Category Archives: painting and watercolors

paintings

Watercolors by poet Archie Ammons

A.R. Ammons (1926-2001), Sagan Moonikin, ca. 1977. Signed by the artist. Graphic Arts Collection 2020- in process.

Ammons’ friend Emily Wilson noted, “This is one of a few pictures that Ammons titled: Sagan Moonikin. It was made in a period in which Carl Sagan (1934-1996) had joined the Cornell faculty and was very much in the news of the scientific community. Ammons includes in this modernist watercolor the image of a small farmhouse, which he uses in a number of pictures as a reference to his North Carolina home [not Sagan’s], but he sets it in the granite landscape of Ithaca. Sagan moved to his house on the gorge after Ammons had made this picture and that requires more discussion and research.”

A.R. “Archie” Ammons (1926–2001) was among the first recipients of the MacArthur Fellows Program, unofficially known as the “Genius Grant,” when it was established in 1981. The poet, who taught at Cornell University from 1964 to 1998, received many awards for his writing, among them two National Books Awards, a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Library of Congress’s Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, and the Bollingen Prize for Poetry. Less known or celebrated were Ammons visual arts, including the six watercolors recently acquired by Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection.


Our continuing thanks to Susan Stewart, Avalon Foundation University Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at Princeton University and to Emily Herring Wilson, longtime friend of Ammons, for their help with this acquisition. In her remembrance of the poet, Wilson noted the year he took up painting with a vengeance:

“Moving back into their house on Hanshaw Road, Archie set up a table in the upstairs bedroom looking out into the backyard he loved so much and had written about so often, and he began painting water-colors. In 1977 he was painting as many as six or eight hours a day. In 1981, he described the process in one of the most revealing statements he ever made about the sources of his creativity:

‘The is a poetics of tears, of smiles, of ecstasy (sensual joy and the harsh inspirations of the religious heights): there is a poetics of quietude and deep study, a poetics of fear—and a poetics of anger. During Christmas vacation in 1976, I got the notion which I had had passingly but often before, to try watercolors. I’m sure I was attracted to the possibility of bringing together in one visual consideration the arbitrariness of pure coincidence with the necessity of the essential, the moving form the free, as the work of art begins, through the decisions of pattern and possibility, and into and through the demands of the necessary, the unavoidable, the inevitable. This “change” is in another from the oldest of journeys, that from exile to community.

Having had dozens of tries at real pictures, I began to feel what events on the paper “meant”—that is, I began to learn the joining of what happened on the paper to its emotional counterpart, the feelings generated and expressed by the events. I discovered that I was stirred by the thin, loud, and bright, the utterly blatant effect like a smack in the face, the anger felt, expressed, reacted to. And then I thought that not a very nice thing to be into. But I was angry, sizzlingly angry for whatever reasons, and I found myself, when I could endure the emotions at all, released by letting the anger go and become the splatters and the sheer control of the paint. And then I thought that since we must after all at times be angry, how fortunate we are that art allows us to transform blistering feelings int the brilliance, the sweep and curve, the dash and astonishment (along with the cool definition, judgment, and knowledge) of still completed things.’” –Emily Herring Wilson, When I go back to my home country: a remembrance of Archie Ammons (Fountain, NC: R.A. Fountain, 2019).

A.R. Ammons, Untitled [Abstraction in sections with pink, red, green, and yellow], ca. 1977. 9 x 12 inches. Signed by Ammons. Graphic Arts Collection 2020- in process.

Note from Wilson “I love this. Because it seems to me to be the North Carolina landscape we have near black lakes in eastern NC and lots of red/pink clay used by potters. Also sandy coasts and sunshine and lots of creeks. For me he has his sizzling anger under control with the beautiful reds.”

See also: Literary Vision. November 1988, A.R. Ammons, John Ashbery, William Blake, William Burroughs, E.E. Cummings, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin, D.H. Lawrence, Henri Michaux, Henry Miller, Kenneth Patchen, and Kenneth Rexroth (New York: Jack Tilton Gallery, 1988).

 

 

 

A.R. Ammons, Untitled [Abstraction with verse], 1977. Signed and dated by Ammons. Graphic Arts Collection 2020- in process.

“Over a forty-five year span, A. R. Ammons gained readers, recognition, financial reward, and international acclaim for his verbal creations, not his visual ones. Although longtime subscribers to EPOCH may re member that one of his watercolors graced the 1986–87 cover of the magazine (35:3), most readers of Ammons’s twenty-five poetry collections remain unaware that he also painted more than one thousand watercolors. He did not hide that pursuit; in fact he was proud of his paintings, and from time to time, he promoted them.

From 1977 until 1993, he entered his work in twelve separate exhibits at sites from the Johnson Art Museum at Cornell to the Jack Tilton Gallery in New York City, where four of his paintings appeared in the show “Literary Vision,” along with [others]. He also exhibited his paintings in North Carolina, at the Reynolda Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem and at the University of North Carolina’s Morehead Gallery in Chapel Hill. More recently, in October 2002, The Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery at Wake Forest University, Ammons’s alma mater, presented an exhibit of fifty of the poet’s paintings; watercolors from that show subsequently appeared on the March and August 2003 covers of Poetry.” — Elizabeth M. Mills, “An Image for Longing,” Epoch 52 no.3 (2003).

 

A.R. Ammons, Untitled [Self-portrait, abstract], 1977. Signed and dated by Ammons. Graphic Arts Collection 2020- in process.
Wilson notes “Ammons painted a number of these faces, which seem to be self-portraits but require more study to have a clearer understanding.”

See also: Jonathan Dembo, A.R. Ammons’s poetry and art : a documentary exhibit : exhibit catalog (Greenville, N.C. : J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, 2008).
and
Donald Friedman and John Wronoski, The writer’s brush : an exhibition of artwork by writers (New York, NY : Anita Shapolsky Art Foundation, 2014)

A.R. Ammons, Untitled [Abstraction with nature in blue, red, and brown], 1977. Signed by Ammons. Graphic Arts Collection 2020- in process.

 

Centenary of “Arrangements of the American Landscape Forms”

End of the Parade, Coatesville, Pa., 1920. Tempera and pencil. The collection of Deborah and Ed Shein.

 

One hundred years ago at the Charles Daniel Gallery, the premier New York City venue for American modernism, Charles Demuth (1883-1935) exhibited his “Arrangements of the American Landscape Forms,” which included twelve tempera and gouache paintings: Pennsylvania now called In the Providence, After Sir Christopher Wren, New England, Waiting, Pennsylvania, The Merry-Go-Round, For W. Carlos W. now called Machinery, New England, The End of the Parade—Coatesville, Pa., New England now called Lancaster, Chimnies [sic], Ventilators or Whatever, now called Masts, and New England.

Charles Demuth self-portrait with Marcel Duchamp entitled The Purple Pup, about 1918. Watercolor over graphite. Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

With this leap forward, Demuth replaced traditional American landscape painting with industrial architecture, as seen in his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The reference to William Carlos William (1883-1963), Demuth’s friend since their college days, with the title of Machinery was an inside joke since Demuth knew Williams would object to the perceived teapot imagery, rather than letting the forms and colors speak for themselves.

Machinery, 1920. Tempera and pencil. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection.

 

Williams complimented his friend by purchasing End of the Parade [above], which in turn inspired his poem: “The End of the Parade / The sentence undulates, / raising no song; / it is too old, the / words of it are falling / apart. Only percussion / notes continue / with weakening emphasis what was once / all honeyed sounds / full of sweet breath.” –Collected Poems, 1921–1931 (Objectivist Press, 1934. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015066064604)

Ohio collector Ferdinand Howald snapped up The Tower [above], which was later donated to The Columbus Museum of Art (not to be confused with After Sir Christopher Wren, given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, by Scofield Thayer). Walter Arensberg bought one of several works listed as New England, which he later gave to the Philadelphia Museum of Art under the title Lancaster.

After Sir Christopher Wren, 1920. Watercolor and gouache. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Scofield Thayer.

 

In the backroom, Charles Daniel continued (as he had since 1916) to show trusted friends Demuth’s watercolors after Émile Zola’s 1880 novel Nana. The critic Henry McBride wrote “Mr. Daniel . . . showed us all, surreptitiously, some figure drawings. They were not precisely shocking, but one or two of the drawings illustrated points in Zola’s Nana and just before the war we were still sufficiently Victorian to shudder at the thought of exposing pictures of reprehensible Nana on the walls of the public gallery.” –(“Water Colors by Charles Demuth,” Creative Arts September 1929).

Another critic, Forbes Watson noted that “whoever enjoys a whimsical imagination will revel in Mr. Demuth’s illustrations of Zola’s Nana… The man who obtains this group of illustrations will be a lucky man.”—(“At the Galleries,” Arts and Decoration, January 1921). One year later, Albert Barnes purchased eight of the twelve Nana watercolors [three seen here] for what is now the Barnes Foundation, where a total of forty-four Demuth paintings hang.

 

Demuth’s now lost “Merry-Go-Round” is presumed to be inspired by Richard Oswald’s 1920 silent film The Merry-Go-Round (Der Reigen – Ein Werdegang), with a story similar to Nana and Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays, also illustrated by Demuth.

Demuth was introduced to The Daniel Gallery by Daniel’s protégé, another gay modernist painter Preston Dickinson (1891–1930), also in Paris during 1910, renting a room on the same street as Demuth. Together with Thomas Hart Benton, Louis Bouché, and Marguerite Thompson (Zorach), the Americans returned to New York where they all found a welcome home for their work with The Daniel Gallery at 2 West 47th Street (Katherine Dreier rented rooms across 5th Avenue and shared exhibitions with Daniel). Daniel celebrated his good fortune by arranging eight one-person shows for the young Demuth and included his paintings in thirty-one group exhibitions, more than any other artist.

Lancaster, 1920. Tempera and gouache. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Arensberg Collection.

Why go further? One might conceivably rectify the rhythm, study all out and arrive at the perfection of a tiger lily or a china doorknob. One might lift all out of the ruck, be a worthy successor to—the man in the moon. Instead of breaking the back of a willing phrase why not try to follow the wheel through—approach death at a walk, take in all the scenery. There’s as much reason one way as the other and then—one never knows—perhaps we’ll bring back Eurydice—this time! –William Carlos Williams, Kora in Hell: Improvisations (1920. Section 2).

 

In the Province, 1920. Gouache and pencil. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

 

Victorian humor digitized


A newly acquired Victorian album of hand-drawn cartoons and watercolors titled “Scraps by many hands,” has been digitized allowing the online reading of pages, which are difficult to decipher even in person. Not surprising, the jokes are based on degrading ugly women, fat men, indigenous people of British India, Asians, Africans, and others outside upper class Victorian London society.

It is surprising the number of drawings collaged with original photographs, such as the image above, where a British gentleman recommends a casual pose while having a photograph taken – head in hand. The album can be enjoyed at https://catalog.princeton.edu/catalog/12197569.

caption enlarged below:

The album is clearly inspired by George Cruikshank (1792–1878) who published a collection, called Scraps and Sketches, each year between 1824 and 1834. See Special Collections – Graphic Arts Collection » Oversize 2015-0065, 0066, 00677F, and many other copies.

Here are a few pages from “Scraps by many hands” but it is worth a few minutes to browse the digital pages.

 

There are many references to Malvern, a spa town in Worcestershire, England, where the owner of the album may have lived. Wikipedia notes:

C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien are among the authors that have frequented Malvern. Legend states that, after drinking in a Malvern pub one winter evening, they were walking home when it started to snow. They saw a lamp post shining out through the snow and Lewis turned to his friends and said “that would make a very nice opening line to a book”. The novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Lewis later used that image as the characters enter the realm of Narnia. J.R.R. Tolkien found inspiration in the Malvern landscape, which he had viewed from his childhood home in Birmingham and his brother Hilary’s home near Evesham. He was introduced to the area by C. S. Lewis, who had brought him here to meet George Sayer, the Head of English at Malvern College. Sayer had been a student of Lewis, and became his biographer, and together with them Tolkien would walk the Malvern Hills. Recordings of Tolkien reading excerpts from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were made in Malvern in 1952, at the home of George Sayer. The recordings were later issued on long-playing gramophone records. In the liner notes for J.R.R Tolkien Reads and Sings his The Hobbit & The Fellowship of the Rings, George Sayer wrote that Tolkien would relive the book as they walked and compared parts of the Malvern Hills to the White Mountains of Gondor.

George Boileau Willock cartoons

The Graphic Arts Collection recently added an album of 259 original cartoons, watercolors, and pen-&-ink sketches on 170 pp., along with a few printed cartoons, including one “sent to Punch January 1868.”

 

George Boileau Willock (born 1832), Gore Wynyard Willock (1861-1910), et al., Scraps by Many Hands, [ca. 1855-1885]. Embossed cover “G.B.W.”

Some work has already been done on the albums provenance, which is repeated here:
A collection of original art work by G.B.W. (George Boileau Willock, born 1832) and his artistic friends. The album was passed to his son, G.W.W. (Gore Wynyard Willock, 1861-1910). George came from an Imperial family that included Alexander Willock, London merchant and slave owner in the West Indies, his son Francis (1785-1834), naval officer and brother of Sir Henry Willock (1790-1858) chairman of the East India Company, and Captain Frank Gore Willock (1829-1857) who died at Delhi.

The son of Sir Henry Willock and Elizabeth Davis, George married Georgina C.M Willoughby in 1857 and together they had three children, Beatrice, Gore and Frank. Gore was born at Mussoorie, (a hill station pictured in the album) in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, north of New Delhi, and served in the Indian army before retiring to London. The Boileau connection was through Mary Elizabeth Boileau (1838-1919), who married Henry Davis Willock in 1859.

It is assumed that Gore compiled his father’s drawings into this album, including 124 cartoons signed G.B.W. or G.B. Willock; and about 80 others unsigned but probably by Willock. George was clearly an accomplished artist but many of the drawings present racist views of Asian, African, and Indian people, both in the image and the text. They are not included here. A portrait [at the top] presumed to be George Willock is included with a photograph of his face pasted to a sketch of a man on horseback

 

There are 20 non-humorous watercolors or pen-&-ink drawings of landscapes in England, Scotland, and India.. Eighteen cartoons are signed with the initials of other artists: 8 by C.A.R., 4 by J.L., 2 each by H.M.J. and W.T., one each by W.F.L. and M.E.
The two printed items laid into the album are:
Legend of Broadstairs. For Private Circulation only (Broadstairs: Printed by E. Cantwell, ca. 1875). Signed G.B.W. at end. Inscribed to “Gore from the Author,” [ca.1875].
A True Tale told by Mariah Hanne to Sarah Jane. 3pp. on a single folded sheet [ca.1880], inscribed to “Gore from the Author.”

 

 

Dictionnaire de botanique


Dictionnaire de botanique: 3 vols, folio (340 × 200 mm), containing a total of more than 1200 leaves (Belgium?, ca. 1920s). Graphic Arts Collection 2020- in process

A few weeks ago, we posted some images from the massive four volume hand-drawn, hand-written tome by an unknown amateur scientist. https://graphicarts.princeton.edu/2020/09/08/dictionnaire-botanique-or-livre-dartiste-take-your-pick/ Today, we post a few more specifically from the unique, three volume set labeled Dictionnaire de botanique.

Assumed to be the life work of a Belgian naturalist, this extraordinary collection documents and illustrates animal and plant biology, fossil records, cell growth, poisonous plant and germ genealogy, human evolution, insect patterns, and more.

Should it be studied for its scientific presentations? Is it worth the time it would take to research the 1,200 pages of French text and images? Does it make legitimate claims for or against Darwin and other experts? We will continue to share this material, in the hope that someone will recognize its sources or present new theories on its creation.

 

 


The new normal

We continue to teach live using the original material in the graphic arts collection to reach our students who are not on campus. Today was the practice run for Professor Linda Colley’s Junior Seminar in History, in which we will compare George III with George Washington while demonstrating the many mediums and formats through which you can learn. Here is a pochoir print reproducing the oil painting by Charles Willson Peale of George Washington at the Battle of Princeton together with a mezzotint after Thomas Gainsborough’s George the Third, King of Great Britain.

 

 

One of the many complications is adjusting the equipment to accommodate the very large as well as the very small, while continuing to talk about specific details.

Some material like the John Trumbull’s 1786 sketch of the Death of General Mercer [Sketch for The Battle of Princeton] is already digitized online: https://catalog.princeton.edu/catalog/10660639. But others, like the watch in an open face case worn by Col. Thomas Turbott during the Battle of Princeton, is not.

 

 

Besides it is more fun to see and talk about the material live, than to hand out digital addresses. Such as Baricou Montbrun’s L’Apotre de la liberte immortalize (The Apostle of Freedom Immortalized or The Apotheosis of Benjamin Franklin), [Paris: Montbrun, ca. 1790], a stipple engraving in which Franklin is being assumed into heaven as the world mourns his loss.

Or Wha wants me, 1792, in which Thomas Paine holds a scroll of the “rights of man” surrounded by injustices and standing on labels.

Thanks to the many, many people who have helped set this up and continue to make these classes possible.

 

 

Decoration at Pynson Printers

Several years ago, while renovating Firestone Library, a canvas was found abandoned inside a temporary wall. The enormous painting of a Chinese bonsai tree could not be identified and was placed in our painting storage vault. Until now.

Recently we discovered this was the painting that hung in the offices of Elmer Adler’s Pynson Printers, positioned between his Pegasus logo and that of his colleague type designer Lucian Bernhard. Bernhard sublet space from Adler, who rented an entire floor in the New York Times Annex on 43rd Street beginning in 1923.

“From the twentieth of March, 1922, the Pynson Printers are at your service for the planning and production of all printing in which quality is the first consideration. We have founded our organization on the belief that the printer should be primarily an artist—a designer and a creator rather than a mere manufacturer. Toward this end, we have assembled a group whose several abilities and varied experience cover every phase of the art and business of printing. . . . We will do no work in which quality must be sacrificed to exigencies of time or cost” (Reprinted in Lawrance Thompson “Forty Mercer Street,” Princeton University Library Chronicle 2, no. 1 (November 1940): 32).

Together with designers Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960), Hubert L. Canfield, and David Silvé, Adler opened a small, fine press printing shop at 122 East 32nd Street named Pynson Printers, after the sixteenth-century printer Richard Pynson. Within six months, the others had moved on, leaving Adler the sole owner of the firm (see: John F. Peckham “Forty Mercer,” Princeton Alumni Weekly 41, no. 12 (December 16, 1940): 8). As stated in the opening announcement, concerns with quality rather than commercial practicality led production.

The Pynson Printers office moved to the New York Times Annex at 239 West 43rd Street, elegantly decorated by Lucien Bernhard. In a 1925 letter to Rockwell Kent (1882-1971), with whom he was already in business, Adler wrote, “Since you were last here Mr. [Lucien] Bernhard has arranged to build a studio adjoining our shop which will help create more of the kind of thing we want to have….” (Adler to Kent, February 13, 1925. CO262, box 32, Adler papers). These three men, Adler, Kent, and the recently emigrated German designer Lucien Bernhard (1883-1972), began working together on a variety of printing and design projects. Their first fine press book, Candide, began in 1925 when 27-year-old Bennett Cerf and his 23-year-old friend Donald Klopfer decided they wanted a business of their own, which became Random House.

Adler closed the Pynson Printers in 1940, when he was invited to move to Princeton, New Jersey, and established a department of Graphic Arts for Princeton University. He brought with him a personal collection—fourteen tons of books, prints, paintings, records, and equipment—which became the basis for the graphic arts collection we enjoy today. Although he donated some records of the Pynson Press to the NYPL in 1936, he retained a large amount of material with which to teach, including papers, proofs, and plates, which he sold to the Princeton University Library in 1948 for one dollar.
See also: https://graphicarts.princeton.edu/2014/03/21/exhibition-chronology-of-the-little-gallery-of-the-pynson-printers/

 

Graphic Arts reference collection holds four enormous volumes documenting jobs produced by Elmer Adler’s Pynson Printers from 1922 to 1940 when the press was closed. An index to these volumes has been created by Sherry X. Zhang and Jena Mayer with help from Brianna R. Cregle and AnnaLee Pauls, which is key word searchable allowing researchers, for the first time, to study Adler’s commercial work. PDFs are attached here and to the voyager record for these scrapbooks. https://catalog.princeton.edu/catalog/7343684 Pynson Printers jobs. Graphic Arts: Reference Collection Oversize Z232.P99 A9f
Volume one:Copy of PynsonPrinters_Volume 1
Volume two:Copy of PynsonPrinters_vol.2
Volume three:Copy of PynsonPrinters_vol.3
Volume four:Copy of PynsonPrinters_vol.4 (1) (1)
Extras: Copy of PynsonPrinters_Presses

Dictionnaire botanique or livre d’artiste, take your pick

J.J. Audubon spent his life tracking and painting all the birds in America. Edward Curtis spent the majority of his adult life photographing the Indians of North America. In this extraordinary set of four volumes, a Belgian natural history enthusiast or scientist or doctor spent “most of my life” writing and illustrating a study of transformism, or what we would call evolutionary theory. And if that weren’t enough, the elephant folio Étude sur la transformisme comes with a three volume Dictionnaire botanique, every page hand written and hand colored.

This massive and extraordinary gathering of knowledge addresses everything from air currents to the working of the inner ear; from geography to biology; from Charles Darwin to Victor Hugo. The books are illustrated throughout with thousands of the watercolor paintings. It has been dated from the early 20th century, although the truth is there is no date yet found in any of the volumes. We can only hope it will catch the interest of a future researcher, patient enough to read the small print and find out the truth about the books and their anonymous author.

Étude sur la transformisme holds approximately 150 leaves, many folded, all heavily illustrated in full color. The three volume Dictionnaire botanique offers more than 1200 with several thousand color diagrams, charts, and paintings.

Although the sheer weight of the volume is pulling the paging from the binding, its impressive cover still holds the book together, offering four quotes to the reader:

La vie sans science est presque l’image de la morte, C. Volpi = Life without science is almost the image of the dead

Chercher. Comprendre. Vouloir. Pouvoir. Oser. Sentir. Méditer = Search. Understand. Want to. Power. Dare. Feel. Meditate

Naître, mourir et renaître sans cesse, telle est la loi, telle est lavie. V. Hugo = To be born, to die and to be reborn without ceasing, such is the law, such is the life.

Travailler pour être estimé. Etre estimé pour être aimé. Etre aimé pour être heureux = Work to be esteemed. To be esteemed in order to be loved. To be loved to be happy

 

 


There is the name Dumoulin, but we known absolutely nothing about him or her or them. It is unlikely this refers to the French artist Louis-Jules Dumoulin (1860–1924), who founded the Société Coloniale des Artistes Français in 1908. “Dumoulin is an Orientalist painter linked to the official artistic circles and a great traveler from the various missions that will be entrusted to him. He made his first major trip outside Europe in 1888 on the occasion of an official mission to Japan ordered by the Ministry of Education.”

 

 

 

Here is the description that comes with the set:

The large folio volume is really a huge collection of charts devoted to human anatomy, animal and plant biology, the fossil record and evolution (or transformisme). Botany makes up the largest proportion, but there are sections on insects, reptiles, birds, flying lizards, marsupials and mammals. Dumoulin also had an interest in Africa and there are sections on the Sahara and on the Belgian Congo. The focus is worldwide and is drawn from reference works rather than original research, but the arrangements are highly idiosyncratic. Several evolutionary charts are attempted, mentioning Linnaeus, Darwin, Lamarck and Jussieu.

The Dictionnaire botanique is a large 3 volume compilation mainly devoted to botanical classification, from the smallest mosses and seaweeds, to exotic flowering plants and forest trees. Like the larger folio volume, these volumes are illustrated throughout, with accompanying text in coloured inks and often containing emblematic figures of human figures appropriate to the origins of the plant: including Africans and Americans. They have apparently been bound from a large number of separate files (whose stiff paper cover with labels are preserved) each devoted to a different botanical family. The third volume contains additional materials at the end, including a study on Pasteur and germs, another on insects and another on bird classification. Like the preceding parts, these are also copiously illustrated in colour.

There is a note inserted that the author hoped his/her/their work would find its way into a university. Happily, the unusual set found a home in the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton University. Please share the few facts presented here with colleagues and let us know if you have a theory about this massive undertaking.

Thomas Eakins and the Making of Walt Whitman’s Death Mask


“Thomas Eakins and the Making of Walt Whitman’s Death Mask,” will be the second in a series of live webinars highlighting Special Collections in Firestone Library, Princeton University. Please join Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator, and Karl Kusserow, John Wilmerding Curator of American Art, at 2:00 on Friday, June 26, 2020, as we focus on two American pioneers in art and literature. The event is free and open to all, but please register here for the zoom invitation: Register

During the last five years of Walt Whitman’s life, Thomas Eakins was a frequent guest at the poet’s Camden, New Jersey, home where Whitman agreed to sit for an oil portrait. Eakins’ protégé Samuel Murray often joined them, photographing Whitman in preparation for a sculpted bust. On the day Whitman died, March 26, 1892, Eakins and Murray gathered all the necessary supplies to cast his face in plaster and early the next morning crossed the Delaware River, walking the final blocks to 330 Mickle Street. At least three death masks survive from the matrix they produced that day, one preserved at the Princeton University Library.

Thomas Eakins’ studio at 1330 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, to Walt Whitman’s house, 330 Mickle Blvd., Camden, New Jersey

That Whitman and Eakins were similar in temperament and talent is well documented. Their lives intertwined not only in the creation of American masterworks, but in the critical scorn and institutional censor they were each forced to endure throughout their careers. Each found a way to work independent of academia, sharing a common bond in their eternal search for truth within their work.

Samuel Murray, Thomas Eakins and William O’Donovan in Eakins’s Chestnut Street Studio

Here is a timeline merging the two careers:

1855: Whitman publishes the first edition of Leaves of Grass, containing twelve poems.
1856: Fowler & Wells, phrenologists, print and distribute the second edition of Leaves of Grass.
1865: While in Washington, Whitman is discharged from his position by Secretary James Harlan, supposedly for writing obscene poetry.
1865: Eakins studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), also attending lectures in anatomy and participating in dissections at Jefferson Medical College.
1873: Whitman suffers a paralytic stroke and moves in with his brother George in Camden, New Jersey.
1875: Eakins paints The Gross Clinic. Public and critical response is hostile.
1876: The Gross Clinic is rejected from the art exhibition at the Centennial Exposition.
1878: Alumni of Jefferson University scraped together $200 to buy the painting.
1882: Osgood withdraws his edition of Leaves of Grass on complaint of Boston District Attorney and the edition is reprinted in Philadelphia, along with Specimen Days. News of the censure leads to a boom in sales.
1884: Whitman uses the royalties to buy a house at 328 Mickle Street in Camden.
1885: Eakins paints The Swimming Hole.
1886: Eakins caused a scandal by lifting the loincloth of a male model in front of female students and is forced to resign as an instructor from the PAFA. He forms the Art Students’ League of Philadelphia but eventually stops teaching.
1887: Whitman lectures to hundreds in New York City at Madison Square Theater. Eakins is ostracized from Philadelphia society and spends the summer on a ‘rest cure’ at a ranch in the Dakota Badlands.
1888: Eakins is taken to Camden to meet Whitman by his friend Talcott Williams. Whitman finds the artist’s lack of social graces refreshing and offers to sit for him. “Mr. Eakins, the portrait painter, of Philadelphia; is going to have a whack at me.” Later that year, Whitman suffers another paralytic stroke followed by severe illness.
1889: Eakins paints The Agnew Clinic.
1889: The artist attends Whitman’s 70th birthday party and describes painting the poet, “I began in the usual way, but soon found that the ordinary methods wouldn’t do,—that technique, rules and traditions would have to be thrown aside; that, before all else, he was to be treated as a man.”
1890: Whitman pays $4,000 to have a tomb built for himself in Harleigh Cemetery, Camden.
1892: Whitman dies at 6:43 p.m. on March 27. The following morning, Thomas Eakins and his protégé Samuel Murray go to Camden to make a cast of Whitman’s face and left hand. Whitman’s brain is removed and sent to the American Anthropometric Society.
1895: Murray and Eakins use Whitman’s mask to carve Moses, one of ten biblical prophets commissioned for the Witherspoon building in Philadelphia.

The Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks, Princeton University

Teaching with images

When teaching with images, don’t forget the obvious. Wikimedia Commons is a collection of 61,896,277 images in the public domain as well as freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) available to everyone (including many from our Graphic Arts Collection).

Now 16 years old, the resource is not perfect but free and sometime spectacular, such as this digital reproduction of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights from the Prado in Madrid. The painting is next to impossible to see in person, (when travel is available) given the crowds. Here you can zoom in on any corner of the panels, producing extraordinary views. Click on each thumbnail to enlarge it.

The three panels might represent Adam and Eve on the left, a bacchanal of pleasures in the middle, and hell on the right. Commissioned by Engelbert II of Nassau, it was meant to be seen by a very few and only recently moved to a public museum. Note the prevalence of strawberries. The oak panels are not signed but attributed to Bosch.

Each wikimedia page also provides the object’s current location, Bosch is in room 56, the object history and bibliography. In this case, there are multiple files to download from various sources. Here are a few close-ups.


This man is being talked into signing a document, perhaps a papal indulgence, by the pig with a nun’s habit. One year after Bosch’s death, Martin Luther would protest against the sale of papal indulgences.

 

 

 

A brief introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD_nwg9CMzw