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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 13, 2012

    French and Italian Drawings: Renaissance through Romanticism, Part II

    Smith students practicing drawing with iron gall ink and quill pens. Photography by David Dempsey.

    Two weeks ago, Paper + People featured a blog poston the Smith College colloquium French and Italian Drawings: Renaissance through Romanticism,which is currently being taught by Suzanne Folds McCullagh, the Anne Vogt Fuller and Marion Titus Searle Chair and Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago. The class of six students organized and wrote wall texts for an installation of French and Italian Drawings from the SCMA collection. This installation is on view in the Nixon gallery on the Museum’s second floor until December 16, which is fast approaching – be sure to check it out!

    The course takes a very hands-on approach to learning about drawings. Not only did the students spend the first half of their semester in the Cunningham Center working directly with the drawings and writing labels which are now in the Museum’s installation (a selection are shown below), but they also had the rare opportunity to actually make some of the materials which those drawings employed. In one of classes in November, the students and Professor McCullagh were joined by David Dempsey, SCMA’s Associate Director of Museum Services, and Phoebe Dent Weil, a retired conservator and expert on historic methods and materials. The class learned how to chemically create iron gall ink as it would have been made centuries ago, with some surprising results:

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    Labels written by the French and Italian Drawings Class

    Benedetto Luti. Italian, 1666 – 1724. Head of an Apostle,1712. Pastels on moderately textured grey antique laid paper. Purchased with the Beatrice Oenslager Chace, class of 1928, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1989:33

    Label written by Maddy Barker, class of 2015:

    Benedetto Luti was famous for his work in pastel. His use of the medium can be traced back to 1703 and is considered among the earliest pastel paintings in Italy. This work is for a series of the twelve apostles. The identity of this figure is uncertain, but the presence of the open book makes it likely to be one of the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. The viewer is drawn in by the careful attention to tactility of the hair and beard of the apostle. Luti mastered color to create volume and luminosity reminiscent of the art of Correggio.

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    Jacques Callot. French, 1592 – 1635. Beggar,n.d. Red chalk on cream antique laid paper. Gift of Eugene Victor Thaw. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1959:210

    Label written by Sara Ottomano, class of 2015:

    Renowned as a printmaker and draftsman, this French artist spent most of his career in Italy. Many of his works capture the diverse social classes within Italian society. One series of works focused on the life of beggars. Rather than depicting them as parasitic and resentful, a common practice at the time, Callot drew the beggars as feeble and harassed.

    This delicate drawing is stamped with large and unsightly collectors’ marks, including a crowned P, indicating this drawing was once part of Tsar Paul I’s and Catherine the Great’s collection in Russia.

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    Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Tiepolo. Italian, 1696 – 1770. Angelica and Medoro,early 1740s. Pen and bistre ink with brush and bistre wash over black chalk on white antique laid paper. Purchased with the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin H. Land in honor of Clarence Kennedy. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1960:43

    Label written by Amanda Manocherian, class of 2015:

    Giambattista Tiepolo, a renowned eighteenth-century Venetian painter, was considered an exemplar of the monumental pictorial tradition in Italian art. Favoring heroic and religious themes, he had a unique talent for depicting forceful visual dramas through dynamic, theatrically staged scenes.

    In this drawing Giambattista aggressively uses washes of differing intensities to model space and form along with bold brush-strokes and brilliant highlights that clash with deep shadows to illustrate the love story of Angelica and Medoro. Angelica, the princess of Cathay, fell in love with the wounded Moorish soldier Medoro, whom she nursed back to health. Sharply contrasting planes of shadow and light meet over the lover’s stylized bodies and, in combination with Giambattista’s sweeping brush strokes, create an almost painfully dynamic composition that breathes fiery life into the scene.

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    Andrea Boscoli. Italian, 1550 – 1606. Christ on the Mount of Olives,n.d. Red chalk with gray wash on buff colored antique laid paper. Gift of Jere Abbott. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1978:27

    Label written by Ellen Monroe, class of 2015:

    This fantastically angular drawing is characteristic of the late sixteenth-century Florentine artist Andrea Boscoli. The same crisp lines can be seen in his sketch after a fifteenth-century Benozzo Gozzoli fresco, currently part of the Drawn to Excellence exhibition on SCMA’s first floor. Boscoli’s precise lines animate both compositions, but here Boscoli layered gray wash on top of his red chalk drawing. This was a technique Boscoli frequently used to create dramatic shading. Indeed, the tree on the right casts a shadow on the foreground figure, while Christ’s kneeling form is illuminated.

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  • Thursday, December 6, 2012

    David Becker Day 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.

    Rodolphe Bresdin. French, 1822-1885. My Dream (Version II),1883. Etching on dark cream-colored wove Japan paper. Gift of David P. Becker in memory of Helen Pillsbury Becker, class of 1928. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2002:20-1

    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.

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  • Thursday, November 29, 2012

    French and Italian Drawings: Renaissance through Romanticism, Part I

    Maggie Hoot ’16 looks closely at a Fragonard drawing. Photography by Julie Warchol.

    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.

    Maddy Barker ’15 researches this Moreau le Jeune drawing with its curatorial file. Photography by Julie Warchol.

    Suzanne Folds McCullagh ’73 examines two drawings by Carmontelle. Photography by Julie Warchol.

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    Labels written by the French and Italian Drawings Class

    Lodovico Cardi, called il Cigoli. Italian, 1559 – 1613. Study of Jacob from the painting "Jacob's Dream" (recto); Study for the painting "Jacob's Dream" (verso),n.d. Red chalk on cream laid paper. Purchased with the Ruth and Clarence Kennedy Endowment, the Diane Allen Nixon, class of 1957, Fund, and the Josephine A. Stein, class of 1927, Fund in honor of the class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1996:23

    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.

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    Théodore Géricault. French, 1791 – 1824. Landscape with Stormy Sky(recto), ca. 1817. Pen and brown (iron gall) ink with brush and ink, watercolor and gouache over graphite on cream wove paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1960:92

    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.

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    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.

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    Anne K. Socolow, Cayman Islands, British West Indies - 06/12/2012

    Gericault drawing "Landscape with Stormy Sky"

    An extraordinary label by Carol Kaminsky - in SCMA French and Italian Drawings Class - of young Gericault's work. Her explanation of detail of chiarascuro and swirling romantic movement in this drawing prefigures Gericault's later painted oeuvre.

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