Category Archives: painting and watercolors


Visualizing the Virus

Visualizing the Virus was founded and is led by Dr Sria Chatterjee, an art historian and environmental humanities scholar who received her PhD from the department of Art & Archaeology at Princeton in 2019. It is made possible by a grant from DARIAH EU and support from the Institute of Experimental Design and Media, FHNW. Princeton Center for Digital Humanities is a project partner.

They have a wide network of collaborators and are particularly grateful to the Max-Planck Kunsthistorisches Institute, the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda, the Department of History at Princeton University, PACE Center for Civic Engagement at Princeton for their collaborations.

The project goes beyond the media narratives around Covid-19. They write:

Visualizing the Virus is an interdisciplinary digital project through which one can visualize and understand the Coronavirus pandemic from a variety of perspectives. It aims to center the inequalities the pandemic makes visible. Gaps between the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences are hard to bridge. This means that pandemics are often studied without considering their many interconnected histories. Visualizing the Virus connects insights from different disciplines to create a collective digital space for exactly such a convergence. We are not only interested in the ways in which scientists, artists and people in their everyday lives have made the virus visible; but also in processes, historical and contemporary, that the viruses make visible – inequalities, be it of access to resources and healthcare, vaccine imperialism, xenophobia, gender inequalities, and so on.

If you would like to participate by collaborating and/or contributing to the project, they would love to hear from you. Our Graphic Arts webinar and acquisitions played a small part, with thanks to Ellen Ambrosone.

 Dulari Devi, Corona Effect in Patna, 2020. Acrylic on paper. Purchased with funds from South Asian Studies and Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020- in process

Corona Ek Mahamari = Corona An Epidemic




Vijay Sadashiv Mashe, Corona Ek Mahamari [Corona an Epidemic], 2020. Cow dung background, poster color on traditionally treated cloth. 104 x 78 cm. Graphic Arts Collection 2021.

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a dense composite painting by the contemporary Warli artist Vijay Sadashiv Mashe. The son of Sadashiv Mashe and grandson of Jivjy Soma Mashe, Vijay continues the traditions of the Warli painters, but with an international consciousness. The simplicity of the forms lends itself to the representation of our global pandemic and its consequences in India and beyond.

Read more about the Indian Warli Community projects at the V&A Museum of Childhood:

Migrant Labor Goes Home, 2020

Pushpa Kumari, Migrant Labor Goes Home, 2020. Natural color on cow dung, washed handmade paper. 67 x 54 cm. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021.

This recent acquisition painted by Pushpa Kumari is part of our ongoing effort to document the work of contemporary Indian indigenous artists during the 2020-2021 pandemic.

The following description was written by Anubhav Nath of Ojas Art:

“Shiv-Parvati play an important role in Madhubani art. They are depicted as Ardhnareswar, which portrays a perfectly fused balance of divine masculine and feminine energies.

In April 2020, caught unaware, thousands of migrant labor walked thousands of miles to their homes in the region of Bihar, from where this art form originates. This work refers to a lot of images from local media in connection to the migrant labor headed back and the duress they faced.

People walking with families in never ending queues with children being dragged on suitcases; a woman collapsing and eventually dying on the railway track as her infant child continued to breast-feed and laborers being washed down with disinfectant before being allowed to enter a village.

These images are symbolic of the lockdown, and have been translated into a traditional Madhubani style very effectively and poignantly.”

China Painting

Porcelain paints case, 1880s. German. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a linen case containing 98 glass vials filled with powder pigments to be used in the painting of porcelain wares, also known as china painting. The pigment is now permanently sealed in the vials with the cork tightly fixed to the glass. Each vial is numbered with a paper label. “China or porcelain paint pigment does not dissolve in water or oil, because the pigments are made up of metallic oxides blended with fine powdered glass. The powdered glass acted as a flux so that the glaze and coloured paint would adhere together permanently upon firing.”

As Debby DuBay writes in The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles:

…Women played significant roles in the birth of the china-painting movement in America. In 1873 in Cincinnati, Karl Lagenbeck, an immigrant ceramic chemist, and his neighbor, Maria Longworth Nicols (1849-1932) experimented with over-glaze china paints. Maria, a student at the McMicken School of Design, placed some of her decorated pieces on display at a student exhibition. Several classmates, specifically one Mary Louise McLaughlin (1847-1939), was so smitten by the beauty of Nicols’ work that she requested their instructor, Ben Pitman, to purchase the necessary supplies to paint on porcelain.

With so much interest in this new art form, Pitman engaged Marie Eggers, an immigrant who had studied the art of china painting in the Dresden factory, to teach a class in 1874. This group of students entered their wares in the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and were responsible for exposing millions of Americans to this new art form.

…By 1877 there had been several books published in Europe on directions for painting on china for amateurs, but it is student Mary Louise McLaughlin who published the first book in America – China Painting, A Practical Manual for the Use of Amateurs in the Decoration of Hard Porcelain. McLaughlin’s infectious enthusiasm for this art form spread throughout the United States, and she is credited with educating the general public and those who could not attend classes on the art of china painting. Her book included information on tracing on china, china painting techniques and directions for gilding, firing, etc.

In 1879 McLaughlin formed the Woman’s Pottery Club. By 1881, there were major china painting studios in Boston, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and New York, including The Osgood Art School established in New York City by Adelaide Harriett Osgood (1842-1910). But it is McLaughlin who is credited with influencing the entire nation and setting the standards for porcelain clubs established throughout the United States.–Painted Porcelain: Women Played a Major Role – The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles –by Debby DuBay.

Anita J. Ellis, The ceramic career of M. Louise McLaughlin (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press [for] Cincinnati Art Museum, 2003). NK4023.M382 E443 2003

Mary Louise McLaughlin, China painting: a practical manual for the use of amateurs in the decoration of hard porcelain (Cincinnati: R. Clarke, 1877). ReCAP 738 M22


Vinita Jha’s “Unlimited Responsibilities of Women during Covid-19”

We have a new addition to our South Asian painting collection, documenting the effect of the coronavirus in that region. In 2020, the artist Vinita Jha created “Unlimited responsibilities of women during COVID-19,” along with a short story narrating the vignettes throughout her work. Vinita’s entire text will be archived with her painting but here is a short section:

This corona epidemic changed our society and social life completely. Covid-19 on the one hand wrapped the whole world in its clutches, on the other hand it also provided employment opportunities to the skilled people. Through this real story, I have tried to tell that the participation of women in the Corona-period played an important role and how did they worked very hard from day-to-night-to bring their family’s happiness back. Whether it is from rural environment or urban environment, women of both classes try their best and they become successful, too.

This is the story of a rural woman, whose name is Laliya. She is not educated but knows how to deal family, business and relationship well-being, She leaves no stone unturned to pursue higher education for her children, even though she belongs to a poor working class. Before the Corona epidemic and lock-down she would go home and clean the dishes and do the cleaning. But after the arrival of this epidemic, she lost that job/employment and became unemployed. They don’t have enough food to spend their life anymore, because they were daily wage worker in their earlier life. Laliya was in very deep sorrow. Now she started living day and night in deep concern about employment and income, and started thinking what to do now ??

Laliya also has two children Muniya (daughter) and Ugna (son). Due to government order in the pandemic, the school of their children has also started teaching online. Since Laliya has only one smartphone in her house and there are two children, both children have their own separate online classes. There is always an atmosphere of war between brother and sister about this smartphone. And sometimes it happens that if the class of both of the children were online together, then the class of both of them would miss or sometimes the class of one child would be missed.

Both Laliya and her husband Bhola are extremely worried about these things and they decided to buy one more smartphone, so that the online class of both their children could be ensured and they could study well. But this dream of Laliya started to look incomplete as they were unable to buy it due to the smartphone being so very expensive. They cannot afford to buy it.

Images and words posted with permission of the artist.

Our sympathies to all those affected by the cyclone and heavy rains this week, on top of the continuing struggles with the huge caseloads of Covid-19 infections. Accept our sincere wishes for a better future.

Albert M. Cohn’s album of Cruikshank sketches

George Cruikshank (1792-1878 ), Album of Original Drawings, Sketches and Manuscript. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021 – in process. Provenance: Albert M. Cohn. Acquired in honor of Henry Martin, Class of 1948


First deposited at the Princeton University Library in 1913, the Richard W. Meirs, Class of 1888, Collection of George Cruikshank, comprises one of the finest Cruikshank collections in the United States. About 1000 volumes, many separate prints, as well as drawings, finished oil paintings, oil sketches, “panorama” prints on rollers, etched plates, broadsides, bound manuscripts, autograph letters, and Cruikshank correspondence can be found in Princeton stacks.

Meirs used the Cruikshank bibliography prepared by Albert M. Cohn in his collecting and the library did the same in organizing the collection in our vaults. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, we have continued to expand on the Meirs gift, most recently with a unique scrapbook owned by Cohn containing Cruikshank sketches, letters, and other miscellany. This acquisition is made in honor of the artist and friend of this collection in particular, Henry Martin, Class of 1948.


This substantial album contains original sketches and manuscripts from the Cohn’s collection and confirms that Cruikshank drew or wrote on anything, here using letters, lists, envelopes and assorted ephemera. Of particular interest is an invoice from Draper Charles Coleing, Commercial House, an invitation from the Council of the Photographic Society and on a printed letter from the British Institution for Promoting The Fine Arts in the United Kingdom.

There is a letter to English artist Andrew William Delamotte, 1775-1863, in which Cruikshank notes his prolific output: “I cannot give any idea of the number of drawings and etchings I have made – somewhere about a cart load – of rubbish with a few tolerable specimens here & there.” Among the sketches are many curious notes, such as the comment on a sketch of a fisherman coming home: “I wonder why the fish don’t bite, if they were as hungry as I am they would bite fast enough.”


Additional information of Cruikshank at Princeton (compiled by Steve Ferguson):

A list of Library holdings as of 1920 appears in the Princeton University Classed List, (Special Collections) vol. 6 (Princeton, 1920) pp. 3565-3583 [(ExB) 0639.7373.5], published after the major deposit of Cruikshank material by Mr. Meirs. A large portion of the collection is found at

The Cohn Cruikshank bibliography (covering illustrated books and separate prints) has been checked (recording call numbers) for the Library’s holdings. For particulars refer to: Albert M. Cohn. George Cruikshank, a catalogue raisonné of the work executed during the years 1806-1877. (London, 1924) [(GARF) NC1479.C9 C72q, copy 2)

An important article about how and why Americans collected Cruikshankiana was published in 1916 by Arthur Bartlett Maurice, Class of 1894. See A. B. Maurice, “Cruikshank in America”, in The Bookman November 1916.  Maurice was editor of The Bookman from 1899 to 1916. This article has many particulars about the Meirs collection.

See also: Howard S. Leach “Cruikshank’s Illustrations of Shakespeare in the Meirs Collection, Princeton University Library” in the Princeton Alumni Weekly (13 December 1916, p 259-262). An editorial note on the same page as this article states “Alumni visiting Princeton may spend a very entertaining and profitable afternoon in looking over this collection, which is in the exhibition room of the Library.”

Also see: F.J. Mather “Rowandson and Cruikshank” in the Princeton Alumni Weekly (4 March 1932); Frank Jewett Mather, “A Statistical Survey of the Meirs Cruikshank Collection” in the Princeton University Library Chronicle IV, 2-3 (February-April, 1943) pp. 50-52; E.D.H. Johnson. George Cruikshank: the Collection at Princeton (Princeton, 1973) [(Cruik) 747] which is the offprint of: E.D.H. Johnson, “The George Cruikshank Collection at Princeton” in Princeton University Library Chronicle XXXV, 1 (Autumn and Winter, 1973-74) pp. 1-33.


C.E. Brock’s illustrations for Austen’s Persuasion

C.E. Brock (1870-1938), “Politely Drew Back and Stopped to Give Them Way” watercolor, signed & dated. Provenance: Chris Beetles. Exhibited at The British Art of Illustrations 1870-2010.

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired two watercolors by C.E. (Charles Edmund) Brock (1870-1938), illustrations to Jane Austen’s Persuasion, her last novel, originally published in 1816. A complete history/bibliography of Charles and brother Henry Brock’s illustrations for the Austen novels has been written by Cinthia Garcia Soria, “Austen Illustrators Henry and Charles Brock,” and can be read here:

This is a brief exert:

…However, by 1898 a new printing technique that allowed inclusion of illustrations in colour had emerged—lithography, and Dent asked both Charles and Henry to create a new set of illustrations for the six Jane Austen novels.

The brothers agreed to share the task in equal parts: five volumes each, six illustrations per volume, one as frontispiece. Charles was in charge of Sense and Sensibility (volumes 1 and 2), Emma (volumes 7 and 8) and Persuasion (volume 10), while Henry was responsible for Pride and Prejudice (volumes 3 and 4), Mansfield Park (volumes 5 and 6) and Northanger Abbey (volume 9).

Thus the new 10-volume set of Jane Austen’s novels by J.M. Dent with illustrations by C.E. and H.M. Brock appeared in 1898 with great success. These “pen and ink drawings tinted in watercolour” gave a more exact and detailed period representation than ever before. It is classified by Gilson as E 90 and as he clearly notes, each volume included a frontispiece and five inserted plates, all in colour. They are bound in a now green-greyish gilt cloth and the covers presents a girl in Regency attire.

…The American reproduction of the 1898 illustrations took eight years to appear. In 1906, they were issued in New York by Frank S. Holby, also in ten volumes—since the publisher used the same text setting by Dent—but with an introduction by William Lyon instead of R. Brimley Johnson. This edition is also known as “The Old Manor House Edition” and Gilson catalogues it as E 106.


C.E. Brock (1870-1938), “Lady Dalrymple & Miss Carteret Escorted by Mr Elliot & Colonel Wallis” watercolor, signed & dated. Inscribed with publication details below mount. Provenance: Chris Beetles. Exhibited at The British Art of Illustrations 1870-2010.




Carroll, Laura and John Wiltshire (2006). “Jane Austen Illustrated” in Johnson, Claudia and Laura Tuite (eds.), A Companion to Jane Austen (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture, 56). Wiley-Blackwell, Singapore.

Gilson, David (1997). A Bibliography of Jane Austen. New Introduction and Corrections by the author. Delaware : Oak Knoll Press.

Gilson, David (2005). “Later publishing history, with illustrations” at Todd, Janet (ed.). Jane Austen in Context. New York : Cambridge University Press.

Kelly, C.M (1975). The Brocks: A Family of Cambridge Artists and Illustrators. London & Edinburgh: Charles Skilton Ltd.

Parker, Keiko (1989). “Illustrating Jane Austen” in Persuasions, no. 11. December, 1989. USA. JASNA. Available on-line at:

Rogerson, Ian. Entry for the “Brock family” in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Southam, Brian (2006). “Texts and Editions” in Johnson, Claudia and Laura Tuite (eds.), A Companion to Jane Austen (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture, 56). Wiley-Blackwell, Singapore.



Meekly Obstinate Pious VS The Fejee Islanders, January 1858

Unidentified artist, Rev’d Meekly Obstinate Pious vs. the Fegee Islanders. January 1858 [England, mid-19th century]. Fourteen watercolors in oblong album. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process


The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a pictorial narrative set on the island of Fiji and dated January 1858. It tells the story of a British missionary known as Rev. Meekly Obstinate Pious and his wife, who sail to Fiji in order to convert the indigenous people to Christianity. Through a series of events, they build a church and make friends with their neighbors but ultimately are killed and eaten. When British sailors arrive in search of Rev. and Mrs. Pious there is a battle and everything on the island is destroyed.

The story is told through fourteen watercolors and brief captions. It is unclear if the sequential narrative was meant to be reproduced and published, nothing similar can be traced. Some images are disturbingly racist and only a selection are reproduced here.

The presentation of savage cannibals in the South Seas was routinely found in English books, newspapers, and theatricals, such as in the 1831 Theatre Royal, Covent-Garden performance Neuha’s Cave, or, The South Sea mutineers, partly based on Lord Byron’s poem “The Island, or, Christian and his comrades” (1823).


Actual missionaries might have served as the basis for this parody. From 1838 to 1856, James Calvert (1813-1892) and his wife Mary Fowler Calvert (1814-1882), along with John Hunt (1812-1848) lived in Fiji, promoting Christianity. Calvert quickly learned the native language and over time, published religious books in Fijian as well as Fijian dictionaries for English speakers. Hunt published a Memoir of the Rev. William Cross, Wesleyan missionary to the Friendly and Feejee islands (1846) and after Hunt’s death in 1848, the missionary Thomas Williams wrote a memoir of Hunt’s life and work, also know under the Fijian title: Tukutuku kei Misa Oniti (1848).


Walter Lawry’s 1850 book Friendly and Feejee Islands: a missionary visit to various stations in the South Seas, in the year 1847 emphasized the practice of cannibalism and painted an unflattering portrait of a primitive society. Here is a section:

Their cannibal propensity is well known. They do not attempt to disguise it. The eating of human flesh is not confined to cases of sacrifice for religious purposes, but is practised by them from habit and taste. There can be no question that, although it may have originated as a sacred rite, it is continued in the Feejee group for the mere pleasure of eating human flesh as food. Their fondness for it appears from the custom they have of sending portions of it to their friends at a distance, as an acceptable present; and the gift is eaten, even if decomposition has begun before it is received. So highly do they esteem this food, that the greatest praise they can bestow on a delicacy is to say, “ It is as tender as a dead man.”



50 years after: {39:2} Expectans expectavi. Dominum, et intendit mihi = I have waited expectantly for the Lord, and he was attentive to me.

Mithila Art in 2020: Life, Labor, and COVID-19 in South Asia

Shalini Karn, Faces of Corona, 2020. Acrylic on paper. Graphic Arts Collection 2020- in process


Please join us at 10:00 am Eastern (daylight savings) time on Friday March 26, 2021, for the next in our series of webinars highlighting the graphic arts collection. Organized to coincide with the one year anniversary of India’s shutdown due to COVID-19, the March program is entitled: Mithila Art in 2020: Life, Labor, and COVID-19 in South Asia.

A panel discussion including Amanda Lanzillo, Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows; Lina Vincent, art historian and curator based in Goa, India; and Peter Zirnis, curator and collector of Mithila art, will be hosted by Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator, and Ellen Ambrosone, South Asian Studies Librarian.


Throughout 2020, artists in India have been engaging with pandemic-related themes that reflect the vast inequity with which the pandemic has manifested in the lives of South Asians. While some have managed to maintain safety and stability, many more have experienced food insecurity, displacement, disease, and loss of income.

The Mithila art in Princeton’s collection expresses moments of both serenity and sorrow in the midst of the recent crisis. Panelists will discuss and reflect on the particular expressions of COVID-19 in this art, as well the impact of the pandemic on artisan labor and art markets.

This webinar is free and open to the public, but please register here:

Date: Friday, March 26, 2021
Time: 10:00am – 11:00 am

This webinar is part of the Special Collections Highlights Series. View recordings of previous webinars here.

Previous webinars include:
May 2020: New Theories on the Oldest American Woodcut: The Portrait of Richard Mather by John Foster
June 2020: Thomas Eakins and the Making of Walt Whitman’s Death Mask
July 2020: Afrofuturism: The Graphics of Octavia E. Butler
Aug 2020: Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage
Sept 2020: The Books and Prints of Anaïs Nin and her Gemor Press
Dec 2020: Before Zoom, Pre-Cinema, Optical Devices Tour
Feb 2021: Acrobatics: Moving Through the Trans Archives
March 2021: Mithila Art in 2020: Life, Labor, and COVID-19 in South Asia
April 2021: April is for the Birds: Audubon and Field Guides


Matthews’ views of Sierra Leone

The papers of Captain John Matthews (died 1798), lieutenant in the Royal Navy were pulled yesterday to view his watercolors of the African coast, mostly 1785-1797. The Matthews collection, C1575, documents his involvement in the transatlantic commerce of enslaved Africans in Sierra Leone. Four detailed journals document Matthews’s employment as an agent for the African Company of Merchants between 1785 and 1787; as captain of the HMS Vulcan and the HMS Courageux in the Mediterranean Sea during the 1793 campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars; and as captain of the HMS Maidstone, a British patrol ship monitoring trade in Sierra Leone and the Caribbean in 1797 and 1798.

The watercolors by Matthews were engraved by William Porter for his later published book. One is by Lieut J. Larcom and four signed M.C. Watts.

“…By this conversation nothing more is meant by the African than that his brother, or his friend, was gone into the country to purchase slaves from the nations who are at war; or, perhaps, his own tribe might be at war with some of the neighboring states; and as they in general sell their prisoners, (though even now it is not always the case, revenge sometimes proving too powerful for avarice) they may with the ship to remain in expectation of having more prisoners to dispose of, But I must again repeat that the primary cause of these wars is not merely to procure slaves, but arises from the captious, quarrelsome, and vindictive, disposition of the people. But it is not the prisoners made in the wars which the inhabitants of the sea-coast have with each other, nor those whom the laws of their country, in consequence of their crimes, punish with slavery, that constitute a tenth part of the Naves who are purchased by the Europeans; for, in fact, the inhabitants of the sea-coast are only the merchants and brokers, and carry the goods which they receive from the Europeans into the interior country, and there purchase the slaves from other merchants. The nations who inhabit the interior parts of Africa, east of Sierra-Leone, profits the Mahometan religion; and, following the means prescribed by their prophet, are perpetually at war with the surrounding nations who refuse to embrace their religion …”

–selection from: John Matthews, A voyage to the River Sierra-Leone, on the coast of Africa; containing an account of the trade and productions of the country, and of the civil and religious customs and manners of the people; in a series of letters to a friend in England by John Matthews … during his residence in that country in the years 1785, 1786, and 1787. With an additional letter on the subject of the African slave trade. Also, a chart of part of the coast of Africa, from Cape St. Ann, to the River Rionoonas; with a view of the island Bananas (London, Printed for B. White and Son, and J. Sewell, 1788).


See more of the journals and Matthews sketches digitized: