The Unique Perspective of Television and Its Effect: A Pilot Study,” in which they documented how television coverage shapes and effects how viewers understand and react to events. Decades of fruitful collaborations followed, including their 1990 book Etched in Memory: The Building and Survival of Artistic Reputation. This study focused on the painter-etcher movement between the 1860s and World War II, seeking to understand the process whereby some artists but not others come to be considered worth remembering. In 2014, the Langs made an important gift of 1,446 prints and drawings to SCMA. This collection has been the subject of several installations at the Museum over the past two years, and will be featured in an upcoming special exhibition.

Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang, 2015

Gladys Engel Lang had a particular interest in the study of forgotten women etchers, and the Lang Collection is rich in examples of little-known talented printmakers such as Greta Delleany, Bertha Gorst, Sylvia Gosse, Catherine M. Nichols, Constance M. Pott, Marjorie Sherlock Gabrielle de Vaux Clements, Blanche Dillaye, Edith Loring Peirce Getchell, Bertha Jacques, Katherine Merrill, and Mary Nimmo Moran, among others.

Sir Frank Short (English, 1857 – 1945). Low Tide and the Evening Star and Rye’s Long Pier Deserted, 1888. Etching printed in black on medium weight, slightly textured, cream-colored paper. The Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection. Promised gift. SC TR 7604.512.

We are grateful to Gladys and the Lang family for entrusting SCMA with the legacy of their work in the form of the prints, drafts, and research for the Etched in Memory project. SCMA is committed to making these vital documents available to generations of scholars and students so that they may continue to study and extend the Langs’ research.

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