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, December 6, 2012
Last year in this blog I suggested that everyone observe David Becker Dayon December 11 in honor of the late print scholar, curator, collector, and philanthropist. Well, that day has rolled around again, presenting the perfect occasion to interact deeply with a work of art (preferably, a print or an illustrated book), and particularly a work of art that speaks deeply to your personal values or beliefs.
As a scholar, one of David’s specialties was the French eccentric printmaker Rodolphe Bresdin, whose works feature fantastical scenes rendered in painstaking detail. Here is one example of Bresdin’s etchings, donated by David to SCMA in honor of his mother, Helen Pillsbury Becker, class of 1928.
David’s enthusiasms as a collector were significantly broader. One opportunity to get an idea of the breadth of his interests is an engaging exhibition drawn from the 1,500 objects he donated to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine. On view until March 24, 2013, Printmaking ABC: In Memorium David P. Beckershowcases significant prints in beautiful impressions made between the 16th and 21st centuries.
However you decide to observe David Becker Day, I hope you will take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the things you love and the people that have nurtured and mentored you. While I see this day as an opportunity to encourage people to engage directly with works of art, ultimately, the day also honors someone whose ability and desire to share his knowledge and passion impacted many people (myself included) on a deep and lasting level. Pass on what you know and love, and have a wonderful David Becker Day.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Here at the Smith College Museum of Art, Smith students are given many amazing opportunities to be deeply involved in their collection. This semester, one such chance was given to six students who enrolled in the colloquium French and Italian Drawings: Renaissance through Romanticism,taught by Suzanne Folds McCullagh, who is this year’s Ruth and Clarence Kennedy Professor of Renaissance Studies. A Smith alumna herself (class of 1973), McCullagh is the Anne Vogt Fuller and Marion Titus Searle Chair and Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago. As a specialist in French and Italian prints and drawings from the Renaissance and Baroque, she provides extensive knowledge of drawings in terms of connoisseurship, techniques, conservation, provenance, and collecting, as well as her invaluable experience as a curator at a world-renowned museum.
As an important part of the course, Professor McCullagh and her students developed an installation of French and Italian Drawings from the SCMA collection, which is on view in the Nixon gallery on the second floor of the Museum until December 16. To develop their installation, the class met here in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, where the students acquired unique hands-on experience of working directly with these drawings. Students learned how to tell more about the history and provenance of these drawings by identifying materials, paper type, watermarks and collectors marks. Using all of this information and much outside research, students wrote their own wall labels for the installation (a selection is shown below). Professor McCullagh and her students’ installation of SCMA’s drawings also creates a dynamic conversation with our exhibition Drawn to Excellence: Renaissance to Romantic Drawings from a Private Collection,on view on the first floor until January 6.
Labels written by the French and Italian Drawings Class
Label written by Suzanne Folds McCullagh (B.A., Smith College ‘73; Ph.D., Harvard University ‘81), the Anne Vogt Fuller and Marion Titus Searle Chair and Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago:
Cigoli was a prolific and expressive draftsman who brought a new naturalism and clarity to his vast corpus of drawings, many of which were preparatory for paintings and espoused Counter Reformation decorum and piety.
This double-sided drawing is comprised of red chalk (recto) and pen and brown ink (verso) studies for The Dream of Jacob, one of his early masterpieces—probably the 1593 version (the painting pictured here) now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nancy.
Discovered mounted in a book in 1996 at an antiquarian book sale in Northampton, the sheet joins an impressive list of at least nine studies for that composition, which Cigoli executed several times in oil. The red chalk study is clearly drawn from a studio model in contemporary dress.
Label written by Carol Kaminsky:
Géricault’s short life spanned the rise and fall of Napoleon and the shift from rigid Classicism to the intensity of Romanticism. His short apprenticeship in the former style was followed by a period of self-study in Paris copying paintings in the Louvre and two years (1816–17) in Florence and Rome. This brooding landscape, possibly made in Italy, is transformed by sharp contrasts between light and dark. Bands of clouds race across the horizon; a glow emanates from a hidden moon and lights a crenellated tower as smoke rises to merge with the midnight blue of the sky. Landscapes are relatively rare within the artist’s drawn oeuvre, but another landscape by Géricault appears in the exhibition Drawn to Excellence on SCMA’s first floor.
Agostino Carracci, Annibale Carracci. Italian, Agostino 1557 – 1602; Annibale 1560 – 1609. Landscape: Hillock with Trees,n.d. Pen and brown ink on cream laid paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1955:30
Label written by Maggie Hoot, class of 2016:
The Carracci family of artists reformed art in late sixteenth-century Italy, moving from the sterility of Mannerism to the drama of the Baroque, emphasizing drawing from nature and living subjects. While this landscape is surely from the Carracci dynasty, it is highly debatable which family member made this small sketch. A past collector attributed it to “Antonio Caracie” (as inscribed), but most scholars believe it to be by Antonio’s father, Agostino, or his uncle Annibale. Drawings representing trees by both of these artists are featured in the exhibition Drawn to Excellence downstairs and provide an intriguing comparison and foundation for this work’s origins.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Cass Bird, who graduated from Smith College in 1999, works as both a fine art and commercial photographer in Brooklyn, NY. Her commercial work is often featured in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine, and many others. While her magazine work sensuously portrays celebrities, models, and pop culture icons, her photographs of friends, acquaintances, and inspirational figures are far more personal, challenging, and moving. Such portraits artfully explore the subjective and amorphous nature of gender in our contemporary society.
In I Look Just Like My Mommy,acquired by SCMA in 2011, Bird depicts her friend Macaulay on the rooftop of a Williamsburg apartment building. Macaulay stands shirtless, with breasts, tattoos, and underwear exposed. The portrait is strikingly beautiful; the sun’s soft glow illuminates both the Brooklyn skyline and the subject’s skin, but it is not just about mere aesthetics. With most of Macaulay’s face covered, we are left to explore the signs which we may typically associate with normative gender identities; breasts, hairless skin, and pink underwear exist alongside defined arm musculature, tattoos of guns, a bald eagle, and “ROCK & ROLL,” as well as a trucker hat which boldly states “I LOOK JUST LIKE MY DADDY.” (Of course, this last detail is even further complicated by the title of the photograph, which states the opposite.) Bird’s portrait asks viewers to acknowledge the inconsistencies of these signifiers in order to think beyond conventional, polarized ideas of gender, and ultimately, to recognize the individual underneath the posturing.
Regarding her work, Bird claims: “The photographs portray the beauty and the positive existence of these individuals, their male and female origins overridden by their own will to define their gender, sexuality, and place in society.” Cass Bird continues to photograph individuals whose lives and appearances operate outside the traditional gender dichotomy, as can be seen in her first book, Rewilding,which was published earlier this year.