Monthly Archives: October 2013

Frederick Stuart Church’s Animals

Last week we wrote about the 19th-century American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900). This week our focus is on another American artist who appears throughout the Digital Collections, Frederick Stuart Church (1842-1924). The latter Church was a well-known illustrator, particularly famous for his depictions of animals. In this thank you note written in 1910, one gets a sense of the playful charm of Church’s work.

FSChurchHighlightsA bespectacled yellow polar bear is handing an angry flamingo a note.  Any help deciphering what the message that accompanies this illustration says would be much appreciated – leave a comment or send an email if you have any success teasing out what this says.

The polar bear makes a few other appearances in letters from Church.  For instance, in two letters from Church to “Mr. Chambers,” both from the Manuscripts collection, the polar bear makes comical cameos.  In this letter, two polar bears peer curiously over a canvas as an artist sitting atop a “red hot” stove anxiously paints their portrait.

FSChurchHighlights1Beneath the stove Church has written, “I shall be glad when we can have some nice cool weather,” suggesting this might be a tongue-in-cheek self-portrait.

In another letter to Mr. Chambers, the polar bear appears yet again, this time with a top hat and cane.

FSChurchHighlights2Beneath the dancing bear Church has written, “Hurrah for Davey,” perhaps referring to Mr. Chambers, who, according to the letter, has just purchased a print from Church for $10.  Church writes, “Proceeds of the sale go to making womans vacation [indecipherable] – NY.” Unfortunately, we cannot make out that one crucial word, so again, if anyone out there would like to take a shot at deciphering this it would be much appreciated.

Finally, from the Macbeth Gallery Exhibition Catalogs, we have An exhibition of decorative panels of flowers, birds and animals by F. S. Church (1916).

FSChurchHighlights4Like the sketch of the artist painting the polar bears, here we have an artist/angel painting a bird. Birds, like polar bears, appear to have been a popular subject for Church, appearing as they do in 15 of the 20 works in this catalog.

Browse all this material here.

 

Connecting the Collections: Frederic Edwin Church

In a recent post on Eugène Delacroix, we discussed how certain artists appear in a number of various collections throughout the Digital Collections.  Another such artist is Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), famed landscape painter of the Hudson River School. Works by and about him appear throughout the Digital Collections, some of which we’ll look at here.

ChurchHighlights1The above portrait of Church comes from a 1900 exhibition catalog in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection. This special exhibition, entitled Paintings by Frederic E. Church, was held at The Met from May 28-October 15, 1900 (the year Church died). Charles Dudley Warner, in his introduction to this catalog, wrote about the recently deceased artist, “In his spirit, his heroic cheerfulness, he was still young, hopeful of the world, the stanchest [sic] and most helpful of friends, and as clear and sweet in his Christian character as he was decided in his luminous rendition of the atmosphere of the distant mountains of his great pictures. He saw and felt the divinity in both worlds.”  In this catalog, many of these “luminous renditions” have been reproduced in black and white.

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Then, in the Manuscripts collection, we have this letter from Church to artist and art dealer Samuel Putnam Avery (we also have a number of letters to Avery you can browse here).

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Also, in the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection, we have a master’s thesis, Cultivating taste: Henry G. Marquand’s public and private contributions to advancing art in Gilded Age New York, by Adrianna M. Del Collo, in which Church is mentioned. (See this Highlights post for more on the Henry Gurdon Marquand Papers.)

There are two other large catalogs from the Metropolitan Museum Publications which feature a number of reproductions of Church’s works as well as critical and biographical writing on Church. One is Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825-1861, an exhibition held in 2000 at The Met. The other is American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River Schoola 1987 exhibition catalog featuring several works by Church, including the below painting “Above the Clouds at Sunrise” (1849):

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Church, like many artists in our Digital Collections, appears in a number of different collections, from exhibition catalogs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection to a letter in the Manuscript collection to a thesis in our Rare Books collection. We will continue to “connect the Collections” in future posts, focusing on artists and subjects represented in a number of different collections within the Digital Collections.

Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures

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This is an image, with accompanying text, from a book called Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures. It was published in 1885 by the Artists’ Fund Society of Philadelphia to celebrate the organization’s fiftieth anniversary. Members contributed original paintings, like this one, of a girl with two puppies, called “Pets.”  Each painting was then matched with a poem. The verse that accompanies “Pets,” by William Wordsworth, is actually from a poem called “To a Butterfly.” The excerpt reads: “Sweet childish days, that were as long / As twenty days are now.” Most of the image-text combinations of Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures are as sentimental.

Two themes dominate the collection: love and nature. The former triumphs over the latter in George Wright’s “Love of Nature,” which portrays a young woman painting a landscape while her lover bothers her. The poem suggests that the woman’s bored expression is a pose: Though nature’s rays are “blessed and bright,” Thomas Moore writes, “Yet faint are they all to the lustre that plays / In a smile from the heart that is dearly our own.” The nature about which Moore wrote lovingly wasn’t just any nature. The landscape in “Lines, Written on Leaving Philadelphia” was one that would have been familiar to Wright’s audience.

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Even if the tastes of the artists and their editors were cosmopolitan—Wordsworth was English, Moore was Irish—most of the thoughts and pictures are American, if not Philadelphian. The selection of poetry can be seen as an attempt to relate the global to the local. Just as one artist applied a poem about a butterfly to a painting about puppies, the artists took material from other contexts to describe their own. F. de B. Richard’s “Scene on the Brandywine,” of a river in southeastern Pennsylvania, is embellished with William Cullen Bryant’s “Lines on Revisiting the Country”—the “Country” here being New England.

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At least they’re both in the United States: C. Philipp Weber’s painting, “A Memory of the Mammoth Cave,” which is in Kentucky, is paired with Felicia Hemans’s poem “The Caravan in the Deserts”—the Sahara Desert.

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The Artists’ Fund Society of Philadelphia was formed “to promote the welfare of themselves and their professional brethren.” The Society administered a fund to benefit its members: “On the death of a member,” for example, “his family is entitled to receive a fixed proportion of the invested benefit fund.” Given the purpose of the organization, it isn’t surprising that the themes taken up in Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures deal with family, the home, and private life. Nor is it surprising that mortality is never far from the artists’ thoughts: The caption to F. F. De Crano’s “Sunshine,” a painting of a young woman smelling flowers, is an excerpt from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem that describes “Buds that open only to decay.”

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Poetic Thoughts, With Pictures is part of our Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection.

Dandies in the Digital Collections

Some of the earliest accounts of the “dandy” appear in the eighteenth century when it was generally defined as a person who places excessive importance on his or her clothing and personal appearance.  The Digital Collections captures eighteenth and nineteenth century European responses to and descriptions of the dandy.  Specifically, the collection contains Portuguese material with laws and ethics cautioning against excessive attention to one’s dress, as well as exhibition catalogs describing British and French artists and personalities who were celebrated dandies of their time.

The 1982 Met Museum exhibition catalog, La Belle Époque, reproduces Giovanni Boldini’s (1842-1931) portrait of the flamboyant Count Robert de Montesquiou (1855-1921).  A known dandy himself, Boldini captures the count’s haughty air.  The description in the catalog describes Montesquiou as an “aesthete extraordinaire” who “occupied one of the most prominent positions in Parisian society.”  He is also described as a scolding dandy who “worshiped the exquisite, and in its name he meted out admonishments to all, both verbally and through a sizable literary production.”

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The Costume Institute’s 2006 exhibition, Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion, describes the English dandy at length, crediting George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840) as the originator of a type of Regency dandyism that influenced decades of design from the Duke of Windsor all the way through to late-twentieth-century Punks.  The catalog states Beau Brummell’s “emphasis on a relaxed, effortless appearance (achieved through arduous dressing rituals) was central to the dandy creed, [and he] is commonly regarded as the greatest exemplar of Regency dandyism.”  The catalog includes an illustration of Richard Dighton’s caricature, “The Dandy Club” (1818), which conveys the extremes the dandy went to in order to achieve a strong masculine profile, often resulting in almost comical effects.

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In addition to French and English descriptions of the 18th and 19th Century dandy, the collection contains Portuguese morality poems and plays, reports, and sumptuary laws warning about the perils of fashion fads.  A narrative written by a dandy in 1784 Lisbon describes the dangers of a hunt while wearing “various garments of silk” which, according to this account, attract vermin.

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Another account takes the form of an instructive poem written by a father lamenting his dandy daughter’s transformation into a “woman of fashion”:

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He laments: “You used to fight with me to make me agree to buy the ridiculous garments. When I told you I did not like you in those fashions, you had a fit and threw a tantrum.  You liked your dress short (actually the skirt lifted up on one side) and did not see that this was madness.  Our ladies of fashion do not realize that what they wear makes them look ugly, and they don’t care as long as it’s ‘fashionable.’  They will follow the most horrible taste as long as they think it is modern.”  The title of the poem, Amusing and instructive poem about a lady-dandy, who flew through the air by her scarf, and by the hood of her cape, is a reference to the invention of the balloon in 1783 (see our Highlights post about “balloon mania” here).

A particularly colorful Portuguese text, written in 1788, is replete with reproaches about the dandy’s excessive intake of sweets and the fines and penalties imposed on them: “The bombastic title calls our attention to the fact that it took more than the right dress to make a Dandy.  He had to love luxury and eat the kind of food which was in fashion.  His lifestyle included an addiction to sweets.  There were times when our Dandies always had a candy between their teeth.  The people did not like it.  Because your love of sweets is threatening to make you a glutton, a trial is being held to bring all sweets to justice.”  The offensive candies included licorice, cheese cake, plum preserve and rum tarts.

The Portuguese texts all come from the Costume Institute collection, while the exhibition catalogs both come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection.

Connecting the Collections: Eugène Delacroix

Currently the Digital Collections has 20 different collections. Searches can be done throughout the Digital Collections as a whole, or they can be done within specific collections.  Some subjects and artists appear throughout the Digital Collections, appearing in several different individual collections. One such artist is Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), the renowned French Romantic painter. Works by and about him appear throughout the Digital Collections, and we will look at a few of these items here.

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This reproduction of the famous Delacroix self-portrait appears on the cover of an exhibition catalog entitled, Concerning Delacroix and Jules Breton, apropos of a special exhibition of their work at the galleries of M. Knoedler and Company (1888), which appears in the Knoedler & Co. Exhibition Catalogs collection. The catalog begins with this adulatory assessment of Delacroix’s significance, “If we may say, with an acute contemporaneous critic, that Delacroix represents the supreme, the last, and the highest manifestation of the French genius in the domain of art…” This is how many 19th-century critics viewed Delacroix, as we will see again later in the post.

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection, we have a 200-plus page 1991 exhibition catalog, Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863): paintings, drawings, and prints from North American collections:

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This catalog features essays by art historian and Delacroix specialist Lee Johnson, as well as many reproductions of Delacroix’s work.

From the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection, we have Catalogue of celebrated paintings by great French masters, brought to this country from Paris, for exhibition only (1887), which includes a lengthy biographical sketch of Delacroix. It too begins with an adulatory assessment of the artist: “Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, the greatest, noblest, and most illustrious painter of the French school of the nineteenth century…”

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Finally, in the Auction Catalogs collection, we have Catalogue de sculptures originales: terres cuites, platres, bronzes groupes, statuettes, bustes, médaillons, esquisses, tableaux et dessins par J.-B. Carpeaux, dessins par Eug. Delacroix (1913), in which a number of Delacroix drawings were being auctioned.

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Delacroix, like several artists in the Digital Collections, appears in a number of different collections, from exhibition catalogs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications, the Knoedler & Co. Exhibition Catalogs, and the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collections, to auction catalogs in our Auction Catalogs collection. We will try to “connect the Collections” in future posts as well, focusing on artists and subjects represented in a number of different collections within the Digital Collections.