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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, June 30, 2016

    Alice and Dorothy in Illustration

    Guest blogger Renee Klann is a Smith College student, class of 2019. She is the 2015-2017 STRIDE Scholar in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. This post discusses the art of Barry Moser, an printmaker and professor at Smith College. A recent gift of 91 of his works was made to the museum by Jeff Dwyer and Elizabeth O'Grady.

    “What is the use of a book,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?'"
    -Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    After designing and illustrating editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There in the 1980s, Barry Moser was trying to decide what his next project should be. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz seemed like a “logical follow-up,” as he put it, even though he hadn’t read the book. However, he knew that like Lewis Carroll’s stories about Alice, it was an adventure starring a girl in a fantastical land. When Moser read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz he was not especially impressed with L. Frank Baum’s prose or the original illustrations by W. W. Denslow, but he was “struck by the parallels . . . between the stories of the two little girls.” He made the case that Dorothy is an American version of Alice, and he created illustrations that reveal the similarities between them.
     


    Barry Moser, American, 1940-. The Reverie of Alice’s Sister. Two-color wood engraving on medium weight, slightly textured, white paper. Gift of Elizabeth O’Grady and Jeffrey P. Dwyer. SC 2014:54-74

    Moser saw numerous elements of the stories that mirrored each other, primarily the heroines themselves. Both Alice and Dorothy are kind, sensible young girls caught in strange places and trying to find a way home. To demonstrate their similarity, Moser used the same model for Dorothy (his daughter Madeline, Smith class of 1994) that he had used for Alice. Another comparison he made between the stories was the way the heroines start their journeys. Alice falls down a rabbit hole and Dorothy is lifted up by a tornado, which, although they go in opposite directions, are both funnel-shaped spaces. In addition, both heroines encounter bizarre people, talking animals, and monsters. These strange and sometimes dangerous interactions made the stories seem more like nightmares than whimsical adventures, so instead of creating typical, cheerful children’s book illustrations, Moser said he “approached the images from a distinctly adult point of view.” He embraced the creepiness of Wonderland long before Tim Burton did in his movies, and made many of the characters, like the Mad Hatter below, look unsettling.
     


    Barry Moser, American, 1940-. The Mad Hatter, 1982. Wood engraving printed in black on medium weight, smooth, cream-colored paper. Gift of Elizabeth O’Grady and Jeffrey P. Dwyer. SC 2014:54-59

    Moser also incorporated political satire into the illustrations for both stories. In Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, the figure of Humpty Dumpty is based on former president Richard Nixon. Moser decided to take the satire further in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He said he “peppered it with more than a few political comments, like Ronald Reagan cast as the Wizard—which makes my Oz a bit nightmarish, as so much of politics is.” The absurdity of American politics is a natural fit for the strangeness of Wonderland and Oz.
    The physical settings of the stories were very important to Moser, and they provided a way to contrast Alice’s and Dorothy’s experiences. In Moser’s mind, the voyages of the heroines represent the landscapes in which they live, with Alice in the small, enclosed spaces of England and Dorothy on the wide open Kansas prairie. Think of Alice eating a magic mushroom to shrink herself so she can get through the door to the rose garden, and Dorothy walking through the huge field of poppies. Moser referred to these as claustrophobic and agoraphobic spaces, respectively, and contrasted them in both the design and illustrations of the books. The books about Alice have marginal notes that enclose the text, while The Wonderful Wizard of Oz creates a sense of spaciousness through the nearly-square shape of the book and the open margins.
     


    Barry Moser, American, 1940-. Home Again from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1985. Wood engraving printed in black and grey on medium thick, smooth, white paper. Gift of Elizabeth O’Grady and Jeffrey P. Dwyer. SC 2014:54-58

    Home Again is an excellent example of Moser’s use of space in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s farmhouse is very small and low in the image, dwarfed by a long, flat prairie horizon and a huge expanse of sky. The sky is not empty, but instead full of faint images of the characters Dorothy met on her journey through Oz. Although it’s crowded with faces, the illustration preserves the sense of vast open space that is integral to Dorothy’s story.

     

    Alice and Dorothy came from different continents and their journeys took them to different magical lands, but the heroines do have a great deal in common, from their personalities to their experiences with strange creatures and nonsensical situations. Barry Moser realized how similar they were and cleverly demonstrated it in his illustrations.

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  • Friday, June 24, 2016

    Luxury Objects in the Age of Marie Antoinette: Lace and Porcelain

    The Smith College Museum of Art is dedicated to bringing out works on paper into the main galleries, where all visitors can see them. Since works on paper are more sensitive to light than other mediums, SCMA has installed special Works on Paper cabinets throughout the galleries for the display of prints, drawings and photographs. Today’s post is part of a series about the current installations of the Works on Paper cabinets, which will remain on view through August 2016. 

    Guest bloggers Madison Agresti ‘19 and Emma Ning ‘19 are Smith College students and two of the authors of this cabinet. This installation derives from a First Year Seminar in Fall 2015, Re-Membering Marie Antoinette, taught by Professor Janie Vanpée. In this seminar the students collaborated to create an online exhibition that examined the economic, social, and aesthetic roles of an array of luxury objects and cultural practices in the late eighteenth century.

    Charles Volaire (?). French, 1750-1820. Girl Lacemaker. n.d. Black chalk on off white laid paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Barr Jr. in memory of Ruth Wedgwood Kennedy. SC 1969:13

    During the eighteenth century lace adorned almost every ensemble worn by the French aristocracy and the wealthy bourgeoisie. Lace originated in Italy and Flanders in the early sixteenth century, but Colbert, Louis XIV’s finance minister, began to promote it as a French industry to rival that of Venice in the latter half of the sixteenth century. The first cradle of lacemaking in France was Alençon, celebrated for its own particular pattern, the point de France. As plates from Diderot’s Encyclopédie illustrate, lace makers, or dentellières, were mostly women who typically worked at home, sometimes going blind from spending so much time turning thread into intricate designs.

    From Diderot’s Encyclopédie. Paris, 1782–1832. Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College 

     

    Porcelain also had many uses in eighteenth-century France, from decorative sculptural pieces to more utilitarian cosmetic pots, vases, inkstands, and tableware like wine coolers, tureens, and tiered table centerpieces, as the scene of two couples flirting over a late supper in Moreau le Jeune’s Le Souper fin illustrates well.

    Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune. French, 1741–1814 Le Souper fin, from Le Monument du Costume Physique et Moral de la fin du dix-huitième siècle ou Tableaux de la vie. 1789. Engraving on paper Purchased with the gift of Mrs. Charles Lincoln Taylor (Margaret Rand Goldthwait, class of 1921). SC 1964:24-24

    The extensive gilding and range of enamel colors on this porcelain cup and plate are typical of the decorative style developed by the Sèvres Porcelain Royal Manufactury after the discovery in the 1760s of the once-secret ingredient, kaolin, used in China to make high-fire, hard-paste porcelain. Unlike the porcelain plates and decorative centerpiece featured in the print, Le Souper fin whose style dates from the late eighteenth-century, this cup and plate reflect the Neoclassical style fashionable under Louis Philippe.

    Sevrès Porcelain Royal Manufactury. French, established c. 1750. Cup and Saucer. 1846. Porcelain. Gift of Harriet D. Carter, AB class of 1931, MLA class of 1935. SC 1979:36-1a and b

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  • Friday, June 17, 2016

    Luxury Objects in the Age of Marie Antoinette: Writing Utensils

    The Smith College Museum of Art is dedicated to bringing out works on paper into the main galleries, where all visitors can see them. Since works on paper are more sensitive to light than other mediums, SCMA has installed special Works on Paper cabinets throughout the galleries for the display of prints, drawings and photographs. Today’s post is part of a series about the current installations of the Works on Paper cabinets, which will remain on view through August 2016. 

    Guest blogger Maddy Vogel ’19 is a Smith College student and one of the authors of this cabinet. This installation derives from a First Year Seminar in Fall 2015, Re-Membering Marie Antoinette, taught by Professor Janie Vanpée. In this seminar the students collaborated to create an online exhibition that examined the economic, social, and aesthetic roles of an array of luxury objects and cultural practices in the late eighteenth century.

    The late eighteenth century in France was a moment of perfection and refinement in luxury craftsmanship: exquisitely crafted furniture, carved and painted wall paneling, refined fabrics—lace, muslin, velvets and silks—decorated with hand-painted or embroidered designs. Useful and decorative porcelain in brilliant colors and delicate patterns, imaginative coiffures and hats, all abounded in the interior spaces and on the bodies, respectively, of those from the wealthy ranks of society.  Marie Antoinette, if not always the leader in setting a decorative trend, was highly conscious of fashion and showed refined taste in design and materials. Although the period style is called Louis XVI, it should rightly be named after her.

    Unknown artist. French, 18th century. Inkstand with River God. 1730–50. Bronze on ormolu base. Purchased. SC 1958:42

    This bronze inkwell in the shape of river god was created between 1730 and 1750.  Its gilt ormolu base and rococo motifs are typical of mid-eighteenth-century decorative objects crafted for the burgeoning luxury market, much like the writing implements featured in the print below, Le Lever.  Although the artist who created this inkstand is unknown, a similar inkwell was made in Paris by Paul Sormani, whose works adhered to the styles of Louis XV and Louis XVI.

    From Diderot’s Encyclopédie. Paris, 1782–1832. Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

     

    Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune. French, 1741–1814. Le Lever, from Le Monument du Costume Physique et Moral de la fin du dix-huitième siècle ou Tableaux de la vie. 1789. Engraving on paper. Purchased with the gift of Mrs. Charles Lincoln Taylor (Margaret Rand Goldthwait, class of 1921). SC 1964:24-13

    Writing played an important role in eighteenth-century French society.  The daily act of corresponding with friends and acquaintances created social and business bonds as well as helped shape the personal identity of the writers. Moreau le Jeune’s print, Le Lever, features a typical scene of a secretary taking dictation from his noble master, who simultaneously dresses and attends to the morning business. The secretary writes at a bureau, specifically designed with a large flat surface to facilitate business correspondence. Quills, inkstands, paper, and writing desks were necessary instruments, but proper posture and elegant penmanship were equally important. Inkstands of porcelain, bronze, or silver, embellished with ornate designs, had a prominent place on writing desks designed to mold the writer’s hand, arm, and body into the ideal posture.  

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