Today is the birth anniversary of Samuel Palmer

The Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges has 5 prints by Palmer

Samuel Palmer (1805-81) was one of Britain’s greatest artists. He painted familiar scenes – trees, villages, the night sky – but using rich forms and vivid colors. Many are surprised that works that look so bold and modern were painted nearly two centuries ago. Palmer became an artist at a young age and was strongly influenced throughout his career by the work of his friend and mentor William Blake. Palmer’s early work was partly shaped by his interest in the ‘primitive’ artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth century. For a time, he lived in the Kent village of Shoreham, whose surrounding countryside became his ‘Valley of Vision’. After this he married and spent time in Italy; following his return to London he worked in watercolor and took up etching. In his later years, Palmer suffered a series of personal hardships – including the death of his favorite son – and ended his life living as a recluse.

Palmer, Samuel (1805-81, England) Moeris and Galatea, 1880. Etching, 13 x 19 cm. Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32. hws-p-1.
Samuel Palmer died in 1881 and left this plate in an advanced state of completion; the final details were finished by his son. Samuel Palmer had planned a series of ten etched illustrations to accompany the publication of his translation of An English Version of the Eclogues of Virgil as his last major project. However, by the time of his death in 1881, only one etching had been completed. He left the plate of Moeris and Galatea and three other etched plates in an advanced state, but still uncompleted. The final details of this etched work were completed by A.H. Palmer according to his father’s instructions. This etching was designed to accompany Samuel Palmer’s translation of the follow passage from Virgil’s verse:
The cream-bowl set and in our cave recline,
(Its brows with poplar shaded, watch the West),
And timely, with the sun, together rest.

Palmer, Samuel (1805-81, England) Opening the Fold-Early Morning, 1880. Etching, 16 x 23 cm. Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32. hws-p-2.
Samuel Palmer’s last completed etching. Samuel Palmer had planned a series of ten etched illustrations to accompany the publication of his translation of the Eclogues of Virgil as his last major project. However, by the time of his death in 1881, only this etching had been completed. He left four other etched plates unfinished – the final details of these four other etched works were completed by A.H. Palmer according to his father’s instructions. This etching was designed to accompany Samuel Palmer’s translation of Virgil’s verse:
Or folded flocks were loose to browse anew
O’er mountain thyme or trefoil wet with dew,
It seems fitting that Samuel Palmer’s last completed etching should have been so perfect a vision of pastoral beauty. This work represents the culmination of a lifetime’s experience in etching and the truly remarkable interplay of light across every aspect of this design is testament to the genius which Samuel Palmer had developed over the years. The extraordinary variety of effect throughout the sky makes dramatic comparison with Samuel Palmer’s first etched work The Willow; whilst every aspect of the artist’s handling, from the illuminated coats of the foreground sheep, to the smoke drifting from the cottage chimney beyond, display the touch of a consummate master of his art.

Palmer, Samuel (1805-81, England) The Early Ploughman, 1861-68. Etching, 17 x 25 cm. Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32. hws-p-3.
Considered one of Palmer’s finest compositions, and now quite scarce.
Rural scene showing a ploughman driving a pair of oxen, with plough, towards the left of the image. Birds are taking flight above a bridge to the left of the scene and a figure holding a pot on their head is standing by a line of trees to the right.

Palmer, Samuel (1805-81, England) The Herdsman’s Cottage, 1850. Etching, 12 x 10 cm. Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32. hws-p-4.
A beautiful example of Samuel Palmer’s romantic pastoral vision, the ingenious handling of light throughout this etched work is truly remarkable. The year 1850 represents the turning point in Samuel Palmer’s abilities as an etcher, for it was in this year that he unlocked the secret of how to portray the true poetry of nature with a charm which had never been seen in etching before the publication of The Skylark and his creation of this brilliant etching of Sunset – The Herdsman’s Cottage.

Palmer, Samuel (1805-81, England) The Weary Ploughman, 1858. Etching, 19 x 27 cm. Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32. hws-p-5.
In the 1850s, however, he took up etching, and produced a sequence of prints in which he recaptured some of the intensity of his visionary Shoreham years. Many of them are twilight or dawn scenes, combining memories of Shoreham with those of his later visit to Italy and his admiration for Claude. Palmer began this plate in May 1858, and etched it in six weeks, reworking it several times. Its alternative title, ‘The Herdsman’, may be more apt, since ploughing would not usually take place during the same month, May, that horse-chestnuts are in blossom.

Lister, Raymond. A catalogue raisonné of the works of Samuel Palmer / Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988. QUARTO N6797.P237 A4 1988
Vaughan, William, Samuel Palmer, 1805-1881: vision and landscape / Burlington, VT: Lund Humphries, c2005. N6797.P237 A4 2005
Lister, Raymond. Samuel Palmer and his etchings. New York, Watson-Guptill Publications [1969] NE2195.P218 L5 1969b
Samuel Palmer and the pastoral convention; Beulah and Arcadia. By: PRESSLY, William L. Jr. Record of the Princeton University Art Museum, 1969, Vol. 28 Issue 2, p22-37, 16p

Artwork of the Week

Pre-Columbian, Mayan (Costa Rica)
Late Classic Bowl with Double Kidney and Dots in Glyph Bands, 550-850
Ceramic, 15 cm. diam.
Loan of Dr. J. Philip Keeve ‘48

The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period.

The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period (c. 2000 BC to AD 250), according to the Mesoamerican chronology, many Maya cities reached their highest state of development during the Classic period (c. AD 250 to 900), and continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish.

Maya art of their Classic Era (c. 250 to 900 CE) is of a high level of aesthetic and artisanal sophistication. The carvings and the reliefs made of stucco at Palenque and the statuary of Copán, show a grace and accurate observation of the human form that reminded early archaeologists of Classical civilizations of the Old World], hence the name bestowed on this era. We have only hints of the advanced painting of the classic Maya; mostly what has survived are funerary pottery and other Maya ceramics, and a building at Bonampak holds ancient murals that survived by chance. A beautiful turquoise color (‘Maya Blue’) survived through the centuries due to its unique chemical characteristics. Late Preclassic murals of great artistic and iconographic perfection have been recently discovered at San Bartolo. With the decipherment of the Maya script it was discovered that the Maya were one of the few civilizations where artists attached their name to their work.

Mayan ceramics are important in the study of the Pre-Columbian Maya culture of Mesoamerica. Through the years, the vessels took on different shapes, colors, sizes, and purposes. The intense artistic mosaics that grace the walls of the ancient masterpieces reveal stories of rulers, the underworld (Xibalba), Mayan creation, and even the particular function of the vessel. Used for a plethora of daily activities, such as the storage of food and beverages, ceramics were also a canvas of commemoration. The utilitarian ware of the common people usually possessed only modest decoration. The funerary ware of the elite was often more elaborate. Strategic Mesoamerican ballgames, rituals, and death were key subjects painted or inscribed on the vessels.

Middle Preclassic (900/800-250 BC) Late Preclassic (250 BC-250 AD) Early Mayan ceramics stemmed from a past that began even years before the Maya became a group. Originally, the early Maya used gourds cut into useful shapes to create vessels to carry liquids and foodstuffs. These portable and durable gourds made excellent containers. The first ceramics closely resembled gourds and many were decorated with rocker stamps and simple slips. During the Late Preclassic period, many of the ceramics took on appendages of tetrapod mammiform supports. These supports were four legs underneath the pot holding it up. Characteristic cream-on-red stripes colored these unique vessels.

The pottery of the Maya Early Classic dated from 250 to 550 AD. The Maya soon began using polychrome slip paint, meaning they used many different colors to decorate the pots. This method of decoration became almost homogeneous for Mayan potters, thus signaling the beginning of the Classic Period. The Classic Period of the Maya provided beautiful ceramics in many forms. The lidded basal flange bowl was a new style of potter to add to the already growing repertoire. This type vessel usually had a knob on top in the form of an animal or human head, while the painted body of the animal or human spreads across the pot. Many of these pots also had mammiform supports, or legs. These unique vessels are usually found in great condition signaling a ritual function.

The Maya late Classic Period (600-900 A.D.) marks the high point of Maya culture. Powerful city-states like Tikal and Calakmul dominated the regions around them and art, culture and religion reached their peaks. The city-states warred, allied with, and traded with one another. There may have been as many as 80 Maya city-states during this time. The cities were ruled by an elite ruling class and priests who claimed to be directly descended from the Sin, Moon, stars and planets. The cities held more people than they could support, so trade for food as well as luxury items was brisk. The ceremonial ball game was a feature of all Maya cities.

Ancient Maya pottery classification, analysis, and interpretation / Gainesville : University Press of Florida, c2013.
Arnold, Dean E., Social change and the evolution of ceramic production and distribution in a Maya community Boulder, Colo. : University Press of Colorado, c2008.
Maya iconography / Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1988. F1435.3.A7 M27 1988

From the Collections for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Stein, Joseph (1916-1977)
Portrait Head of Martin Luther King, 1970
Bronze, 30 cm high
Gift of Edward T. Pollack ‘55

Joseph Stein was an architect in Waterbury, Connecticut, where he designed several important buildings, including the award winning Silas Bronson Library addition, the Waterbury Club and the American Savings Bank in Waterbury. He had been an officer in command of a black unit during World War II, and thereafter had a strong interest in the Civil Rights movement. He began the portrait head shortly after the murder of King, and worked on it for over a year. Six casts were made, one of which was given to Coretta Scott King by Stein, and is displayed in the Martin Luther King Library. According to an article in the Waterbury American of January 2, 1986, Mrs. King told Joseph Stein that his was the finest portrait of Dr. King that she had seen. A second cast is in the Bronson Library in Waterbury. The remaining casts were owned by relatives or friends of Stein; the present cast is one of these.

Joseph Stein was born June 2, 1916, the son of David Stein, an immigrant from Lithuania, and Julia Grossfield Stein, a native of Poland. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1938 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received his master’s degree in architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1941 at a time when Harvard was the only American university to embrace the Modernist movement. Stein’s career was delayed by World War II, in which he served as a first lieutenant in the I 17th Combat Engineers Group, seeing action in Holland, France and Germany. He was awarded a Purple Heart in 1942 as a survivor of a freighter which sank after it was torpedoed by a German submarine off the New England coast. Stein opened an architecture firm in Waterbury in 19-l-8, designing homes and such notable buildings as the Alumni Building at the University of Connecticut, Storrs: Waterbury’s Bureau of Water, Gilmartin and Regan schools, MacDermid corporate headquarters, religious and academic institutions, libraries, commercial and office buildings, and public housing projects. Stein served as president of the Connecticut Society of Architects (CSA) and represented the CSA at the first meeting of the Human Resources Council of the American Institute of Architects (AlA). He was a delegate to the first joint international convention of the AlA and the Royal Architectural -Waterbury American, August 17, 1977 Institute of Canada. He was also a director of the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce and a quiet benefactor of the community. One of Stein’s partners noted that Joe Stein thought that people’s lives could be enhanced by the quality of the space they occupy, a belief that underscored his commitment to working on his affordable housing projects, libraries, schools and private homes. One of the hallmarks of the Stein style was the architect’s firm belief in the collaborative process, which was the essential underpinning of the Bauhaus approach. Stein’s approach to design was direct and succinct. The logic of the underlying construction was made visible through the structural elements and materials. One client stated that the way a Joe Stein house was designed made it stay new, which is an essential attribute of ‘”buildings that are good backgrounds for living.” Joseph Stein was also an accomplished sculptor whose work appears at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and New York University. He donated copies of his Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. bust to King’s widow, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, and the Silas Bronson Library. He was married to Helen Grossman Stein with whom he had three children. His son Michael Stein is a distinguished architect who practices in Connecticut. Joseph Stein died on August 16,1977.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist, who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. King, both a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist, had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. Among many efforts, King headed the SCLC. Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream.”

New Acquisitions

We received three terrific gifts in the month of December.
From the Afro Futurism exhibition:
Stacey Robinson (b.1990)
Afrotopia 1, 2016
Digital collage print, 55 x 71 cm.
Gift of Stacey Robinson
Stacey Robinson is an artist and educator whose work engages with histories of Black oppression and resistance in America through a practice of radical re-imagining. Contesting the proposition that agency and self-sufficiency are possible within Black communities under the persisting reign of colonial racism, Robinson’s digital collages imagine alternative future utopias wherein Black bodies and Black subjectivity are figured outside of or beyond the exploitation and appropriation of Black life that structure current socio-political relations in this country. In the intricate digital collages showcased in Into the AfroFuture, Robinson has crafted a utopian narrative of Blackness illustrated through a visual iconography culled from comic books, Hip Hop culture, religious imagery, popular film, news media, and historical documentary as well as, of course, his own imagination.
From alumna Holly Adams ’81:
Henry Emerson Tuttle (1890-1946)
Ducks Flaring, Okeefenokee Swamp, 1929
Drypoint etching, 41 x 34 cm.
Gift of Holly Adam ‘81
Henry Emerson Tuttle (1890-1946)
Graceful and Easy (Wading In), 1939
Drypoint etching, 37 x 29 cm.
Gift of Holly Adam ‘81
Henry Emerson Tuttle (1890-1946)
Wild Turkey, 1931
Drypoint etching, 30 x 34 cm.
Gift of Holly Adam ‘81
Henry Emerson Tuttle is widely considered one of America’s greatest twentieth-century etchers of birds. Largely a self-taught artist, Tuttle suffered from a kidney disease as a child, leading him to spend large amounts of time quietly observing bird life in the woods. He would devote much of his career to drawing and making prints of birds, both from life and using stuffed specimens in his studio. On Nantucket, Tuttle showed his work at the Candle House Studio, the Easy Street Gallery, and the Kenneth Taylor Galleries. He was the first president of the Artists Association of Nantucket. Tuttle received formal training at Yale University and the Slade School, London. He created his first published drypoint engraving in 1925, a medium that he would favor for the remainder of his career. In the 1930s and 1940s, he was Curator of Prints at the Yale University Art Gallery, a full member of the American Federation of Arts, the Brooklyn Society of Etchers, and the Chicago Society of Etchers. His legacy was honored posthumously with the 1948 Yale University Press publication of Emerson Tuttle: 50 Prints, which presents a complete catalogue of his drypoint engravings from 1921 to 1946.