Art of the Week

George Grosz (1893-1959)
The End of a Perfect Day, 1939
Drypoint, 27 x 34 cm.
Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32

George Grosz was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1893. After studying art in Dresden and Berlin he began contributing cartoons to German journals such as Ulk and Lustige Blatter. On the outbreak of the First World War, Grosz was conscripted into the German Army. A strong opponent of the war, he was eventually released as unfit for duty. However, the following year, desperate for soldiers, Grosz was called up again. Kept from frontline action, Grosz was used to transport and guard prisoners of war. After trying to commit suicide in 1917, Grosz was placed in an army hospital. It was decided to execute Grosz, but he was saved by the intervention of one of his patrons, Count Kessler. Grosz was then diagnosed as suffering from shell-shock and was discharged from the German Army. In 1917, Grosz joined with John Heartfield in protesting German wartime propaganda campaign against the allies. After the Armistice, Grosz was active in left-wing politics and contributed to communist journals published by Malik-Verlag. He also joined with artists such as John Heartfield, Otto Dix, Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters to form the German Dada group. Grosz’ drawings often attacked members of the government and important business leaders. Grosz was taken to court several times, but although heavily fined, managed to escape imprisonment. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Grosz directed his attacks against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. In 1932, Grosz was forced to flee from Nazi Germany and after settling in the United States became a naturalized citizen in 1938. His memoirs, The Autobiography of George Grosz was published in 1955. George Grosz returned to Germany in 1959, saying “My American dream turned out to be a soap bubble”. He died shortly after his arrival following a fall down a flight of stairs.

Flavell, M. Kay. George Grosz, a biography.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
Lewis, Beth Irwin. George Grosz: art and politics in the Weimar Republic.Madison, University of Wisconsin Press [1971]

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New Art

Barbara Kohl-Spiro
Pinwheel and Pride, 1980
Silkscreen, 56 x 76 cm.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Welsh, Jr. P’84

Barbara Kohl-Spiro
Sweet Soul, 1980
Silkscreen, 56 x 76 cm.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Welsh, Jr. P’84

Barbara Kohl-Spiro has exhibited nationally, and her work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of Art, the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and in numerous private collections.

“Make the soul sing-this is my mission. Kafka said art should cleave the frozen sea inside a heart. I think that. When critics, curators, gallery owners, art historians, etc., are no longer around 100 years after a work is created, it is the lone work left to relate to future generations. In all times, certain basic things reach the human heart. The fundamental things survive as time goes by. I hope I can add a little something to that part of human culture. I am  Jewish and my tradition teaches the importance of thinking of generations to come. I think of the legacy given to me by all the great artists of the past. To me many of these artists were women-often anonymous, often part of the decorative arts. I hope I can be a small part of the creative people’s legacy. In this series, I often refer to Ellie Needleman’s “Kicking Lady” because she has a spirit of celebration. I love the blessing of finding joy in the work I do every day. I specially treasure my glorious family and friends who always are making more rooms in my heart. I thank God for giving me a creative soul.”

Art of the Week

John Sloan (1871-1951)
Turning Out the Light, 1905
Etching, 16 x 20 cm.
Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32

A leader of The Eight, John Sloan was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Sloan grew up in Philadelphia, where he studied briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in 1892 joined the art staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That year he met Robert Henri, who would become his life-long friend and inspire him to become a painter. Among his fellow newspaper artists in Philadelphia were William Glackens, George Luks, and Everett Shinn. In 1904 Sloan and Dolly, his wife of three years, moved to New York, where he continued to work as an illustrator and became increasingly interested in depicting city life and city scenes. In 1910 Sloan joined the Socialist Party and contributed illustrations to its publications, notably the magazine The Masses. With the advent of World War I he resigned from the party. It was probably due to Sloan’s paintings, which favored a dark palette and scenes of the gritty side of urban life in turn-of-the-century New York City, that the Eight was later dubbed the “Ashcan School.” Sloan’s subjects are voyeuristic, a spectator of the human dramas he glimpsed in the streets and tenements of New York. Duncan Phillips further noted in A Collection in the Making, that Sloan was a “…sympathetic and understanding observer of class consciousness, crowd psychology and the bitter ironies of life.” One of America’s most revered artists in his later years, Sloan continued to paint, etch, and experiment with new printing techniques, until his death in 1951.

This etching comes from the series of 10 prints entitled New York City Life, recording the lives of the ordinary inhabitants in less affluent areas of Manhattan. The prints had a mixed reception at the time and a number were rejected from an exhibition of the American Watercolor Society as ‘vulgar’ and ‘indecent’. The mood of Turning out the Light is one of anticipation and intimacy: the woman glances down at the man lying stretched out on their unmade bed, while her discarded stockings are draped over the bed frame. The intimacy is heightened by the strong contrast between the densely-worked areas of cross-hatching in the deeper shadows and the unetched blank areas of the light.

Scott, David W., John Sloan. New York : Watson-Guptill, 1975.
“Exhibition of ‘The Eight’: its history and significance.” By: Homer, William Innes. American Art Journal, Spring 1969, Vol. 1 Issue 1, p53-64, 12p
“John Sloan memorial; his complete graphic work.” Bulletin: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1956, Vol. 51 Issue 248, p17-31, 15p
“Re-viewing John Sloan’s images of women” By: Coco, Janice M. Oxford Art Journal, 1998, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p79-97, 19p
“Women as urban spectators in John Sloan’s early work.” By: Weintraub, Laural. American Art, Summer2001, Vol. 15 Issue 2, p72-83, 12p

Art for Art

Introduction

The purpose of this exhibition is to highlight the varied interests of the Department of Art and Architecture and demonstrate the ties of the department to the collection. The essays of the members of the art department on their choices demonstrate an intellectual bent either personally or professionally. It is designed, in particular, for visitors to see a number of mini-exhibitions within an umbrella of the art collection. Think of it as a type of tiny biennale – with members of the department as the countries participating.

The significance of the context is the tenth anniversary of The Davis Gallery at Houghton House and this exhibition should be a fitting celebration of the gallery and the department as well as the art collection. The exhibition will determine what, if anything, is specifically poignant about the relationship of the Department of Art and Architecture and The Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Members of the department chose artwork for various reasons from the personal to the professional: their work with students, their art, their writing, and intimate responses to the pieces chosen. Art is never created or appreciated within a vacuum. It is made and seen within a tradition with the techniques and resources available within that tradition. Social, historical and artistic contexts are all important for both the artist and the viewer.

For Professor Lara Blanchard, the works chosen combine her love of painting and writing as expressed in the calligraphy of the works she chose. “For an art historian, one of the great advantages of studying Chinese painting is the quantity of writing it inspires. This is the case with one of the Chinese paintings in the Colleges’ Art Collection, a vertically oriented landscape by the artist and art historian Chiang Chao-shen 江兆申 (1925–96), made in 1980, of a type that in earlier eras might have been mounted as a hanging scroll.”

“In my course on the ‘History of Modern Landscape Architecture,’ I lecture on themes that are embodied by my two choices for this exhibition: respectively, the Hudson River School of landscape painting and its relationship to the emerging urban parks movement in nineteenth century America, and how early Parisian modernists were actively representing the entire city as a landscape.” Professor Jeffrey Blankenship ties the works he chose directly to the courses he teaches at the Colleges.

Another reason for choosing particular works is the effect the artist and the artworks has had on the personal work such as that of Professor Michael Bogin. “Carl was a friend of mine, and once visiting my studio he gave me the painting advice to “throw it off.”  He felt that some of my images were not active enough in the rectangular field of the painting.  In the two of his works owned by the Colleges, we can see how subtly Carl followed his own advice. “

Professor Nicholas Ruth’s choices were intensely personal and aesthetic.
“My selections for this show are based on gut reaction.  I tried to pick things that hit me, that move me to feel something and see things in a new way.  As someone who by profession is constantly thinking and talking about art, I like to remind myself of the strange, direct, and deep power and pleasure of experiencing a work of art.” Professor Angelique Szymanek had a similar response to her choices. “The first time I referenced Kollwitz’s “Death, Woman, and Child” in a classroom, the emotional response that welled up inside me as I explained the content of the work to students took me by surprise.” “Spero and Golub’s work is one of my favorites in the Davis collection because it embodies the qualities that, for me, make a work of art great: the imperative to image that which we might prefer to ignore, and the call for art to engage and implicate its viewers in the atrocities that mark everyday life. “

Shengyuan Tong (William Smith 2018) selected a piece which combined what she learned as a student at the Colleges with her background. “I chose this piece of painting not only because of my personal preference of ukiyo-e but also due to the gap between western and eastern culture. Art pieces are always the best representation of cultural ideologies. Trying to understand a culture different from the one we grow up can always help us have a better understanding our own culture.”

As for me, I decided to make my chosen artwork reflect some of the many ideas and visions I have fostered throughout my time at the Colleges. “It was hard choosing these few works from the whole – I left out so many I know and love. I am also an introvert and it is hard for me to face you with my personal opinions. On the other hand, if not now, when? I am leaving the Colleges at the end of this year and so this is my farewell ‘speech’.”

All of us hope you will have as much enjoyment seeing these works and reading about them from the perspectives of the authors as we have had choosing them and writing about them.

Black History Month

Alison Saar (1956-)
Inheritance, 2003
Woodblock and chine collé, 81 x 59 cm.
Gift of the George D. and Frieda B. Abraham Foundation

Alison Saar (1956-)
Coup de Grace, 2012
Lithograph, 49 x 64 cm.
Gift of the Clarence A. Davis ‘48 Endowed Fund for the Visual Arts

African-American artists, like women artists or gay artists, often find themselves in the dubious position of representing a group with their work, whether or not it is their intent to do so. Saar tackles the issues of race directly while incorporating issues of gender.

Alison Saar was born in Los Angeles, California in 1956 and grew up in Laurel Canyon, California. Her parents were Betye Saar, a well-known African American artist, and Richard Saar, an art conservationist. She received a BA from Scripps College, Claremont, in 1978, having studied African and Caribbean art. She received an MFA from Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles in 1981. Her sculptures and installations explore themes of African cultural diaspora and spirituality, and her studies of Latin American, Caribbean and African art and religion have informed her work. Saar’s fascination with vernacular folk art and ability to build an oasis of beauty from cast‐off objects are evident in her sculptures and paintings. Saar’s highly personal, often life-sized sculptures are marked by their emotional candor, and by contrasting materials and messages that imbue her work with a high degree of cultural subtext. Alison Saar isn’t known first and foremost for her work in printmaking. The sculptor will frequently create post-sculptural studies of her 3D works, which is not common, but allows her to further meditate on the concepts she’s working with. For example, Saar’s work Inheritance is after a sculptural work by the same title, with very similar imagery of a young Atlas figure standing with a massive cloth bundle on her head.

The young girl carrying a large ball of white cotton cloth on her head is a portrait of the artist’s mother. When Betye was just four years old, her father called her to his deathbed to make a final request: would Betye promise to take care of her mother and her siblings when her daddy was gone? The enormous ball represents the weight of the world, making the young girl who carries it a “child Atlas.” Saar and her mother have traveled to Senegal together, where they saw children who do carry the weight of the world on their heads every day. Their observation of this painful situation recalled Betye’s childhood and suggested the concept for the piece.

Titled Coup, a related sculpture shows the seated figure of an African American woman with a long braid of hair attached to a pile of old luggage behind her. In her hands, she holds a pair of scissors, implying that she is about to rid herself of her baggage. Many who commented on this work saw in it an impending act of self-deliverance. Your baggage is who you are and what you have to negotiate in order to find ground for your subjectivity. The fantasy of cutting yourself off from it can never be realized. It would amount to a psychic coup de grâce. It exists as a fantasized possibility only to protect you from the harrowing awareness of its impossibility. Coup de Grace is the printed version of this same exploration. The ball of yarn relates it to the burden carried in Inheritance adding layers of the personal.

Thompson, Barbara, Meg Linton and Harryette Mullen. Alison Saar: Still. Otis College of Art and Design, 2012
“Alison Saar: Exalting Ambiguity.” By: O’Brien, John. Sculpture (Washington, D.C.), January/February 2007, Vol. 26 Issue 1, p28-31, 4p
“Reclaiming Histories: Betye and Alison Saar, Feminism, and the Representation of Black Womanhood.” By: Dallow, Jessica. Feminist Studies, Spring2004, Vol. 30 Issue 1, p74-113, 40p
“The color of art.”  S. Lawrence on curating Directions—Alison Saar. Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. By: Lawrence, Sidney. American Art, Spring97, Vol. 11, p2-9, 8p

Art of the Week

Camille Corot (1796-1875)
Souvenier d’Ostie, 1855
Cliché verre, 27 x 34 cm.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was born on July 26, 1786 in Paris. He grew up in a middle-class family in Rouen, where he was a draper’s apprentice. At the age of 26 he gave up his unloved job to pursue a career as an artist. In 1822 Corot took painting lessons from his successful contemporaries A.E. Michallon and Victor Bertin, who ran a school for landscape painting in the tradition of Poussins. 
During his studies under Bertin, Corot painted his first landscapes. When he traveled to Italy after his studies, he continued to perfect his skill of lending his pictures an unusual clarity and transparency. Having returned to Paris, he processed the impressions from his Italian trip, remaining untouched by the public arguments between Romantic and Classicist painters.
From 1831 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot held regular and very successful exhibitions at the Paris salons. From the late 1940s he was in close contact with the painters of Barbizon, among whom he was particularly close to Daubigny. From 1850 various landscape painters gathered around Corot, as he was moving further away from an academic faithfulness to detail towards a more liberal style with a stronger sense of atmosphere. The ease in which he painted stems from his intensive studies on the effects of light, which are reflected in the very fine shades of his pictures, seeming to anticipate numerous Impressionist stylistic devices.
When Corot suffered from gout, he gradually had to give up landscape painting. Corot’s late phase was dominated by portraits of women, which he painted in a confident and liberal style.
On February 22, 1875 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot died in Ville d’Avray.

Leymarie, Jean. Corot; biographical and critical study. [Geneva] Skira; [distributed in the U.S. by World Pub. Co., Cleveland, 1966] ND553 .C8 L43

Galassi, Peter. Corot in Italy: open-air painting and the classical-landscape tradition / New Haven, Conn. : Yale University Press, c1991. QUARTO ND553.C8 G245 1991

Cliché-verre: investigating the interstices. By: Hill, E. Afterimage, Summer 1981, Vol. 9, p18-22, 5p

Les campagnes de Corot au nord de Rome (1826-1827) By: JULLIEN, André; Jullien, Renée; Julien, A.; Julien, R.. Gazette des Beaux-Arts, May/June 1982, p179-202, 24p

Art of the Week

Chinese  Qing
Covered Dish with Multi-colored Floral Sprays, 1735-96. Reign of Qian Long (1711-99)
Celadon, 10 cm. diam.
Gift of Dr. J. Philip Keeve ‘48

Qian Long was the sixth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. The fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor, he reigned officially from 11 October 1735 to 8 February 1796. On 8 February, he abdicated in favor of his son, the Jiaqing Emperor – a filial act in order not to reign longer than his grandfather, the illustrious Kangxi Emperor.  Despite his retirement, however, he retained ultimate power until his death in 1799. Although his early years saw the continuation of an era of prosperity in China, his final years saw troubles at home and abroad converge on the Qing Empire. The Qianlong Emperor was a major patron of the arts, seeing himself as an important “preserver and restorer” of Chinese culture. He had an insatiable appetite for collecting, and acquired much of China’s “great private collections” by any means necessary, and “reintegrated their treasures into the imperial collection.”

Pottery in this period is widely different, stretching the limits of what was possibly to make. It imitated everything previously done with all kinds of materials. Skilled craftsmen produced magnificent copies of earlier masterpieces. Overall floral scroll designs characterize the wares of this reign. The paste is dead white. Chinese porcelain became a standard article in wide use in Europe. Huge amounts of dinnerware (dishes, soup tureens, huge flats dishes, salad bowls, etc.) were exported to Europe in shapes and with decorations designed in Europe, often in a “Chinese” style – called Chinoiserie.

Lee, Sherman E. A history of Far Eastern art / Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Prentice Hall, 1994. PERRY QUARTO N7336 .L43 1994

Du Boulay, Anthony. Christie’s pictorial history of Chinese ceramics / Oxford : Phaidon : Christie’s, 1984. QUARTO NK4165 .D78 1984

Ceramics in daily life at the Qing court. / For the Imperial court: Qing porcelain from the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art By: Scott, Rosemary E.. The Magazine Antiques (1971), January 1998, Vol. 153, p162-169, 8p

CONSUMMATE IMAGES: Emperor Qianlong’s Vision of the ‘Ideal’ Kiln. By: Peichin, Yu. Orientations, Nov/Dec2011, Vol. 42 Issue 8, p80-88, 9p