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Now everyone is an insider!

In order to provide an open forum for ALL of the museum’s collection and activities, the Paper + People blog is being renamed SCMA Insider. With its expanded focus, SCMA Insider will act as a go-to place for sharing information on the diverse collections and many voices and visions that shape SCMA.

If you want to contribute to the blog, please contact the Brown Post-Baccalaureate Curatorial Fellow, Shanice Bailey, at

  • Friday, May 6, 2016

    The Academic French Nude

    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 August 2016.

    Louis Marin Bonnet. French, 1736–1793. After François Boucher. French, 1703–1770. Le Sommeil de Venus(Dream of Venus). n.d. Engraving in the crayon manner on paper. Purchased. SC 1964:8

    Representations of the nude in Western Art have a long history rooted in Ancient Greek culture, in which the athletic nude body was idealized. The nude body within the context of sport or warfare stood for honor, glory and moral superiority.  The Greek athletes and warriors were associated with a myriad of Greek gods, cast in bronze or marble and revered and adored by the masses. Aligning themselves with such godliness, the upper-classes in turn would have themselves portrayed in the guises of their semi-clad gods like Apollo, Mars or Venus, a custom continued by the Romans.


    Mars with the face of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and Venus of Capua with the face changed at a later date to represent the Empress Lucille, wife of the Roman Emperor Lucius Verus. First created 120-140 CE modified 170-175 CE in Louvre, France

    With the advent of Christianity, the doctrine of original sin was developed. In the biblical creation story from the Old Testament, Adam and Eve ate from the tree of and were cast from Paradise. In their “sin,” they recognized and were ashamed of their nakedness. The nude body was no longer associated with innocence and idealism but instead was directly linked to sin and guilt through Eve, who tempted Adam to taste the forbidden apple and thus seduced the future of humankind.

    Meister Bertram von Minden (c 1340-1415) Adam and Eve, Temptation and Fall (kunsthalle Hamburg)

    The French Academy

    During the Renaissance, the classical Greek aesthetic was revived, and the nude again found a place in art. Academic French art of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries built upon Renaissance notions of the “idealized body.” In the French academy system, artists acquired their skill by studying classical examples and sketching from live models, in addition to studying anatomy, history, and mythology. This strict academic training was challenged by emerging avant-garde artists beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, as artists turned to realism, modernism, and the ground-breaking innovations of the Impressionists. 

    The Academy was also a strictly male environment, which limited opportunities for women to have a role let alone succeed as artists.


    Honoré Victorin Daumier. French, 1808–1879. Fantaisies, No. 1.Combat des écoles - l’Idéalism et le Réalisme. (Battle between the schools of Realism and Idealism). Published April 24, 1855. Lithograph printed in black on paper. Purchased. SC 1928:17-41


    Male model posing at the École des Beaux-Arts in the 19th century

    Creating Moral Boundaries in the Visual Arts

    In French academic art, female nudity was permissible within the context of an imaginary fantasy landscape or a mythical or biblical setting.


    Unknown artist. After Adolphe William Bouguereau. French, 1825–1905. Cupid and Psyche. 19th century. Black chalk on paper. Purchased. SC 1967:1

    While the threshold between classical nudes and erotica was often crossed, the difference was a matter of adhering to certain rules that determined whether a female nude was an acceptable subject for art or instead an affront to the viewing public.

    Story and setting were primary considerations: the nude figure was placed into a recognized narrative and usually identified with a character.


    Théodore Chassériau. French, 1819–1856. Apollo et Daphne. n.d. Lithograph on paper. Purchased. SC 1930:1-3

    Female nudes were often shown with their eyes averted, or completely closed in sleep or dreaming (rendering them even more accessible to the male gaze). In addition, the naked female body was idealized and even infantilized, with soft undulating curves.

    By turning her into a virginal, seductive but distancing bodily “landscape,” the model became an erotic illusion, one without will or personality, void of true emotion. Her passive state approximated that of a marble Greek statue.


  • Friday, April 29, 2016

    Artists Through Each Other’s Eyes

    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 July 2016.

    Guest blogger and curator Renee Klann is a Smith College student, class of 2019. She is the 2015-2017 STRIDE Scholar in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

    You may recognize the work of certain artists, but would you recognize the artists themselves? A Works on Paper cabinet on the third floor of the museum is currently displaying examples of the ways artists have captured each other’s appearances through portraits. The works include both famous figures like Pablo Picasso and others, like Charles Drouet, who are not as well-known. Regardless of the subjects’ fame, these portraits allow us to see artists from new and sometimes surprising perspectives.


    Jacques Villon (Gaston Duchamp), French, 1875-1963; after Juan Gris, Spanish, 1887-1927. Portrait of Pablo Picasso, n.d. Etching printed in red/brown on paper. Gift of David R. Pesuit, PhD. SC 2009:32


    James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American, 1834-1903. Drouet Sculpteur, 1859. Drypoint printed in black on paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. SC 1976:54-105


    Portraits are not only depictions of a person’s appearance; they can also record relationships between the artists themselves, whether they were friends, mentor and student, or admirers of each other’s work. For example, Georges Daniel de Monfreid became a close friend of Paul Gauguin’s when they were living in Paris. After Gauguin moved to Tahiti, the two stayed in touch by writing letters, sharing their achievements and struggles. De Monfreid depicted Gauguin in a print, capturing his tired expression and the cigarette dangling from his fingers. This image presents Gauguin, an artist who felt misunderstood by the art establishment, from a unique, sympathetic perspective.

    Georges Daniel de Monfreid, French, 1956-1929. Paul Gauguin, n.d. Wood engraving printed in color on Japan paper. Gift of Selma Erving, class of 1927. SC 1975:24-1

    In contrast to de Monfreid, Leonard Baskin made images of deceased artists to honor their talent and character. The portrait of Edvard Munch suggests his troubled psychological state through his uneven eyes and scratchy shading, as well as the way his face hovers against a deep black background. Although Baskin’s print is unsettling, it’s a compassionate portrayal of an artist with mental illness.


    Leonard Baskin, American, 1922-2000. Munch, 1964. Etching and aquatint printed in black on heavyweight cream-colored Rives BFK paper. Gift of Leanna Y. Brown, class of 1956. SC 2012:77


    Although they vary in style and time period, the portraits in the cabinet all reveal intriguing aspects of artists and the interactions between them. Stop by the museum to see them for yourself!


    Sak - 04/05/2016

    Artists Through Each Other's Eyes

    Very intriguing! An alternate vision of artists you think you know. I can't wait to see the exhibit.

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  • Friday, April 22, 2016

    Collaboration with the Spatial Analysis Lab

    Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Italian, 1720-1778. Arch of Titus from Vedute di Roma, 1748-1780. Etching. Yale University Art Gallery. The Arthur Ross Collection. 2012.159.11.98

    This fall, the Smith College Museum of Art will be opening the exhibition When in Rome: Prints & Photographs, 1550–1900. Using prints and photographs from both our own collection and that of the Yale University Art Gallery, When in Rome is a historical tour of the city's most renowned monuments, showing the many ways they have been pictured over time. This collaboration is a part of Yale's Collection-Sharing Initiative, which aims to lend works to academic museums to foster creativity and increase access to original art. 

    Gioacchino Altobelli. Italian, 1820 or 1830-after 1878. Arch of Titus, Rome, ca.1860. 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. SC 1982:38-115

    In a similar interdisciplinary spirit, the museum is teaming up with the Spatial Analysis Lab here at Smith to find the best ways to put these images in both spatial and historical contexts. Karen Yu '16, a student assistant at the SAL, has written a blog post on their work with us, including some examples of interactive maps we may use as a counterpart to the exhibition. Check it out--and get excited to see the show in the fall!