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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Panoramic Panic!

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.
 
[Ghostly figure and children.], 1900. Silver gelatin on glass. Underwood & Underwood Glass Stereograph Collection, 1895-1921. National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.


Is anyone feeling a little spooky this week? They are over on SIA’s blog, The Bigger Picture, where the conservator thinks she is seeing things – perhaps a little spirit photography is in order – for it’s the return of that popular horror series… Panoramic Panic, Part III

Nora Lockshin, Conservator
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

American Portrait Miniature Treasures

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.


American artists began painting portrait miniatures around the mid-eighteenth century, following English and European traditions. The miniatures were closely tied to artistic and social circles, representing keepsakes for bonds of family and friendships, and of admired public figures. Portrait miniatures were often created to celebrate a special event or relationship, such as an engagement, marriage, or memorial. Private gifts of portrait miniatures sometimes were exchanged between loved ones, in which only a person’s eye was depicted. Miniatures were usually palm-size and created to be held or worn as jewelry. These treasured objects combined the fine art of portraiture with the decorative arts in protective cases of glass, fine metals, leather, filigree, and gems. The portrait miniatures were influenced by the earlier traditions of medieval illuminated manuscripts and classically inspired portrait medals of the Renaissance. In the colonial period, artists referred to the art as “pictures in little.”

The earliest English and European miniatures were created with watercolor or gouache painted on vellum and later on ivory or card. There was also a tradition of oil or enamel painted on copper and wood panel. In America, many of the early miniatures were created by European-trained artists beginning in the early eighteenth century. American artists learned from visiting or emigrant European artists and by studying abroad. The popularity of painted portrait miniatures was affected by the competitive market of daguerreotypes and photographs in the mid-nineteenth century. At this time, artists started painting portrait miniatures with greater realistic details and larger formats for public display on tables or as wall hangings. After 1890, miniature painting experienced a revival through the Arts and Crafts movement and the 1899 formation of the American Society of Miniature Painters.

From 2011 to 2012, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery held an exhibition entitled Mementos: Painted and Photographic Miniatures, 1750–1920. To complement this past show, I would like to present additional miniatures from the collection that are fine examples in the historic development of this art form in America.

Andrew Oliver (1706–1774), by John Singleton Copley (1738–1815), c. 1758, oil on copper (NPG.78.218)

In about 1758, the young artist John Singleton Copley captured a remarkable likeness of Andrew Oliver, with attention to facial modeling, realistic detail, and side lighting. Copley created this portrait in oil on copper, a technique he used in the early stage of his career, possibly following the miniature technique of John Smibert, a Scottish artist who settled in Boston. Copley also painted a c. 1760 companion portrait of Oliver’s brother Peter, which has a matching original porthole decorative frame. The Oliver family members were so impressed with Copley’s talent that they commissioned seven miniatures from him. Andrew Oliver was a leading merchant and active politician in Boston. He served in the colonial House of Representatives for three terms, on the Massachusetts Council from 1746 until he was appointed secretary of the province in 1756 and lieutenant governor of the colony in 1771. As a representative of the British Crown, he was violently attacked by the colonists as an appointed distributor of the unpopular tax stamps after the Stamp Act of 1765.

Thomas Pinckney (1750–1828), by John Trumbull (1756–1843), 1791, oil on wood panel (NPG.2007.211)

Thomas Pinckney, a former governor of South Carolina, was soon to become minister to England when John Trumbull created this 1791 oil on wood panel miniature. The artist followed the elegant Federal period’s fluid, painterly style in this portrait of Pinckney in uniform, with a cloudy sky in the background in the English manner. He had studied painting under the American artist Benjamin West in London. Trumbull’s 1791 miniatures of Thomas Pinckney and his brother Charles Cotesworth Pinckney were intended as sketches for a planned group history painting of the 1779 siege of Savannah that was never realized. Both brothers had participated in the unsuccessful attempt to recapture Savannah from the British during the American Revolution. Thomas Pinckney’s most notable role was as special envoy to Spain, where he negotiated the Treaty of San Lorenzo (1795), which expanded America’s commercial interests in the Mississippi River region.

Elizabeth Depeyster Peale (1765–1804), by James Peale (1749–1831), 1795, watercolor on ivory (S/NPG.2009.49)

James Peale created a 1795 watercolor on ivory miniature of Elizabeth Depeyster Peale, the wife of his older brother Charles Willson Peale. Charles, a widower with six children, was impressed by Elizabeth’s character at their meeting in April 1791 during her visit to Philadelphia. She was a daughter of a New York City merchant; she married Peale after a brief courtship. James Peale had studied painting under his brother and specialized in portrait miniatures. James employed delicate, fine linear brushstrokes and soft lighting for this portrait of Elizabeth. He presented her in an engaged, relaxed manner with a slight smile.

Self-Portrait, by James Reid Lambdin (1807–1889), c. 1845, watercolor on ivory (NPG.78.213)

James Reid Lambdin’s c. 1845 watercolor on ivory miniature is a self-portrait in a dramatic style, depicting the young man’s head turned to the side with sensitive modeling and highlights on his face. This miniature recalls the general aura of the portraits of Lord George Gordon Byron, the poetic leader of the Romantic movement in England. Lambdin was an accomplished artist, educator, and leader in American art circles. He studied with the English miniature artist Edward Miles and local artist Thomas Sully in Philadelphia. In 1828 Lambdin founded the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History and Gallery of Fine Art, following the model of Charles Willson Peale’s museum in Philadelphia. In 1837, Lambdin settled in Philadelphia and served as director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1845–64) and taught at the University of Pennsylvania (1861–66). During this period, President James Buchanan appointed him U.S. art commissioner, and Lambdin created portraits of fifteen U.S. presidents and other statesmen.


Varina Howell Davis (1826–1906), by John Wood Dodge (1807–1893), 1849, watercolor on ivory (NPG.80.113)

John Wood Dodge painted a 1849 watercolor on ivory miniature of Varina Howell Davis in Natchez, Mississippi. The artist portrayed the young Varina with refined, directional brushstrokes that follow the structure of her face. She wears a miniature brooch depicting a King Charles spaniel. This portrait is encased in a gold locket with her braided hair preserved as part of the decorative backside. At age eighteen, she married Jefferson Davis, who became the future president of the Confederacy in Richmond during the Civil War. She was a devoted wife and mother of their five children and an accomplished first lady. Dodge was mostly self-taught, following an early apprenticeship with a sign and ornamental painter. He exhibited his miniatures in 1829 at the National Academy of Design in New York City and became an associate of the academy in 1832. Dodge was later commissioned to paint miniatures of Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. He was a talented and prolific artist creating more than one thousand miniatures, as recorded in his account book from 1828 to 1864. A copy of the account book is held at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.

Jefferson Davis (1808–1889), by George Lethbridge Saunders (1807–1863), 1849, watercolor on ivory (NPG.79.228)

In 1849, English artist George Lethbridge Saunders painted a watercolor on ivory miniature of Jefferson Davis. Saunders employed a colorful and varied artistic style, reserving the more detailed brushstrokes for Davis’s facial features, and surrounding his figure with soft washes for the landscape and cloudy sky in the English manner. Saunders painted this portrait when Davis was a senator representing Mississippi, before he became the president of the Confederate States of America. Saunders was already an established artist when he visited America in the 1840s. He created miniatures of prominent family members in cities along the East Coast, from Boston to Charleston. He met such artists as Thomas Sully and Charles Fraser and exhibited his works from 1840 to 1843 at the Apollo Association in New York City and the Artists’ Fund Society in Philadelphia.

The Silver Goblet (Self-Portrait), by Lucy May Stanton (1875–1931), 1912, watercolor on ivory. (NPG.72.24)

Lucy May Stanton created this 1912 impressionistic watercolor on ivory self-portrait, The Silver Goblet. She depicted herself in the miniature with soft, fluid washes, produced by a new innovative “puddling” technique, in which the artist controlled the flow of washes by tilting the workboard. Stanton looks directly at the viewer in a confident and celebratory manner in this portrait. She studied in America and France with such artists as J. Emile Blanche, Augustus Koopman, Virginia Reynolds, and James Abbott McNeil Whistler. Stanton in turn became an art educator and exhibited in the United States and abroad, receiving many awards for her works. She also promoted woman suffrage and in 1928 co-founded the Georgia Peace Society.

American portrait miniatures evolved from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries. The artists adapted English and European styles and techniques, but they transformed their artworks in the process. The American miniatures emphasized simplicity, directness, and “truth in the likeness,” reflective of the new nation and culture. 

In 1966 the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery established the Catalog of American Portraits, a national portrait archives of historically notable subjects and artists from the colonial period to the present. The public may access the online portrait search program from the museum website of more than 100,000 records; more than 7,000 of these are miniature portraits. . Some of the most notable miniature collections are found at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, New York Historical Society, Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven.

Patricia H. Svoboda, Research Coordinator
Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

All images are from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


Websites:

Fortune, Brandon, and Ann Shumard. Mementos: Painted and Photographic Miniatures, 1750–1920. Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, June 17, 2011, through May 13 2012.
http://npg.si.edu/exhibit/mementos/

Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “American Portrait Miniatures of the Eighteenth Century.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mini/hd_mini.htm

Barratt, Carrie Rebora. “American Portrait Miniatures of the Nineteenth Century.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mini_2/hd_mini_2.htm

Frank, Robin Jaffee. Telling a Larger Story: Collecting Miniatures for a New Century. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, September 18, 2007, through January 13, 2008.
http://artgallery.yale.edu/exhibitions/exhibition/telling-larger-story-collecting-miniatures-new-century

Frank, Robin Jaffee. Private Faces of Public People: 1750-1900. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, August 17, 2005, through June 1, 2007.
http://artgallery.yale.edu/exhibitions/exhibition/private-faces-public-people-1750-1900

Bibliography:

Aronson, Julie, and Marjorie E. Wieseman. Perfect Likeness: European and American Portrait Miniatures from the Cincinnati Art Museum. Exhibition catalogue. Cincinnati: Cincinnati Art Museum, 2006.

Barratt, Carrie Rebora, and Lori Zabar. American Portrait Miniatures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010.

Bolton-Smith, Robin. Portrait Miniatures in the National Museum of American Art. Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, 1984.

Frank, Robin Jaffee. Love and Loss: American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures. Exhibition catalogue. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Johnson, Dale T. American Portrait Miniatures in the Manney Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990.

Labels: 2014 Archives Month, Archives, Artists, Arts and Design, History and Culture, Museums

Monday, October 27, 2014

Happy Anniversary Cultural Resources Center!

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

2014 is an exciting year of anniversaries for the National Museum of the American Indian. Twenty five years ago our authorizing legislation passed, creating NMAI as part of the Smithsonian Institution. Twenty years ago our public space in New York City, the George Gustav Heye Center, opened its doors. Just ten years ago our flagship building on the National Mall opened to the public with great fanfare. But for those of us who work in NMAI’s archives, this year is special because it marks the fifteenth anniversary of the opening of our home, the Cultural Resources Center, the museum’s purpose-built collections facility.


The CRC houses NMAI’s object collections, archival collections, library, conservation labs, repatriation department, and many other offices. It’s a special place, and is quite different than other collections facilities in important ways. It was designed in consultation with many Native American communities, and their input is quickly evident in the building’s organic design and aesthetics, which reflect visual motifs often found in nature. In much the same way that our Mall Museum building takes inspiration from colors, textures, and forms found throughout the Americas, so too does the CRC.  But NMAI’s discussions with our Native American constituents had a much deeper impact on the museum than simply how the CRC looks. These consultations formed the basis of many of the collections management and stewardship policies and practices that set NMAI apart from other museums. From the natural light in our collections’ areas, to the physical arrangement of collections, to the traditional care and handling we practice here, respect for cultural sensitivities is literally built into the CRC.

NMAI Cultural Resources Center Rendering. National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center,
Smithsonian Institution.

The consultations that informed the design of the CRC took years, and resulted in a massive document called “The Way of the People.”  And once the building was designed and built, the real work began: moving the collections.  But as a result of all of the planning and consultation, the CRC was ready to be a safe and supportive home to the incredible cultural patrimony in NMAI’s care. Here’s to fifteen years of the CRC, and many more to come!

Michael Pahn, Head Archivist
National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center

Friday, October 24, 2014

Flashback Friday: Stettheimer Sisters

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

I wrote a post for this blog in 2011 after cataloging images in the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection of art work by Carrie and Florine Stettheimer. In that post I introduced paintings by Florine, as well as the fabulous dollhouse created by Carrie. I also mentioned the private salons and artist parties that were frequently hosted by the two, along with a third sister, Ettie. The sisters were well known in Manhattan’s early 20th century artist circles and were themselves huge champions of the Modern Art movement. Some of their artist friends included Carl Van Vechten, Marcel Duchamp, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Florine Stettheimer, Carrie with Dollhouse, 1923
   
Florine Stettheimer, Cathedrals of Art, 1942
Thanks to a recent permissions request, we’ve ‘discovered’ more Stettheimer images in the Juley Collection -- photographs of the interiors of the Stettheimer’s home, and of the studio Florine later kept in Bryant Park. I was thrilled to find these as they really help the viewer’s imagination in bringing the salons out of the fantastical world of Florine’s paintings and placing them in a real time in history. It’s easy to picture the sisters and their friends hanging out in the Stettheimer home or in Florine’s studio. 


Florine was also interested in interior design, as evidenced by the colorful d├ęcor from her studio. The rooms there were adorned in lace, cellophane and floral patterns, echoing a similar aesthetic found in her paintings and theatrical design.

Interior of Stettheimer home, New York
These images were originally mislabeled as depicting an unknown location, but after a bit of searching we were able to locate the entire set and correctly catalog them in SIRIS. You can see the rest of the images, along with other works by the Stettheimer sisters here.

Rachel Brooks
Smithsonian American Art Museum

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Peter Blume, From Concept to Realization

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.


Russian American artist Peter Blume’s highly detailed surrealist allegoric paintings helped define American modernism.  Active from the mid-1930s through the 1980s, Blume’s creative process included sketching and drawing many drafts of his large-scale paintings.  Here, we see a sampling of sequentially numbered sketches Blume completed for his painting Tassos Oak, 1957-1960. The artist’s creative process is documented in numerous sketches and photographs found among the circa eight linear feet of Peter Blume’s papers at the Archives of American Art, as well as in an oral history interview with the artist conducted by the Archives in 1983.

Photograph of the actual Tasso's Oak tree in Rome, undated. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Tasso's Oak study (#DPS60-24), circa 1950- 1960. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Tasso's Oak study (#DPS60-29), circa 1950-1960. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Tasso's Oak study (#DPS60-8), circa 1950-1960. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Tasso's Oak study (#DPS60-12), circa 1950-1960. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.


Peter Blume working on his painting Tasso's oak, between 1957 and 1960 / unidentified photographer. Peter Blume papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Peter Blume reflected in a mirror standing in front of his painting Tasso's oak, most likely in his studio, circa 1957-1960

Barbara Aikens, Head of Collections Processing
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

75th Anniversary of "Gone with the Wind"

This October, the Smithsonian Collections Blog is celebrating American Archives Month with a month-long blogathon! We will be posting new content almost every weekday with the theme Discover and Connect. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.
The David O. Selznick film version of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Gone With the Wind” (GWTW) celebrates the 75th anniversary of its premiere in December 2014. In the current era, when blockbusters, or would-be blockbusters, are released at regular intervals, the excitement around the original opening of GWTW may seem strange to us.  This object of advertising ephemera from the Marlboro Theatre in Upper Marlboro, Prince George’s County, Maryland provides a window into the film’s promotion to a rural audience.  The Marlboro, designed by John Eberson, was built for theatre entrepreneur Sidney Lust and had opened for business in January 1938. 

GWTW did not go into general release until after a star-studded premiere in Atlanta in December 1939.  With immediate popularity and wide critical acclaim the film became the “must see” motion picture event of 1940.  GWTW did not reach Upper Marlboro until April 28, 1940 and Lust used bulk mail to advertise its coming to the Marlboro Theatre’s largely rural customer base.  Lust cleverly used a hanging card and on the reverse side of the GWTW promotional postcard advertised the theatre’s April 14-27 program.  At .75 for unreserved and $1.10 for reserved seating (roughly $12 and $18 in current money), the cost of a GWTW ticket was quite an investment for local tobacco farmers and their families.  The Washington Post reported the day after the opening, “'Gone With the Wind’ opened in three of Sidney Lust’s Maryland theaters yesterday before large and appreciative audiences.  The famous Selznick production was presented simultaneously at the Hyattsville Theater, in Hyattsville; the Milo Theater, in Rockville; and the Marlboro Theater, in Upper Marlboro.” (“Gone With the Wind”, The Washington Post, April 29, 1940, page 16.)


Verso of image above.  A bulk-mail hanging advertisement for the Marlboro Theatre, Upper Marlboro, Maryland advertising other films on the schedule for April 14-27, 1940.   Robinson and Via Family Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, AC0475-0000269-01.
Other Archives Center collections contain material related to this film.  Only a few weeks earlier and about twenty miles away, African Americans had picketed the showing of "Gone with the Wind" at the Lincoln Theatre in the segregated Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C.  The film's racist assumptions and stereotyped portrayals of African Americans roused normally complacent residents to mount a protest that foreshadowed the civil rights activism of the 1960s.

"Jim Crow" showing of "Gone with the Wind" / at the uptown Lincoln Theater. Rufus Byars, manager of Lincoln on left.
Probably photographed by Roberts S. Scurlock, March 9, 1940.  Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, NMAH

Franklin A. Robinson, Jr.
Archivist, Archives Center
National Museum of American History