Art of the Week

Malcolm Morley (1931-)
Arles/Miame, 1873
Lithograph on BFK Rives paper, 61 x 86 cm.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Welsh, Jr. P’84

Born in London in 1931, the painter Malcolm Morley emigrated to the United States in 1958, where he still lives and works. His youth was marred by the upheavals of the Second World War and a three-year stint in prison – lasting impressions that have determined the artist’s repertory of motifs. In 1952-53, Malcolm Morley attended the Camberwell School of Art in London, and then from 1954 to 1957, the Royal College of Art.

Inspired by an exhibition of contemporary American art he saw at the Tate Gallery in 1956, Morley turned to Abstract Expressionism. After 1958, Malcolm Morley lived in New York. There he came into contact with such greats as Barnett Newman, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. The first paintings Malcolm Morley produced in New York were articulated by horizontal stripes.

It was not long, however, before Morley again addressed representational motifs because he was not satisfied with abstract painting. Morley began to produce paintings in a reduced palette from newspaper photos of battleships, aircraft and sports scenes that were faithful to the last detail. From about 1964, he worked on refining his photorealist style by transferring the photographic images he had selected to canvas as accurately as possible: raster field for raster field. Acclaimed as a major exponent of Photorealism, Morley himself prefers to call his style Superrealism, the term he coined for it.

In the 1980s, Malcolm Morley abandoned Superrealism for a Neo-Expressionist style. His handling became looser and more casual although he retained his canon of motifs. In 1984, Malcolm Morley became the first recipient of the Turner Prize, just after it had been established by a subgroup of the Friends of the Tate Gallery.

Arles/Miame were the first original, hand drawn prints ever created by Morley and, as such, are important for any serious collection.

Morley, Malcolm, Malcolm Morley : prints & process. New York : Pace Prints, [1986?].M6 A4 1986
Malcolm Morley: talking about seeing. By: Kertess, Klaus. Artforum, Summer80, Vol. 18, p48-51, 4p
Miami postcard (1974) By: Morley, Malcolm. Arts Magazine, Nov74, Vol. 49, p78-79, 2p
Malcolm Morley and the experience of seeing. By: Paoletti, John T.. Arts in Virginia, 1986, Vol. 26 Issue 3, p2-13, 12p

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Art of the Week

Doel Reed (1894-1985)
Spring, 1941
Aquatint and etching, 25 x 35 cm.
Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32

Born on May 21, 1894, near Logansport, Indiana, Doel Reed achieved an international reputation as a landscape artist and printmaker and was called a master of aquatint. In his youth, he attended art classes at the John Herron Art Museum in Indianapolis and developed a lifelong interest in artwork featuring the human figure. Graduating from high school in 1912, he served as an apprentice architect for four years. Exposure to architectural drawing was later shown in his detailed depictions of buildings and structures.

In 1916, Reed began studying at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. The first art school west of the Allegheny Mountains, the Academy stressed a classical education concentrating on principles of drawing and painting. Among the prominent faculty were Frank Duveneck and Joseph Henry Sharp. The instructors emphasized figure drawing, thus furthering Reed’s interest. Service in World War I with the Forty-Seventh Infantry in France brought exposure to mustard gas and left him with temporary blindness and permanent lung damage. Again a civilian in 1919, Reed reentered the academy. His interest turned to print making. Basically self-taught, he was especially influenced by Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s aquatints. In 1920 he completed his study and married fellow art student Elizabeth Jane Sparks.

Continuing respiratory problems prompted Reed to move to a drier climate. He accepted a teaching position at Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) in 1924. In 1930 Reed conducted an art colony, one of the state’s first, at Spavinaw. The college gave him great latitude in curriculum development. Believing drawing to be the foundation for each artistic venture, he encouraged students to go to nature and interpret it through their own perspectives rather than simply to copy it. Reed’s promotion of the graphic arts, then relatively new in art curricula, brought recognition to the art department. His expertise in printmaking helped distinguish the department from others in the region.

During his time in Stillwater, Reed took several sabbaticals to enhance his work. Journeys to France, Nova Scotia, and Mexico exposed him to innovative and influential trends in art. With World War II gasoline rationing, he sought closer locales, particularly Taos, New Mexico. Always attracted to the southwestern landscape, he also was influenced by the fact that many prominent artists lived in the area. When he retired in 1959, he relocated to Taos. In retirement, Reed devoted himself exclusively to art. His work reflected New Mexico’s rugged landscape. After spending a day sketching mountains or canyons, he would return to his studio and decide whether to leave the sketch as a drawing or turn it into an aquatint or painting. His art also continued to reflect his keen awareness of the human form. In 1965 he published Doel Reed Makes an Aquatint. Reed exhibited in approximately 350 juried shows, winning more than one hundred national and international awards and prizes. Of all his recognitions, he was proudest of his membership in the National Academy of Design, the most influential organization in the history of American art. Elected an associate member in 1942, he was accorded full academician status in 1952. Doel Reed died on September 30, 1985, in Taos.

Cohen, Harry B. and Ann L. Rogers. Doel Reed, N.A.: the graphic works. Harco Gallery, 1998 (ISBN 9780966642704)

Doel Reed: Taos maverick. By: NELSON, Mary Carroll. American Artist, Mar1979, Vol. 43, p66

Today is the birth anniversary of Ben Shahn

Ben Shahn was born in Kaunus, Lithuania in 1898. He emigrated to New York with his family in 1906. He became a lithographer’s apprentice after completing his schooling. He later attended both New York University and the National Academy of Design from 1917 to 1921. In the 1920s Shahn became part of the social realism movement. Social Realism is a term used to describe the works of American artists during the Depression era who were devoted to depicting the social troubles of the suffering urban lower class: urban decay, labor strikes, and poverty. His early work was concerned with political issues of the time, while his later work portrayed the loneliness of the city dweller. Text and lettering formed an integral part of his designs and his work was often inspired by news reports. After working in lithography until 1930, his style crystallized in a series of 23 paintings concerning the Sacco-Vanzetti trial. Shahn came to prominence in the 1930s as with “The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti”. Shahn dealt consistently with social and political themes. He developed a strong and brilliant sense of graphic design revealed in numerous posters. His painting Vacant Lot (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn.) exhibits a poetic realism, whereas his more abstract works are characterized by terse, incisive lines and a lyric intensity of color. The Blind Botanist (Wichita Art Mus.) is characteristic of his abstractions. Shahn’s murals include series for the Bronx Central Annex Post Office, New York City. From 1933 to 1938 he worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, producing masterful images of impoverished rural areas and their inhabitants. Shahn used photographs throughout his career for both composition and content. The photographer position at the FSA was a dream job for Shahn because it provided him the opportunity to travel though Depression-era America taking pictures. He later used those photographs for his paintings years later. Critics in his time felt that using photographs for paintings diminished the value of a painting. However, Shahn’s work became the most popular artist of his age. His work was on the cover of Time and well as the Museum of Modern Art. Shahn has been described as a man of uncompromising beliefs and an artist who spoke to the world. Shahn continuously adopted new themes and mediums to define the human condition of his time. Active until the end of his career, Shahn was also a distinguished lecturer, teacher, and writer.

In our collections, you will find:
Ben Shahn (1898-1969)
Frederick Douglas, IV, 1965
Lithograph, 59 x 46 cm.
Collection of Hobart and William Smith Colleges
© Estate of Ben Shahn/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Shahn here portrayed Douglass, the elder statesman, fully bearded according to the custom of his day and with the same strong eyes as before; but the hunched shoulders, the detail of the mouth, the slightly receding hair, and the loose collar suggest a man of advancing years. Again, the raw umber title is centered above the portrait.

Frederick Douglass, a former slave and eminent human rights leader in the abolition movement, was the first black citizen to hold a high U.S. government rank.

Art of the Week

The other day I was speaking with Val Vistocco in the President’s Office and stopped to admire a painting I had not seen for a time. While this image is a poor substitute for the work, I cannot help but share with you its luminosity and tranquility. It made a hectic day ever so much better for me.

Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837-1908)
Grand Manan
Oil on canvas, 46 x 99 cm.
Gift of Richard A. Scudamore ‘55

Bricher was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of English immigrants, and his youth was spent in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 1851, he became a clerk in a store in Boston, and he may have studied art there at the Lowell Institute. During his early years in Boston, he became familiar with the art of the Hudson River School, and was specifically inspired by the work of the Luminists, John Kensett, Martin Johnson Heade, Sanford Gifford, and Fitz Hugh Lane. In 1864, Lane’s works were shown at the Boston Atheneum, and Bricher’s studio in Boston was in the same building as Heade’s. By 1859, Bricher had established a studio in Boston, where he displayed sketches of open-air works. In the 1860s, Bricher was creating marine subjects, working at Mt. Desert Island in Maine and in Northampton, Massachusetts. He found other subjects in locales in New England and New York state. He also began to use watercolor during the ’60s, a medium in which he created many of his finest works. By the middle of the decade, he had become employed by the Louis Prang publishing house, which claimed to have invented the chromolithograph. Eventually twenty-three of Bricher’s paintings were created as chromolithographs by the firm. In 1868, Bricher married and moved from Boston to New York, setting up his studio at 40 West 30th Street. During the next decade, he was influenced by the emergence of a younger generation of artists who were dedicated to experimenting with new techniques and developing personal styles. Affected by the art of his time, Bricher began to work in a more spontaneous and painterly manner, but he remained dedicated to capturing quiet, light-filled scenes of coastal areas and often rendered forms with a precision that reflected his continued adherence to Luminism. During the 1870s, Bricher became active in many important art associations, in particular, the American Watercolor Society. He also became affiliated with Swedenborgianism, a religion to which William Page and George Inness also subscribed. Affected in his art by the ideas of Swedenborg, Bricher created works that had a symbolic component in which forms were bathed in soft misty glows. Between 1878 and 1884, Bricher included figures in his landscapes, mostly women shown in leisure activities. These images have similarities to some contemporaneous works by Winslow Homer. In the 1880s, Bricher adopted a more tonal approach. His colors had always been predominantly pale blues and greens with touches of intense yellow; all harmoniously blended to convey the sensations of bright, sunny days. Now he concentrated on recording atmospheric conditions, which he conveyed by emphasizing a single, dominant color. Following his second marriage in 1881, Bricher spent summers in Southampton, Long Island, where he created a number of views of the expansive coastline and the village. However, throughout his career, Bricher traveled extensively, visiting the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Canada. Bricher’s work is represented in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Indianapolis Museum of Art; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Dallas Art Museum, as well as many other public and private collections.

After his first visit to Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick, Canada, in the mid-1870s, Alfred Bricher became so enamored with the picturesque surroundings that the location served as the subject for many paintings he completed over the next thirty years. He was struck by the juxtaposition of the large rocky cliffs and tranquil inlets that could be seen on the island. The area initiated a long series of paintings.

Art of the Week

PreColumbian, Mayan (Costa Rica)
Late Formative Chicanel Cylinder Vase, 300 bce-150
Ceramic, 21 cm. h.
Loan of Dr. J. Philip Keeve ‘48
Collection of Hobart and William Smith Colleges

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 (2000 bce to 250), according to the Mesoamerican chronology, many Maya cities reached their highest state of development during the Classic period (250 to 900), and continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish.

Maya art of their Classic Era (250 to 900) 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.

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. 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.

Late Preclassic/Late Formative Period (300 bce-250) saw population increases and the emergence of regional centers by the end of the Late Formative Period. In the Maya area this period is marked by massive architecture decorated with giant stucco masks (Oaxaca: Monte Alban; Central Mexico: Cuicuilco, Teotihuacan; Maya area: Mirador, Abaj Takalik, Kaminaljuyú, Calakmul, Tikal, Uaxactun, Lamanai, Cerros; Chiapas: Chiapa de Corzo, Izapa; Western Mexico: El Opeño; Southeastern Mesoamerica: Usulután).

Chicanel is a phase of the Lowland Maya Pre-Classic, the Late Formative culture of Petén, dating from 300 bce to 150. It was characterized by architectural and ceramic traits which convey the rise of the Classic Maya civilization: temple-pyramids, corbelled arches, and painted murals. Their sites are quite uniform and there was a variety of ceramic forms. Chicanel pottery includes dishes with wide, grooved rims, bowls, and vessels resembling ice buckets. Figurines are absent. Temple platforms (e.g. Uaxactún) were built by facing a cemented-rubble core with thick layers of plaster. At Tikal, a huge Maya ceremonial center, the Acropolis was begun in Chicanel times, and white-stuccoed platforms and stairways with polychromed masks were much like Uaxactún. There is also a huge site, El Mirador, in the northern part of Petén. The El Mirador construction dwarfs even that of Tikal, although El Mirador only flourished through the Chicanel phase. Chicanel-like civilization is also known in Yucatán, where some temple pyramids of enormous size are datable to the Late Formative. Another important site is the cave of Loltún in Yucatán.

Beautifully painted cylinder vases were used by the Maya ruling elite for drinking chocolate beverages. The cylinder vase was known as “uchiib”.

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